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How to Muck Out a Stable

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Keeping your horse’s stable clean is essential to keep them comfortable and free of serious problems. An unclean stable can attract insects and encourage hoof problems such as thrush. Urine-saturated bedding can result in your horse breathing in ammonia which can be harmful to their lungs. And, not only is a dirty stable unpleasant for your horse, but it can be off-putting for you to have to work in too.

In order to keep your horse’s stall in good condition, stable cleaning should be done daily. As long as you regularly keep on top of it, mucking out your horse’s stable should only take about 20 minutes. However, if you neglect the stable for much longer then it will likely take you much longer. In this guide, we will explain how to muck out a stable in the easiest and most effective way possible.

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How to Dress:

Given that mucking out a stable is a fairly messy job, it is important that you are appropriately dressed. It is a good idea to wear clothes that you aren’t too worried about getting dirty and potentially ruining. Avoid any expensive clothes and try to opt for darker colours that won’t stain. 

There are a few important clothing items that can make stable cleaning a much more pleasant task. A sturdy pair of work gloves will protect your hands from anything sharp or unhygienic. A quality pair of gloves will also prevent blisters and keep your hands warm if mucking out in winter. While it is common to muck out your horse in your usual riding attire, this can be a mistake. Urine can erode the stitching on the soles of leather riding boots, resulting in them being ruined. Save yourself from having to clean your boots by opting for a pair of work boots or rubber wellies that you don’t mind getting mucky.

Types of Bedding:

The type of bedding that you choose to use for your horse’s stable will depend on a range of factors. Different types of bedding materials are used to suit the varying needs of both horse and owner. Poor quality or the wrong type of bedding can have many negative consequences for the health and welfare of your horse. There is an ever increasing range of bedding materials to choose from nowadays which means that thorough consideration needs to be given when deciding which is best for you and your horse.

It is crucial that the bedding material used is of very high quality to ensure that it creates minimal dust. Fresh and clean air is important for both you and your horse because mould spores and dust can result in a number of respiratory problems.

Another factor to consider is how easy it is to work with. Bedding materials should require minimal effort to remove manure and urine should be able to freely drain to the base where it is absorbed and can be removed. However, the design of the stable will also affect the efficiency of the bedding you choose in terms of drainage and absorption ability.

Another important role of stable bedding is to provide support for your horse’s hooves while standing and for their whole body when laid down. This is important to ensure the prevention of stable injuries, such as capped hocks or elbows, and to allow your horse to easily and safely lay down and stand up. Stable injuries are much more likely if the stable is too small or if the bedding and floor surface does not offer sufficient grip.

What You Will Need:

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Pitchfork
  • Shavings fork
  • Stable broom
  • Work gloves
  • Rubber boots
  • Odour-control solution

How to Muck Out a Stable:

    Prepare the Stable

    Before you start mucking out the stable, you need to take out your horse. It is a good idea to choose a time for stable cleaning when your horse is grazing or exercising outside. If you can’t put him/her out because of the weather, then try putting your horse in an empty stable. Once your horse is out, you need to remove any feed tubs, water buckets and toys.

    Prepare Your Equipment

    Assemble your cleaning equipment by the stable door so that you can easily access it. Park your wheelbarrow just outside the stable, facing in the direction that you will wheel it in when you have finished.

    Fork & Shovel

    How you muck out the stable will depend on the type of bedding that has been laid. If the stable is bedded with straw, use a pitchfork to remove any manure or soiled straw. Alternatively, if bedded with shavings or sawdust, use a shavings fork to remove the manure and wet bedding. Fork the manure and soiled bedding into the wheelbarrow. As you continue to remove the dirty bedding, scrape any unsoiled bedding to the side and check to ensure there is no soiled bedding underneath.

    As your wheelbarrow begins to get full, it is a good idea to wheel it out and dump its contents on a manure pile. It can be tempting to keep filling the wheelbarrow until no more can fit in, but this can make it extremely heavy and hard to push and tip.

    Clean Bedding

    Once all of the manure and soiled bedding has been removed, spread any remaining clean bedding back over the stable floor. Add fresh bedding to replace any that has been removed.If you are using straw, then add either a whole straw bale or just portions of one. If you are using shavings or sawdust, use the wheelbarrow to transport fresh bedding to the stable. Use your pitchfork to fluff and break up the compact bedding and spread across the stable floor evenly.

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    How thick your stable bedding is will depend on the season and the type of stable flooring. If the weather is cold, it is best to make your horse’s bedding thicker to keep them warm. However, if you are mucking out during the summer months, then it is best to make their bedding a little thinner. The type of flooring that is underneath the bedding will ultimately influence how much bedding is required. For example, if the stable floor is a thick rubber matting then the bedding can be made less thick. Whereas, if being laid on top of a bare concrete floor, then it is likely that the bedding will need to be thicker to provide extra padding and to absorb urine.

    Clean Alleys Doorways

    After you have finished cleaning and replacing the bedding in the stable, use your broom to sweep up any manure, straw or shavings that have been dropped in the stable alleys or doorways. Next, use the shovel to scoop up the spilled materials and toss them into the wheelbarrow or onto the manure pile.

    Finishing Up

    Now you have completely finished cleaning the stable and its alleys and doorways, you can place the feed tubs, buckets and toys back in. Tidy away all of your mucking out equipment to avoid any tripping hazards. Now, the stable is ready for your horse!

    Stable Management

    No matter what type of bedding material is used, it is essential that the stable is big enough for the horse to turn around and lie down comfortably without making contact with the walls.

    To avoid horses standing on bare concrete or uneven stone floors, bedding should cover the whole stable floor, particularly near the door. Many horses spend long periods standing here which can place added strain on the limbs and joints.

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    Regardless of the type of bedding chosen, it is essential that the material is of a good quality, is not toxic if eaten, and is not an irritant to the skin. Regular mucking out and cleaning of the whole stable environment is fundamental to the ongoing good health and welfare of the horse. There are a variety of mucking out systems available to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:

    • Full muck-out – we strongly recommend that the stable is fully mucked out on a daily basis. This ensures that all fresh droppings and urine are removed from the stable. A full muck-out may take longer to complete but will provide the best environment for the horse’s health. It is important to remember to rotate banks to prevent them becoming mouldy and gathering dust.

    • Part muck-out – this system is usually adopted when time is limited. For example, the droppings are removed daily during the week and then the stable is fully mucked out at weekends. It is important to add extra bedding as required throughout the week.

    • Deep litter – this system is often used on yards with a large number of horses. Droppings are removed from the stable and fresh bedding added on top. It is important that beds do not become too deep and the stable should periodically be completely emptied and thoroughly cleaned. Although this system is the most economical time and cost wise, it is the least suitable for the horse’s respiratory health and can cause other health problems too.
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