Mucking out is a necessary evil that all horse owners must endure, but many are left wondering how often do they actually need to clean out their horse’s stable? There are many theories on this, however there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In reality, how often you clean out your stable depends heavily upon your horse’s routine and your personal schedule.
The term mucking out refers to the removal of droppings and wet bedding from a stable, and the amount of soiled bedding present will be determined by how long your horse is stabled. If he is turned out by day and brought in at night then you will simply need to remove the droppings and wet bedding in the morning. If he is stabled all day then this process should be carried out twice a day.
Removing droppings daily is a necessary part of infection control in your stable management routine and also to protect your horse’s well-being, however some horse owners choose to adopt a semi-deep litter bed instead. This involves removing all the droppings as discussed but taking out very little of the wet bedding to create a compacted layer and save on shavings. This option is ideal for horses that favour a particular spot to urinate as you can take the worst of the wet out while leaving the rest of the bedding untouched. Any remaining wet or soiled areas will then be completely removed once a week, allowing the floor to dry out thoroughly before laying a fresh bed of straw or shavings down.
Another option is to use a full deep litter system where only the droppings are removed each day but all the wet bedding remains and these are not fully cleaned for up to 3 months. Deep litter beds are time saving and cost effective but only if your horse is not prone to digging up his bed as this will disturb the compacted wet layers beneath thus rendering your deep litter useless. The success of a deep litter bed also depends on how heavily your horse wets the bedding and if it is in a highly concentrated area then this option will probably not work for you. Have a look at this thread for more information on the difference between full deep and semi deep litter.
The type of bedding you use in your stable has a huge impact on how often you need to clean it and how easy it is to clean. Droppings can easily fall through straw bedding, making it more difficult to identify and remove, however wood pellets or shavings is much easier to sift and isolate droppings. Another important factor is your personal schedule because if you are unable to muck out your horse twice a day then long term stabling is not going to be an option for you. Consider the time available at the beginning and the end of the day, and if indeed you can attend your horse twice a day. Bear in mind that horses are not designed to be stabled 24 hours a day, and regular turnout for 12-18 hours will not only result in a happy horse but also a cleaner stable!