The Scoop on the Poop

A recent scientific journal estimates fifty pounds of manure are generated by a horse each day. Let’s multiply that by the number of horses and their length of stay at Red Hills, and the total amount of manure accumulation rises to about ten tons by the time the last horse trailer rolls out of Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park.  The daily attention to equine discharge is the responsibility of the competitor or the horse’s groom. This chore is known as “mucking”.  Due to the sticky nature of manure, what must ultimately be removed from the horse’s stall is a mixture of manure and bedding material.

Horses are grazers. Most of what they consume is in the form of roughage like grass or hay, which produces a bulky, humus-rich discharge.  Manure contains the three basic nutrients critical to plant health: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Also known as N-P-K, these ingredients form the backbone of all fertilizers, man-made or organic.  Manure makes wonderful natural fertilizer. The addition of humus to the soil can improve its quality while the N-P-K promotes plant growth.

These same ingredients require proper management because water resources like Lake Jackson are vulnerable where high levels of N-P-K may stimulate unwanted algal blooms and the overgrowth of invasive weeds.  For this reason, the manure accumulated at Red Hills must be removed as soon as the event is concluded.  It is taken to be composted.

Horse manure is infamously full of weed seeds and can ruin a garden if not composted in a way that will kill the seeds.  Proper composting can take several months to break down the organic matter but, when the compost process is complete, the poop that is scooped at Red Hills is used to improve footing on the cross country courses and promote growth of native plants and grasses.

Photo by Mark Wallheiser/