It’s early in the morning. If you are lucky you have remembered to put the timer on the coffee pot last night and your coffee is ready. You grab a cup as you head on out to the barn. The horses can hear you before you even open the door of the house and the whinnying gets louder as you approach the barn.
The day has begun and with it your least favorite activity, but alas, it’s a necessary one. After the horses are fed and turned out it’s time to muck the stalls.
If you were fortunate enough to design your barn for easy cleaning, kudos to you! Thinking ahead – and I mean really ahead – will save you lots of time and energy. Not only that it will allow you to stay on your farm longer. Do you really want City life when you retire? No, I didn't think so. Let's define what’s ‘ahead’? It’s fast forward to when you are over 50 and things are starting to go a little downhill. You don't have the energy you used to have and you aren't able to lift what you used to be able to lift when you were in your twenties. You want your horses with you til the end so you better think smart and have things ready, in place, so you can work lighter and smarter as you age gracefully in the saddle J
Cleaning out your horse’s stall each day provides several benefits. One it smells better, it’s nicer to look at and also healthier for horses and all the stable critters who frequent the barn – even us!
We know that horses who live in a dirty stall are more prone to hoof disease, especially thrush. It’s nasty and can rot a horse’s foot from the inside out. No foot, no horse, right? Removing the soiled wet bedding and manure from the stalls reduces the amount of stable flies in your barn area too. These little beggars bite not only your horse but also bite your dogs and you! They carry all sorts of diseases so best to take control from the beginning.
Clean stalls are good for your horse’s lungs – and yours! Inhaling accumulated ammonia vapors can and will compromise airways.
Here’s a few tips I’ve learned along the way to help may you smile while you muck!
- Design your barn for an entrance and exit route for a small tractor with loader or 4 wheeler with small hydraulic trailer. The objective is to drive in one door, muck into the trailer or bucket, and drive out the other door. My rule: “Muck once and move out”
- Invest in a good manure fork. There are some on the market that are ergonomically designed. Some even ‘shake’
- Select bedding that is absorbent and as dust free as you can get. This is particularly important if you or your horse has allergies.
- Haul the manure off your property or to a corner of a section or acre far away from the barn. Don’t pile it outside the barn in a pile or in a huge container which takes days to fill and you only haul it away once a week or twice a month. Huge containers by the barn are great if they are hauled away and emptied daily. Otherwise any manure by the barn simply defeats the purpose of fly control.
- Be cognizant of waterways. Do not pile manure near waterways where run-off will contaminate the water.
- Clean your stalls daily – or more often in the case of a sick, stall bound horse. Your job will be much easier if you do and your horse healthier. There is nothing worse than tackling the cleaning of a stall that hasn’t been cleaned for several days. Cleaning each day will prevent wood rot and mold on wooden stalls.
- Music is optional. Some folks like it, some folks don’t. Me? I love a good country tune with a upward beat to get me going in the morning!
- When the barn is closed due to seasonal weather conditions: make your breathing easier by diffusing one of my favorite essential oil blends in your barn for a few minutes while you work. You can set your timer on a diffuser for an automatic shut off period. Alternatively, during the open door times, you can keep a bottle in your pocket and put 2-3 drops of it in our hands, rub them together, cup your hands over your nose and inhale throughout the day as needed. Yes, it’s good for the horses too!
What tips have you discovered that help you smile while you muck? Care to share below in the comments?