– by Brian Crandall
Have you ever wondered what to do with all the manure you clean out of your stalls? Depending on how close your neighbors are and how many horses you have a good manure management plan may be an integral part of your stable layout. Some people are accustomed to horse manure being a part of their reality while others not only clean their stalls and alleyway but pick manure out of their arena to keep the footing clean. Some people use it in their gardens, some spread it directly onto their fields and some put it in the arena as footing as opposed to hauling it to the county compost.
If you have the land and a pasture or field that you can spread manure on that can be the least labor-intensive option. With the help of a small manure spreader that can be pulled behind a four-wheeler, you can clean your stalls directly into the manure spreader and then take it directly to your field. Horse manure has great benefits to soil health and is a cost-effective way to rehabilitate soil that has a lot of alkali, which is common on the Colorado Plateau.
With a small amount of work, horse manure can be composted easily and used for your garden and maybe even shared with your neighbors. This may be the best option for an owner that has a limited amount of land. A compost pile can be out in the open in a proximity to your stalls. However, depending on your neighbors, you may want to dedicate a place for the manure that takes looks and smell into consideration. The compost site should be on dry ground and a distance from any stream or creek. You may want to build sides and create a compost bin.
Next, the compost pile needs air so mixing in leaves, wood shavings, and hay can help with this. Turning the pile can help to add air. If every time you add to the compost you turn it with a pitchfork or at least once a week can help to ensure that there is air in the compost pile. You also will want to put a tarp or cover over your compost bin. This helps to keep too much water out of the pile and will keep it from drying out too much. It may also help to keep the smell down and look nicer to your neighbors if they are close.
Once you have a compost pile started it can be added to and kept for years. You will no longer need to buy compost for your garden. Some horse facilities sell compost as part of their management plan or you can share with anyone you know who gardens.