Can You Compost Horse Manure? Exploring Benefits, Safety, And Alternative Uses

Composting is an excellent way to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich soil amendments. From kitchen scraps to garden trimmings, many organic materials can be composted.

But what about horse manure? Can you compost it? In this article, we will delve into the world of composting horse manure and explore its benefits, safety considerations, and alternative uses.

Composting Basics

Before we dive into composting horse manure specifically, let’s review the basics of composting. Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic materials into humus-rich compost. It involves creating the ideal conditions for microorganisms to thrive and decompose the waste materials. The result is a dark, crumbly substance that enriches soil, improves moisture retention, and promotes healthy plant growth.

To ensure successful composting, you need a good balance of carbon-rich materials (often referred to as “browns”) and nitrogen-rich materials (known as “greens”). Browns include dry leaves, straw, and wood chips, while greens consist of fresh grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. Proper aeration, moisture levels, and temperature also play crucial roles in the composting process.

Composting Horse Manure

Composting horse manure offers several benefits. Firstly, it helps manage waste produced by horses and reduces the environmental impact. Instead of accumulating in stables or polluting water sources, composting allows you to transform horse manure into a valuable resource. Secondly, composted horse manure improves soil quality by enhancing its structure, fertility, and moisture-holding capacity.

However, composting horse manure requires some considerations. Horse manure is considered “hot” or high in nitrogen, which means it decomposes rapidly. As a result, it can become compacted and odorous if not managed properly. To avoid these issues, it is essential to combine horse manure with sufficient carbon-rich materials, such as straw or wood shavings. This helps balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and prevents the compost from becoming too “hot.”

How Long Does it Take for Horse Manure to Compost?

The time it takes for horse manure to compost depends on various factors. These include the size of the compost pile, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, moisture levels, temperature, and the frequency of turning or aerating the pile. Generally, with proper management, horse manure can compost within three to six months.

However, it’s important to note that composting is a gradual process, and achieving a fully matured compost may take longer.

Is it Safe to Compost Horse Manure?

Composting horse manure is generally safe if done correctly. However, there are some considerations to ensure safety. Firstly, it is crucial to compost only horse manure and not mix it with other types of manure, such as from carnivorous animals, which may carry harmful pathogens. Secondly, maintaining proper temperatures during composting helps eliminate potential pathogens and weed seeds.

It’s also essential to handle composted horse manure with care. Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it, especially if you plan to use the compost in vegetable gardens or areas where edible plants grow. Additionally, if you have concerns about the safety of composted horse manure, you can allow it to cure for an additional period to ensure complete decomposition.

Other Uses for Horse Manure

Composting is not the only way to utilize horse manure. It can also be used as a nutrient-rich mulch around trees, shrubs, and flower beds. The slow release of nutrients from composted horse manure provides a steady supply to plants, promoting their growth and overall health. Furthermore, horse manure can be utilized in gardening and agriculture as an ingredient in potting mixes, soil amendments, or organic fertilizers.

Here is a list of other uses for horse manure:

  1. Garden Mulch: Composted horse manure can be used as a nutrient-rich mulch around trees, shrubs, and flower beds. It helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and slowly releases nutrients to plants.
  2. Soil Amendment: Incorporating composted horse manure into garden soil improves its structure, fertility, and water-holding capacity. It enriches the soil with organic matter and beneficial microorganisms.
  3. Compost Tea: Horse manure can be used to make compost tea, a liquid fertilizer. Dilute composted horse manure in water and use it to nourish plants, providing a quick boost of nutrients.
  4. Potting Mixes: Horse manure can be a valuable ingredient in homemade potting mixes. Blending it with other components like peat moss and perlite creates a nutrient-rich medium for potted plants.
  5. Organic Fertilizer: Composted horse manure can be utilized as an organic fertilizer for gardens, lawns, or agricultural fields. It supplies essential nutrients to the soil and promotes healthy plant growth.
  6. Vermicomposting: Horse manure can serve as a food source for composting worms, such as red wigglers. Vermicomposting breaks down the manure more quickly and produces nutrient-rich worm castings, a highly beneficial soil amendment.
  7. Compost for Landscaping: Horse manure compost can be used in landscaping projects, such as topdressing lawns or improving soil quality in larger areas. It enhances the soil’s structure and provides long-term fertility.
  8. Biogas Production: In large-scale agricultural settings, horse manure can be utilized for biogas production. Anaerobic digestion of manure generates biogas, which can be used as a renewable energy source.

Tips for Composting Horse Manure

If you’re considering composting horse manure, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Collect the manure regularly and store it in a designated composting area.
  2. Mix the horse manure with ample carbon-rich materials like straw or wood shavings.
  3. Monitor moisture levels to ensure the compost remains moist but not overly saturated.
  4. Turn the compost pile regularly to promote aeration and decomposition.
  5. Use a compost thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as needed.
  6. Allow the compost to mature before using it in gardens or around plants.
  7. Follow proper hygiene practices when handling composted horse manure.
  8. Consult local regulations or guidelines regarding composting practices.


Composting horse manure is a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to manage waste while improving soil health. By following the proper guidelines and maintaining a balanced composting system, you can turn horse manure into valuable organic fertilizer and soil amendment.

Whether you choose to compost horse manure or explore alternative uses, remember to practice safe composting and enjoy the benefits it brings to your garden and beyond.


1. Can I compost horse manure with other types of manure?

It is generally recommended to compost horse manure separately from other types of manure. Mixing manure from different animals can introduce additional pathogens and complicate the composting process.

2. Can I use composted horse manure in my vegetable garden?

Yes, you can use composted horse manure in vegetable gardens. However, it’s important to ensure the compost has fully decomposed and matured to eliminate any potential pathogens. Apply composted horse manure as a soil amendment and avoid direct contact with edible parts of the plants.

3. Can composted horse manure be used for potted plants?

Yes, composted horse manure can be used as an ingredient in potting mixes. Its nutrient-rich composition enhances the growth and vitality of potted plants. Just make sure the compost has cured adequately before using it.

4. How often should I turn the compost pile when composting horse manure?

Turning the compost pile every few weeks helps promote aeration and decomposition. Aim to turn the pile at least once a month to ensure even breakdown and prevent odor or compacting issues.

5. Can I compost horse manure in a small backyard?

Yes, you can compost horse manure in a small backyard, provided you have sufficient space and follow the guidelines for composting. Consider using a compost bin or a designated composting area to manage the waste effectively and minimize any potential odor or aesthetic concerns.