Horse Poop 101
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.
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.
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.
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.