People who work on large training and show farms have a big job when it comes to cleaning stalls. But they also have help in the way of specialized equipment to lighten their loads. Even if you only have a couple of horses in your barn stalls, you can also use these specialized stall cleaning tips to help you cut time and conserve bedding during your stall cleaning chores.
Use the proper fork. A heavyweight pitchfork makes for inefficient stall cleaning. Don't struggle with a heavy silage fork just because you have it. Buy a lightweight fork with plastic tines that makes picking up piles of manure easy. Wood handles are nice, but they add weight. Metal handle forks are lighter and usually less expensive. Closely spaced tines help hold small biscuits and wet bedding. If you bed deep, get a fork with an extra deep "basket." If you bed with straw, of course, a regular pitchfork with metal tines works best.
Prepare for transport. Get a wheelbarrow that's large enough to cut down the number of trips you make to the manure pile. A plastic body instead of metal cuts down on weight. Two wheels on the front take the load off your arms, but a single-wheel model is more maneuverable if you work in a tight area. If you have to clean with the horse in the stall, you'll fumble less with the door and decrease chance of escape if you leave the wheelbarrow in the aisle and use a plastic muck bucket in the stall to transport the manure out.
Move it on over. Bedding your stalls deeply can actually save work and bedding. While you clean, toss the cleaner bedding from the top layer over to the sides or into the corners of the stall. Remove all wet bedding from below, sprinkle a little stall deodorizer over the damp spot, and then rake the shavings you pushed aside back over the spot. By doing this daily, you'll need to add less new shavings and you won't have to strip stalls nearly as often.
Shake it, baby, shake it. Don't waste bedding. When you pick out your stalls, shake out the shavings before you dump the load into the muck bucket or wheelbarrow. Gently flip the contents of the fork up and down as you would toss pasta in a colander. The clean, dry shavings or sawdust will fall through back onto the stall floor.
Be picky. Pick up at every opportunity. Keep a muck bucket nearby and a manure fork handy at all times. Tossing occasional pickups throughout the day into your muck bucket keeps your stall trimmed up and you'll have half the work done by the time you actually go to clean the stall. If it isn't fly season, you can even leave the partly filled bucket to be dumped into the wheelbarrow later. Look around for your muck buckets-$5 garden buckets from a home center or dollar store work as well as $25 muck baskets from the tack shop.
Know your tenants. Observe how your horse keeps his stall. Most horses tend to eliminate in the same spot. They don't like being splashed with urine or manure and usually pick a place with bedding. Keep that spot picked up and well bedded to discourage him from looking around for another spot. If you have a hay waster, you can make use of any trod-on hay by spreading it over any damp spots for a clean overnight bed and fewer stains on your horse or blanket in the morning.
Mats rule. If you don't have stall mats, consider getting them. Yes, they're expensive, but with the amount of work and bedding they save, they'll soon pay for themselves. If you have mats, compressed wood pellets are another option for bedding. Pellets work well in matted stalls, but many brands require the extra step of soaking them with water first. They're generally more expensive than bagged shavings, but they save time when picking.
Send the kids out to play. It's one of the simplest ways to cut down on work and save bedding: Turn your horses out as much as possible during the day. It's not only good for their lungs, their feet, their digestive tracts, and their psyches to have more freedom to roam, but it's the number one way to cut back on stall cleaning. Plus, it gives wet spots you've uncovered time to dry out. So, whenever you can, let your horses be free.