Controlling Odors in Paddocks

Keep Your Horse’s Environment Healthy and the Neighbors Happy

by Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water


In the summer months especially, odors in gravel or sand paddocks can become intense—a real concern if you have neighbors close by. Besides being unpleasant for us, breathing ammonia is unhealthy for horses so let’s look at some solutions.

Photo credit Alayne Blickle

The key concept is to begin with healthy soils and good topography BEFORE you put down any gravel. Don’t start by dumping gravel or sand on top of a bunch of muck or in a wet area and then wonder why it smells bad. Be absolutely certain that you have a good, even slope to the surface you are putting footing on. Depressions in the underlying soils, however slight, will pool water (and urine) under the gravel, potentially causing odors, especially during the upcoming rainy season. The simplest and cheapest solution to odors may be to just drag or harrow the paddock; doing this helps aerate the footing, allowing aerobic microbes to flourish and break down organic materials.

Photo credit Alayne Blickle

If that’s not enough help, there are a variety of products that can be sprinkled on urine spots to neutralize odors. At Horses for Clean Water, we have found beneficial micro-organisms to be useful and long-lasting. These microbial sprays contain different types of “friendly” bacteria, enzymes, and/or fungi. They come in highly concentrated solutions that can be diluted and sprayed onto smelly paddock areas with the aid of a garden sprayer. Beneficial microbes break down ammonia and organic material that cause odors and attract flies. These safe solutions can be applied as often as odors are detected as well as before or after rainfalls. Beneficial microbial sprays are available at organic garden supply companies. The product we use is EM-1 Microbial Inoculants and can be purchased from Arbico Organics.

Photo credit Alayne Blickle

I’ve also found zeolite products to be effective. Zeolites are naturally occurring minerals found in clay that have a very porous structure. Among other beneficial uses, zeolites are used in industry for purposes including odor control, toxin removal and as chemical sieves. For horse owners, they can be used to bind with ammonia in urine. The pores in the zeolite minerals tie up ammonia molecules, holding onto them until naturally occurring bacteria break down and eliminate the ammonia. Zeolite is in many brands of stall deodorizer products such as Sweet PDZ, Stall Fresh and others. These products, which look like finely ground kitty litter, can be purchased at feed stores. Sweet PDZ, a product I have been using for many years, comes in a powder and granular size. In some areas of the Pacific Northwest, an additional larger size (usually ½” pieces) called “Sweet PDZ Paddock Product” is available, which is very useful for a horse’s outdoor areas. 

The most effective way I have found for using Sweet PDZ is to use three to four bags of the paddock product per paddock. I work the material into the horse’s “pee spot,” digging down and stirring it in well. Then, I take part of a forth bag and sprinkle it across the top. We find this method to be quite effective and to last a long time.

I hope one of these options will be useful to you. Keep me posted on what you try, what works and doesn’t work for you. 

Looking for a summer vacation, weekend getaway or horse motel for your travels? Visit Alayne Blickle this summer at her horse motel and B&B guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch in Nampa, Idaho. www.SweetPepperRanch.com


Published August 2012 Issue

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