Stall Psychology

Taking care of your own horses 24/7 definitely gives you a different perspective on them, and you start to learn some weird things. Particularly when cleaning their stalls and picking up their poop day in and day out. Like for instance, I came to notice that Presto’s turds are consistently small for a horse his size, like for real they look more like pony poops. Which led to a closer examination and determination that he has, well… a tiny butthole for a horse his size.

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Seriously I don’t know why you people keep coming to this blog.

Anyway.

Aside from such earth-shattering revelations as tiny buttholes, I’ve also become keenly aware of and interested in their stall-keeping habits. Right now the horses are out for about 12 hours and then inside for about 12 hours. They have nice size stalls with runs attached off the back, so they’re free to come and go between the two spaces as they please. It seems like most of the horses prefer mainly pooping outside and peeing inside, which is nice. Easy to clean. Sometimes they’ll have one or two piles inside, but nothing major. Henry and Presto, however, are polar opposites at extreme ends of the spectrum.

Henry is very much a “poop where he’s standing” type of guy. He doesn’t seem to give it any thought, he just shits wherever he happens to be at the time. There could be 5 piles in his stall in all different spots. Or they could all be piled in one corner. Or he could have mulched it all up into soup. Or maybe it’s all outside. Every day is different, depending on how he spent his night. He seems to give zero shits about laying in poop and has zero motivation to “keep his room clean” so to speak. His is always the dirtiest stall and always takes the longest to clean. You just never know what you’re going to find and where.

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Presto, on the other hand, is the opposite. In the entire two months that they’ve been coming inside at night, he’s pooped in his stall a grand total of twice. His poops are almost always relegated to the very end of the run, spread in a semi-circle next to the fence. Usually he has one pee in his stall, in the exact same spot every day, and he never lays in it. He uses hardly any shavings and it takes maybe 4 minutes to clean his stall and run.

It was kind of surprising to me to find that he’s such a neat stall horse. He’s not a clean horse otherwise, in fact he rolls at the edge of the pond every single day thus always has mud clinging to him somewhere. His mother was a pig in her stall too, so I have no idea where he picked up this inclination. At previous barns where he didn’t have a run, he wasn’t very neat, and often walked everything into a mess when he got bored. Something about having two spaces (and more space) makes him happier I guess?

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With work and my long commute and barn stuff, my days become a balancing act of trying to fit everything in during daylight hours, so the less time I have to spend cleaning stalls, the better. Thus Presto, who always has the cleanest stall of the four, always wins the unofficial Stallkeeper award. If you think about it, it kind of fits.

The whole “I’ll shit where I want and you’ll pick it up because that’s your job” attitude is very Henry. And the desire to please the human and do the good boy thing is very Presto. I’ve found myself pondering this often when I’m cleaning stalls; how weird it is that each horse’s poo habits fit so perfectly with their personality? Obviously the horses aren’t thinking “I’m gonna poop outside because the human prefers it” or “screw her, I shit where I please”… that’s not how their brains work at all. Yet somehow their habits do end up matching their basic personality anyway.

And then I was listening to a book about FBI profiling, and I was thinking maybe you could build a psych profile on a horse based solely on it’s stall keeping habits. Thinking of the four I take care of, you totally could, and you’d be pretty spot on. Perhaps this is a book idea in the making? Could you tell your horse’s psych profile from it’s stall? All this time people have been using whirls to attempt to read personality, but maybe instead we should be gazing into their dirty stalls.

Yes, these are the kind of ground breaking topics I ponder when I’m cleaning stalls. You could probably profile me based on that, too… tiny buttholes and horse personality profiles…

16 thoughts on “Stall Psychology

  1. Honestly I can see the link. Frankie poops wherever and whenever, usually wallows it into soup, and naps in his urine daily. Because Francis. Does. Not. Care. I also think it’s a ploy to get the barn workers to spend longer cleaning it because he loves them and wants to hang out. Turd.

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  2. It’s so true. Coco hates being groomed (see my Plaid Horse Ammy group post, SO MUCH ADVICE!) so she stays remarkably clean and is extremely tidy in her stall. Jaguar seems to ONLY poop in his stall and he’s happy to lay in it. It’s so gross. And he has a paddock off his stall, not just a run! Simon is tidy in his poop piles and doesn’t spread it around, but he mostly only poops in his stall and he lays down in his run. Weirdo.

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  3. Gem and Pete have spent the last 10 years living the pasture life with me. Even when we boarded it was pasture board with time in only to eat. When they are kept inside all day for the farrier to come or in the rare overnight when the weather is complete crap, they are pigs. They poop and pee wherever and smush it into dust. In fact, Pete poops in his hay and while others will disagree I fully believe it is a middle finger to us for keeping him in.

    Eeyore spent most of his life before me living inside and as such he is super neat. The poops in one corner only. He also poops only in one spot in the pasture which isn’t so great as it then needs dragged. If he was like the others and free pooped it would be better.

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  4. That makes sense. Thinking back, I totally feel horse stall habits match their personality. Amber HATES to get dirty – that is, to roll in poop and pee. She only does it if she has a blanket on because she won’t get dirty in a blanket. But, she doesn’t really like to roll in mud, either. She gets dusty, but really remains a pretty clean horses. Whisper…..not so much. She’s a bit more like Henry in that regard lol. But this post also just makes that meme true – 80% of mucking stalls is figuring out life, and the other 20% is filled with all the WTF thoughts lol.

