Monday, April 12, 2010

Dry Ground


We might finally be drying out around here. When I went out to feed the girls this morning, I was happy to feel solid ground under my feet in both stalls and the corral. Siete’s side was the worst, and she’s been a very unhappy little horse. All the wood pellet bedding that I dumped into her stall to absorb the ground water that was coming up from underneath the barn has made the footing very deep. For a while, when the horses walked, their hoofprints would be filled with water oozing up. It was driving me crazy because I couldn’t compact the material enough to soak up the moisture.

Siete was getting really surly about it. One evening last week, she absolutely refused to go back into her stall for dinner. I was rushing and her resistance to leave her mother’s side of the barn really aggravated me. I tried to force her to go, but she wouldn’t budge. In frustration, I walked back to the house, leaving her dinner in her stall and both doors open, in case she changed her mind. Then, I realized that if I were Siete, I wouldn’t want to go in there either.

I felt bad for her, but the problem was that with both horses in the same stall all night, Silk wouldn’t have room to lie down. She needs to get off her feet at night with her arthritis. Siete didn’t want to lie down either, and as a result, off and on these past two weeks, I’ve been treating a hoof abscess in her back right foot. I couldn’t, in good conscience, force Siete to stay in her stall that night. When I went back after it got dark to check on her, she was still with her mom. As soon as they saw me, both horses ran into Siete’s stall and stood there together in solidarity. Nope, we’re not going to let you lock her in this place. I looked at their hoofprints in front of me, by the door, filling up with the ground water, and wanted to cry. There seemed to be no way to fix this problem. It was also starting to rain again. We had over 14 inches of rain in less than a week. As I left them, the girls headed back to Silk’s drier bedding on the other side of the barn.

The next night, Siete ran right into her stall as soon as I approached with the dinner buckets. I was glad I hadn’t forced the issue, and she seemed to accept that things were what they were. Even though I was doing the best that I could do, I felt so stressed out that I couldn’t fix the problem. I really believe that my horses are as calm and happy as they are because they have safe, comfortable stalls where they can get off their feet at night. Fortunately, the situation has been steadily improving now that we’ve had sunny warm weather for almost a week. Now, I know that we shouldn't anthropomorphisize our animals but... The strange thing was that every day, I’ve been telling Siete that she needs to lie down again to rest her feet. To my astonishment, when I fed her last night, she actually dropped down on her side and rolled around in her stall while I was standing there, as if to show me that it was okay again. That’s my girl.

11 comments:

the7msn said...

14 inches of rain in less than a week? Can't. Even. Imagine. Seriously, that's more than we get in two years. Gosh I hope you and your girls get a lengthy break from this madness.

Lori Skoog said...

Victoria...is it possible to build up the height of your stallfloors with crush and run and then some stonedust (topped with the pellets)? 14 inches of rain is incredible!

Victoria Cummings said...

Linda - I couldn't believe how much it rained! First we got 6 inches, then about three days later, we got another 7 inche. And then it rained an additional inch! Needless to say, the grass is long and green already! Now, we're having frost at night, so I hope it won't kill all our plants.

Lori - Yes, now that we're dry, I need to dig out all the pellets and add the pea gravel and stonedust again and top it with a few inches of pellets. That's what we did when we moved in here 5 years ago, so it's definitely time to do it again. I've never put stall mats down because I worry that we would have all that water and mud under them and not be able to lift them out. I've thought about laying concrete, but with Silk's arthritis, I don't think it would be good for her to stand on it, even with mats. Maybe I'll win the lottery and we will build a new barn!

Breathe said...

That is just crazy - are you seeing mosquito populations take off too?

You might investigate putting in a french drain - my husband does this in areas with chronic flooding. But I suspect 14 inches would overpower everything!

Grey Horse Matters said...

We did have lots of rain lately, my driveway looked like someone opened a sluice gate with the water barreling down it.

There's got to be a way to fix the water problem though. I'm thinking maybe french drains surrounding the barn or culverts with sunken pipes to divert the water elsewhere. I'm becoming somewhat of an expert on diverting water at the farm. We recently built a structure and had to divert the overflow pond water away from the building and down to a small creek. Also we just bought some stall skins for the run in shed that is supposed to drain well. I'll let you know how they work out once the new run in shed is finished and the stall skins are down. I think we're going to put in crushed rock first then stone dust and then sand before they go in, but don't quote me on that since I'm not engineering this particular job, my daughter is. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

billie said...

Here's hoping for dry weather for you - that much rain in that amount of time is unbelievable!

I'll attest to french drains and doing some work to divert water. Our barn is on the highest spot of our property but if we get a huge amount of rain in a very short time, we do get some pooling in a few areas behind the barn. Even hand-dug trenches can help in a pinch.

We are currently resurfacing stall floors - it is a nightmare dragging the heavy mats out and then back in again, and fitting them. We have one stall that doesn't have mats, and ironically, it drains incredibly well. I'm too paranoid to try doing that on the geldings' side of the barn though. I believe the incredible draining comes from layering gravel of decreasing sizes from the bottom up, and topping with the stone dust and screening mix.

Wouldn't it be great if somehow the barn just had a hydraulic system that lifted it up when it rains? :)

Victoria Cummings said...

So far, no mosquitos because there's really no standing water. Our barn has a ditch the size of a moat around it but with all that water in the ground, it just kept oozing up even when the ditch was empty. Foolishly, the people who built this house put the barn in the lowest part of the property- something that for some crazy reason seems to be quite common around here. We've talked about running some French drains across the corral and we'll probably do that when we undertake this major excavation. I wish I could just snap my fingers and poof- it would be done! I still remember how sore my arms were when we put all that stone dust and other stuff in there the first time.

Paint Girl said...

That is an awful lot of rain!! Ugh! I so feel for you!
We pretty much get non stop rain fall through spring, so I understand. The mud here is horrendous. We have a french drain in one pasture, and will be putting one in another pasture once it dries out. I always feel so bad for the horses, but not much we can do, unless we had a ton of money. It is seriously a mud bog!!

deejbrown said...

You and your girls deserve a break from all this WET! Glad dryer weather is upon us and hope it continues.

Jayne said...

I feel for you Victoria, and for your girls. I hope you get a break now and have a chance to add the gravel and stonedust to raise the floor. I can't even imagine having to deal with that.

Pony Girl said...

I'm glad you are seeing a break in the rain! That is a plethora of rain! I hope your home was built on high ground?
Horses are surprisingly resilient, and your mares know you are doing the best you can. Mother nature is a tough one to deal with. Hopefully once things dry up, you can try a new drainage method (then hopefully you won't have to test it out next year and it will be a drier season! ;)