Taking time out to clean your horse’s stall can be a bummer when all you want to do is ride. However, a clean stall is an important part of your horse’s comfort and health, so this daily chore isn’t one you can skip. By learning how to clean or “muck out” a horse’s stall in the same way each day, you’ll notice clues to how your horse may be feeling that day—you might find manure that’s more loose than usual or hay that has hardly been touched, for example.
Just like when you’re cleaning your room, there’s a difference between cleaning a stall in a rush and cleaning a stall well. Here are eight steps to getting the job done correctly and quickly, making your horse happy while saving you time.
To clean a stall, you need:
◆ Plastic muck fork
◆ Flat-bottom shovel
◆ Bandana to cover your nose and mouth, if the stall is dusty
◆ Watering can, if the stall is dusty
◆ Fresh shavings
◆ Stiff-bristled scrub brush
STEP 1: Remove leftover hay.
If the hay is still good, scrape it to one corner. If it’s not good, put it in the wheelbarrow.
STEP 2: Remove visible manure and wet spots.
Get these out of the way before you dig further into the bedding.
STEP 3: Choose one wall and turn over bedding along the length of the wall.
Find the wall with the cleanest bedding—you never really know what’s 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. Dump those in the wheelbarrow. For scoops that appear dry, toss them against the wall. As the contents hit 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. After the manure builds up a bit, scoop it up and put it in the wheelbarrow.
Turn over the entire stall in this way—even the bedding from under the water buckets, feed bucket and hay rack. 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 lightly water the stall with a watering can. It might sound backward to add water to a stall that you want to make dry, but you’re not wetting the bedding, just dampening the dust.
STEP 5: Treat the wet spot.
If you have stall mats or a concrete floor, sweep the 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 is smelly, treat it with an odor- and moisture-absorbing agent, like Sweet PDZ or Stall Dry. If you have time, let the spot air-dry before re-bedding the stall.
STEP 6: Re-bed the stall.
Use the manure fork to pull the shavings away from the wall and spread them across the stall. Put this older bedding in the wet areas first.
Spread out all of the bedding, then pick and remove any manure pieces that were still hiding.
STEP 7: Add fresh bedding.
Don’t forget to return the leftover hay to its place.
STEP 8: Remove, clean and fill water buckets.
Take the buckets from the stall, dump them outside, give them a quick scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and refill. This step comes last so you don’t make a mess of the fresh water while you clean the stall.
This process should take about 15 to 20 minutes when you first start out. Every horse’s stall habits are different, and as you learn your horse’s habits, you’ll establish a rhythm and make this chore go even faster. This system can be used in all stalls bedded with wood shavings, so you can teach your friends to amp up their stall cleaning, too!
This article about how to clean a stall appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!