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Horse Stalls and Ammonia

Updated on February 26, 2016

Are You Taking Every Prevention?

Your horse is your best friend. It is one of the most remarkable animals that we call our pets, but personally I like to refer to them as my friends. Each one has their own unique personality, along with good, bag and ugly days.

Not to mention, they are the most expensive. To get the best performance from your horse, you're going to need him to be the healthy and in prime physical shape. You spend time and money working with barn managers to work out the perfect balance in diet for muscle building, toning, and stamina. You spend alot of money on grain and don't even START on the supplements! Bottom line, you love your horse, and may take better care of it than yourself.

But what other factors may be affecting your horses health?

If you have your four-legged friend in a stall, take every precaution to avoid an extra ammonia exposure.

Dangers of Ammonia

According to The Agency for Toxic Sustances and Disease Registry in a public health statement, ammonia can cause many horrible respiratory diseases, eye problems, and even intestinal issues. Exposure levels are a factor, as well as temperature and ventilation. Visit the public health statement here:

How are you (or your stable) preventing ammonia esposure?

What's Under Those Rubber Matts?

I used to work for large barn, on little acreage. Turnout was limited to only 4 horses a day, if the owner paid extra for it. The trainer, didn't approve of turnout for the horses in her training program, she wanted them as fresh with energy as possible for the 30 min training session four days a week. (I do not commend this behavior myself, I am a strong advocate for open pasture. The happiest horses I've yet to see have been full time pasture with a large herd.)

I digress!

The stalls were mucked twice a day to prevent the build up of ammonia, there were no anti ammonia chemicals provided even after requests from both myself, other employers and clients. The gravel that was under the matts slowly disappeared under the layers of pee-ridden shavings that fell through the cracks. The matts get pulled up when a horse stands back up after rolling or laying down. When that happens, the ground beneath it no longer becomes level, letting more and more waste product slip under the matt. This needs to be cleaned out regularly, or it can create many other problems besides ammonia related issues.

I had to use a shovel to remove these layers, even then it was difficult. What really needed to happen?

The stalls needed to be dried out. The matts removed. The layers of grime removed.

The smell when rubber matts come up is intoxicating.

Take a Second Look

Next time you go see your friend Flicka, take a look at how level her matts are. It should be an indicator of how often under the matt is dried out and cleaned. Ask your barn manager what kind of products they use to combat the ammonia in your horse's stall. If they don't have an answer, or they don't use one, I'd recommend finding a place that takes better care of your horse.

Other Prevention Methods

A few other tricks to keep your horse away from ammonia as much as possible (because really- its about managing it) are to:

1. Keep hay in a bag, at the same level of your horse's head.

2. Keep grain in hanging feeder or bucket, instead of using a grain pan. (My experience feeding horses- some think it's fun to play with your food even at 15)

3. Give your horse turn out. They need fresh air, this also helps their happiness levels.

4. Keep barn doors open at regular intervals throughout the day- even if its cold outside.


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    • emrieh profile image

      emrieh 23 months ago from Seattle, WA

      Oh I can only image the sight that must have been! I hope you got her back safely. I've also heard that trick and have used it -to my own dismay- with my dogs, and it definitely proved wrong! He's a strong boy, and very strong willed. That technique can only work for small animals and large animals that have been trained to respect it as a hitching post. Communication :).

      Thank you for your encouragement, I believe that is a good direction to start in. Many people have no idea what truly goes on when they leave their horse at a barn, and I would love to spread awareness and help people know what to look for in finding that place to grow alone, for your horse to grow, and most importantly you to be able to come together and grow.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 23 months ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Great advice for novice horse owners of whom I once was one, emrieh. You appear very knowledgeable about equines. How about a hub page pointing out problems and pitfalls the novice horse owner might avoid like laminitis from heavy concussion (such as a horse that gallops or is worked at a high-stepping gait on a hard surface).

      As a novice I once bought a black Morgan horse. Horse people told me I could tether her on a long lead to a large tire in the 1/2 acre front yard of my house and she'd keep the lawn mowed. Worked fine for a day until she bucked her neck against the taught rope, the tire popped up and started rolling at her, she spooked and ran onto the gravel horsehoe driveway, the tire rolling after her chasing her down the road making her run faster onto the blacktop where she had to turn left or right making her slide clean across the road, uprighted by the softer shoulder of the road, the rope broke, tire went into the woods as she galloped down the road and out of sight!

      I'm sure you could write a great HP on the pitfalls of owning a horse, feel free to use my story...btw I have a couple more examples of my personal experiences with what not to do with horses if you need a laugh or two.