Caring for your horse and your land

Horses in a pasture in Grant, Minnesota

Horses are like children; they need lots of care and attention, they poop a lot, and they never clean up after themselves. Also, like children, they don’t come with an owner’s manual.

On May 14, 6-9pm, the Washington Conservation District will hold its third annual horse workshop, in partnership with Hagberg’s Country Feed LLC and the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, to help connect local horse owners with information about caring for their horses and their land. The free workshop, to be held at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, will address topics including equine dentistry, nutrition, first aid and mud management.

Mud can cause problems for horses as well as nearby lakes and streams. Mud increases a horse’s chance of colic, abscesses, scratches, rain scald, and thrush. It can damage horses’ hoof structure and create slick, unsafe footing. Mud and manure are also breeding grounds for insects. Muddy runoff water from pastures smothers fish and frog eggs in lakes and streams and also carries nutrients that contribute to algae blooms during the summer. After a long winter and rainy spring, mud might seem like an inevitable problem around pastures and barns, but there are actually many practical ways to keep the mud at bay. Horses for Clean Water ( offers these six recommendations:

  1. Clean up manure every one to three days to prevent re-infestation after deworming and help dry out the soil.
  2. Create a winter paddock or sacrifice area on dry, well-drained soil instead of giving your horses free reign of the entire pasture year-round. This will prevent the horses from compacting the soil in pastures during the winter and trampling young vegetation in the spring. Sacrifice areas should be at least 20’ by 20’ (100’ if you want to give your horse room to trot) and by a buffer of native plants to help filter mud and nutrients out of the runoff.
  3. Use footing materials such as gravel or wood chips in sacrifice areas and other high traffic areas. A geotextile fabric under the footing material will improve drainage.
  4. Install gutters and downspouts on buildings to divert runoff water away from sacrifice areas and into pastures or other vegetated areas.
  5. Plant trees to help absorb rainwater. (If you plant trees in places where the horses can reach them, you will need to fence them off until the trees grow bigger.)
  6. Fence horses out of streams and wetlands to prevent them from trampling shoreline vegetation and sending muddy water downstream.

The Washington Conservation District (WCD) can help county residents, both with and without horses, to address runoff and erosion issues on their land. The WCD offers free on-site visits, can help to connect landowners with funding assistance available through local watershed districts and federal agencies, and is able to help design projects such as streambank buffers and runoff diversions.

Speakers for the WCD Horse Workshop on May 14 will include Dr. Sara Wefel, DVM, University of Minnesota Equine Center; Kelly Ann Graber B.Sc., P.A.S., Progressive Nutrition; Adam King, Senior Water Resource Technician, Washington Conservation District; and Dr. Martha Pott, DVM, Magnusson Veterinary Service, LLC. In addition to the presentations, a light supper will be provided. To register for the workshop, contact Wendy Griffin at 651-275-1136 x.24 or