MAN VS MUD. My life around here…

Mother Nature has challenges for us horse owners.  When I lived in Oregon, it was the rain.  It rained so much, we couldn’t ride for several months of the year.

Here in Paso Robles, it is slippery slick clay mucky mud during the rainy season.

Now, I know this is not horrific like freezing rain, blackout snow or flooding – but it is very scary to watch horse legs go every which way in this gunk.  Very scary.  So, Water + Clay = my nemesis.

Me vs. Mud.

Round 1-18, Mud has won.

And, I expect it will continue to win until I have the pastures graded/stepped so that I can replace this clay adobe dirt sand with draining rock.

But for now, I am like Wiley Coyote with the Roadrunner.  All of my amazing plans are foiled day after day!  Arrgh.


OK, so, I’m guessing that you can all read between the lines in my posts and feel how frustrated I am with the fact that we ran out of funds before we secured the horse areas.  Everything about this move and renting the Grass Valley house cost way more than budgeted.  So, after building 8 acres of fencing and two shelters, I ran out of money.

So for now, I have to ‘make do’ with my best ideas.

The silly part about this, is that if I just saved up all the money I’ve thrown at this week after week, I’d probably have enough to get done what needs to be done.  But I just cannot sit on my hands and watch them slip and slide on the hills.  I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.

Yes, I do let them into the big field, but when it is really wet, the big field is more dangerous because they get excited and run… and…

So, for now I have them confined to their smaller (large) paddocks.

This is BG. I’ve made a straw road down to their shelter. It works fairly well, except for where they stand all the time. The straw gets pushed away from the track and packed into the muck.

There were 10 bales of straw put down here… it ended up being pushed to the exteriors of where it was laid. Isn’t this heartbreaking to see. Ugh. I hate it.


What I’ve learned is that nothing short of doing it right, works.  (There is no foliage to root the earth – the previous owner used RoundUp on all pastures.)

I’ve put down bags and bags of shavings.  They look good and the horses roll, but the shavings are pushed into the mud within 12 hours.

I’ve shredded bales and bales of oat straw (too slippery) and wheat straw.  Again, it looks better than mud, but the horses just push it around.  The one good thing about the straw is that if I had mountains of it, I could see how it would mix with the mud and create more tension and therefore more footing.  Right now, it is helping, but I need at least 10 more tons of it to secure those hills from the massive rains – and 1000lb hoof churners.

I’ve also tried the muck busting absorbent pellets for stalls.  In theory, this is the best weapon because it turns into sawdust which seems to have the most hold.  But, again, I’d need truck loads of the stuff to cover the hills here.

I have pine chips coming tomorrow.  Again, I know, temporary solution.

(I keep telling myself that ‘at least I know all about winter before I build anything permanent’… but it isn’t really working to tell myself that.  I’d rather have everything correct – NOW.)

Hubby and I have discussed the bigger plan – he’s an engineer.  It is a big job to replace the earth with rock and build retaining walls – I’d really rather have a barn than footing for the rainy season in California (rare) – But, seeing my beloved horses slipping and sliding – well, I just pray every night that they are very, very careful.  My heart seizes when I see them run in this stuff.  I pray for a sunny day to dry it all up – which is so odd since we Californians were praying for rain for years.

This is Annie/Norma/Dodger’s nice pasture… It is all turned to muck. This pic was taken today after I put down the pelleted muck buster around their feeders. It seems to hold up the best… for about 18 hours. It turns into sawdust  when wet, which is very absorbent and holds better than straw or shavings.


Truth to tell, the horses are very, very careful (even excitable Wrigley is pulling it together).  Most of them walk very gingerly.  I’ve even noticed some creative sliding that they do purposefully.  Artfully, even.  But, when something unsettles them, horses are horses, and they run.  Annie is the worst – and the heaviest.  Two nights ago, I put Norma in with Dodger so they could both be safe and dry during the storm that night.

Their paddock is attached to Annie’s.  Annie could see and touch them.  But what does she do to help her mother (me) out?… She busts down her fence (hotwire and all) to get into their little paddock with them.  Thank goodness Annie didn’t break out of her area into our yard… instead, she broke the 6 rails that fed directly into Norma and Dodger’s tiny paddock.


I took this shot just before the big storm came – I was headed inside for the night. I should have seen it in her stance here…  I had put Norma in with Dodger, which greatly upset Annie – and I didn’t realize it. Annie broke into their tiny paddock during the night to be with them.


I don’t know if there is a moral other than moving and buying a house and renting out your other house will cost more than you think.  Understand about the ground where you are buying –  in all seasons – and… BUILD THE SHELTERS FIRST IN SMALL PADDOCKS, THEN expand. 

Sigh.  Me telling me what I shudda done.

Please moneygods, win me the lottery because I am anxious and heartsick about this.

But until then, I’ll keep on fighting the good fight… knowing that mud will win.

Annie happy with her shavings. These won’t last, but she rolls in them and enjoys them while she can – with Norma.


JANUARY 2017 BUCKET FUND!  In honor of Mama Tess, we are offering the MAMA TESS’ OLD AND FORGOTTEN FUND supporting the very old and forgotten horses who landed at The Golden Carrot.  You can read their story here.  Please help if you can.  The Bucket has $635.  Our goal is $2640.

Donate here!  100% Tax deductible.  THANK YOU!


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5 comments have been posted...

  1. Helen J

    I will be interested to hear how the pine chips work. I was thinking wood chips. Bigger chips last longer and are more durable. Also wondering if you can find bark peelings anywhere. Those are long and thin and would not get tramped in nearly as much. I hope when you are able to seed the pastures to grass you can find a good mix which has some deep rooted grasses. After 35 years of living with sandy soil we too moved this year and discovered we had bought clay land. Ugh. Well at least it holds water better so perhaps our garden will grow well, and your grass will grow well. There has to be a plus in this somewhere. I hope you find one too.

  2. Liz

    Hi Dawn! I have a suggestion for your mud problem that isn’t too expensive. I live in NY where we have a long rainy spring and fall and the mud is horrendous. I put down road fabric or heavy landscape fabric in front of the shelters, then a load of small stone. The fabric keeps the stone from sinking into the mud. Its not horrible expensive and it lasts 2 to 3 years before you need more stone. I’ve even gotten a construction company to save their left-over road fabric for me. Hope this helps! Liz

  3. Helen Fleming

    Hi Dawn,
    I certainly empathize with the mud situation. We have it, too, here in Central Texas when it rains so we terraced with 4×4’s and 6×6’s just around the feed and water areas and used stone for infill. This has certainly helped with drainage and it wasn’t a big expense…just materials from big box and labor pounding the stakes to hold the 4×4’s and hauling wheelbarrows of stone. Theses areas have been holding up very well over the years.

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