A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

We compost on our guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, here in southwestern Idaho. It’s not a complicated process. Just follow the five steps below and you’ll find that pile of manure behind your barn will quickly turn into black gold!
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Compost pile
We compost on our guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch. In southwestern Idaho a tarp cover helps keep the compost from getting too dried out in the summer or too soggy in the winter. | Photo: Alayne Blickle

If you care for horses on your own place then you have, no doubt, wondered about what to do with that huge mound of manure and stall waste generated by your horse. In fact, one horse produces about 50 pounds of manure per day, over eight tons per year! Add to that the bedding you use each day and in no time at all you have a virtual manure mountain!

There are other concerns related to a mismanaged manure pile: horses allowed to graze near their own manure are quickly reinfested with worms, runoff from soggy manure piles can cause serious surface water contamination problems, and then there are the associated odor and fly problems. Composting horse manure is an excellent manure management technique which has these benefits:

  •  The composting process reduces the size of your manure pile by about 50 percent!
  •  Heat generated by composting kills worm eggs, fly larvae, pathogens and weed seeds.
  •  Composting reduces flies, runoff and odors.
  •  Composted manure is a valuable addition to your pastures, garden, or yard. And, if you can’t use it on your own property, “horseless” neighbors are usually glad to take it.

We compost on our guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, here in southwestern Idaho. It’s not a complicated process. Just follow the five steps below and you’ll find that pile of manure behind your barn will quickly turn into black gold!

#1 Select a Site

First, select a site for your manure pile. Look for a high, level area on your property; don’t put your pile in a low lying area or it will turn into a soggy mess during the rainy season. Choose an area away from property lines to avoid zoning issues and problems with neighbors. A location that’s convenient to your stall and paddock areas will make the chore time easier and less time consuming

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

6 Responses

  1. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    Great post.Thanks for sharing information.

  2. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    Build a compost bin for a small barn for free with wooden pallets — usually free — that can be stood on end and wired together to form a square. Create additional bins by adding on to your original box. I wire mine together with clothes hangers. As t

  3. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    I bag the manure from my 4 horses, and leave it at the end of my driveway for the neighbourhood gardeners.

    But some manure is too mixed with hay or pelleted bedding, so that goes in the compost pile. I use a 3 pile system – one to build, one to

  4. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    Don’t pile your manure under a tree unless you want to kill the tree.  My husband did this to compost our manure and this process killed both tall and beautiful oak trees.

  5. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    We have two pits with cement bottoms and sides and turn them once a month or so.  The resultant product is added to our veg garden or given to friends.  We also have a landscaper that will take it if we end up with too much which is the case

  6. re: A 5-Step Guide to Composting Horse Manure

    Composting is NOT this complicated. Find a tree you can pile it under & you have the amount of shelter necessary for a nice balance. The pile needs sunlight. Add your kitchen scraps to it……especially shrimp peels, potatoe skins, banana peels, &

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