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Muck Mastery

A horse owner’s definitive guide to stall cleaning.

By Lisa Munniksma | September 27, 2017

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Horse in Stall

I’d been a horse owner for four years before I actually learned a system for cleaning a stall. As a horse-crazy 15-year-old, of course, I thought I knew everything from the day my first horse came home with me. It wasn’t until I started working at the Delaware Valley College Equestrian Center that I actually learned how to clean a stall thoroughly and efficiently.

Every horse has different stall habits, and with 48 horses in the college barn, I believe I saw it all. While each stall has is its own story, this stall-cleaning approach works for every one that I dealt with then and since. It’s intended for stalls that are bedded with shavings-like material. (Tap here for pros and cons of different types of bedding materials.)

You will need the following tools:

  • Manure fork
  • Broom
  • Flat-bottom shovel
  • Bandana to cover your nose and mouth if stall is dusty
  • Watering can, if stall is dusty

STEP 1: Remove leftover hay.

If the hay is still good, scrape it to one corner to deal with later. If it’s not good, into the wheelbarrow it goes.

STEP 2: Remove visible manure and wet spots.

This is self-explanatory.

STEP 3: Choose one wall, and turn over bedding along the length of the wall.

I look for the wall that appears to have the cleanest bedding, but you never know what you’ll find underneath until you start turning.

STEP 4: Toss remaining bedding against the clean wall, about hip height.

As you scoop bedding into your manure fork, you’ll find scoops that are wet. Put those into the wheelbarrow.

When you find scoops that appear to be dry, toss them against the wall. As the contents hits the wall, the clean bedding makes a neat pile against the wall, and the manure rolls or falls to the bottom of the pile.

Let the manure collect along the bottom of your bedding pile, then scoop it up and put it in the wheelbarrow. Don’t pick up the manure after you toss each scoop against the wall, or you’ll negate the efficiency of this scoop-and-toss method. Let the manure build up a bit, then scoop it out.

Turn over the entire stall in this way—even the bedding from under the water buckets, feed bucket and hay rack that we often skip. Throw out the musty, wet bedding and toss the dry stuff against the wall. It’s OK for some hay to be strewn through the bedding, as long as you did a good job of removing most of it in Step 1.

Pro tip: If the bedding is dry and kicking up dust, wear a bandana around your nose and mouth or water the stall lightly with a watering can. This might sound counter-intuitive, but you’re not wetting the bedding, just dampening the dust so it doesn’t become airborne.

STEP 5: Treat the wet spot.

If you have stall mats or a concrete floor, sweep the remaining wet bedding off of the wet spot, and remove it with a shovel. If you have a dirt floor, scrape the wet spot with your manure fork.

If the wet spot has an offensive odor, treat it with a stall odor- and moisture-absorbing agent. If you have time, let the spot air-dry before rebedding the stall.

STEP 6: Rebed the stall.

Use the manure fork to pull the shavings away from the wall and spread them across the stall. Concentrate this bedding in the wet areas first. You’re essentially rotating stall bedding so you remove the oldest first.

You’ll find additional manure pieces hiding as you spread the shavings. After you spread out all of the bedding, pick and remove these errant pieces. Add more bedding as needed. Finally, settle the leftover hay back in its place in the stall or hay rack.

STEP 7: Clean and fill water buckets.

Take the buckets from the stall, dump them, give them a twice-around with a scrub brush, and refill.

This step comes last because there’s no sense in putting clean water buckets into a stall only to mess them up again while cleaning or adding bedding. (It also comes last because it is my least favorite horse-care task.)

A thoroughly clean stall makes for a healthier home for your horse and a more pleasant barn for you. This whole stall-cleaning process should only take you 15 to 20 minutes in the beginning, which is not a lot of time to invest in your horse’s health.

As you learn your horse’s stall habits, you’ll establish a rhythm and make this chore go even faster.

Freelance writer Lisa Munniksma has cleaned hundreds of stalls in her day but now spends more time traveling, growing food and writing about it. Follow her on Instagram @freelancefarmerchick.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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Reader Comments

Connie    Chadds Ford, PA

10/9/2017 9:03:33 AM

What about cobwebbing???? Other than that - it's the way I was taught lo those many years ago.

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