What to look out for when it comes to stable hygiene

Horse farm owners know how important it is to have the horse stable cleaned regularly. This is because good horse stable hygiene and hygienic conditions throughout the farm promote the well-being and health of all horses on the farm. Disinfecting the horse stable is also part of good hygiene. It prevents diseases. There are different cleaning cycles to be aware of, increasing efficiency significantly with the right cleaning equipment.

Cleaning horse stables

Why hygiene in a horse stable is important

If just one animal on a horse farm falls ill, the entire herd can quickly become infected. Anyone who has ever experienced something like this, as the owner of a horse farm knows how important it is to clean and disinfect the entire facility, including the horse stable.

Although these tasks are often performed by horse owners or staff, farm owners should know what needs to be done. After all, they are responsible for ensuring that the farm is clean and that the horses live under healthy conditions. An overview of who carries out which tasks and when is part of this.

Because good hygiene in the horse stable promotes animal health and the well-being of the horses. The cleaner the horse stable, paddock, tack room, and all other areas of the yard are, the less suitable they are as a habitat for viruses, bacteria and parasites. The result is that pathogens spread less quickly and the animals get sick less often.

Hygiene in horse stables and in the yard

The advantages of regularly cleaning the horse stable (or having it cleaned):

  • Destroying life sources of pathogens
  • Reduced occurrence of diseases
  • Less spread of diseases
  • Increasing the well-being and health of horses
A woman cleans the walls of a horse stable

To achieve good horse stable hygiene, the horse stable does not have to be cleaned down to the last straw. The most important thing is the regular removal of roughage, bedding, and droppings. Mites, mould spores or other pathogens and germs can attach themselves to these.

If litter and manure are also stored in a damp environment for too long, they begin to rot. This creates the pungent smelling and poisonous gas ammonia. Like too much dust, ammonia irritates the respiratory tract and mucous membranes of horses. Animals can suffer chemical burns to the respiratory tract and oesophagus, or develop a chronic cough that permanently damages their lungs.

If ammonia comes into contact with urine or the water from the drinking trough, it forms ammonia. This strong lye can attack the horse's hoof horn and skin. Regular horse stable cleaning and a good supply of fresh air counteract the formation of ammonia. Balanced ventilation keeps the air in the horse stable cool and dry. But these particles are always on the move, even the smallest particles and dust are carried out of the stables.

Stable hygiene also includes deworming the horses. It makes sense to introduce a common deworming regime for all animals. Whether a strategic or a selective deworming concept makes more sense should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Good horse hygiene protects against these diseases

Good farm and stable hygiene prevents diseases and epidemics such as the following:

  • Herpes
  • Druse
  • Influenza
  • Fungal diseases
  • African horse sickness
  • West Nile Virus
  • Rabies
  • Borna virus
  • Leptospirosis

If a horse falls ill with African horse sickness, West Nile virus or rabies, farm owners in Europe must report this in accordance with EU animal health law. The Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1882, which is also still applicable in the UK, shows which animal diseases are also notifiable across Europe.

A horse looking out from its stable

Stable cleaning and disinfection: cleaning cycle

Horse stable cleaning is divided into daily, weekly and annual cleaning work. Depending on the degree of soiling, you should also disinfect the horse stable. It is important to have a clear decision and communication about which tasks are carried out by whom. It makes sense to document daily, weekly and annual work for documentation purposes.

Daily work

Muck out playpens and horse boxes daily. This includes removing the horse droppings and wet bedding with a pitchfork and wheelbarrow, this also applies to the open stable and in the paddock. Clean aisles and the riding arena of faeces and urine residues every day as well.

Mucking out the horse stable

Tip – change wheelbarrows:

Use a different wheelbarrow for mucking out the horse stable than for feeding hay. This ensures that no germs get into the fresh feed.

Cleaning of feeding and drinking facilities with a wet and dry vacuum cleaner

In addition to mucking out, daily horse stable cleaning also includes:

  • Check potions
  • Check horse trough
  • Check the scuffle
  • Respread
  • Possibly sprinkle the manure mattress again

If there are dried residues of feed in the horse trough, drinking trough or rack, remove them. Warm water and a sponge or brush are ideal for cleaning. A wet and dry vacuum cleaner can be used for heavy soiling. This also applies to feeding and drinking facilities in the open stable and on the paddock.

