Did you know…? A healthy, adult horse eats every 30-120 minutes. Depending on the way the horse is kept, it will accumulate a few kilos, because horses in stalls produce up to 30 kg of horse droppings (also called “horse dumplings”) every day! Urine excretes a healthy, adult horse between 3-6 liters daily. Now you can imagine what a stall looks like in the evening when approx. 30 kg of horse droppings with approx. 4 liters of urine accumulate there every day…
In our guide you will learn what you should think about when mucking out the horse stable.
What do I need to consider before choosing bedding?
What should be the surface of the horse stall?
Basically, there should be a concrete floor under the bedding. Special stable mats are excellent for a horse stall in many ways: your horse steps more safely and the softness of the mats protects tendons and joints from being subjected to too much stress. Also, the rubber mats have a heat-insulating effect, so muscle disorders, rheumatism or stiffness are less likely to occur. A special advantage is also that the rubber mats insulate sound. With the mats, it becomes much quieter in the barn, which is very pleasant for both the animals and the caretakers.
What are the health aspects of mucking out the horse barn?
Many horses suffer from respiratory illnesses because of poor stable air. The gas ammonia is to blame. It is produced when feces and urine decompose. It smells pungent and can lead to chronic bronchitis in the horse. According to the “Guidelines for the Evaluation of Horse Housing from an Animal Welfare Point of View” (published by the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture), you must make sure that there are no increased concentrations of harmful gases such as ammonia.
Some bedding can also cause allergies. If the bedding does not adequately bind the liquid, the horse may contract mallenders or thrush more quickly due to the moisture. Inadequate stable hygiene favors thrush as a disease of the horse’s hoof, as well as mallenders as a disease of the skin of the pastern. They occur more frequently when mucking out is not done properly.
What bedding is available?
The following types of horse bedding are most commonly used in horse husbandry:
Very popular with horses is straw as bedding. Straw is natural and inexpensive because it is a byproduct of grain farming. It is almost always available or at least easy to obtain. Straw serves as an additional source of roughage for horses, and the animals can use it to keep themselves busy. You can find out why roughage is so important in horse feeding in our guide “Horse feeding – back to the basics”. You can quickly get the horse droppings out of the stall with a pitchfork. As manure, straw is uncomplicated to dispose of in the fields. However, straw can’t absorb much moisture. It is often infested with mold and it develops dust quickly. Fungal spores and dust can cause allergies and coughing and can damage horse lungs. The space required to store the straw is relatively large, and the volume of manure is greater than other bedding.
Shavings are not very contaminated with germs. They hardly develop dust, which is very good for your horse if he is prone to allergies. Since shavings are usually compressed into handy bales, you can store them relatively easily in a small space. Before you distribute them in your horse’s stall, however, you must first loosen the compressed shavings. With a special shavings fork or a shavings fork, you can quickly clean out your horse’s stall. Once you have removed the used shavings from the stall, they rot very slowly and you cannot take them to the field for fertilizing. You may have to dispose of them as garbage.
Pellets are natural, almost germ-free and low in dust. They rot quickly and you can compost them well. You save time when mucking out, as you only have to remove the horse droppings lying on top from the stable. The pellets bind the moisture of the excrements quickly and well. However, pellets are more expensive than straw and shavings.
Advantages and disadvantages of the different types of bedding at a glance:
|Type of bedding:
|Popular with horses- Roughage source- Employment- Very inexpensive- Almost always available- Unproblematic disposal
|Molds, fungal spores- Low liquid absorption- High dust generation- Large areas for storage- Relatively large manure volume.
|Low germination rate- Low dust development- Easy storage in bales
|Slow rotting- Loosening of pressed chips- More expensive to purchase than straw
|Natural- High moisture retention- Virtually germ- and dust-free- Easy mucking- Fast rotting
|More expensive than chips depending on supplier
No matter what bedding you choose: The bedding material must be dry and safe for your health. Do not use bedding that is very dusty or moldy. Also make sure that no toxic materials such as impregnated or poisonous woods end up in the stable.
How often should I muck out the stable?
The longer your horse is in the stall during the day, the more frequently you should dispose of fresh horse droppings and wet bedding areas – at least once a day.
There are different procedures for how much mucking should be done. We’ve outlined the two most common procedures for you:
Remove horse droppings and wet areas from the stall daily. Add nothing or only a little bedding. After a week, empty the box completely and refill it. This type is well suited for straw bedding and shavings or pellets with rubber mats as a base.
With the so-called mattress bedding you leave the basic bedding in the box for a longer period of time. Every day you remove what you can easily absorb. Always spread fresh bedding on top of the existing bedding. This results in an ever increasing layer. Some horses love to lie on this mattress, it is nice and warm and soft. However, the surface of the mattress must not be stirred up by the horse. Otherwise, your horse may contract mallenders or thrush more quickly. Worms also feel at home in this accumulation of dung. You should worm your horse at regular intervals.
After a worming treatment: Muck out the horse! After deworming, you should completely muck out the stalls, clean out the paddocks or change the pasture. In this way you prevent your horse from being re-infected.
What else should I consider when mucking out horses?
For hygienic reasons, you should not use wheelbarrows that you use for mucking out for other purposes. Under no circumstances should you transport feed with it. If it is not possible otherwise, you must clean and disinfect the barrow beforehand to avoid spreading germs.
The manure pile for storing the manure should be far from the barn and the storage of the feed. Common farm roads should not pass by it. Horses and dogs should not have access.
When you place the manure pile, you must follow building codes. The ground must be such that no puddles can form when it rains.
=> This way you avoid spreading pathogens.
Take care of your back when mucking out! In order not to strain your back too much when working with the pitchfork and pushing the cart, you should take the following to heart: – Always keep your back straight! – Lift weights with the movement of your legs: Bend your knees and then straighten your legs again! – Use your arms alternately! – To stay fit for cleaning out, it’s best to do regular strengthening and stretching exercises for your back at home!
Conclusion on the subject of mucking out the stable correctly
Every horse certainly has different preferences as to how it prefers to bed down. There are also “piggies” among horses that manage to turn even the best mucked-out stall into a mess in a short time.
Basically, however, you should consider the following points when choosing bedding for mucking out the horse stall:
Where can I get the bedding from? Is it permanently available there?
How much do I want to spend on the bedding? Can I possibly get straw cheaply from a farmer?
How much space do I have to store it?
Do I have a horse prone to allergies and dust?
What is the surface of the box like? Do I have rubber mats? Then little bedding is enough!
How much space do I have for the manure pile?
Does my bedding rot quickly?
We wish you and your horse all the best and of course a lot of fun with mucking out!
While browsing through our store pages, you will certainly find one or the other article that will make mucking out easier for you.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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