Mucking out is perhaps every horse owner’s least favoured winter yard task and we are always keen to find ways to make it quicker and more manageable. Deep littering is a system of only removing the poo each day while allowing a base to build up and be removed at varying intervals throughout the year.
While a deep littering system may save you time on a day to day basis (though you could argue the time it’ll take to dig the bed out after the winter may negate the saved time), and potentially a little money in the reduced amount of bedding that will be required each week, there are health and social implications for keeping horses stabled in this way….
By not removing the urine from your horse’s bed, you’re exposing both yourself and your horse to ammonia, dust and mould which are all irritants to the respiration system. Any horse or horse owner with breathing difficulties are really not best suited to this type of bedding system.
Deep littered beds hold much more bacteria than a clean bed that is fully mucked out daily and they hold moisture that can feel damp under a horse’s weight so it can be tricky to prevent fungal infections like thrush. Thrush is more than just smelly feet, bacteria literally eats away at your horse’s frog. The best way to prevent thrush is to maintain good foot hygiene and provide a clean bed for your horse to stand on.
Other Bacterial Infections and Skin Problems
Dermatitis, lymphangitis and cellulitis are all bacterial infections that take careful management to prevent. A clean stable will go some way to reduce the risk of your horse developing any of these infections. If your horse is particularly susceptible to these conditions, deep littering probably isn’t for them.
Some people do a really good job of keeping their deep littered beds stench-free but there are others that really do smell and when you’re sharing a yard with others, you have to consider how your stable’s aroma affects others!
It’s probably clear if you’ve read this far that I’m not a huge fan of a deep littering system, it’s never really done in the best interests of the horse. However, I get it, I’m super-busy too and I’m always looking for ways to claw back a minute here and there. I’ve tried various systems and almost every type of bedding over the years and what I’ve found to be the best for me, and all the horses I look after in terms of offering them the cleanest, fullest bed in the quickest time and the most economical over the piece, is just to muck out fully every day. Here is what I do to keep my beds clean and fluffy – and believe me, not all my horses keep their beds immaculate overnight!
*Every morning I take out all the poo and wee and re-make their beds with squared off bankings
*I skip out regularly if the horses are in during the day at all
*I add a full bale of shavings at the start of the week and another 1/2 bale 1/2 way through
*At least once a week I leave the full bed banked up during the day and bring it down again in the evening before bringing in to dry out the floor
There’s nothing revolutionary about my approach, it’s pretty standard, but I’m quick and beds are always lovely.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a system of mucking out that really works for you and your horses? Share your tips…..
by Karen McConnell of KA Equestrian
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