Where ever horses are, poop and urine happen. Daily. It is the most basic horse care to clean the areas where they spend time, yet some people skimp on this needed process.
There are several reasons for cleaning up horse waste, but for me, the number one reason is that it is the right thing to do. No one wants to live in their feces. Therefore, defining “clean” is necessary, which controls the money spent on labor and bedding. Horse owners must remove all soiled bedding and waste at least once daily. The comfort and health of the horse depend on this.
Other reasons to keep the bedding clean:
- Thermoregulation – If the bedding is wet and the air temperature is cold, the damp ground will transfer the heat from the body to equal the cold ground temperature. I don’t recommend the following experiment because you will get severely burned. If you soak a potholder in water and then grab the handle of a hot kitchen pan, the heat will immediately pass to your hand and burn it. Conduction is the cause, and moisture is a great conductor of hot and cold heat. This simple principle is why I tell people who think a wet pack of bedding insulates the horse lying down in winter. That is just nonsense. Moist and dirty bedding will draw out the body heat making horses colder.
- Parasite control – (something you will hear throughout this site) is combated effectively with a clean environment. Keeping the manure with infective larvae away from the mouth is the principle behind human parasite control – yes, you and me. Likewise, washing hands, knives and forks and keeping a toilet (outhouse, water closet, restroom, sanitation system) away from the kitchen and dining rooms prevent infection. The same applies to horses, though one type of parasite (ascarid) can glue its eggs onto the wall.
- Disease control – Fly control is essential. Keeping the organic matter (horse waste) out of the barn will diminish the attraction of flies. Clean bedding is one way to reduce the cause of skin sensitivity to flies and the annoyance of flies in general.
- Hard surfaces – Occurs in sub-freezing weather when the water-laden manure and urine freeze. Laying down on frozen balls is very uncomfortable.
- Dirty hair coats – Tough to do when keeping show horses as a dirty stall will stain the hair, especially gray or white horses, adding more time loss to a full day.
You should remove all manure and urine-soaked bedding once a day and add fresh bedding to keep the body from the filthy floor below. If the horse is outside on grass, there is no need to clean it because the grass is a living organism. It will naturally clean itself via bacterial digestion and rain. Artificial stall floors (dirt, sand, concrete, rubber, etc.) are not living and will accumulate foul-smelling bacteria on or under the surface. Daily removal of waste helps to keep the organic matter low.
There is no excuse for a dirty stall other than laziness, and the same with a dirty house. It is not clean if you are unwilling to lie down in your horse’s stall. Of course, being your horse’s advocate has its not-so-fun moments but listening to audiobooks or podcasts while cleaning stalls, sheds, and paddocks helps.
This video is the “Shaker,” and hearing protection is required – but it’s pretty slick.
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