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How to Poop Like a Horse

How to Poop Like a Horse

A stick figure cartoon about the different ways our horses poop in their stalls:

How to poop like our horse Valentine
How to poop like our horse Moonshine
How to poop like our horse Cash

As illustrated by the least artistically capable person in my house (me).

Okay, your turn. Tell us how your horses poop.

Honey, get me a hammer and the camera

Honey, get me a hammer and the camera

Take a look at this picture and tell me if you see anything wrong with it

Manure in the feed bucket

That’s not feed in the feed bucket. Now I understand the science and physics of why it happened, but I just don’t know why any creature would allow itself to poop in their feed dish/bucket. I can understand it a little more with our goats but I guess I figured horses were a little, I don’t know…SMARTER. This was from Mikki’s fancy show horse, Valentine, by the way. My beautiful racehorse, Moonshine, who leaves dainty piles of manure in the corners for me, would never do such a thing as this.

Poopsicles; or, the Hazards of Winter Horsekeeping

Poopsicles; or, the Hazards of Winter Horsekeeping

Thermometer in winterI know ya’ll up north are probably getting tired of us complaining about the “cold” weather, but you have to understand that we are desert people. We have only been in the Southeast for a little over a year, and it was not this cold here last year. It got pretty cold on a couple of nights, but we have had unrelenting below-freezing weather at night for weeks now. (In case you doubt our idea of cold, please note the photo to the right that shows the current time, date, inside temp of 56.3 and outside temp of 17.6. Ack!!) Yeah, yeah, we don’t have to shovel snow – yet – but the rest of it is getting to be a little old. Scraping ice off the windshield every morning, bundling up to go up to the barn (have you seen A Christmas Story? “I can’t put my arms down!” Ha ha ha!), leaving the water running at night so the pipes don’t freeze, picking ice from all the buckets…and poopsicles. When you pick up a shovelful of poo and drop it in the wheelbarrow and it goes CLUNK! and you’re afraid it’s going to knock a hole in the side of the wheelbarrow. That’s just plain weird. It is kind of pretty, though, with all those ice sparkles on it. (Okay, that’s even more weird.)

Anyway, suffice it to say that we are not used to this kind of weather, and still not equipped for it. Here are some tricks we’ve used to help us (and the horses) survive until spring:

  • Get the stall cleaning done early. It’s so much more pleasant to muck out stalls at noon when it’s 40 degrees out than to wait until after dark when it’s 28 or so.
  • Dress warm. Even if you feel silly wearing long underwear, two pairs of socks, three shirts and a dorky hat, this is one time when function should take precedence over style. Heck, we even have ski masks for when it’s really cold – you can’t get much goofier than that.
  • Good gloves are a must. I personally hate to wear gloves, and my fingers are kind of short, so there’s a little extra glove past the end of my fingers that gets caught in gate latches, but warm fingers are happy fingers!
  • If you don’t have bucket warmers, improvise. We often put the “barn buckets” out in the sun when we let the horses out, so the ice will be melted by the time we let them back in. Also, we sometimes fill the buckets with warm water from out bathtub right before we let them in, so they’ll have a few minutes, anyway, of water at a reasonable temp. Alternately, we’ll boil water on the stove and pour some into the cold water to warm it up a bit. It doesn’t keep it from freezing, of course, but it holds it off for a while. Bill discussed some other ideas in Horses and the Frozen Tundra of the South.

So those are some ideas. Just remember, no matter how tempting, do not set anything on fire near your barn or use any sort of radiant heat device in or near the barn. I know it’s cold, but it’s not worth the risk of burning your barn down. Oh, and one more suggestion: think back to what it was like in August when you were mucking out the stall, pouring with sweat and wishing for fall. Remember what that feeling was like and know that those days are coming again.

I can’t wait.

