A Very Muddy Christmas: Working Through A Kentucky Winter

by | 12.24.2018 | 7:11pm
My own little mud farm

I started leasing my own property in July of this year, with a delightfully old-fashioned four stall barn and two spacious paddocks just outside of Louisville. I have two horses of my own, a big off-track Thoroughbred and a 21-year-old pint-sized Arabian. A friend also boards her similarly-sized Quarter Horse mare in the field with my old pony; we have put a lot of time and effort into restoring the facilities in the past six months, from pressure-washing the barn to repairing fencing

The world's best little bay ponies

Run in Shed

This is the shed when it's dry – still not in great shape

The first major issues we've had came into play at the start of December when the winter rains hit, and the mud started rising. The field in which the two ponies live outside has a very

large run-in shed, at least 24 feet by 12 feet, but the farm is located near the river. Combined with the lack of a gutter on the front of the shed and bad erosion in parts of the field, the shed floor turns into a three-foot deep swath of mud.

Since the ponies couldn't get into the shed and out of the weather, we set about figuring out how to repair the base.

After extensive research, aka Google-ing, we decided to purchase a dump-truck load of limestone gravel, size “57,” which means the largest pieces are less than one inch across. Apparently the dump truck didn't have four-wheel drive, so the pair of us ended up with shovels and wheelbarrows to move the gravel into place.

It took the full 10 tons of rock to fill in the base of the shed, plus three feet of mud. We had to dump a load, then “stomp” it down with our feet, then dump more on top. The whole process took about four hours, once we'd brought in assistance of several able-bodied men. We also left some of the pile near the gate area, and spread it around there to try to keep our feet dry when coming in and out of the field.

The run in shed post-gravel distribution

This was a great start, but the ponies didn't really care for standing on the rocks (go figure). My next step was to rent a vibrating compactor machine, which basically pushed all the rocks down to a flat base. Then I laid out a heavy-duty permeable barrier, affixing it to the walls of the shed with screws and rubber washers.

After laying the barrier down, I waited for the next dump truck load to arrive. This time we'd ordered limestone dust, with particles 1/4-inch across and smaller, and again set about the process of wheelbarrow-ing it across the field into the shed.

Everybody's favorite helper!

After laying it down, we watered down the surface and ran the compacting plate over it several more times, packing it down for the horses to stand on.

The finished product!

We did the same for the space by the gate, and now both ponies keep their feet dry by eating hay in the shed and racing over to the gate to meet us. That's Artemis the Quarter Horse on the left, and “Texas” the old Arabian (and my childhood pony) on the right.

Precious ponies!

If we had to do it again, I'd start with a larger size of rock for the base, then use the 57s, then the barrier and dust. Then again, I hope I never have to move 40,000 pounds of material with shovels and a wheelbarrow ever again!

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