Seven Steps to Better, Easier Stall Mucking

It’s no one’s favorite job, but here’s how to save time and maximize results cleaning stalls.
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It’s no one’s favorite job, but here’s how to save time and maximize results cleaning stalls.

Stall mucking is a fact of life if your horses live all or part of the time indoors. Here’s how to streamline the process while doing the best job possible.

Credit: Photo by Charles Mann/istockPhoto.com Having the proper tools on hand helps to make stall mucking a less arduous task.

Credit: Photo by Charles Mann/istockPhoto.com Having the proper tools on hand helps to make stall mucking a less arduous task.

1. Get ready. Dress appropriately: “barn clothes,” rubber boots, gloves. Gather the right tools: five-pronged pitchfork; multi-pronged shavings fork (apple picker); broad shovel; wheelbarrow or muck bucket with cart. Turn out your horse: Cleaning is safer and easier if he’s elsewhere. Position the barrow/cart: Angle it just outside the stall door so it’s pointing in the direction you’ll want to head after filling it.

2. Attack the obvious stuff. Using the five-pronged pitchfork, lift all manure piles into the barrow or cart. Position the fork so you take only the droppings and wet bedding, leaving dry bedding behind.

3. Sift for smaller stuff. Using the multi-pronged fork, pick through the partly soiled sections of bedding. Shake forkfuls gently back and forth or up and down to allow bedding to drop while the “road apples” remain.
4. Dig for the urine spot. Geldings and stallions tend to pee in the middle of a stall; mares often go alongside a wall. Use the broad shovel to dig out all wet bedding and to scrape the bottom of urine spots as clean as possible.

5. Redistribute remaining bedding. Even out what’s left in preparation for adding the new stuff. Bear in mind that bedding doesn’t have to be perfect to be functional. If there’s absorbency left in bedding that’s been trampled or otherwise used some, put it at the bottom of the urine spot. (There, it’ll be the first to go the next time you clean, and you’ll have gotten some good additional use out of it.)

6. Wheel the barrow. Transport all waste and soiled bedding to your collection area or compost pile. Return to the stall with fresh bedding.

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7. Add the fresh stuff. How much to add will depend on how much you took out. Spread and even it with the shavings fork, making sure it’s distributed deeply in the middle and over any peripheral peeing areas.

How Often, and With What

Frequency. For horses that live in their stalls, twice a day is ideal, and once a day (usually in the morning) is standard. If horses move in and out of stalls, you may get by cleaning less frequently depending on where they most often “go.” Soiled stalls attract flies plus contribute to hoof problems such as thrush, and ammonia fumes from urine can harm respiratory systems, so be judicious. Regular cleaning also saves money on bedding, as the longer you go between cleanings, the more bedding gets churned up and will need to be tossed. Another important benefit of regular mucking is that it allows you to examine each horse’s waste, waste patterns, and any changes that could alert you to health problems.

Types of bedding. The most common are baled straw; wood shavings in bales or bulk; and pellets made from wood, corn cobs, or straw. Alternatives include seed hulls, peat moss, sawdust, chopped flax/hemp, and shredded paper/cardboard. Experiment to find what works best for your setup from among the cost-effective options available in your area. Note: The use of stall mats enables you to economize on bedding and still keep your horse comfortable. (Search equine bedding material at HorseandRider.com for details on options.)