Mud means hard work for owners of horses or other livestock. As well as looking messy, it traps bacteria and pathogens, which can cause thrush or mud fever and may contaminate water sources. Mud collects in paddocks and run-in areas where horses mill around or wait to be fed. Manure makes it worse, and where the paddock grass breaks down through trampling, it can leave the soil unstable.
Your choice of methods for soaking up mud and making a drier footing depend mainly on what materials are available locally and how much you want to pay.
Scrape off manure and excess mud. Where the problem area is outside a stall or barn, take off enough muddy soil, if possible, to make a slight slope away from the barn as an aid to drainage.
Pour quicklime or hydrated lime onto the mud to dry it out. Mix the lime into the mud using rakes and hoes. Compress it with a hand tamper.
Lay gravel about six inches deep. Put larger stones on the base then finer gravel on top if you have bought different grades. Top with 4 inches of sand or 6 to 12 inches of wood chip or shredded bark.
Mix asphalt millings, bluestone dust or blue metal with either sand, gravel or bark as an alternative footing if they are more readily and cheaply available.
Don't let rainwater from gutters or downpipes run into the paddock to make more mud -- collect it in water butts for use in feed and irrigation. Consider making the run-in a sacrifice area covered with footing material, where horses can stay outdoors for short periods without damaging any grassy areas. A porous, synthetic geotextile sheet, laid on subsoil and covered with footing, lets water drain out of the footing while protecting the subsoil from trampling. For a cheaper, quicker fix you can put old carpet over the mud. Dirt will soon cover the carpet, but will not get churned into deeper mud. Remove droppings regularly. Manure can contaminate water and mud, but when stored and composted it is always in great demand as fertiliser. Replenish wood chips, sand and gravel as necessary.
Handle lime with care, as it can irritate the skin and eyes. Wear protective clothing with a mask to prevent you from inhaling dust. Wash immediately if it gets onto your skin, and consult a doctor if it gets in your eyes. Trying to mop up mud with hay, straw or shavings sounds simple, but it only adds to the problem, as they rot down into more mud.