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  5. I dunno – Tristan has honestly been different in every stall he’s been in. As a general rule, he usually finds a corner and keeps everything there, but…that’s not 100%. I think it has a lot to do with how much turnout they have, how stressed they are overall (in less-than-ideal barns, Tris was a total stall walker who smashed everything into intermingled bits), and some other things. He also wasn’t gelded until late (at age 4) so when he’s lived outside 24/7 he makes sorta-kinda a “stallion pile” and keeps all his poop in one place.

    It’s definitely tempting to think of it as purely personality but I do think a lot of things come into play!

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  6. Rio was a poop wherever kind of guy, but he wouldn’t walk in it. Lay in it? Yes. Walk in it no. Jamp was a really good housekeeper when he was still a stallion. Pooped in one spot, peed in another. But after I gelded him he was a little more messy. Spite maybe? (Lol. I know not, but like it’s maybe possible.)
    Eros poops in the back but they bank the stalls a lot at the boarding barn, so it’s kind of a pita to clean. Pammon is a poop whereever, then walk through it kind of guy. And Shiny likes to pee right in the banks, so that’s a real nightmare. Horses are gross.

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  7. My mares are SUPER tidy and the geldings are SUPER disgusting and none of them have what I would consider similar personalities 🤣 Cinna in particular is pretty positive it’s her world and everyone exists to serve her, but hers is the neatest of all. And I did also own a super tidy gelding, so I don’t think they fall that way based on gender.

    But I do also spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about things like my horses stall habits and wondering if there is any way to get my geldings to STOP MULCHING THEIR DANG POOP 😅

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  8. Chimi is one of the best stall keepers too. He poops on the edges (along the 2 side walls and the back wall, front wall is where is hay and water are so thankfully doesn’t poop there) and doesn’t pee in his stall unless he really has to go. If my guys stay in at night I take Chimi out for a walk at midnight like a dog so he can pee in the grass- it’s hysterical but I love it b/c it makes cleaning his stall a breeze! The other 2- well they more than make up for Chimi’s clean stalls by being gross and pooping everywhere.

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  9. I guess we’ve all spent some time thinking about this topic. Val has a run-in stall that opens out into a sizeable paddock. 99% of the time the run-in is for eating only. If the weather or flies are abysmal, he might pee or poop in there. You can figure out how he spent his evening by looking at the poo pile pattern in the morning. He is not opposed to sleeping on the warm poo pillow. The very best poop habit he has, is when he’s happy with me, he will follow while I pick the paddock, nudge me, and position his butt real close to the wheelbarrow before he let’s fly. When I’m paying attention I just tip the wheelbarrow and voila, one less pile. He prefers to be rewarded with manure fork scratches. He’s a wierdo, but he’s my wierdo.

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  10. I think only horse people are this obsessed with poop. Not only do you have an entire post on your horses pooping habits, but all the commenters so far have described their own horses habits.

    When it was just my gelding at home, he never pooped or peed in his stall, only in the attached paddock, unless the weather was horrendous (ice storm). My mare…I swear she only poops and pees in the half of her stall that doesn’t have a mat, then stomps it until it’s ground in. It’s a lot of work to muck in our cold winters. She’s a pig. She’s also constantly covered in mud while the gelding isn’t.

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  11. So stall cleaning is included in board at our barn but I do prefer to pick out RedMare’s stall when I’m there (4 out of 7 days a week) – I keep an eye on turd consistency so I can see how well she drinking/how her system is doing/etc. A couple times hers have been too wet and I found I had run out of her probiotic supplement. If I notice she doesn’t have her normal urine spots, I can keep an eye on her water intake. I think it’s pretty valuable info. While she isn’t a stall-trasher (she consistently pees and poops in the same spots), she has no problem laying down in whatever is below her. For someone so finicky about grooming, she definitely earns the grooming time. Heifer.

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  12. My boys are on 24/7 turnout. They only poop in their run-in if the weather is bad.

    However, Mort pees in his stall almost every day when he comes in to eat. And he poops in the cross ties at least once before we ride, but usually twice. But in the 4.5 years I’ve owned him he’s only pooped under saddle like twice.

    Not sure how it relates to his personality though. Definitely doesn’t like getting pee splash on his legs via peeing outside. But it’s the dirtiest, rolling-ist horse I’ve ever owned. And hates being groomed. Maybe it’s his lack of confidence that causes all the mixed signals. 😛

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  13. I have an interesting perspective because I have now owned multiple generations of horses. Stall habits really seem to be passed from mare to foal. Clean stalled mares= clean stall foals. Mares who churn their stalls= foals who grow up to do the same.

    I have watched my girls shake their heads and reprimand foals for not pooing in the specific poo pile, and they will often train their foals to have potty areas in the pastures. My stallions have always created stud piles.

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    1. I spent a couple years cleaning Sadie’s (prestos dam) stall on the weekends and she was just FOUL. Beyond foul. Worst in the barn. Granted, Presto wasn’t a great stallkeeper until he had a run. Not nearly as bad as she was, but not particularly neat either.

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