Please Enlighten Me about Dirty Stall - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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Please Enlighten Me about Dirty Stall


This is my first post as I don't even own a horse. However, my next door neighbor has a beautiful Arabian horse and I have been feeding and watering her daily now for over a week since my neighbor is in the hospital. The problem is this: The stall in which the horse stays is about 20 x 12 and it has not been mucked in the last last 3 years, maybe even four years. The horse literally has to sleep on all the feces and urine. I have harped at my neighbor for years to get it taken care of, but she always has an excuse: it's too wet;, it's too frozen; the tractor is broken; she's too sick, etc. etc. The rest of the paddock is also covered in horse manure and quite overgrown. Luckily, there is a back paddock where she can go to graze during the day and evening. But the flies are driving her crazy and, of course, they are living in the feces. I tried to shovel some of it out yesterday, but it is so dense and heavy I didn't even make a dent. When I did manage to get a good amount on my shovel, there were maggots under it. The owner is 74 and is not able to take proper care of her 8 acres of land, or her house, or her horse, but will not admit this, and will not spend the money to get the stall taken care of, even though money is not an issue for her. The poop is so deep at this point, that it will need a big machine to get it out. My questions are these:
1) Who can I call to get this stall cleaned out? I am willing to pay for whatever it costs, and then I can help her do the daily mucking out.
2) Does this situation pose a health threat to the horse? She looks healthy and has a healthy appetite, but I've read what feces and urine can do to their hooves, along with other things like thrush.
3) If I go in the stall and try to shovel at least the most recent droppings among all the flies and feces, does this cause a health risk to me?
4) Is this lack of cleaning the stall considered abuse of the horse? And if so, should I call someone about it, and if so, who would I call? I know the owner loves her, but she is getting older and will not listen to reason when anyone tries to help her.
5) Is there anything I can do to keep the flies off the horse? I currently have two fans outside her stall, one blowing air at her feet, and one at her head. The owner also told me where to find a horse flt mask, which I put on the horse, although it took some wrangling, but I think she realized it kept the flies out of her eyes and doesn't protest keeping it on. I made a spray out of white vinegar, water, and dish soap, but she will have nothing to do with it, unless I leave the bottle sit on the ground and then she comes over and licks it.

I know this is a lot to dump on my first post, but I am clueless about where to look for these answers, and it's killing me to see her so uncomfortable. I called a local college Equestrian center and they weren't must help, although they sympathized with my situation. Thank you in advance for answers or guidance to any of the above questions/concerns.
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post #2 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 01:49 PM
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Wow, kudos to you for wanting to help.

That stall does need to be cleaned out. It is very bad for the horse's hooves, but can also be bad for the respiratory system to inhale all the ammonia from the urine. Same goes for you. If you're lucky, the stall opens to the outside, and you can open all doors and windows while it is getting cleaned out. If not, at least wear a mask and take a lot of breaks by going outside to breathe fresh air. Furthermore, if the horse is laying in all this filth, it likely is coated in manure, which can cause a number of parasites.

Options for cleaning it out are to either do it manually (see if you can get help, especially if you're willing to pay, if you get a few people in there with shovels, it will go faster), or pay someone to bring in a small excavator, but that will only work if you can open the stall to the outside, or if the barn has really wide, spacious aisles. You can rent all kinds of machines by the day too, if you feel comfortable operating them yourself. What is on the bottom of all those feces? If there is a solid floor underneath, you can then pressure-wash it, use vinegar or Pinesol to clean it, then put down some clean shavings to absorb urine, odour, and reduce flies. The stall will then need to be cleaned out daily. If it's a dirt floor underneath, you may have to fill in some holes, level it off, and let it air out a bit before putting down shavings. You also have to figure out where you're going to put all this maggot-infested manure. Best to dump it away from the barn if possible, because a manure pile right next to the barn will still cause a fly problem.

