How to Clean a Horse Stall

Woman sweeping out horses stable.
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If your horse lives in a stall for any part of his day, you'll have to keep it clean. This is more than just keeping things pleasant for you and your horse. Unclean stalls attract insects and can encourage hoof problems such as thrush. Breathing ammonia from urine-saturated bedding can be harmful to your horse's or pony's sensitive lungs. And a dirty stall is unpleasant to work in and smelly for you, too.

Stall cleaning should be a daily task. It usually takes no more than 20 minutes to give a stall a quick cleaning, but will take longer if you have neglected the duty for more than one day.

Tools and Materials You Will Need:

  • Wheelbarrow or cart
  • Pitchfork (five-pronged fork is best.)
  • Shavings fork for moving shavings or sawdust
  • Broad shovel
  • Stable broom
  • Work gloves
  • Rubber boots
  • Odor-control solution (as needed)

How to Clean a Horse Stall

Follow this process to effectively clean your horse's stall. Once you're in the routine, it can be done easily in 15 to 20 minutes as part of your daily routine.

Dress for the Job

Dress in appropriate clothing for this admittedly messy job. Gloves can prevent blisters. Urine can erode the stitching on the soles of leather riding boots, so save yourself boot-cleaning time by changing into work boots or rubber boots.

Prepare the Stall

Take your horse out of the stall during cleaning. A good time to muck out is when your horse is in the pasture grazing or exercising. If you can't put him out, put your horse in an empty stall. Next, remove all the feed tubs, water buckets, and toys from the stall before beginning your cleaning routine.

Assemble your cleaning tools and park your wheelbarrow or cart close to the stall door, facing in the direction you will wheel it toward the manure pile. It's easier to maneuver an empty wheelbarrow than a full one.

Dig in With Fork and Shovel

If the stall is bedded with straw, use a pitchfork to remove manure and wet or soiled bedding. If shavings or sawdust have been used, use the shavings fork to remove manure and wet bedding. Fork the manure and soiled bedding into the wheelbarrow or cart. Sometimes it's easier to pick up wet bedding with a shovel.

As you fill the wheelbarrow, wheel it out and dump out the contents in the assigned area (the manure pile). It's tempting to fill the wheelbarrow really high, but this can make it hard to push and easy to tip. It's frustrating having to clean up manure a second time because you've tipped over the wheelbarrow, so making two or three light trips is the better strategy.

As you continue cleaning out the dirty bedding, scrape the unsoiled bedding to one side and check to make sure there is no wet or manure-soiled bedding hiding underneath.

Occasional Deep Cleaning

You may want to completely strip a stall occasionally. In this case, keep filling your wheelbarrow until the stall floor is completely bare. Use the shovel to scrape up remnants of bedding and the broom to sweep it clean. You may want to put down odor-control solution or stable disinfectant. Let the floor dry before re-bedding.

Spread Out Clean Bedding

Once you've removed all the manure and soiled, wet bedding, spread whatever clean bedding that remains back over the stall floor. Check around the edges of the stall, as clean bedding sometimes gets tossed against the walls as the horse moves around. This leaves a thinner area in the middle, or wherever the horse usually stands. Distribute the bedding evenly.

Add fresh new bedding to replace any you have removed. If using straw, either add a whole bale of straw or portions of one. Fluff the bedding with a pitchfork. If your stable uses shavings or sawdust, use a wheelbarrow to transport fresh shavings to the stall, or open a bag and fluff the compacted shavings with the shavings fork. Some stables have truckloads of loose shavings piled, or you can buy bags of compacted shavings.

The thickness of your bedding will depend on what type of stall flooring is under the bedding and what season it is. If there is thick rubber matting on the stall floors, bedding can be thinner. On bare concrete, add more bedding to provide padding and urine absorption; this is especially important during cold weather. Sand floors are easier on your horse's legs but may get saturated with urine quickly if you don't put enough bedding down.

Clean the Alleys and Doorways

After you've finished cleaning and bedding the stall, use a broom to sweep up any spilled manure, straw, or shavings in the alleys and doorways to the stable. Scoop up the sweepings into the shovel and toss them into the manure pile. Left unattended, manure, chaff, and bedding in doorways will turn into a muddy mess in wet weather.

Finishing Up

Put all the tools away where they won't cause a tripping hazard. Return the feed tubs, buckets, and toys so the stall will be ready for your horse.

Cleaning Tips

  • Use Inexpensive hangers keep cleaning tools safely out of the way on the walls of the stable.
  • Some people leave a thick padding of bedding for warmth and only clean the top surface during winter months.
  • Use the broom to knock down spider webs every so often. Spider bites can be a hazard for horses and riders.
  • Inexpensive riding gloves with the sticky rubber dots are handy for handling tools and shavings bags.