Mucking out your horse's stall is not the most fun way to spend your time when you could be riding. But keeping your horse happy and healthy is an essential part of being an equestrian. Cleaning your horse's stall doesn't have to be something you dread doing, however. If you follow an efficient routine and do the job right, you can make regular stall maintenance easy to manage.
Step 1: Grab Your Tools
Having the right tools is essential.
- Plastic or metal manure and bedding fork
- Plastic scoop shovel
- Stall broom
- Work gloves
- Clothes you don't mind getting dirty
- Fresh bedding material
- Moisture control and deodorizer product for concrete floors and stall mats
- Mask or bandana to cover your face
Straw or bedding hay works as bedding material, but it tends to hide manure more than either shavings or wood pellets do. Yes, it can be more expensive, but shavings make the job of mucking out your horse's stall quicker and easier.
Step 2: Pick Out the Obvious Stuff
Once you've turned your horse out or put them in another empty stall, use your muck fork to pick up the obvious manure and urine spots. Toss these into your wheelbarrow. As you pick out the manure, give it a light shake to separate the good bedding from the stuff you'll throw out.
Step 3: Sorting and Removing Bedding
As you pick up the big stuff, start separating used bedding - bedding that is wet or dirty - from the stuff you can reuse. Scoop up bedding that looks clean with your muck fork and toss it against a clean wall of the stall. Pick out any manure that falls through and builds up at the bottom of your pile, and toss any clumps of wet bedding you come across in your wheelbarrow.
Do this for every part of your horse's stall. Turning the bedding this way helps you find all of the manure and urine clumps hiding under the top layer. For big wet spots, grab your flat-bottomed shovel and scoop the used bedding out. If your stall's floor is concrete or covered with a stall mat, break out your moisture and odor control product and cover the wet spots that smell. For stalls with dirt floors, scrape out the wet spots and let these dry.
As you turn the bedding, you might notice dust building up in the air. Put your mask or bandana over your mouth and nose to make the job a little easier.
Step 4: Spread the Good Bedding Around
If you have time, allow the treated spots to dry out for a bit. If not, that's OK too. Start spreading the good remaining bedding back around the stall, making sure it's distributed evenly. Make sure there is enough bedding so that it is at least 6 inches deep. If possible, 12 inches of bedding is better.
Step 5: Add Fresh Bedding
Now, if your stall's bedding layer isn't thick enough, open your bag of shavings, or your bundle of straw or bedding hay, and spread it out evenly until the layer is built up. Fluff the new bedding up as you add it to the stall. If you're using a straw mat, you don't need to build up the bedding layer quite as much. If your stall's floor is concrete, a thicker layer is better, both to make sure your horse has enough padding, and to absorb urine more effectively.
Step 6: Tidy Up the Doorway
Sweep up any manure or old bedding that has fallen outside the stall or in the stall's doorway and add it to your wheelbarrow. Don't let manure build up around the door, or in crevices around the stall. If you leave this stuff sitting, it's likely to turn into a very unpleasant mud later, especially if it gets wet. Once you're finished, you can bring your horse back to their fresh, clean stall.
Make Time and Stay Efficient
It takes about 20 minutes to clean a stall properly once you get good and know what you're doing. The trick is to stick to your routine and don't neglect any of the steps. The easiest way to make sure you're working efficiently is to muck out your horse's stall regularly, preferably daily. This keep the mess to a minimum, and prevents you from having to do a keep clean or change out all of the bedding as often.
Cleaning Horse Stall Mats
Horse stall mats help protect your horse's feet and provide a comfortable, cushioned surface for your horse to stand on. The mats are normally made of rubber or plastic, but they can be difficult to clean. They are also not totally impervious to moisture, and may absorb urine over time. Regularly spot cleaning your mat with a deodorizer helps, but sometimes you'll need to be more thorough. To clean your mats off, you'll need a hose with a pressure nozzle, wheelbarrow, mop or brush, bucket, broom, and a cleaning agent.
- Remove all of the bedding. Pick up all clean bedding and put it in a clean wheelbarrow to hold it temporarily.
- Pull the mats out of the stall. Taking your stall mats out makes cleaning easier, because you don't want moisture building up inside the stall.
- Spray down the mats and shake them out. Use a high-pressure nozzle on your hose to spray down the mats. You can spray horse mats that are still in good shape down with a pressure washer, but be aware that if the pressure is too high, you might destroy the mat.
- Shake the mats out. Give your mats a good shaking to remove as much debris as possible.
- Disinfect the mats. Use mat cleaning solution or a solution of distilled white vinegar, and scrub down both sides of the mats with your mop or brush. You may have to leave the cleaning solution on the mats for a while for them to be effective. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the product you are using.
- Rinse the mats down. Thoroughly spray down the stall mats to make sure you remove all of the cleaning solution.
- Let the mats dry. The best time to clean stall mats is on a bright, sunny, breezy day. This helps further disinfect the mats and helps them dry completely.
- Put the mats back in the stall. Make sure the mats are completely dry before you put them back, and make sure you clean up underneath the mats before returning them.
Over time, stall mats break down and tend to absorb more moisture. Eventually, you'll have to pull up broken-down mats and replace them. This is a good time to use a pressure washer and disinfectant to do a deep-clean in the stall, scrubbing everything down and removing urine stains that made their way beneath the mat.
Keep Your Horse Healthy
If you love horses and want to keep them happy and healthy, make mucking out their stalls a daily practice. Cleaning stalls is not just about keeping them tidy. It's also an important part of your horse's overall health. If you take care of the dirty work yourself, then you can rest assured that your horse will always have a clean place to rest.