Especially in the summer months, odor smells in gravel or sand paddocks can get pretty intense--a real concern if you have neighbors close by. Plus, breathing ammonia is unhealthy for horses and unpleasant for us. We’ve noticed some odor issues at Sweet Pepper Ranch recently, so this week I thought I’d share some of my solutions with you.

Dragging paddocks can aerate the footing and minimize odors.

Try alleviating paddock odors by simply raking or dragging the paddock to aerate footing and encourage aerobic microbes to break down organic materials.

The most important concept is to begin with healthy soils and good topography BEFORE you put down any gravel. Don’t begin 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 top of. Any depressions in the underlying soils, however slight, will pool water (and urine) under the gravel, potentially causing odors. 

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 organics.

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 microorganisms to also be very 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.  

Microbrial sprays can help reduce paddock odors.

Microbial sprays containing "friendly" bacteria, enzymes, and/or fungi come in highly concentrated solutions that can be diluted and sprayed onto smelly paddock areas with the aid of a garden sprayer.

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 bind with 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 several 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-inch 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 buy several bags of the Paddock Product, three to four per paddock. I work two to three bags into the horse's "pee spot," digging down and stirring it in well. Then, I take part of a fourth 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 and let us know what works and doesn’t work for you.