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How to Compost Horse Manure

By Amy Swanton Mills
Composted horse manure is useful for improving garden soil.

Composting horse manure is a simple procedure that can be done in your backyard. Even if you don't live on a ranch or have a horse, it is easy to obtain horse manure -- and worth the effort if you're working to improve your soil quality. Composting horse manure requires a few simple materials, but very little time or expense. Composted horse manure is rich in nutrients that make it a valuable resource for any type of garden. While you can use horse manure as fertilizer without composting it, fresh manure is too "hot" for many plants and may damage them. Using fresh manure also does not kill any parasites or weeds seeds that may be present in the manure.

Locate horse manure. Contact friends with horses or local stables or ranches and negotiate to pick up some of their horse manure. Many stables pay an outside manure disposal service to pick up their manure, especially when they are located in residential or suburban neighborhoods, so there should be no charge for you to pick up some of it. Be polite and prepared to work around their schedule.

Drive to the stable or ranch with your containers and shovel or pitchfork. If you are concerned about dirt or manure spilling into your car, lay down plastic sheeting to protect the car's interior.

Shovel the horse manure into your plastic containers. If the manure comes from horse stalls it may be mixed with straw or shavings, but this is okay; other organic matter is also useful in compost. Make sure the lids to your containers are tightly fitted before placing them in the car.

Unload the containers into your yard.

Shovel or fork the horse manure into the compost bin and turn every few days. If you don't have a compost bin, make a pile of the horse manure and turn it every few days, pulling the manure from the inside to the outside and from the bottom to the top. It generally takes about 1-3 months in the summer and 3-6 months in the winter for the horse manure to completely break down.

Spread your composted horse manure in your garden. You will know it is ready to spread when it has gone from green to light tan in color and no longer has a strong odor.


Things You Will Need

  • Horse manure
  • Containers with snugly fitted lids
  • Shovel or pitchfork
  • Compost bin or compost area


  • If you find the task of filling containers with horse manure unpleasant, you may be able to pay someone at the ranch or stable to fill them for you. If you would like the further convenience of horse manure delivered to your yard, you can pay to have this service provided.
  • Many cities offer free workshops that will teach you about composting.
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  • Horse manure is heavy. Be aware of this as you are filling your containers. Depending on the size of your containers, you may not want to fill them up all the way or they will be too heavy to lift.
  • There are laws regarding where compost piles may be located within your yard. Check with your city or county to learn the rules and restrictions.

About the Author


Amy Swanton Mills is a writer and designer residing in Los Angeles. She has spent the past 10 years working in various aspects of the architecture, furniture and interior design industry. Her articles on furniture, design and green lifestyle issues regularly appear on eHow.com and furnicology.com. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History from UCLA.