When you build a barn, it’s so important to put plenty of thought into its location. Positioning a barn on a downhill slope can mean that it’s subjected to water runoff, and that can cause issues. But sometimes you don’t have a choice about where your barn’s positioned. If you’ve bought a barn and are dealing with water runoff issues, there are plenty of ways you can improve and even fix those problems.
Top Strategies to Manage Water Runoff Issues on Horse Properties
A flooded barn, mud-filled paddocks, and soggy footing everywhere are just a few signs that you might have water runoff issues. Here’s what you can do to fix them.
One of your first goals will be to direct as much water as possible away from your barn, and gutters are a simple way to do that. If your barn doesn’t yet have a gutter system, or if that system needs some repair and improvement, start by installing new gutters. Design those gutters so that they channel water into a downspout, and then set up a drainage system that carries that water away from the barn. This simple step can help to reduce or prevent water pooling around your barn’s foundation for reduced barn flooding.
Know Where to Use French Drains
Gutters will be an improvement, but you’ll also need a way to manage the water that flows toward your barn from other sources. If your barn is built on a downward slope, or if parts of your barn are low-lying, you may still be dealing with water pooling and flooding.
Installing a French drain outside and uphill of your barn and paddocks can help to direct this water away before it reaches your horse. Your drain will consist of a perforated drainage pipe that’s covered with at least 8 to 10 inches of rounded drain rock (that's different than the gravel you use within your paddocks or Lighthoof panels). You’ll need to bury that pipe in a ditch that is sloped so that gravity carries water down through the pipe and into a vegetated area that your horses don't have access to. The rounded drain rock on top of the pipe will allow surface water to flow down into the drain, helping to prevent standing water and removing it from your barn area.
Remember, French Drains are not recommended for within your paddocks because they clog or crush easily under heavy hoof traffic. For drainage within the paddock, consider using Lighthoof to create open, protected drainage features. Here's a video discussing how that works: https://youtu.be/_HU2GY7DBAI
Lighthoof panels create structure and stability, so even when saturated, your paddock footing can support your horse. These panels act like tree roots, and they keep your horses up above the muddy ground. By installing them in problem areas, like high-traffic paddock gates in low-lying areas, you can keep those areas easily accessible. Plus, not only can humans and horses walk on the panels, but they’re strong enough to support your tractor, too.
Lighthoof panels don’t just help to keep muddy areas accessible – they also protect your footing against heavy rainfall and runoff. This can help to prevent erosion, which is particularly important when you’re dealing with water runoff issues on your property.
Create Berms and Channels
Digging and cutting berms and channels into your land can also help to direct water away from your barn. You’ll need a tractor or other heavy equipment for large-scale channels, and this technique is best done in areas that you don’t need to drive on.
Get Creative with Landscaping
If you’re working with steeper slopes that lead down to a barn or paddock, building vegetated buffer areas can help to slow water runoff for less erosion and flooding.
Thick vegetation and a mix of grasses and shrubs will slow down water flow. The plant’s roots help to prevent soil erosion, while the stems of the plants act as a barrier that water must filter through. Planting several vegetative barriers in the path of your run off can make a bigger difference, repeatedly slowing down water to minimize its effect on the ground and structures at the bottom of the terraced area.
Solving Water Runoff Issues
To truly fix your water runoff issues around your barn, you may need to put multiple strategies to work. As you redirect the water flow, try to think ahead to identify any problems that could come from the rerouted water. You’ll need to invest some time and money into these projects, but having usable paddocks year-round and a barn that doesn’t flood is well worth the effort.