As for the flies, you're right - the stall needs to be cleaned to reduce the fly population, but in the meantime, there are a number of sprays you can apply directly to the horse (but not the eyes of course). If she will not tolerate a spray, you can also apply the fly repellent to a cloth and rub her all over. Obviously, you can only do this if she'll tolerate you around her. Can you handle her at all?

The fly mask is a good idea. I also hang up fly tape around my stalls to catch the ones buzzing around. I have to replace them every couple of days because they fill up fast. There are fly sheets that cover more of the horse, but that's an additional expense.

While I'd be loathe to call the authorities on this elderly owner, there are questions that need to be asked. Is this horse having her hooves trimmed or shod properly? This is something that has to be done every 6 weeks or so (sometimes a little longer, but not 3 years!). Has it been dewormed lately? A perfectly healthy horse in an optimum environment should be dewormed at least twice a year (fall and spring usually). Given the amount of feces, I'm guessing it has worms. You can also collect fresh manure in a clean container or bag and take it to your local equine or large animal vet who can analyse the manure and tell you if there are worms present. It only costs me about 60$ to do that. This also gives you an idea of how bad things are, and which parasites to treat for.

And of course, when was this animal last seen by a vet? Horses need their teeth floated yearly, usually, and they are normally vaccinated once a year. But there may be more going on that you can't see, given that it appears this horse is being neglected.

Are there any family members of this elderly person who can help?
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post #3 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 02:35 PM
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As Acadian said it needs to be cleaned. You can google for someone with a small skid steer in the area if the stall can be opened for access or hire a bunch of teens to come clean it out by hand. I'd make sure in addition to a decent wage I'd provide plenty of water, gatorade and snacks during the clean up then soda and pizza for after they clean themselves up. You need to figure out where the manure will all go. It could be stacked and allowed to finish composting as the bottom layers are likely already to that point if there is enough room. 8 acres and one horse says there should be but it depends on layout and just how much grass is in the back. Once composted I bet if you advertised free compost - you load (meaning the person interested in it) you would have several takers. Here even manure straight out of the pasture is considered a prize and taken home to be composted. If the barn is an open type then ventilation should be adequate and concerns for respiratory ailments lower. If not it needs to be opened as much as possible and those working need masks. They likely need them anyway because of the sheer amount of build up. If the mare has free access to the back that is likely where she spends her time with the exception of getting her food and water. If she is stalled in that filth then yes there could be issues with her feet. You can take a fresh sample of manure and have a fecal count done, you have added fans to help keep flies down while she eats but can you feed her out back? Is there a way to provide water in that back pasture as well or is there already water there? If she allows you to pick out her feet then you can assess their condition. If they aren't horribly over grown then she is either a) getting farrier care or b) moving around enough out back that she is wearing her hoofs down on her own. It sounds like she has a designated bathroom if the back lot is clean. That probably has saved her from all the issues that come with being stabled in a dirty environment.
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 02:37 PM
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I'd also go for a commercial fly spray and if she won't tolerate being sprayed then spray a cloth and wipe her down.
ETA If the paddock at the stall (is it a run in shed?) is small then use the skid steer on the stall and hand clean the paddock to preserve the grass. if it is just a weedy mess and there is little grass or it is fairly large use the equipment on that as well.

The worst I have seen were horses that were kept stalled in a similar situation but this was at a breeding/show barn that the owner was too sick to keep up with and had only a couple of staff that turned horses out for a few hours each day. There were too many horses to keep up with and the horses had several feet of manure in their stalls. The barns (3) were large but tight to keep the cold out and it was awful. Their feet were at least kept picked out and trimmed but they were still in horrid shape.
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Last edited by QtrBel; 08-23-2017 at 02:43 PM.
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post #5 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 02:46 PM
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Thank you for helping take care of this horse! IMO calling the authorities would be a rather cruel thing to do at this point. May mean death to the horse and there are other better options available since you are willing to help.

In addition to what others have mentioned about cleaning the stalls, what about getting in some fly predators? They lay their eggs in fly eggs and no flys hatch. Since it is just one horse, that should quickly eliminate the flys.

