Starting in 2000, we have adopted a "Mudless" philosophy. After our first year of watching horses slug through the mud during the winter and spring, we knew there must be a better way. We attended a workshop in Maple Valley Washington hosted by a company called:
These environmental horse people were advocating mudless stabling. Their approach is simple: avoid the accumulation of fine organic particles (mud). Their demonstration stable was a model of dryness. They accomplish this in an area of high rainfall (Seattle) by paying attention to water collection, runoff, and footing. This made perfect sense to us. We have been installing rain gutters, water runoff channels, French drains, black sand paddocks, and stall mats instead of shavings. We pick up all the manure inside and outside every day and contain surface and sub-surface water. We do have some horses who just really prefer to have some shavings and we work with that too.
We were concerned about the horses feet and hooves. Our turnouts have a drain rock base, covered with black sand. We asked opinions of vets and farriers we trust, and all have liked the idea. After all, where horses evolved, they ran on hard ground grazing all day, usually in arid or semi-arid areas. Of course they never had shoes, their hooves were much harder than stabled horses. Our stalls are well cushioned and are much less dusty without the shavings. A given farrier may not like trimming these hooves, since they are so hard, but we feel overall, it is better for the horse. We had a 23+ year old gelding who is without thrush for the first time in the last three years.
Our other concern was sanitation since there is no bedding to absorb urine in the stalls in summer months. (In the winter of 2000, we noticed that some horses do not get as much rest and so during wet times, bedding is used.) We have observed that most horses will not urinate on hard surfaces because of the splash onto their legs. In our experience, this has encouraged the horses to urinate in the turnouts, which drains away and seldom urinate in the stalls. The first gelding we tried this on was notorious for urinating in the stalls. When we let him out on pasture, he would wait until we returned him to his stall to urinate. He always defecated in his stall. His owner said he had always soiled his stall. It was a mess. It nearly had to be stripped every day, or odor would accumulate. Since removing the shavings, and installing a heavy mat, in the first 3 months he only urinated twice in his stall. When he does this, we use straw to soak up the urine, then remove all the straw. This is a foundered horse, so we were real concerned about the hard surface, but there has been no change in his status. His owner, a former stable owner. is very happy with how he is doing. A mare we boarded always urinated in one spot in her stall, since removing the bedding she seldom urinates in her stall at all.
We have eliminated the shavings from a loafing shed that is shared by 4 horses, and they still defecate there but go outside to urinate.
We are currently trying something similar for the box stalls. We have an experimental stall that we have replaced the dirt floor with mats over gravel. Our intention is to put a small amount of bedding in a corner and see if the horse will only urinate there. At this time, the horse is only being introduced into this stall--the jury is out--stay tuned to this bat-channel for an update.
We are encouraged by this new way of boarding. We think you will be too.
Examples of mudless stalls, taken in March 2003, after periods of heavy rain, and 1 week after a 10 inch snowfall.
Is your horse-friend standing up to his hocks in mud?
From an email we received: