Horse Dung

Facts about horses’ dung

Horse dung is …

  • Harmless to humans and animals
  • Mainly digested grass
  • Quickly biodegradable
  • Good for biodiversity
  • Useful in a compost bin in small amounts

Unlike dog faeces, dung from a healthy horse presents no threat to human health but horses depositing dung on a popular path is often given as a reason against horse access or as a point of conflict.

Horses are not ridden out for the purpose of defecating, as is often the case with dogs. Horses dung about eight times a day, thus many will not dung when out for an hour’s hack. They may dung if frightened or if at a place where they have previously been distressed.

Although horses' dung is not harmful, it can be unpleasant if it cannot be avoided by passing feet or wheels, particularly for a wheelchair, pushchair or bike which is then put in a car.

The BHS strongly encourages riders and carriage-drivers to be aware of their horses dunging on paths and the potential impact on other users. While some horses indicate that they are about to dung by their behaviour, many will not even slow down and a rider may be unaware of dung being passed.

It is often suggested that riders or carriage-drivers should dismount if a horse has dunged to pick up and remove or at least kick aside any dung from the trodden path. This is rarely practical, even if a rider is aware that dunging has occurred, because it may not be safe or possible to dismount and remount.

Many riders are unable to mount without a mounting block because of limited mobility or the strain on the horse of mounting from the ground. In addition, a rider usually has most control from on the horse’s back; the moments between the ground and saddle are high risk and the environment, such as traffic or livestock, may increase the risk.

If there is local concern about horses' dung at a particular site, and conditions permit, it may be feasible to retain or create a soft surface over part of the path width, suitable for horses, to encourage riders to use of one side of a route so the other side will be dungfree. This can be done without a physical barrier or change in surface by signs on posts or on the surface that encourage riders to Keep Left (for example) and explaining the reason. Alternatively, a central ‘green’ strip with two outer hard surface strips will encourage horses to use the central strip, leaving cyclists and pedestrians to use the firmer outer lanes. A central strip provides optimum head room for the tallest users (riders) on tracks with overhanging vegetation from the sides. Where a softer surface is not feasible, signs may still have the desired effect. A recommended notice is available from the BHS.

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