Next, is it necessary for the horse to go in the stall? It is much healthier for horses to stay out 24/7 especially if there is shelter available. Shelter can even be just trees. Just somewhere they can get out of the sun or bad weather.

If the eight acre pasture has water, or water could be brought there, would be best for the horse to just stay out in the pasture and not be stalled at all. A feed bucket can be clipped to the fence and hay can be fed on the ground.

Very kind of you to help the horse.
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post #6 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 02:50 PM
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Even with all the manure around a lone horse that is not a heavy shedder or carrier may not have an issue even a small herd if none are heavy shedders may not have issues. Yes they still should be wormed at least twice a year but even that may not be absolutely necessary. Horses have evolved to tolerate parasites. Some do it better than others and some just don't have problems. Does the horse look relatively healthy? What condition is her coat in? Is she shiny and sleek or dull and dry? That can tell you quite a bit. You said she looks healthy and eats well. Describe what she looks like or post a pic of her if you can.

Last edited by QtrBel; 08-23-2017 at 02:55 PM.
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post #7 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 02:52 PM
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What a good, no great neighbor you are.....
The horse I am sure is appreciating your good intentions and time spent with it....
So, flies of course are attracted to feces and urine.
Getting rid of such is paramount for the health of all in the vicinity, not just the horse but humans nearby too.
Gross as it is, it could be worse.
Now...if the neighbor has a tractor with a bucket-loader and it is working...
Open a section of fence, drop the bucket at a slight angle not deep and start pushing, scooping and making a new compost pile far from barn, house and your homes downwind smells now going to happen.
Several passes will be needed to clean, then I would lime with a powdered lime to "sweeten" the ground by neutralizing the ammonia stench.
Wear a mask and eye protection, long sleeves and pants when doing any application as it can irritate skin and respiratory.

As for the barn, if you know how to use a bucket-loader and can get into that stall your back and use it!!.
If you need to pay someone, then I would look for someone that has a bobcat or skidsteer as they are more maneuverable in small tight spaces and can work just as hard.
Hopefully there is a wide enough opening with stall dimensions that size to get in with least difficulty.
This is not a job for one person and a limited amount of days and hours to get it will be exhausted removing this much filth and being kept inside in foul air will do your respiratory system no good either...
Once complete though, fresh dirt may need brought in, stall doors rehung as suddenly there is going to be space underneath where you not want a hoof to get stuck.
I would again lime the heck out of the ground...white tornado it!
It kills stench, and sanitizes. Granular lime is cheap to purchase and available in any garden department for about $3.00 a 50 pound bag.
Once stall is cleaned and covered in some fresh dirt....bed it deeply with shavings so it is now a soft, inviting and absorbent place for the horse to live in.
As you are doing the work I would just leave the horse out in the other field till job completed so they are not climbing over mounds of feces disturbed nor breathing in caustic fumes to eyes and lungs.

As you know from what you wrote, the horse needs to have the feet also taken care of too...till you can describe or photograph and share a picture of those we will let the expert farriers here on this forum guide you in what to do if anything is actually needed done.

Once you can accomplish the monumental job of getting it clean, to maintain it is simple and easy done daily or even weekly.
The cleaner the environment the horse resides in the healthier the animal.
It is also far healthier for your home and this ladies to be away from the filth of manure and flies with the disease it can bring to your doorstep.
Compost is a wonderful thing to use in a will have much of it.
Use some of that lime on that manure pile you will be making and the fly issue will also disappear quickly...some always will exist, but not by the thousands...

