Farm Management

Dealing with Runoff

Dealing with Runoff
Alayne Blickle

Protect the Environment and Keep Horses Healthy During Wet Weather

by Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water


A drainage ditch filled with round drain rock will intercept water as it runs towards the paddocks allowing it to soak back into the ground. Photo credit Alayne Blickle

Last month we reviewed things to do to prepare your paddocks for winter. Following that theme, this time we’ll look at another fall “to do,” dealing with surface water that travels towards your barn and confinement areas, i.e. drainage.

Environmentally speaking, the golden rule on horse properties is to “keep clean rainwater clean” by diverting it away from paddocks, buildings, manure piles and high traffic areas. When you do this you keep nutrients and sediments (from manure and mud) out of surface water as well as reduce mud on your property—good news for winter time chore efficiency!

First, check gutters and downspouts to make sure they are in good working order and are diverting water away from confinement areas, buildings and other high traffic spots. Good places to divert clean runoff to include areas on your property such as a grassy ditch, a dry well, rain barrel, stock watering tanks, a well-vegetated woods or an unused portion of your pasture.

Next, when tackling drainage think “slow the flow.” The best and easiest way to reduce surface water is to slow it down. Many times just slowing water down will allow it to infiltrate back into the ground—perhaps all that’s needed to solve a drainage issue. This also helps recharge the natural hydrology of your property including ground water.

Runoff from driveways, parking areas, hillsides or slopes can add significantly to the problem of managing mud in confinement areas. Last winter on Sweet Pepper Ranch (our first here!) we discovered that roof runoff from our new guest barn was flooding the paddocks in our main barn—rain water traveled down slope across bare soil, quickly accumulating in the horses’ paddocks. Ugh!!!

To disperse runoff from the guest barn we created a grassy area. A subtle swale within this area slows water down and redirects it towards the back of the property, away from paddocks and high traffic areas. Trees and shrubs planted in this area also help use up water. Photo credit Alayne Blickle

Over the summer in preparation for winter we worked on a few things to “slow the flow.” To disperse runoff from the guest barn we created a grassy swale that slows water down and sends it towards the back of the property, away from paddocks and high traffic areas. We also planted trees and shrubs in this area which help use up water. 

Another thing we did was create a drainage ditch filled with round drain rock, the idea being that this ditch will intercept and catch water as it runs towards the paddocks allowing the clean water to infiltrate back into the ground. 



Published December 2011 Issue

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Farm Management
Alayne Blickle

Alayne Blickle, a life-long equestrian and educator, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program that “wrote the book” on caring for horses and land. Known for her enthusiastic, fun and down-to-earth approach, she is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horses and livestock owners for over 20 years. Alayne teaches and travels throughout North America and abroad, and also runs Sweet Pepper Ranch, an eco-sensitive guest ranch and horse motel in Southwestern Idaho where she and her husband raise top-notch reining horses and beautiful grass hay. For more information contact Alayne at or 206-909-0225.

More in Farm Management