Is your horse’s manure normal?
I know what you guys are going to say, I can hear it now…“Really? An article on poop and if your horse’s manure is normal?” But really it boils down to this – what is normal, and what does it tell you if something is different?
If your horse deviates from normal, you will know. This accomplishes one major goal – get help fast before things escalate. Diarrhea can be dangerous – life-threatening, even – if allowed to continue. The same holds for very dry manure – it could be an impaction colic waiting in the wings.
A typical and fairly normal pile of manure.
Normal horse manure can be described this way:
- Formed fecal balls – or mostly formed. Manure usually isn’t perfect marbles, sometimes those marbles clump together, into a heap.
- Not too wet, not too dry. Part of the horse’s digestive system regulates the amount of water mixed into the manure. Most horses have manure that is Goldilocks wet – just enough water to do the job, not too much, not too little.
- Manure is usually passed six to eight times a day, more for stallions and babies. Some horses are like clockwork.
- About 50 lbs per day. Nice arm muscles you have there!
- No mucus. A coating of mucus may indicate that the manure has been waiting too long to meet the ground, and may be seen on the back end of an impaction colic.
- No visible food bits, although you can sometimes discern chewed-up forage lengths. Some grains could be seen, but check with your vet about that and perhaps research your horse’s feed ingredients.
Horse manure red flags:
- Manure that is too wet. Loose manure or diarrhea that coats the legs and tail and is sometimes projectile is definitely too wet. When your horse is passing so much water, this can throw him into dehydration and a myriad of other problems. It can also be a sign of infectious disease, in which case all other horses at the barn are at risk. Call your veterinarian asap.
Bad, bad, bad. Call the vet, please!
- Too dry. This is a sign he’s not getting enough water. Definitely investigate and call your veterinarian for instructions. It may be as simple as making sure his buckets are full and clean, or you need to find a way to increase his intake of water. Impactions can be a worry in this case.
- Weird colors. Red and black can indicate blood in the digestive system, also a huge warning sign and reason to call the veterinarian. Some shades of green are usually a result of the type of forage, alfalfa is known to contribute to bright green manure. Any color changes in the brown and green family may result from a change in diet, especially if that change occurs rapidly.
- Anything out of the ordinary. A change in frequency, location, quantity, etc. can signal an imbalance somewhere. Considering that your horse’s intestines are about 100 feet long, that’s a lot of tubing that can get out of whack.
This manure is less formed and softer than others, but it’s normal for this horse.
- A feed change, stress, showing, travel, medications, and other things can throw your horse’s digestion a bit off. Make feed changes gradually (over a week or more if you can) and keep things the same when you and your horse are on the road.
Weird things that can change your horse’s normal manure:
- Sand in the digestive tract can also cause some problems. Learn how you may be able to test for sand here. While testing for sand seems like a good idea – it’s incomplete information. This test only tells you if he’s actively passing sand. He could have sand that is stuck, or he could have so much that he’s passing a little bit at a time. And don’t worry too much if your horse likes to eat poop, he may be telling you something.
- Internal parasites can absolutely change your horse’s manure, as well as his overall health, but can’t be seen in manure. Do regular fecal egg count tests to stay ahead of parasites and keep random deworming from contributing to resistant worms.
- Every horse will be a bit different. And that your call to your veterinarian for some advice may just save you a slew of vet bills in the future if you suspect something is wrong.
If you are at all interested in your horse’s digestive system (YEAH!), you can read this and learn all about what happens from your horse’s rooter to his tooter.
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