Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mud Season

In many areas of the country, December is a month known for winter weather and you know, snow.  While Virginia is definitely in a climate zone that includes four seasons, December is rarely a snowy month.  Instead, we get rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  And not warm, nice rain.  Yucky, cold drizzly rain that makes me feel like I only want to curly up under a blanket with hot chocolate and watch movies and read. 

And with the rain comes mud, at least in the area I live in.  We are cursed with heavy clay soil that drains poorly and is incredibly slick when wet.  Or it sucks your boots off (seriously).  So while part of me appreciates that it it isn't cold enough to snow (our average high for today is 49 degrees and the average low is 28 degrees), I would almost rather have snow than mud.

Because this is what my horse's legs and feet look like every day:


And that is how they will look for most of the time until May.  Essentially, for six months out of the year, my horse lives in a bog.  There are, of course, things that could be done to mitigate all the mud, but I've only boarded at one place that really took mud management to heart and the solution was to lay down crushed asphalt that was obtained for free from road reconstruction sites.  Then the crushed asphalt was packed with a bulldozer-type implement.  So it was like a slick ice-bed all winter.  I didn't really consider that to be an improvement, although the horses did manage to remain injury free.

Anyway, I spend a huge part of my time during the winter worrying about scratches.  Nimo had remained blessedly scratches-free until last year, when I was gone for several days and came back to find that his legs were swollen and full of scabs.  About 10 days of treatment with Muck-Itch resolved the issue, but this year I'm not doing any traveling and I am religiously rinsing, washing, and checking his legs for scabs every few days in an effort to prevent another breakout, although I feel like it may be pointless because he is out in the mud 24/7.

When it happened last year, I found it the day after temperatures dropped from a balmy 70 degrees to skin-freezing single digits, which meant the water was glitchy and I had to treat the scratches to a large degree without any soap and water on most days.  And I still froze my hand off applying the Muck-Itch.  For those of you who are curious, though, I will say that I ran a little experiment and clipped one leg and not the other.  The leg that remained unclipped healed a day or two faster than the clipped leg...And remember that Nimo has heavier hair on his legs than most horses do.

The other issue with all the mud is Nimo's hooves.  Normally, the frogs are nice and robust and firm, but now they are atrophied.  And I do battle a slight white line separation most of the year, likely because of all the rain we get year-round (55-60 inches), but in the winter, it just gets worse.

You can see a bit of mud still clinging to the hoof that survived the hose...aaaaahhhhhh!
One benefit is that Nimo's typically rock-hard hooves are a bit softer, so trimming is easier.  But his feet grow more slowly, so I feel like I can't mitigate the effects of all the moisture by rasping through the white line every 2-3 weeks like I would the rest of the year.

Now, you'll have to excuse me because I need to run out to the barn to scrape/rinse the mud off of my horse's legs and fantasize about desert climates:)

8 comments:

  1. Mud, ugh. I live in a Swamp, and I know exactly what you mean.

    Do you have access to gravel? Even in a boarding situation, it might be worthwhile to stake down some landscape cloth (in the feeding area, for example) and cover with a thick layer of 5/8 minus, which will drain water away and leave a non-mucky surface to stand on!

    Of course, remediation like that is best begun in April...sigh....

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    1. The stable actually has piles of spare gravel - they just refuse to use it for the paddock areas...I actually may have a long term solution that I hope to write about later this month:)

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    2. I am stealing this idea for my own paddocks!

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  2. Just wanted to chime in to say that I am SO EXCITED that you're doing the December Daily again this year, and to let you know that even if I don't comment on every post, I am avidly reading every single one! :D

    I hate the mud. It's the one thing that truly bothers me about this region. I am honestly not surprised that Nimo's unclipped leg healed faster last year! I do have a scientific explanation for that: some animals will react more to the clippers themselves and that can delay healing of skin issues. I know the clipping is recommended so that air can reach the scratches scabs (the infection has an anaerobic bacteria component that weakens when exposed to air), but when you have an active infection, just clipping can irritate the skin so much more! With Lily I've had to wait until the infection is about halfway healed before I can clip anyway: she won't tolerate the clippers otherwise. The only reason why I clip in her case is so I can monitor the smaller scabs to make sure they all go away. Gracie had some skin funk on her legs when I first got her and I will say: I never clipped her legs and she healed super fast with diligent cleaning and ointment application. :)

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    1. Thanks, Saiph:) And double thank you for the explanation on the clipping vs non-clipping. I remembered after I read what you wrote that the reason I only clipped one leg was because Nimo fussed at me about the clipping, probably because it was irritating:) Now I know better for this year!

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  3. "fantasize about desert climates." omg me too lately. Our mud never dried up last Summer, it rained just often enough all year to suck my boots for 12 months straight. I think about dusty dry brown pastures with no grass and scorpions and rattlesnakes and I try to balance that with our lush grass and muck. I hear myself saying "You know, in Arizona.." about lots of things.

    The Germans deal with mud by using lots and lots of concrete. Most barns cover their entire Winter paddocks with asphalt or paving stones.

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    1. That sounds horrible, lytha! I would go insane if I had to deal with mud year-round. But the concrete and pavers must get expensive!

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  4. Aaackk. Your pastures are so so muddy! I'm thankful ours don't get that way. Eeep!!

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