Horse Poop 101

 

horse and poop

For many of us, dealing with horse manure is a day-to-day occurrence.  We scoop it, we dump it, and we forget about it–for the most part.  But have you ever really taken a look at your horse’s poop?  It can actually tell you quite a bit about your horse’s overall health.

Normal Horse Poop

Every horse is different and their diets vary so that means not all horse poop will look the same.   You need to determine what is ‘normal’ for your horse so that if a change does occur, you’ll be aware of it.

Note the consistency, color, appearance, and size of your horse’s manure as well as how often he or she poops.  The average horse poops about 10-12 times per day and a reduction in frequency could be a sign of colic.

Consistency

Dry, hard manure often smaller than normal and covered in mucous is a sign of constipation.  And most of us know that constipation in horses can easily lead to colic.  If your horse’s manure looks like this, watch him very closely as you may need to call your vet.

Loose, wet manure can occur for several reasons, including stress, changes in diet, and as a result of eating new spring grass.  As long as the horse doesn’t consistently have loose stools, this type of poop may not be a major cause for concern.

Antibiotic use  can cause loose stools since it kills off both the good and bad bacteria in the gut.  Using a pro- or prebiotic is a good idea after giving antibiotics to your horse.  Long-term NSAID (bute/ banamine) use can also cause loose stools.  You might consider these natural bute alternatives which should not affect your horse’s digestive system.

Diarrhea is different from loose manure and should be a cause for concern.  If the horse’s manure is liquidy and foul-smelling, there is likely a problem.  It could be the result of an illness, infection, or from eating a toxic plant.  If your horse has diarrhea, I would not hesitate to call the vet.

Color

Horse poop can vary in color according to the diet.  Shades of greens and brown are very common.  If your horse eats a large amount of beet pulp, his poop may be a reddish-brown color.

If your horse’s poop is red or black, this is a cause for concern.  Red poop can mean that there is bleeding in the lower intestinal tract while black poop, although very rare, could mean that there is bleeding further up in the digestive tract.

Appearance

Healthy manure consists of moist, well-formed balls.  Seeing small pieces of hay or grain in the manure is normal, but there are a few things you might notice in the poop that aren’t.  The following indicate a need for intervention:

  • worms in poop;
  • large or undigested feed particles (could be dental-related); and
  • gritty appearance (could be sand ingestion).

 

So my final message is this:  get to know your horse’s poop and never ignore changes in it.  The horse has a very delicate digestive system, as many of us are aware, and poop is a good indicator of what may be going on in there.

Ta-ta!

Sources

The Scoop on Poop;  What it can tell you about you about your horse’s health

Horse Poopology–The Science and Art of Horse Poop

What Does your Horse’s Stool Say?

 

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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6 Responses

  1. Susan Deakin says:

    I have a little horse that I bought about 8 years ago to use for beginner lessons. He doesn’t work hard, believe me! He has always had loose stool bordering on diarrhea all the time! I’ve tried different feeds, probiotics, whatever the vet suggested. Nothing works. Sometimes the stool looks okay but then later it’s watery again. I really hate it for him when he gets his tail all messed up (he has the most beautiful thick, long tail that has to be trimmed, it gets so long). I figure it must be something from an earlier life before my ownership…perhaps worm infestation damage? He’s probably about 17 or 18 now.

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Susan. What comes to my mind is ulcers. What does he eat currently? And is he kept on pasture or stalled?

      • Pauline says:

        She is fed hay most ly as grass doesnt grow very well here it seems to get worse if she,s had perhaps to much hay what would you suggest giving her so i could cut down a bit on the hay thanks pauline

        • Casie says:

          Hi Pauline,

          Sorry, I’m a little confused–are you talking about ulcers? If so, I’ve heard good things about feeding aloe vera and slippery elm powder.

          Casie

  2. Robynne Catheron says:

    My TWH gelding, George, has the most sensitive system I’ve ever known. The second he steps out of the trailer he has diarrhea, and it usually takes several hours for his poop to become somewhat solid. Dr Dan (The Natural Vet) recommended I double up on his Bug Check because it’s high in vitamin B, but that doesn’t work. I’ve tried Chill from Omega Alpha, also no joy. We trailer out several times a month to organized rides, trail competitions, clinics, parades (the worst, because it lasts throughout the entire parade), etc, so it’s not like he’s not used to trailering. He practically loads himself, so I know he’s not stressed by traveling. He loves other horses, and never kicks or bites or shows any signs of aggression. He’s fantastic on the trail, brave and willing to try anything, and he’s always so curious about unusual things that he has to touch everything with his nose. I’m hesitant to ask our vet, because he isn’t holistic at all and I’m afraid he’ll suggest something chemical.
    I know you aren’t a vet, and in no way am I asking you for a diagnosis, but have you ever known or heard of another horse with this problem?

    • then5925 says:

      If it’s only on these certain occasions, when you take him away from home, I would guess it has to do with ‘nerves’. I had a horse that would get very loose poop every time we went to a barrel race, even though she wasn’t a nervous-type horse. I believe, like some people, horses can internalize stress and show very little on the surface. This may be what’s going on with your George. Have you tried a prebiotic with him (not sure if the products you mentioned contain pre or probiotics)? Also, there are some acupressure points that you can use to calm the digestive system when you’re at a ride, etc, (if you’re interested in using them.)

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