• Sue Steiner

Moody Mud Days

Moody Mud 

Days are forever!

I don’t like to be pessimistic, but there is one thing that will immediately put me in a bad mood- MUD!  Grrrr!!  And yes, I live in Ohio, so mud is a fairly regular occurrence/nuisance/part of life/thorn in my side/all spring, most of the fall and some winter when you have horses.  So, on one hand, I need to just get over it, learn to live with it, manage it or move to a desert climate.  

Mud is such a metaphor for so many things. 

Mud is self-perpetuating.   Once there is a muddy spot, that spot is more prone to mud, once your horses walk thru it.  Their hooves make large divots in the soft ground in which water collects, doesn’t drain and so now the ground stays wet longer, doesn’t drain and your horses make more divots and the problem grows.  It is kind of like a negative thought.  Negative thoughts like to self-perpetuate.  They like company.  Your one negative thought can easily multiply when you focus your attention on to that negative soft spot.  Your mind makes a neural divot of sorts in which other negative stuff can collect.  Over time and focus, you can grow a whole muddy mess of negative thoughts that like to just sit and fester, rather than drain away.  Ask me how I know.  I used to do this, alot!  I suffered from anxiety and anxiety means nothing more than your mind looking for, perceiving or anticipating danger.  This was very necessary many ions ago when we could get eaten by a wild beast, but not so helpful now.  Our busy, chaotic, noisy world can rattle our senses and things like past trauma, genetics, depression or grief can set our systems on high alert and prompt us to unconsciously scan our horizons for the next threat.  Things in our modern world like the news and social media can play on the very innate human tendency to latch on to the ‘warnings’.  We are continually bombarded with bad news or threats of harm, illness, danger etc. that continue enlarging that muddy mess in our brains.  

Mud is sticky.  Mud is persistent. It does not like to let go.  Mud clings to your boots, your horse’s coat and hooves as it is tracked into your barn and house.  It leaves tracks and trails so we can’t easily forget its there.  Mud is a perfect analogy for depression.  Depression can be irritatingly persistent and seem to hang on for no apparent reason, other than to remind you that you are depressed.  You try to see the brighter parts but there are all these stupid tracks and trails that want to lead you back to the quagmire of depression.  

If any of this resonates with you, know that mud does not last forever!  Like feelings, mud can be present for a time, but know that there are ways of dealing with the stuck places in your life, just like there are ways to deal with the mud in your corral and pasture.  

Good Mud Management

  1. Drainage

  2. Support

  3. Traffic Flow

Drainage- Rainwater needs to flow and drain away from your barn and pasture.  We all can’t have an ideal setting, soil, elevation, facilities in order to have NO mud…. that is likely never a possibility (in my climate at least).   But I can find ways to improve your situation.  If you are dealing with anxiety and depression, medication, talk therapy, equine therapy :), mindfulness, exercise, good eating, and sleeping habits all can make a huge difference in how you feel.  Please, if you find one avenue doesn’t work, continue to look and try.  Depression and anxiety can be persistent buggers, and what helps one person may not work for another.  Just as we all have different physical terrains, soil and elevations to overcome with the physical mud, we all have different genetic makeup, family history, living situations that make us unique in how our inner mud manifests itself.  There is NO shame in asking for help.  If one person or method isn’t working, ask again, and again.  I promise you (as someone who has been there) life CAN and often does get better…. you just have to be more persistent than the mud.  And just like when a troublesome gate that was prone to mud has improved drainage and support, our minds, as we heal from depression, can learn to not hold on to those negative thoughts to make divots that collect more.  Your ‘flow’ can be improved and as the ground firms up and has the extra support, it becomes less of an issue.  It still rains, yes, but it does not mean that a mud hole will be created. 

Physical Support- There are materials and methods to help hold soil in place so it doesn’t erode. Gravel can be used to build up and add drainage to a soft area also.  Special supports can be used to hold those in place too.  (I will share links below for materials etc.)  As many of us have experienced- gravel has a way of being sucked back into the earth without some way of ‘holding it in place’.  In an emotional sense, therapists, family, friends, and faith can provide extra support when needed.  We all need a secure base on which to live.  A community of supportive people is essential for long-term good mental health.  And if your base is on the skimpy side right now, please know, that there are people out there who can be an ‘intentional family’ if your family of origin is not able to do that for you.  They are the ones you help hold you up when you slip.  Or gather around to help you in hard times.  If you don’t have that, a good counselor or therapist can help you begin to build that into your life. 

Traffic Flow- There may be times when you just have to restrict traffic in an area.  I have a small corral that can be used as a dry lot or mud corral when my pastures are too soft.  If I let my horses have free access, all the time, I lose grass due to many, many divots or overgrazing.  Or my horses have too much access to rich, spring grass.  For their health and good pasture management, I restrict their access at times.  Good boundaries not only make for good business and friendships, but it also helps to maintain good health in my herd.   You can provide good boundaries for yourself by limiting access to social media or the news during the times you feel vulnerable.  I do that often now but it took me a while to learn how that could affect me.  I would follow certain events of natural disasters and with the cameras and videos available during those events, I would have images of human and animal suffering seared into my head.  It was really destructive when I was so vulnerable to feeling the ‘weight of the world on my shoulders’ already.  Now I am not saying you can’t follow current events or be informed about issues etc. I am just saying be aware of the effect it might have on you.  Sometimes being aware and involved can be very empowering.  Other times it can deepen feelings of helplessness, hopelessness.  Know when to tune out for your own mental health.  It is a learning process but can be done.  Spend time in nature, with your horses.  They are so very healing!! 

Mud management links:



LightHoof Equine Mud Management


Soil Reinforcement- Agricultural Material

AgTech GeoCell

Inspiration from Horses and Healing and Sue:




Hope this helps!  Please share on social media! 

Thank you!

Sue Steiner, equine and animal artist 

#helpwithdepression #emotionalfitness #moodymuddays #depressionandanxiety #mudasametaphor #benefitsofhorsestohealing #mudmanagementforhorses #equineassistedlearning

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