Corral Mud Management Grid Panels

One of our summer projects in 2019 was to resolve the mud issue in front of the goat barn where the horses walk through to their stall and food zone.  We have always had a mud issue around this location (Corral Mud Mitigation).

We tried to make improvements a few years ago by compacting drain rock and fines.  It didn’t work.

When discussing the plans with Shasta’s horse trainer, Maddie, she told me about an expandable grid she saw on Instagram that supposedly solves equine mud problems.  I did some research and discovered many web sites with hard plastic interlocking squares.  I finally found the mud grid by Lighthoof Equine Mud Management

“Thin-walled, flexible plastic ground stabilization grid panels support and protect the footing in horse paddocks, gate areas, and pathways.”

I ordered two panels (8′ x 12′ each), and they arrived very quickly so we could get started.  I also ordered 4 yards of base rock and filter fabric from our local Central Home Supply in Santa Cruz.  Lighthoof’s guides provide recommendations on the material and gravel that works best.

On Friday, August 23, Farmhand Will Burke worked from 11am – 2:30pm picking and digging out 3″ of the drain rock from the area.  It was super hard and surprising that the area still filled with mud due to rain run-off from the mountains that seeps into the corral.

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On Sunday, August 25, I got started with the project by laying out the filter fabric.  Lighthoof recommends using 6-8 oz thick fabric, but our local stores only carried 4 oz so I double layered it and cut around the deck.

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I decided to use pressure treated wood rather than redwood for extra weather protection in the ground.  As a step towards re-purposing, we tore down our front fence so I could use the wood for this project.  We had planned on redoing the fencing, but now it happened sooner than later.

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This fence gave me two 10′ 2x4s and a 7′ 4×4 which was helpful, but not enough, so I still ended up getting a few at the store, I need a 12′ board.  I wanted to make a frame for the expandable mesh because I felt like the top had to be attached to wood in order to extend it out.  On Lighthoof’s website, pictures show people using stakes to hold it in place as gravel is filled in, but I didn’t want to put holes in the filter fabric.

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I used a 4×4 on the top because it had to be thick for the horses to step on. The two side pieces could be thinner because the horses don’t walk that close to the edges.

Then, I pulled apart the mesh grid and attached it with screws into the 4×4. It was very difficult as the mesh is super strong and durable.  It was wider than the space so I had to spend time lining it up and figuring out where to cut.  I cut off the extra with a circular saw, no way a razor blade or scissors can cut through this material.

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Originally, I was going to make a frame for the whole thing, but then held off waiting to see how it would hold up once base rock was added and compacted.  Because we are adding another panel, I wanted to wait.  The shipment included large, sturdy zip-ties to attach panels together so that is an option to try.

It was pretty basic to add the base rock, sprinkle with water, and compact.  A panel is strong enough to hold the weight of a tractor or truck.

After a few hours, the project was done.

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At the end of August, farmhand Will Burke dug out the next area for a second 6×12 grid.  The mesh grid actually stretches to 8′ x 12′ 10 inches.

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On Saturday, September 14, three yards of base rock were delivered by Central Home Supply in Santa Cruz.

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On Saturday, September 21, we were ready to roll to get it done.  I bought 1 10′ and 1 12′ pressured treated 4×4, but Scarborough didn’t have a 14′ 4×4 so I had to get 2 16′ 2x4s (pressure treated) and marry them together.  It all worked out to build the frame.  The landscape fabric had already been laid out with the first grid so we just unrolled it.

I had an extra piece of mesh grid from where I had cut it around the deck, so we were able to use that piece and zip tie the panels together and screw into the frame.

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It took all three yards of gravel compacted with water to fill in the second grid.

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Of course, as soon as the horses were let back into the corral, Shasta had to check it out.  He got all frisky, I’m sure he knows it’ll be a better winter without walking through mud!

I look forward to sharing photos during the winter storms to see how this technique works for us.