The Problem With Poo
If you are an equestrian, poo-picking your paddock is probably not a task that you relish. It’s hard work and unpleasant but are you wasting your valuable time? Is clearing your paddock essential maintenance or could you spend your time more productively on other chores?
The answer to that question will depend largely on the size of your field and how many horses share it. In larger fields where there is plenty of good grazing, the clearing of manure could be too onerous and the waste should be harrowed rather than cleared. But in most cases, poo-picking is advisable.
You will never be able to eradicate parasites from the land completely, even if you are incredibly fastidious about clearing manure. Worm eggs will be thrown into the vegetation when the poo hits the ground, but clearing your field of the manure will limit the worm burden. Worm eggs thrive in horse manure and when they hatch, worms spread out into the surrounding vegetation and are ingested by horses. It’s a vicious circle but one that you can at least partially disrupt with good husbandry.
Any droppings left lying around will attract flies. These can prove to be a huge irritation to your horse not to mention a major health hazard. Flies transmit a raft of unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening diseases and so you must do everything you can to keep them away from the horses.
Manure which has been composted and spread across your field will fertilise the soil but piles of dung will have the opposite effect. Manure takes a considerable length of time to decompose. A pile of manure will simply starve the grass beneath it of air and light. The vegetation will be killed off and bare patches will then start to appear. These will restrict your horses’ grazing opportunities and those rough areas of ground are the perfect places for ragwort to prosper.
Ragwort, as you are probably aware, is an invasive weed which is poisonous to horses and must be cleared from your land.
Horse Manure and the Environment
Clearing manure will certainly improve life for your horses but your hard work will also help the environment. Horse manure contains phosphorus and nitrogen. If left lying around, these nutrients will be washed into the local watercourses by the rain and then fertilise aquatic weeds which deplete oxygen levels in ponds and streams. This will inevitably disrupt the eco-system and impact wildlife.
Composted manure is not such an issue as the nutrients become more stable during the composting process and so are less likely to leach away.
Piles of poo do little to improve the look of your pasture. The manure mounts up incredibly quickly as a horse will typically pass an amazing 9 tonnes of it every year. A cleaner field could lift your spirits and will certainly be a more pleasant environment for your horse.
The Good News About Poo
Yes! There is some good news! Poo picking may seem like a pain in the proverbial but your time in the field will give you the opportunity to inspect it. Issues such as rabbit holes, lost shoes, ragwort and broken fencing can be identified at the earliest opportunity and that could save you from a world of pain. You will also be able to clear any discarded rubbish which may be hazardous to your horse.
Ironically, that might include yet more poo – dog poo! There have been several incidents recently of horses becoming extremely ill after ingesting canine poo bags which have been discarded or thrown into their fields. The horses have gobbled up the plastic bags, which do not break down in their stomachs and have ended up with seriously compromised digestive systems. Some horses have been found to have eaten a large number of these bags.
Poo-picking isn’t anybody’s idea of fun but it is an important aspect of field maintenance which will prevent you from having to face issues which are even more unappealing.
If you do find that you have a ragwort problem, you know who to call!