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.

Image found at www.ecoterr.com

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…

Image found at www.thehorse.com

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

Image found at www.nestegg.typepad.com

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;

Image found at www.craigmarloch.co.uk

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).

Image found at sweethorsesbreath.blogspot.ca

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.

Image found at www.mosbybuildingarts.com

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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