Keeping your horses’ stalls, barn and living area clean is essential in order to ensure their safety and health. When stalls are not cleaned properly, they may attract insects and rodents. Dirty stalls may also become home to disease-causing organisms that can infect your horses and make them sick. To prevent these problems from occurring, stables must be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis. The more often horses are kept in stalls, the more often they must be cleaned. For example, stables that house horses continuously should be cleaned out at least once each day.
When cleaning a horse stall, you need to have the right tools on hand. Because dirty horse stables contain horse urine and droppings, you must protect yourself from infections by covering all open wounds. To prevent the formation of blisters on your hands, wear thick gloves designed for manual labor. You should also wear strong shoes to protect your feet. Rubber soled boots are best because horse urine will not damage them.
To remove old bedding from the stall, you will need a four-pronged fork or a shavings fork. To remove droppings and other debris, you will need a shovel. You should also bring a muck sack or wheelbarrow to remove waste from the barn. Finally, remember to bring new bedding to put down in the stall when you are finished cleaning.
For the safety of both you and the horse, the stall must be empty when you clean it. If there is currently a horse in the stall you plan to clean, you must take it out of the stall and secure it before you begin the process. Secure your horse with a lead rope and halter somewhere outside of the stable. You should also remove any hay nets, water buckets, feed buckets or other items in the stall that could become obstacles while you are cleaning.
After the horse is restrained, use a fork or shovel to remove old bedding and manure. If you are wearing gloves, you can also use your hands to remove debris. Place everything removed from the stall in the wheelbarrow. Make sure all areas of the stall are cleaned thoroughly, including the corners.
Next, use a broom or brush to sweep the floor. Allow the stable to dry out for a couple of hours if possible, leaving any windows and doors open to speed up the process. Dispose of the bedding in an area far from the stables. If you have a muck heap, be sure to carry all of the material removed from the stall to the top of the heap, rather than just dumping it at the bottom.
After the stable is completely clean and dry, it is time to bed it down. Place all of the clean bedding in the center of the room and then spread it over the ground evenly. Use a fork to fluff the bedding up around the edges of the stall to prevent horses from becoming stuck when they roll. Make sure that the bedding is thick enough to keep the horse comfortable, especially if the floor is made of concrete or another hard material. To check the thickness of the bedding, tap through it with a pitchfork. If you can hear the fork hit the ground, the bedding probably isn’t thick enough.
- Composting Horse Bedding (PDF)
- Bedding Options for Livestock and Equine
- Selecting and Buying Bedding for Horses
Once you have cleaned the stable and replaced all the bedding, clean your horse’s water and feed buckets thoroughly. Remove all old food and water, scrub the inside of the buckets and refill them. Refill your hay nets and hang them back in the stable. If your horse spends a lot of time in the stall, you should also include some toys to keep him from getting bored.
In addition to cleaning your horses’ stalls, you should also make sure that the rest of the barn is clean and safe. After you have mucked out all of the stables, return your horses to their stalls and sweep the floor of the barn thoroughly. Return all of your tools and other equipment to a storage unit or locked shed away from the horses.
- Safe Horse Stall Design
- Stable Safety Tips (PDF)
- Best Management Practices for Horse Pastures, Paddocks and Stables (PDF)