Disinfect water troughs and horse troughs if a dead animal is found in them. This stops the spread of germs. Once the old manure has been removed from the horse box, the floor is strewn again with straw, straw pellets, shavings, or sawdust. Dung mattresses also must be sprinkled on daily. The new bedding ensures that no harmful ammonia forms and the horses do not have to stand in their own manure.

Weekly work

In addition to the daily chores, there are some cleaning jobs that horse stable owners should carry out about once a week. These include:

  • Clean and disinfect horse trough
  • Clean and disinfect troughs
  • Sweep horse boxes and corridors

Sweeping is necessary to regularly clean the horse stable from dust. This serves the basic stable hygiene. In order not to stir up additional dust when sweeping with a broom, first moisten the floor of the horse stables and corridors.

For faster and more efficient cleaning, it makes sense to use a vacuum sweeper instead of a broom. The suction function of the machine ensures that dirt is not stirred up meaning you do not have to wet the floor. This means that the horse stable can be cleaned more quickly and easily.

Cleaning the horse stable with a sweeper ride-on

A hand-operated vacuum sweeper is usually sufficient for smaller farms. A sweeper ride-on is ideal for larger farms, allowing large areas to be cleaned more quickly. Both the walk-behind and the ride-on sweeper can be equipped with a side brush to reach corners particularly well.
After cleaning the horse stalls, check that there is no moisture left on rough and uneven areas of the floor. Because otherwise new germs can quickly form there. Remaining cleaning water can be efficiently removed with a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, for example. Any residual moisture must then dry by itself. Good ventilation helps.

Depending on the degree of soiling, weekly cleaning of the horse stable also includes:

  • Washing horse blankets
  • Washing saddle pads
  • Washing bandages

Annual work

Cleaning the entire horse stable at least once a year is a must. Cleaning should ideally take place on a warm day in spring or summer. This is because the horses must be able to be outside for at least 24 to 48 hours.

a man cleans a horse box with a Kärcher surface cleaner

Cleaning horse boxes and enclosures

Empty horse stalls and the playpen completely. Then thoroughly clean and disinfect them and the stable mats with the help of a high-pressure cleaner.

Cleaning and disinfecting the horse box is also always part of the cleaning programme after a horse has moved out. After all, when a new horse moves into the box, it should be clean for the animal's well-being. If several weeks pass before the new horse moves in, you should clean and disinfact again.

Cleaning horse's stall anually is important, as this also cleans the stall walls and partitions removing parasites that may have crawled up the wooden walls.

Cleaning the horse stable: other annual duties

In addition to the horse stable and enclosure, you should also clean all other rooms and areas of the horse farm should during annual cleaning:

Riding hall:

  • Remove cobwebs
  • Sweep boards
  • Clean the mirror

Tip – using the right cleaning tools:

Cobwebs can be removed quickly and efficiently with a wet and dry vaccum cleaner with an extension tube. A window vacuum or a roller brush is ideal for mirrors. The latter can be connected to a hose or pressure washer.

Open the paddock

Pen and paddock:

  • Remove stones
  • Remove poisonous plants if necessary
  • Check fences and repair if necessary
A woman cleans a tack room with a Kärcher wet/dry vaccum cleaner

Warehouse and tack room:

  • Sweep and clear out
  • Check poles, stands and other utensils
  • Clean and disinfect winter blankets and saddles
  • Clean cleaning supplies and cleaning box
A horse in the feed store

Feed store:

  • Dispose of expired food
  • Empty and wash out feed bins
  • Clean thoroughly with broom or sweeper

Clear the riding arena of weeds. For a clean appearance, it is also a good idea to repaint borders, obstacles and other elements.

Tip – monitor well water regularly:

If the horses drink well water, this should be officially tested once a year. This ensures that it does not contain salmonella, E.coli bacteria or other pathogens.

A man cleans the yard in front of the horse stable with a pressure washer

Detailed steps for cleaning and disinfecting horse stables annually

You should carry out annual major horse stable cleaning in the correct protective clothing. In addition, it makes sense to stick to a predefined procedure. This prevents cleaning work from having to be carried out twice and ensures that the horse stable is thoroughly cleaned.

