By Dr. Katie Hennessy
Our horses love to get dirty, but one area we should strive to maintain as clean a condition as possible is their stalls. A clean stall and barn can help prevent disease and maintain your horse’s health. Not only will you keep their coat clean, you can also keep ammonia and allergens from being breathed in and minimize the spread of infectious diseases.
Mucking out stalls to remove feces and urine patches should be done at least once per day, and more if your horse is on stall-rest for an injury. Feces are by nature full of bacteria which may carry disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella. Manure also attracts flies which can carry infectious respiratory or wound bacteria from stall to stall. Urine contains ammonia which gives it a pungent odor; ammonia is a respiratory irritant which can irritate your horses’ airway. Urine build up in the stall can also create constant moisture on the hooves which damages the frog and sole health, hoof quality and can irritate the skin of the heel-bulbs.
Ventilation is another critical part of maintaining a clean environment for your horse. Windows and doors should be kept open daily, except in stormy situations to keep fresh air circulating. This is especially critical for horses with heaves, allergies or other respiratory issues. Good ventilation helps reduce odors and reduce accumulation of ammonia as well as ensuring circulation of fresh air to remove bacteria and molds from the environment.
Water and food should be separate and in areas that are less likely to be contaminated by feces and to prevent food from landing in the water. Water should be refreshed daily and automatic waterers cleaned weekly. Keeping your horses’ stall clean and well ventilated is a critical for their health. If you don’t have time to clean the stall daily, consider leaving your horse in the pasture to keep them healthy.