Re: Horses poop in the barn

Jack wrote:
We built a barn for our horses. Rather than make individual stalls,
we left the stall area open like a loafing shed. The horses love it
and spend a lot of time in the barn. The problem is that the horses
seem to prefer to poop in the barn rather than outside. THe result is
a time consuming effort to keep the barn floor clean. Any ideas of
how we can get them to poop outside the barn and lessen this chore?

I know we can close it so they can't get into it but that defeats the
reason we built it to give them a shelter out of the weather.

You can barn-train a horse just like you house-train a dog. It doesn't happen in a day, and it takes work. It's easiest to do when you have a new horse/barn situation, but you can also do it with an existing situation.

1) Make the barn as unsuitable for a bathroom as you can. This means no bedding to reduce urine splashing, and ideally wood or concrete floors, or rubber pads (over dirt floors) to increase splashing. You can slowly add bedding later once the horses are trained but for this training period NO bedding in the barn.

2) Put bedding (to reduce urine splashing) outside, in the area you want to encourage the horse to use for eliminating. Use the same bedding you were using in the barn. It doesn't matter if some of it blows away.

3) Clean the stalls as thoroughly as you can, to reduce urine and manure smells. Use soap and water and lime as needed to get rid of lingering smells. If you have dirt floors you may need to bring in fresh dirt.

4) Close the doors to keep the horses out of the barn unless you are there to monitor them, until they routinely and voluntarily leave the barn to go outside to eliminate.

So the barn has been prepared, and you open the doors to let the horses in. Ideally you start with just 1 or 2 horses, not a whole herd. Put a small amount of feed in the barn and let the horse(s) in to eat.

5) Watch like a hawk for any signs that a horse is preparing to poop or pee, and when you see it YELL (I use the word "OUTSIDE") and WAVE YOUR ARMS and run the horse out of the barn. Stand near the doorway and don't let the horse back in until it has done its business. (This may take some time, as the horse may lose the "urge" to eliminate when you run it outside.)

6) When you see the horse peeing or pooping outside the barn praise it. For even faster results, give a treat (cookie or carrot), for even faster results use clicker training so you can "click" when the horse eliminates outside, then give the treat.

7) Let the horse(s) back into the barn to eat some more.

8) When the horses are done eating, gently shoo them out (using the same term as before, e.g. "outside" but not yelling), and close the door to keep them out (while you aren't there). If you are feeding hay 2x daily, feed about 1/2 a meal in the barn, then put the rest outside so they finish their meal outside the barn.

8) Repeat at each meal for a week (14 meals), gradually increasing the amount of the meal you put in the barn.

9) On a day when you can be at/in the barn all day, put a full meal out for breakfast and then after breakfast hang around near the barn (where you can immediately take action if a horse starts to show signs of peeing or pooping in the barn) and clean tack, paint, etc. while watching the horses.

10) Whenever a horse voluntarily leaves the barn to eliminate, give the horse big verbal praise, and a big treat (several cookies, several carrots).

11) If you turn your back (or the door opens when you aren't there) and a horse eliminates in the barn shoo the horse out then clean it up immediately. If you have a puddle of urine use some shavings to clean it up and then put the soaked shavings just outside the barn door, to mark an acceptable pee spot. After you clean it up, put some dirt on the floor or mats and sweep - you want to get rid of the smell of the urine or manure from the barn. You want the barn to smell like an "eating place" and not smell like a "porta-potty".

I have barn-trained several horses over the years. They will sometimes "break training" when we have really bad weather (driving rain for hours on end, e.g. 3-4 inches a day in non-stop rain), choosing to poop in the barn rather than go out in the driving rain to poop in the "manure spot" in their paddock. I find that by promptly cleaning it up and *especially* removing any soiled bedding or dirt so that the stall doesn't take on the porta-potty smell, they resume pooping and peeing outside as soon as the rain stops.

I've mentioned this process to many people over the years, but it's pretty rare for anyone to take the time to do it. I find that really odd because it's SO NICE to have a clean smelling barn that smells of just horses and hay and not poop or urine, and it's much easier to clean up the paddock than clean stalls. You will also use less bedding because the horses don't walk the poop into the bedding - they usually poop in one place (where there is no bedding) and pee in another place (where there is bedding). You may need to keep putting bedding down outside the stall - many horses break training and urinate in the stall if there is no bedding outside - but you will use much less than is required inside a stall. I find it VERY worthwhile to take the time to train the horse to go outside.