Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fun With Horse Manure

Note: If discussion of horse manure bothers you, stop reading.

So Ben was actually still un-mud-rolled when I got to the barn despite the last few days of record warmth, unblanketing, and vast swaths of paddock filth uncovered by the melting of snow.

Unfortunately, the back of his butt and hindlegs and the underside of his upper tail were caked with crud from his unfortunate habit of releasing dribbles of liquid poo whenever he produces manure balls. This is not a sign of disease, especially at times of changeable weather; a certain fraction of horses simply are prone to it, and do or do not respond to various management practices to try to control it.

Ben's been dribbling for quite a while. I've tried some possible remedies in his feeding program over time, to little avail, and now have started him a couple of days ago on Sand Clear, a psyllium supplement that hopefully will absorb the excess liquid his digestive system is producing. Various horseperson friends have offered various suggestions; if the Sand Clear doesn't work I'll move on to the next one. Sometimes nothing works and one just must keep on cleaning the mess. At least it's not so visible from a distance on Ben, since he's a manure-brown bay; on a light chestnut or gray it's sadly apparent.

Anyway, we shall see if anything helps. But today was so warm I decided to wash as much of the filth off as I could. So I put rubber gloves and big sponges in a bucket, ran hot water into two plastic gas cans I keep for bringing warm water to the barn, and went to the barn. I set up everything in the aisle of the four-stall part of the shedrow, led Ben in to the crossties, and set to work sponging at the mess.

Yup. It was just as disgusting as you're imagining. I kept at it, though, spent probably an hour working on his butt and legs and tail, and by the time I was done the caked-on filth was pretty much removed. Oh, he's not really clean-clean; what he desperately needs is a full bath with horse shampoo and multiple rinses; but he's way better off than when I started. And happily there was no sign of scalding on the skin underneath the crud.

I finished Ben off with a good full-body currying and brushing, which he loved, combed the dreadlocks out of his mane and trimmed the scraggliness off it, and returned him to his paddock to resume noshing on his lunch hay. Then I cleaned up the work area, put my equipment back in the car, and took stock of myself: Clothes, skin of lower arms and shoes spattered with manure-infused scrubbing water, and a lower back aching and complaining from all the bending and reaching. And it will all be to do over again, I'm sure, the next time it's warm enough.

But it was worth it.

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