The other end of the horse: manure, black gold for gardeners | SehndeWeb

Posted: Apr 24, 2022 7:00 AM

Every day without fail and up to 12 times a day, your horse presents you with a nice pile of manure, adding up to around 30 pounds at the end of each day. She won’t stop until she’s cold and stiff in the ground, so we have to deal with that, and we will. But if you think you have a problem, join me on a little time travel to 1880 New York. You would no doubt be overwhelmed by the giant piles of horse manure lining the streets. Some empty lots had small mountains of things on three floors. At the time, there were between 150,000 and 200,000 horses working in the city, pulling wagons, trams, carriages and carts. At a conservative estimate of 20 pounds a day per animal, the result has been an almost insurmountable health crisis, as more than three million pounds have been dumped on the streets every day.

A few decades earlier, manure was collected and sold to farmers, but as the town’s population grew and the amount of manure increased, its value dropped so much that the town had to pay to have it transported. . Imagine what it was like after a heavy rain when the streets turned into a fetid mess. The New York stoop, the short staircase leading to a raised front door, was an architectural response to the situation. The problem also inspired the first international meeting on town planning with manure disposal as a key topic. There were no easy solutions. Of course, what eventually happened was the development of the internal combustion engine and its rapid adoption around the turn of the century. New York’s last horse-drawn carriage was retired in 1917 and the great problem of manure disposal faded into history.

Fast forward to 2022. We still have to figure out what to make of these equine offerings. The good news is that manure decomposes quickly and generally poses no risk to human health. It’s completely broken down in a week or two, compared to dog feces, which sit around for months and harbor dangerous worms and bacteria. Any horse owner will tell you that horse manure smells a lot better too. The solutions depend on the number of horses you have and the area occupied by your horses. Most of us pay to have it transported or compost it. For owners who have horses with round-the-clock attendance in a large field, there may be no need to do anything and just let nature take its course. Most large stables have a dumpster dropped off by a commercial haulage company. Located in a convenient location, it is added to the full wheelbarrow each day and replaced as needed. Costs depend on container size and pickup schedule. Barnyard horse owners tend to process their manure on site.

Andrea Brosnan of Newtown has a tightly contained manure pile covered with a tarp to prevent runoff when it rains, which also promotes heat which breaks down the manure faster. Likewise, horse owner Allison Goff has five horses on seven acres. She does not collect manure from the field but when the horses are in smaller paddocks in front of the barn, the manure is picked up once or twice a day and put in a giant compost heap. She also has cows, chickens and goats. All the manure goes into the pile, which is high, warm and moist to promote anaerobic conditions of at least 160 degrees. It breaks down within a few weeks to a month, turning into rich compost that she uses on her lawn and gardens.

Robin Kosak in North Salem, NY has up to seven horses on his property at a time. She composts all her manure and uses a granulated bedding that decomposes quickly. Diana Dorta from Newtown has two horses and has been trailing them for years. This year she started composting and loves both the cost savings and the end product. Amy Smith in Easton has eight horses on 11 acres. Stalls are thrown into a dumpster and picked up as needed. Manure in the fields is either scooped up or she uses a trail to spread it.

There are many different approaches to composting manure, but it is very important that fresh manure decomposes adequately before it is applied to gardens. Otherwise, it will bring weed seeds and bacteria along for the ride. Successful composting is the result of heat, airflow, moisture and organic matter. Horse manure on its own has a good balance of carbon and nitrogen and converts well into nutritious compost. Too much litter included in the mix will slow down the decomposition process. Build the pile up at least three feet to allow the temperature to rise to at least 110 degrees for decomposition to occur. Temperatures between 135 and 160 are ideal and will kill the bad stuff.

Manure is also an excellent indicator of horse health. I found a very helpful article by Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, award-winning veterinarian and writer. Although we can be overwhelmed by the amount of manure produced by a horse, remember that less or no manure is very bad news and an indication of a blockage in the digestive tract. Call the vet quickly! The color of the manure tells you something about their diet. I recently hiked in Hawaii. The horses we rode all produced brown manure because they ate a standard diet of hay and grain. Interestingly, there were also a number of wild horses in the area that lived on grass and other vegetation. Their manure was bright green! If you feed your beet pulp, the manure may have a reddish tint. Skip this part if you find it yucky: healthy manure should be well-formed, a little shiny, and break easily; these are indicators of good hydration. If the ride is dry or hard, your horse needs more fluids! Do you see pieces of hay and intact grains in the manure? Your horse may not be chewing properly and a visit to the equine dentist is in order. Stress and heavy training can produce soft or runny manure. If that doesn’t resolve, take her temperature. Something else may be happening.

A word about “road apples”. Here at the Newtown Bridle Lands Association, we ask all of our riders to be as considerate as possible when their horse drops manure. If we are on a path in a public space used by pedestrians, cyclists and strollers, we go down and throw the manure to the side. Deep in the woods, we let it decompose. If we are on a paved road, safety is the priority. It’s usually not possible to safely dismount and clear the manure off the road, but we’ll try. The good news is that it will soon disappear anyway as it naturally breaks down.

Composted horse manure is gardeners’ black gold. It is rich in organic matter and contains carbon, nitrogen, potassium and small amounts of phosphorus. When mixed into beds, it improves soil texture and promotes good drainage. Believe it or not, you can buy fresh thoroughbred horse manure on Etsy (online marketplace). Priced at $22 for 10 books, plus shipping, it has to be the most expensive you-know-what stack a person can buy. It’s more expensive than the cost of the grain you put on the other end of the horse. If you’re looking for a supply of well-composted local horse manure, you’re in luck. The Second Company Governor’s Mounted Guard is holding two more compost drives on Saturday, April 23 and Saturday, April 30, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The drive is located at 21 Old Farm Road, just past the Fairfield Hills Dog Park. Bring your own container and a donation for this worthy organization.

Tracy Van Buskirk is a 37-year Newtown resident and president of the Newtown Bridle Lands Association,, a voluntary, nonprofit organization established in 1978 to foster interest in horseback riding as well as to preserve , protect and maintain horsemanship. and walking trails in the community. Horses have always been part of his life. She owns a small bay quarter horse named Little Bear.

A typical container used to collect horse manure. This one is at One Above Farm in Newtown. The ramp makes it easy to roll a wheelbarrow to the top. —Photo by Tracy Van Buskirk

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