With the unseasonably warm weather.. we've been experiencing a bit of mud at Unicorn Dreams Farm.. of course, we are also in a flood plain, so whenever we have a heavy rain, or thaw, we are guaranteed one thing…. MUD!!!! Something we are hoping to do next year is add some stone and specifically, pea gravel to our "dry" lot, loafing areas, and in parts of our riding ring (which also doubles as a paddock). Having a place for the horses to go to dry their feet is very important.. equally, having variety of ground texture will help strengthen their hooves.
While mud in and of itself may not necessarily be a bad thing.. a clean pasture environment with mud for the barefoot horse is preferred over being confined in a stall or small enclosure, especially if the stall/environment is wet with soggy manure and ammonia-soaked bedding. The key is the "quality" of the mud and do the horses have a place to dry out? Is it clean? Not mixed with debris and manure? How sanitary is that mud? A mud and manure packed hoof is a breeding ground for bacterial infections. Some issues include: thrush, white line, abscesses, soft soles and frog sloughing (which can lead to compromise in hoof strength and support structure, making the horse more prone to sole bruising, etc), scratches/greasy heel, etc.
Please check out the following 2 links. One is from Daisy Haven Farm, and the other is from Linda Cowle's website. Both are FABULOUS and have a variety of articles pertaining to hoofcare and overall equine wellness.
Daisy Haven Farm has a few examples of healthy dry lot enviornments on their website (we LOVE Daisy! They have great articles and case studies. Check them out!).
Here's a fantastic link on Passive Hoof Conditioning on Linda Cowles' website. She also has A LOT of articles and I highly recommend spending some time there to check them out.