Getting muddy in Kentucky!

Published 04-15-2010 11:41 AM

This blog was written by Cindy Ellsworth, a friend of mine who has ridden miles and miles of trails on her horse Dawn. Here is what she has to say about mud: Ah, springtime in Kentucky. Wildflowers, bluegrass, horses... and MUD on the trail!

First and foremost, pick your battles. No sense in winning the battle if you're going to lose the war and the experience of crossing the mud is traumatic for both horse and rider. If your horse is inexperienced or fearful of mud, work on the basics at home with a partner and a horse that's a pro with mud crossings. On the trail, make sure you know the crossing is otherwise safe and not something that the horse will sink deep into. Practice, practice, practice and we rarely allow our horses to jump an obstacle (including mud) while on the trail. Remember to keep some distance from the other horses who are crossing or walking through the mud: they are notorious for slapping/dragging their feet, swishing their tails and covering the closest rider with a sling of nasty mud, either full-face or all over your backside! Also, some horses can get agitated while crossing the mud and it can be dangerous for the horse behind or in front if they are too close. On mud, it's one horse at a time!!!!

One lesson we learned after a particularly challenging muddy trail at Station Camp in Big South Fork, TN was to look for an alternative route. I think the now broken yellow tape that has previously closed the trail should have been our signal something was amiss -- and time to look around and see if there was a by-pass. Sloppppp... not until much later in the ride, after my horse sunk hock deep into the downhill mess. We met someone on the return loop who told us to look to the left and there was a place other riders had cleared to get around that horrid and now dangerous area that neither riders or horses wanted to cross on the return to the trailers.

Some trails are just best to avoid completely after rain, especially if they are rocky trails. Mud can hide sharp edged rocks that can inflict terrible injuries to your horse's legs (for more info about not being sure what's underneath, check the "riding in the snow" blog). Check with the locals and people who ride the area. It's just not fun or safe to ride in the mud all day long and it is very exhausting for the horses as well. But sometimes, it's unavoidable. Some horses get so used to avoiding it all the time, they put their rider at risk in finding their own alternative route or balking. Sometimes you just have to walk slowly and carefully through it. Wear a helmet, ride with a partner and be safe and have fun.

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