As for the spray bottle...the horse may not have ever been introduced to one and be afraid of the sound and feel of the stuff.
Instead use a old rag or towel and spray or wet the towel and rub the towel over the animals body.
Most horses enjoy and tolerate being brushed, use the same technique as when brushing the horse.
Amazingly, once the feces disappear so will the over-abundant fly problem. Always a few, not a army out of control though.
Fans are a great way to move the air and work well to shoo the flies, but you are at disadvantage right now with overwhelmed.
Keep those fans handy though for whoever shovels inside the barn out.
They will be a great help to move the stenched air you will be breathing and keeping you cooler while working so hard.
Once the job is completed, you as the neighbor will also reap the benefits being able to use your yard again and enjoy the outdoors.

Yes, actually the conditions you describe is neglect and abuse of the animal.
The animal can be removed and taken by court-order based on living conditions alone.
It is also not good for the homeowner to live in such conditions...
If any family resides with her it is a form of elder abuse and illegal.
Her current doctor can make some referrals for agencies to come in and help the women keep her home and herself in a healthier environment with food and basic needs of clean clothes and light house-keeping.
Many times though no one alerts the doctor and they are unaware...
Services for the elderly are available in this nation for all who qualify via Medicare.
If you are interested in more information look at Office of the Aging, Senior Citizens and related services offered in your area.

Again, what a wonderful, thoughtful neighbor you are to this women.
At her age, she still loves her animals but is overwhelmed with the amount of hard physical work they demand of her, especially if she is getting frail and not so able to get about easily.
It is good you watch out for her, her animals and her home during times like this.

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post #8 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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Oh my Gosh! Thank you all for all of the fine advise as to what my options are. I have put some feelers out for folks who might be interested or available to bring a machine to clean out the manure. And will also get some fly strips, and use a cloth instead of a spray bottle for the horse. Just to clarify something though, there is no barn, per say. It is a 3 sided multi-stall I guess, with no doors to close in the front. Only half of one half is used for the horse. I will take some pictures of it along with pictures of the horse and her hooves, if she lets me. I have grown very attached to her and am amazed at what a personality she has. I can ask my neighbor about her last vet appointments regarding teeth, worming, and hoof health, and I think she'll tell me. I talk to her every day and let her know what I've been doing with regard to flies and food, not not about cleaning the stall out. The horse does not have to stay in the stall if she doesn't want to, but it's the only shelter that is covered and I find her there most times. There is a back paddock that she goes to eat grass when I go with her and her water is in a huge tank near that back paddock and is always in the shade. When I give her hay, which is twice a day, I throw it over the fence in an area that is not overgrown and covered in poop. Those areas are getting smaller and smaller.

I do not want to call authorities about the horse and won't, unless my neighbor gets home and refuses to do anything, at which time I will tell her what I'm going to do, but I'm hopeful it will not come to that. Interestingly enough, she is in the hospital because she has been covered in sores, from head to toe, for many months now, and going crazy from the itching. She finally called 911 to take her to the hospital where she has been for over a week now. They cannot figure out what it is. I have asked her if she has told them that she has a mouse infestation in her house (over 300 at one point) and couldn't that be it, but she says she's told them and they say no. I have my doubts she has told them. But after reading what you all have written, now I'm wondering if it could have something to do with the condition of the horse's environment, especially since she already has asthma. Anyway, thank you all again for taking the time to write and for letting me know what options I have. I'll send pictures later today if I can figure out how to do that. Ntomei
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 04:54 PM
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It is so good of you to be there for both your neighbor and her horse. She may hear you coming and goes there to wait for you. Or just appreciate the fans. I doubt the environment the horse is in has anything to do with the neighbors condition unless it is fleas and possibly mites from the mice that would be attracted to the filth and chewing on her. Hope they get it figured out and under control. One of my dogs had gotten in ants when I was out of town. They covered her up. She was covered in sores and itching miserably. I bathed her and medicated her to almost no avail for two weeks then brought her to the vet in defeat. It took a couple of thousand $$, several meds and creams and over a year for her to get back to her normal self. Not that your neighbor got into ants but anything she is allergic to biting her could cause an extensive reaction if it is uncontrolled.
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post #10 of 16 Old 08-23-2017, 06:08 PM
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Yes, that is the problem.
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