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Monday, April 1, 2013

Mud Management in Horse Pens

Question: I recently built three 14' x 65' drylots for my horses. The soil in my area is heavy, mucky clay. What do you recommend using as footing to ensure proper drainage and as little mud as possible?

Response: Unfortunately, with heavy clay soil, drainage and mud is going to be a continued problem unless the drylot is renovated. The below system, called a high traffic pad, has proven to work (tested at the Universities of Kentucky and Vermont) and will dramatically decrease mud problems in drylots. To install a high traffic pad:

  • Remove the 8" of top soil 
  • Install drainpipe to direct water out of the pen. The pipe must be sloped towards an outlet. 
  • Roll out geotextile fabric. The fabric comes in large rolls. 
  • Add 4" of crushed limestone (usually 1 ½ to 1 ¾ in diameter).
  • Add second layer of geotextile fabric.
  • Add 4" of dirty pea stone (small gravel)
  • Refresh the top layer as needed; usually once every year or two. 

The estimated cost for installing a high traffic pad is about $0.80 per square foot. In one of your 14' x 65' drylots, the cost to renovate the entire paddock will cost just under $800. To lessen the investment, renovate one drylot per year.

The University of Kentucky has a factsheet further outlining the process. It is available online at

By: Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota

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