Here’s How to Make Horse Manure Compost

horse manure compost
Horse manure can be composted. Exposure to horse poop is not known to cause any toxic effects on humans. A composting system with aeration, either static or turned, is required. It is important to note that both options add air to the compost, making it aerobic. 

Is horse manure good for compost?

The manure of horses makes an excellent composting material and can also be used as a fertilizer.

Horse manure is a readily available and inexpensive fertilizer for plants. It is possible to give new plants a jump start by applying horse manure while providing essential nutrients for their continued growth.

The material contains an adequate amount of organic matter and can be applied in a variety of ways.

Additionally, it has a slightly higher nutritional value than cow or steer manure.

How do you make compost with horse manure?

A composting system with aeration, either static or turned, is required if composting sounds like the best option for you. It is important to note that both options add air to the compost, making it aerobic. 

A static system uses a blower to force air into the pile. In contrast, a turned manure pile involves adding air by turning it periodically, usually with a tractor, as one horse produces approximately 50 pounds of manure per day (a full wheelbarrow).

Several conservation districts offer a free manure share program to benefit gardeners, farmers, and owners of horses and livestock.

This program aims to connect those who need manure with those who have extra manure that they do not require.

Below is a step-by-step guide to DIY composting horse manure:

1. Make sure you pick the right spot.

Locate an appropriate composting site to begin the composting process. Choose an area with easy access year-round, and that is convenient for chores. 

To prevent contamination of surface or groundwater, choose a level, well-drained location that is away from waterways or wells.

2. Bin or pile?

It is up to you to decide whether or not to use a bin system, but generally, it makes things neater and easier to manage. 

Bins can be constructed from straw bales, pallets, treated lumber, or ecology blocks (stackable concrete). In general, you will need at least two to three bins or piles.

  • The first pile is where you add manure and stall waste.
  • In pile 2, you monitor the temperatures regularly and turn the compost as needed.
  • The third pile is currently in the final stages of the curing process. It is possible to construct multiples of any of these stages or piles.

The size of each pile should be at least three cubic feet, which is approximately the size of a washing machine. The piles may need to be larger in colder climates to generate sufficient heat.

3. Cover it!

The compost’s valuable nutrients are prevented from washing away during the rainy season by covering it with a tarp, plastic sheet, or roof. 

In addition, it prevents the compost from becoming a soggy mess in the winter and crispy-dry in the summer.

Tip: In windy areas, you should weigh down your tarp with recycled milk jugs or detergent jugs filled with gravel.

Make the tarp setup as chore-efficient as possible, as you will have to pull it back every time you clean your horse’s stall or paddock.

To secure it in place, attach it to the back of your compost bin or use bungee cords.

4. Get some air in there.

For bacteria and fungi to break down organic matter, oxygen is essential. You can provide it by turning the pile with a small tractor. 

When the compost is starved for air, it will develop an unpleasant odor rather than an earthy one. Turning your compost frequently will determine how quickly it will be ready for use.

The system of aerated static piles (ASP) is based on using a fan rather than mechanically turning the pile. In this unit, there will be little handling for several months until the pile is completed, making it an attractive investment option for larger facilities because it can handle a greater volume of material in a shorter amount of time.

A three-bin ASP system can cost between $500 and $3,000, depending on the scale of your operation.

5. Keep it damp.

As far as moisture content is concerned, compost should be about as damp as a wrung-out sponge. 

When living in a dry climate or during the summer, find a convenient way to water your compost. You can either use a garden hose to water the pile as you turn it or hose down the manure and stall waste every day before disposing of it.

The compost should be damp but not soggy. Squeeze a handful of material – wearing a glove if you wish – and only a drop or two of moisture should escape.

6. Monitor heat.

As a result of the heat generated by the beneficial microbes, the pile can become relatively warm—about 110 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The compost must reach a temperature of at least 130° F for at least 3 days to kill parasites and pathogens. 

It is easy to monitor compost temperatures by using a long-stemmed compost thermometer.

The increasing temperature indicates that the microbes are working effectively for you. Turning and mixing the compost is necessary when the temperature drops.

If the temperatures remain low after turning several times, you are moving into the curing phase and out of the active composting stage.

7. Curing compost.

As the finished compost sits, it ‘stabilizes.’ Worms and small insects move in and continue to break it down. 

To cure your compost, make sure that you cover it with a tarp to prevent weed seeds from blowing in and colonizing it.

Compost piles can cure for a month or even a year; the longer it cures, the less likely it is that nutrients will leach out when it rains.

8. Finished compost.

Depending on how actively you monitor your pile’s air and water levels and how often you turn it, you can determine how quickly it will finish.

It should take approximately 3 months, although it may take longer in the winter when microbial activity slows down. 

Compost is ready when it is evenly textured, crumbly, dark-colored, and smells earthy. The temperature should not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

9. Put that black gold to good work.

Compost improves the moisture and health of plants and soil. During the growing season, spread manure on pastures, lawns, and gardens using a spreader or a shovel.

The material should be spread in thin layers, about 1/4 to 1/2 inches at a time and about 3 to 4 inches per season in the same area.

How long does it take to compost horse manure?

If manure is piled and left alone, it will decompose slowly. If conditions are ideal, horse manure will turn into compost within 3 to 6 months. 

When the starting organic material contains a large ratio of carbon to nitrogen (as is the case with wood chips in manure), it may take a year or more to complete the process.

Is horse manure acidic or alkaline?

Although horse manure generally has an alkaline pH level of 8.5 and above, when used as a soil improvement, the manure compost may have a slight acidifying effect on the target soil as a result of the high ammonia content.

Is horse manure toxic to humans?

Exposure to horse poop is not known to cause any toxic effects on humans. Horse manure is biodegradable, natural, and doesn’t contain petroleum or animal products. 

Horses don’t carry any of the 120 viruses or pathogens that humans are at risk from carnivores and omnivores.

Horse excrement has pathogens, but they must be ingested to cause health problems.

Does horse manure carry E. coli?

Horse manure may contain E. coli. 

If manure is not managed properly, these contaminants become runoff that may make their way into our water supply and cause problems with water quality.

Can You use horse manure straight in the garden?

Using fresh manure on plants is not recommended, as it can burn roots. 

Aged manure, or that which has been allowed to dry over the winter, can be worked into the soil without burning.

Although horse manure (raw material) may contain more nutrients, it may also have more weed seeds.

Which plants do not like manure?

If the manure is composted, you can add it to the soil to provide nutrients to your plants.

However, fresh or uncomposted manure should not be added to fruit and vegetable gardens as a soil amendment.

This is especially true for vegetables that grow beneath the soil, such as:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes

And the ones that lean or sit on the ground, like:

  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber

Vegetables sensitive to herbicide residue in manure include:

  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Solanaceous crops
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes

What nutrients does horse manure add to soil?

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are all important plant nutrients found in manure. 

Furthermore, manure returns organic matter and other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur to the soil, improving its fertility and quality.

Is horse manure better than cow manure?

Since horses digest their food less thoroughly than cows, their manure contains more organic matter. 

However, it is more likely to contain viable weed seeds.


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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