Stall Fork Preferences

Stall Fork Preferences

Loaded manure forks

It doesn’t take long to figure out what products and procedures work well for horse chores. Last night while shoveling horse stalls (it’s more like forking horse stalls), Mikki grabbed the manure fork I normally use and I, in turn, took hers. After a few minutes, we happily swapped back again. Neither of us found it easy to work with a manure fork weren’t familiar with using. That might sound silly but we each use a different size and style fork and that makes more of a difference than I would have thought. Mikki uses a smaller fork purchased at a tack shop for around $20. It’s the typical style you see for manure duties, with a nice smooth aluminum handle. We bought the fork I use specifically for use with pellet bedding such as Woody Pet and Equine Pine. In fact, I think it’s actually manufactured by the Woody Pet people (I think they call it their “Fine Tines Fork” – around $26 at Tractor Supply). Its tines are closer together for catching small manure pieces. It’s also quite a bit larger than the one Mikki uses and as a result picks up a LOT of horse manure, which makes it quite heavy to use. For those who use sawdust or pine pellets, cleaning stalls is partly scooping big chunks of horse manure and part sifting to separate the good bedding from the little pieces of manure. The larger fork does a great job as a “sifter” since it’s deep and the sides adequately keep the payload from prematurely escaping the fork. The smaller fork Mikki uses doesn’t work as well as a sifter because the payload keeps falling off the sides. At least it does for me. Mikki has it down, though and much prefers it over the larger stall fork.

Here’s what they look like. Even though the larger one looks like it’s carrying less horse manure, remember it’s deeper. You just can’t see the depth in the photo.

On the left is the smaller fork, with the larger Woody Pet fork on the right. While shooting these pictures, I lost some of the horse manure from the fork on the left.

Incidentally, we’ve been using both stall forks for at least 6 months without any of the tines breaking. They’ve fallen down in the barn and used as rakes and shovels (not recommended) and have proven to be durable, despite being plastic. The bolt holding the fork onto the aluminum handle of the smaller one needed tightening once.

900 pounds of horse manure!

900 pounds of horse manure!

Wheelbarrow full of manure

It all began with me wondering how much horse manure I shovel each day. So armed with a fish scale (a scale with a handle and a hook used for weighing fish), I filled a few buckets with manure tonight, subtracted the weight of the bucket and discovered that I shovel around 30 pounds of horse manure daily for my 1,000-pound horse, Moonshine. Tomorrow I’ll measure our 1,200-pound horse, Valentine. So just for fun, here are some other measurements to help put things into perspective. Remember, this is for my horse Moonshine only:

Output (manure only)

30 lbs. daily
900 lbs. monthly (almost half a ton)
10,950 lbs. annually (almost 5.5 tons)

*note: this is manure that’s about half a day old. As it dries, I’d guess the weight drops dramatically. Also note this only covers manure inside her stall, where she spends 8-10 hours a day.

Input (food and water)

80 lbs. water daily (10 gallons) or 29,200 lbs. annually (3,650 gallons/14.6 tons)
10 lbs. hay daily or 3,650 lbs. annually (almost 2 tons)
1.5 lbs. oats daily or 548 lbs. annually

*note: hay figure does not include hay fed in pasture. Grazing on grass not included. Does include water consumed in pasture.

Wow, so I’m shoveling about 5.5 tons a year in manure. Horse chores provide good exercise! As my biceps grow I’m looking forward to answering the question “wow, what’s your secret?” with “horse manure!”.

My dog eats horse poop

My dog eats horse poop

My dog eating poo

I think that’s the best way to put it, really. My dog just loves our new horse. From the start, neither showed fear or even much interest in the other. Except my dog quickly learned that having a horse around meant occasional carrot and apple snacks dropped from our messy horse and an endless supply of the finest horse manure this side of PetSmart.

Now I just know there must be some kind of disease my dog can get from this and of course we stop him whenever we seem him doing it, but there’s no way to keep him from the pasture and as long he as doesn’t run away or cause trouble, we like him to be able to roam freely when we’re outside.

Dog cleaning up

The cleaning up after horsey snacks I don’t mind. I don’t like Valentine to poke his head through the fence and any food left behind will attract bugs and other critters. So I’m fine with my canine friend having some leftover (albeit dirty) carrot and apple pieces. But poop? Ick!

If you ever stop by our little farm, take my advice and don’t accept kisses from my dog.