Sticky situation addressed at mud and horses workshop

By some estimates, Jackson County is home to more than 14,000 horses.

While equine enthusiasts may equate that number with a whole lot of horseshoes and hay bales, local facilitators for clean water see it as a whole lot of mud and manure, which is a potential source of pollution for area waterways.

In fact, they're hoping to tackle the issue, one equine at a time, by providing some useful information on managing mud and manure, and properly planning for grazing and other needs during a workshop this Saturday.

Hosted by the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District, the "Horses and Mud" workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oregon State University Small Farms Extension center on Hanley Road.

Angie Boudro, natural resource conservationist for the district, says most horse owners assume mud is a part of life, along with vet bills and muck buckets.

"I think when you're driving around, everybody sees horses standing in mud and manure and assume that just must be part of having horses," Boudro says. "But it doesn't have to be that way."

"There are some effective solutions to get them on drier land and solutions that preserve natural resources at the same time."

With room for up to 100 local horse folk, Saturday's event will cover topics including pasture and grazing management, mud and manure management, horse health issues, cost-share programs and information on state regulations for clean water, as well as available grant funds for implementing necessary practices.

During the lunch hour from noon to 1 p.m., a "field trip" of sorts will take place at Long Mountain Land and Livestock Ranch.

While impact on area waterways is profound, Boudro says the seminar is equally focused on getting horses out of wet conditions.

"A lot of horse owners don't understand, even if they have only one horse, if they're not managing mud and manure they're polluting mud and waterways," she says.

"And it's definitely about horse comfort, too. When you talk to ferriers and veterinarians, when horses are standing in a lot of mud and manure they start having hoof problems which turn into welfare issues."

Farm owners Charlie and Pam Boyer, playing host to the field trip portion of Saturday's workshop, are eager to show methods of mud management implemented on their own property.

When the couple bought the property a number of years ago, their half-dozen draft horses were constantly causing, and living in, impossibly muddy conditions.

Using information from a Soil and Water Conservation District workshop two years ago, the Boyers used geo-textile fabric and other materials to build up and distinguish a dry area for horses to access water and food supplies, as well as a turnout area.

"It was just an absolute quagmire. Draft horses even have an advantage, because they've got really big feet, so they've got some flotation. But they would tromp a trail and it looked like an elephant had gone through. Then they'd all use that trail," Pam Boyer recalls.

"We didn't know when we moved here with our horses what it was going to be like with this sticky clay soil we've got here"¦ but we found out in a hurry and we knew we didn't want the horses in the mud like that. This workshop was really useful."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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