Whether your horses are stabled or turned out waste management is key to having a healthy horse. The average horse produces roughly 50 pounds of manure and anywhere from 6 to 10 gallons of urine per day. Without proper management, basic accumulation of waste opens the door to a host of environmental problems.

If horses are left to stand in urine soaked bedding and manure the effects are tremendous. The bacteria in the wet bedding or manure can cause serious damage to the horse’s hooves. Thrush, which is a bacterial infection that slowly eats away at the tissue of the hoof, is primarily caused by environmental factors, such as wet, muddy conditions as well as damp bedding and manure in stalls. Most cases of thrush are mild and easily treated by keeping the hooves dry and picked clean of debris. However, if left untreated the bacterial infection can advance into the sensitive tissue of the hoof and lead to more serious problems such as lameness. Also, small wounds that become contaminated can become infected and cost you a significant amount of time and money for treatment.

Another concern with the buildup of waste is ammonia. Have you ever walked into a barn and felt a sharp stinging in your eyes and nose? This is from the ammonia in the air which is a by-product of urine and manure. Ammonia is a caustic gas; it’s not just unpleasant, it’s unhealthy. In humans, extended exposure to ammonia fumes can cause chronic inflammation of bronchi, airway hyperactivity, and chronic irritation of the eye membranes, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Is your horse living with these symptoms? He’s probably not dizzy or vomiting but what about that chronic nagging cough, or runny watery eyes?

The next problem with waste buildup is pest control. Flies and mosquitoes are a given at any facility, no matter how effective your management is, but did you realize that these pests can be responsible for a number of problems anywhere from leg and hoof concussion due to stomping flies, increased stress, allergic reactions, mild skin infections, as well as spreading disease. We are all familiar with the battle of the flies, but are we doing everything possible to win the battle? Where is your manure pile? Can you relocate it to be farther away from your stable area? The farther your manure pile is from your barn the better. Controlling insect breeding grounds like your manure pile is the most important factor of insect control. Also don’t forget your water tanks, you don’t want to treat the water with pesticides but frequent dumping and rinsing will cut down on the fly population also.

Controlling internal parasites is one of the most important things you can do for your horse. Because manure contaminated with parasite eggs is the most common way in which worms are re-introduced to your horse’s environment, managing the amount of manure to which your horse is exposed is a useful way of reducing his parasite load. You can start by removing manure from lots and pasture and situating a manure pile as far from your grazing areas as possible. It’s not always feasible to pick manure from pastures on a daily basis, but the more you can do the healthier your horse will be. For more information on parasite control and management visit our website at www.HeartlandEquine.net

Here are some waste management ideas you may be able to implement on your farm:

  • Clean your stalls at least once per day removing all of the wet or damp bedding to cut down on the ammonia in the air, and to help keep your horses hooves clean and dry.
  • Have your manure hauled off annually or implement a manure management system such as composting or spreading.
  • Try to minimize the mud your horses stand in.
  • Keep your stall floors and mats level, this will cut down your bedding costs.
  • Use a hoof pick with a brush to clean debris from your horses feet at least daily or twice per day if you can.
  • Keep a bottle of 50/50 bleach to water mixture available to treat thrush any time you notice an increased amount of moisture and a black discharge in the clefts of the frog accompanied by a foul odor.
  • Provide good ventilation to help control ammonia levels.
  • Avoid overcrowding in your pastures, this can increase the concentration of parasite eggs.
  • Whether you opt for a non-chemical solution such as fly predators or a chemical treatment such as pesticides for your manure pile, treat fly breeding grounds frequently to keep fly populations down.
  • Clean your water tanks and buckets frequently, to cut down on insect breeding grounds. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink out of it your horse shouldn’t be drinking from it.
  • Run a harrow over your pastures to break up piles of manure and expose the eggs and larvae to the elements. This is best done when it is hot and dry or frozen.
  • If you’re not utilizing a strategic deworming program or daily dewormer you should be deworming your horse every 60 days to keep the parasite load at a minimum.

Keeping a barn clean is not rocket science; it’s a matter of combining common sense with good habits. Very simply put your barn is your horse’s home; his stall is his bed. Make it every day as you would your own. He’ll thank you for it every time he feels comfortable enough to lie down for a good night’s rest.