How do I take care of caked on mud in the winter?
Winter has many challenges, with top challenge number one being mud and furry winter coats. Or really mud and any winter coat. Or really just mud. It’s very difficult to persuade your horse to avoid all mud during rolling sessions. (OR IS IT????) So the next best thing to do is some prevention and then some clean up.
Tips for preventing the mud from painting your horse:
- Use sheets or blankets if your horse goes outside. This creates a barrier between earth and horse. If it rains, you also have a dry horse that can be saddled up instead of a soaked horse that shouldn’t be tacked up. Your horse doesn't have to live in a blanket, only during the high risk mud rolling times. I understand that some of us prefer not to use blankets and sheets. And that’s fine, too, your arms will be stronger come spring.
- Clipped horses easily shed caked on mud - and again, clipping isn’t for every horse and rider combo. But - a clipped and blanketed horse in winter is easier to groom, better for his skin if you ride (sweat - hair - dust - chaffing situations are common), helps to prevent him from being overheated during exercise, and saves time during cooling out. Up to you.
- Make sure your horse is super oily. Curry the snot out of him, use shine products till the cows come home, feed lots of correctly balanced fatty acids to encourage the oil production. This will make your grooming process easier.
I can't even imagine how Comet would look without a blanket! This is a simple rain sheet, on top of his sparse winter coat, is perfect for mud blocking.
- Can you give your horse a dedicated rolling spot so he has no need to wallow like a piggy? Round pens are super for this, as good footing and perhaps a roof keep the area better than most paddocks. Can you give his stall or shelter a make-over with loads of amazing bedding that rival even the grossest mud puddle’s temptation factor? Even a sand pile behind the arena would work. I have even seen some farms that dump a yard or two of horse heaven sand in a paddock’s high spot for rolling. Sand drains well, and is loads easier to clean than mud.
- If you can, find a way to prevent some of the mud around the farm. Good drainage, proper footing, gravel, ground stone paths, gutters, ditches, and crossing fingers are all ways to improve the mud to not mud ratio. More mud management tips can be found here!
Tips for removing mud from your horse:
- Break up big chunks with your hands. Dry mud is easier.
- Find the proper curry comb. Many horses dislike the metal types, especially if the mud has clumped thickly. Lots of hair can be removed at the same time - ouch. This article has all sorts of curry comb ideas.
Grooming gloves are awesome, they stop all of the dust and mud from getting under your nails, and you have instant feedback about what feels good.
Cactus cloths seem to be a good option for some horses, too. For more on cactus cloths, this article has some ideas.
I also can’t say enough good things about a good vacuum, either the horse variety or the shop vac type.
Hot toweling is an option when you have most of the chunks off. This will clean the hair to the skin. This will take a while. You will be buff. More on the hot toweling grooming routine/work out here.
I have read some things online about this predicament, and have been mostly horrified and somewhat intrigued about some of it (I was reading the forums, wouldn’t you know!). Crisco is not an option. WD 40 is not an option (EVER). Cooking oils are not an option. Here’s why - these things are designed for toilets, car engines, and kitchens. Or, you can skip the kitchen supplies and just give a warm bath. If you don’t have a way to do a safe and comfortable bath in the winter, elbow grease it is.
I won’t sugar coat this at all - it’s going to be a long day of brushing and grooming to get the mud off.
How do you get the crusty mud off? And keep it off?