Anyone who regularly cleans a barn full of stalls knows that some horses are “neat” about their bathroom habits while others seem to delight in spreading the mess everywhere. As you grumble about the piggy horses, keep in mind that such habits can provide some insight into their health and well-being.
For instance, a horse who is normally messy but one day has a very clean stall might not be passing manure or urine. Take a moment to examine the suddenly neat horse, looking for signs of colic, dehydration or other trouble. If you find anything abnormal, call your veterinarian. If he seems well, keep an eye on him for another day and hope the trend toward tidiness continues.
A horse who is normally neat in his stall and suddenly becomes messy might be anxious. If a friend has moved or he’s being bullied by neighbors, he may be pacing his stall and strewing manure from corner to corner in the process. Even small schedule changes can make a big difference. For example, if a turnout buddy or neighbor is taken out sooner than usual, anxiety and fractious behavior may result.
It would be unusual for a horse’s manure output to increase, but a change in consistency from tidy balls to loose, sloppy piles is a reason to check in with your veterinarian. Similarly, a sudden increase in the size and number of wet spots in a stall can indicate a kidney or endocrine problem---this, too, is worth mentioning to your veterinarian.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #458, November 2015.