Building my Perfect Barn Part 4 – Exterior Drainage and Mud Management

Hi again! Back to the BMPB (Building my Perfect Barn) series with the fifth installment – outdoor drainage and mud-management. This topic came up while I was having lunch with a group of horsey friends last weekend, and it got me thinking… how am I going to keep my precious wards from standing knee-deep in mud during our (ridiculously long) mud season(s)?

Obviously the first consideration is building the barn & paddocks in the right place; using the natural lay of the land to help facilitate proper water run-off. In a perfect world the barn will be built on high ground, surrounded by a about a 2% grade (ground falling 2 feet every 100 feet). Having said that, and knowing that the “perfect world” scenario might be hard to find, here are a few ideas I have for keeping the barn from flooding, and keeping the paddocks as mud-free as possible.

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Rain Gutters & Downspouts: It always surprises me when I see barns without rain gutters. My plan is to direct the water from the roof off to a lower-lying area away from the paddocks…

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…or, better yet, collect it in barrels to use on gardens and lawns, to conserve water.

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Sacrifice Paddocks & Footing: As you know, each of my stalls will open into a separate paddock, so that horses have access to shelter/water while I’m at work all day. These will be “sacrifice” paddocks (meaning a non-grassy area which is ‘sacrificed’ to allow the grass pastures to rest and grow, and to keep them from being destroyed by hooves in muddy/freezing times).

In order to keep the paddocks from becoming mud holes, I need to create a base/footing that is conducive to dryness. Currently the plan is as follows:

1. Excavate down about 6 inches to remove the organic material that will become muck if left to its own devices;

2. Install geotextile fabric (landscaping fabric) to create a layer between the soil and the gravel, to keep them from mixing. From what I hear/see/read, this is the absolute best way to eliminate (or at least diminish) muddy paddocks;

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3. Cover the geotextile fabric with one to two inches of large gravel (1 1/4″);

4. Finish with a four to five inch layer of pea gravel (3/8″ round stone).

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French Drains: All of this should keep the paddocks and the area surrounding the barn relatively un-soup-like, but just to be sure, we will also be making use of French drains as necessary. The traditional French drain is just a trench, filled with gravel or rock, which provides easier access for water, allowing it to be redirected away from, say, your barn or paddocks. Most French drains also have a perforated pipe installed, to help keep the water flowing, and to stop it from backing up and creating a pool.

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Hopefully all of this will work! At the end of the day, I’m hoping for a nice, dry barn & stable yard, and I’ve learned that it’s easier to invest the time and money at the beginning of a project rather than after you’ve discovered that what you have isn’t working. How do you keep your barn & paddocks dry?

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