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Horse Manure Management

Horse Manure Storage, Disposal and Composting

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Manure Management

Horses produce manure about eight times a day. Without proper management, things can really pile up. Some people find manure an eyesore, but more importantly, not dealing with manure properly can cause health problems, whether your horse is kept inside or out.

In the Stable

If you keep your horse stabled for any part of the day or night, it’s important to keep its stall clean. Daily mucking out is necessary to prevent the build-up of the ammonia that occurs when urine, manure and bedding begin to break down, which can irritate the horse’s lungs. Horses that are fed hay off of the floor may be more likely to pick up shed parasite eggs, which will be ingested, hatch and migrate further into the digest tract where they can cause internal damage. Hoof health is also affected, and poorly cleaned stalls can lead to thrush and other problems. Dirty stalls also attract flies, which carry diseases like Pigeon Fever.

Removing the manure and urine soiled bedding and adding fresh bedding at least daily is essential. If during hot weather, ammonia seems to be forming quickly, there are neutralizing solutions that can be used. But keeping the stall clean and dry is the best strategy.

Once the manure is taken out of the barn it needs to be stored in a bin, in a pile in dry spot away from running water (down spouts, streams, ponds) or composted. You'll probably also want to place the manure storage or pile out of sight of both your own home, and your neighbor's. You may have a service in your area that will pick up the manure and take it away. Alternatively, a local farmer may be glad to to take the manure to spread on fields. You may be able to find a garden club that will take at least part of your manure pile for their gardening efforts. Or, you may wish to create a system to compost manure so you can either sell the compost or if you’re an avid gardener, use it on your flower beds and vegetable gardens. Horse manure needs to “age” for about six months before it's put on gardens.

In the Pasture

If you're horse is kept outside, it doesn't mean you can ignore the manure. Manure left in piles will kill the grass beneath and attract disease carrying flies. Parasite eggs are as much a concern outside as they are indoors. Horse will not graze grass near deposits of manure, cutting down on the amount of pasture available. Manure in pastures, and poorly designed manure piles can contaminate run-off when it rains. While bacterial contamination is not a huge concern, nutrients from manure can impact stream and pond life by contributing to excess algae growth.

The best strategy is to scatter the deposits so they dry out and break down quicker. This will make them less attractive to flies, kill some (but not all) parasite eggs, and prevent un-grazed areas. I spread them by taking a manure fork and tossing the piles. (Tip: don't throw into the wind.) If you have a tractor, you can make or purchase a drag that will spread the manure out. If your budget allows, you can purchase an implement that will vacuum up the manure so you can remove it completely.

Away From Home

Manure needs to be managed when you and your horse are away from home as well. If you're riding on trail, it's good public relations to dismount and clear manure off of multi-use trails. Parking areas at shows and trail heads should be cleaned up. We take along a big muck bucket and fork for this whenever we trailer out. And trailers too, should be kept manure free, to prevent ammonia build up, dust and reduce dampness, which can erode floor boards.

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