Here’s how to read between the lines
Mucking out is part of the daily ritual of being a horse owner. But what does the look and color of your horse's manure mean?
Whether you own a high-performance eventer, a working horse, or a much-loved pet pony, you need to know the answer to this. It’s one of the first ways your horse’s body will communicate distress.
Your horse produces around 9 tons of poop every year. That’s one big mound of messages coming direct from his digestive tract.
But what does it all mean? And what should you do if you spot a problem?
Recurring gut problems in your horse can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, or colic. Learn how to spot a problem before it gets serious.
We love our horses here at FullBucket. Our co-founders have worked with horses all their lives. You can read more about their own horses (and other pets) here.
For today’s article, we talked to our equine experts Dr. Keith Latson and Dr. Rob Franklin.
The Perfect Poop
If you’re the one who mucks out your horse’s field and stall, you have a good idea of what’s normal for him. Get to know how much poop he produces, and how often. And learn what is normal for him.
A healthy horse poop will take the form of soft, separate balls of feces, pretty uniform in color. There might be visible strands of food but no solid chunks of undigested matter.
It shouldn’t smell too bad (healthy manure smells mild and sweet, at least compared to dog or cat poop!) And it should not have any mucus or blood in or around it.
It’s normal for your horse to go upwards of eight times per day but frequency will depend on the horse’s age and diet.
Stallions and foals tend to poop more often than mares and geldings.
And, yes, horses use their poop as a social marker. So don’t be surprised if he goes more often when a new horse is in the vicinity.
So you know what’s normal for your horse. What should you do when you notice that his poop is different than usual?
Horses are sensitive animals. Their bodies can respond to small changes that we would dismiss as insignificant.
Start thinking about all the factors that could be having an impact: changes in diet or environment, and external stressors.
If It’s Too Wet
Any horse owner who has watched their beloved horse writhing in pain from colic knows the agony of feeling so helpless.
Horses' guts are incredibly complex. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and things can spiral out of control fast.
Just like for us humans, diarrhea can signal complicated digestive issues, including infection.
But diarrhea could also stem from something you’ve done - even with the best of intentions. Change your horse’s feed program or supplement program quickly, and your horse’s GI system might struggle to adapt.
What you should do:
Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if you notice wet, loose, or runny stools. This is particularly important for older horses, foals, or high-performance horses.
Tell your veterinarian if you have recently changed anything about your horse’s feed, grazing, or supplements.
If It’s Too Dry
They are prone to impactions, which is often thought of as being constipated.
There are some technical aspects to terminology that deal with motility vs dessication of the feces but regardless, I would never say they do get constipated (impacted) frequently.