Clothing for cleaning and disinfection

You should wear appropriate clothing while cleaning the horse stable. During cleaning, the following protective clothing is a good idea:

  • Sturdy clothing to protect against dust and dirt
  • Rubber boots
  • Protective gloves
  • Protective goggles
  • Breathin protection
  • Hearing protection (when operating a high-pressure cleaner)

Wear an impermeable full protective suit over solid clothing during cleaning, including a hood. Rubber boots, respiratory protection, goggles and protective gloves should also not allow disinfectant to pass through.

Horse stable cleaning process

The following procedure is recommended to clean and disinfect the horse stable efficiently:

1. Removing the horses from the stable

In order for horse owners or stable staff to clean the horse stable, all horses must first be brought to the paddock. Make sure that there is enough space for all the animals.

2. Mucking out and sweeping

Once the animals are out of the stable, remove horse droppings and wet bedding with a pitchfork and wheelbarrow first, just like during daily cleaning.

3. Cleaning horse troughs

It is time to clean the horse troughs and drinkers. You should use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner here, especially on large farms.

With a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, it is easy to suck feed residues from the trough, regardless of whether they are liquids or solids. Afterwards, you can thoroughly sweep horse stalls and aisles with a sweeper.

A woman in a red jacket leads a horse
A man cleans the horse stable with a broom
A woman cleans the horse trough with a Kärcher vacuum cleaner
A man uses a Kärcher high-pressure cleaner with a surface cleaner attachment for wet cleaning in the horse stall.
View from above: Kärcher surface cleaner in action

4. Wet cleaning

Efficiently cleaning the horse stable: with the help of a high-pressure cleaner, horse stalls, playpens and corridors can be cleaned quickly and easily.

It is possible to clean the horse stall with both a cold and a hot water pressure cleaner. The hot water has the advantage that it dissolves dirt more quickly. It also reduces the germ load in the horse stable.

It is important to clean both the floor and the stall partitions thoroughly with the high-pressure cleaner. It is also advised to spray out horse troughs and drinking troughs. Use a surface cleaner to clean the floor. This prevents dirt from splashing onto the already clean walls or partitions.

Use cleaning agents to remove heavy soiling. Alkaline cleaning agents or foam cleaners are particularly effective. They dissolve water-insoluble dirt and remove protein- and fat-containing residues of faeces and feed.

Tip: Rubber stable mats should also be cleaned annually. Spray them thoroughly from both sides with a high-pressure cleaner.

Advantages of hot water high-pressure cleaners

Cleaning with hot water: High-pressure cleaners clean even better at a constant pressure. Alongside improved results and faster cleaning and drying times, hot water high-pressure cleaners also have a measurable germ-reducing effect. When the steam stage is used, even delicate surfaces can be gently cleaned with temperatures of up to 155 °C. Furthermore, the machines allow for a reduction in the working pressure, the time required and the volume of cleaning agent that is used. This means that cleaning with hot water offers a number of advantages and various possibilities for optimising the cleaning process.

5. Disinfect horse stable and lime if necessary

After the completing the wet and the floors, stall walls, troughs and drinkers have dried, the next step can begin: disinfecting the horse stable. Wear the protective clothing described above when doing this.

In addition, make sure to use a disinfectant that is harmless to horses, such biodegradable disinfectants can be found in specialist shops.

Apply the disinfectant according to the manufacturer's instructions to any place in the stable with the help of the pressure washer: floor, box partitions, troughs, waterers - and the aisle should also be disinfected.

It is important to disinfect the entire horse stable:

  • Into the farthest corner
  • Stable mats from both sides
  • Tools such as pitchfork, broom, and wheelbarrow

Once all surfaces of the horse stable have been disinfected, rinse them thoroughly with water. In the case of plastered walls, it is also advisable to lime them if necessary. This also acts as a disinfectant.

6. Drying

The stalls must be completely dry before the horses can be returned to the stable. If, for example, cleaning water has accumulated in the troughs, you can remove this with a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. Make sure the stalls are ventilated to speed up drying. The drying time depends on air temperature and humidity. Allow around one to two days for this.

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