Oh man... Just prior to opening this thread I was cringing about leaving my stalls uncleaned whole we're out of town for a long weekend... Mine have 24h access to their pasture and spend most of their time out there but even so... Can't imagine being ok with what you described.
The motivation is she's a know-it-all who won't take friendly advice unfortunately. Someone who says, "I owned Sugar for 8 years and never floated his teeth". Um, yeah, that's the type of person that will let their horses stand around in their own manure for the rest of their lives.
BTW, vet is coming Wednesday now instead of yesterday (Sat) due to schedule conflicts. We will see what the vet has to say!!.......
I bed with wheat straw. Compost it. Neighbors take some for their gardens. The rest is spread on the pastures and crop fields. Because it has been COMPOSTED first it does not draw flies or cause worms in the grazing horses. It is excellent fertilizer. It is applied to the pastures in rotation so that it has plenty of time to return to the soil before the horses are rotated to the pasture.
But what will she do with the eventual mountain of poop in the stall? It doesn't disintegrate.
Well, I have some experience with this, as the run ins aren't cleaned where I board. (Horses have 3+ acres in each field, they're not locked in.) Run ins are split between two fields and we just took over the "other" field and the other half of the run in. I DO clean for my horses so cleaning the new shed/field happened when we opened up that side.
There was about 18-24" of compacted horse manure in that half of the shed. The top layer was dry and fluffy and dusty, along with fresh manure. The middle layer was dark and compact and heavy. The bottom layer was very thick, wet and reeked of sulfur. I expected an ammonia smell, not sulfur, but I suppose it's the anaerobic conditions plus organic material plus ammonia. The whole mess of it was quite difficult to remove and it was some pretty back breaking labor.
So my guess is that the horse just gets closer to the ceiling. Hopefully smashing up the manure keeps the "bed" fairly level so the horse isn't dealing with a mountain and at least can stand on level ground.
I can't even imagine a vet that would sign off on this!
Is it possible that she read about the deep litter method and totally misunderstood?
I believe young warmbloods in Germany are kept in a similar type situation for winter. I have not been to see personally, but was told that they live for the winter as a group in a large shed. Shed is not cleaned, but straw put down on top periodically. Shed is dug out with a loader in the spring.
Like I said earlier, I would totally have to see the situation and ongoing results to judge if it would be a viable and healthy option.
My SIL does the deep litter method for her draft horses. I guess their schedules and physical health doesn't allow for daily cleaning. I think they clean the barn out with a front end loader 2-3 times a year...she told me at different times of the year the horses will break the light bulbs because they are so close to the ceiling.
I helped at a removal/rescue once, and there was a stallion that had been in his stall for years. About 2/3 of the stall was a slope of pulverized manure, reaching 3-4 up the wall, higher in the corners .
This reminds me of a self care boarder we had at the barn once upon a time. We came into the aisle one day, and found she had lined the floor of her stall with a long and large plastic sheet, and stapled it up along the walls of the stall. She had decided she was no longer going to clean her stall, and this was to keep the liquids from seeping out into the aisle. To be fair, there was quite a bit of alcohol involved in her case. Anyway, she was finally evicted one day well into this, and the barn crew ended up taking 23 wheelbarrows of bedding and refuse out of her stall so they could get to the floor and remove the plastic sheet. Why the BO allowed it in the first place, I will never understand. The horse's hooves did not fall off. I do not know if it ended up with thrush or not.
Deep litter bedding can work, if it is done well. One of the best systems involves using a combination of peat moss and sawdust/shavings, and removing the manure daily. The above example isn't an example if that system. Leave your SIL alone. She doesn't want your help. Besides, do you really want to keep being involved in this? Doesn't sound like much fun to me.
"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein
When I was a teenager, back in the 80s, I boarded my very first horse at a place that used the deep litter method. This was in NJ... just so you know, not some remote location.
All summer the stalls were normal. As fall came along they started the deep litter method. At first I was appalled. It seemed so... wrong. The thing is, if you didn't know they were doing it and you didn't dig through the straw, you didn't really know it was happening because the stalls seemed clean and there was no additional odor.
Here's what I remember - the stalls themselves were lower than the aisle, by a lot. The manure would be spread out (not really "smashed") and then generous straw was added on top. The stall just got higher and higher. In the spring the plan was to come in and clean it all out. In the summer the cleaning was daily and turnout was more frequent. I moved my horse before the spring cleaning because of feeding/turnout issues so I never got to see how they did that.
I know you're thinking there would be horrific odors in the barn but it didn't smell bad at all. In fact, it didn't smell any different than the barns that cleaned the stalls every day. I can't explain that. Ventilation? Fall/winter freezing temps? I'm sure in the summer it would be much worse. Probably not a good year-round plan.
My horse (and no horse there that I knew of, while I was there) had any foot issues, because the fresh straw they put down on top was clean, dry, and just like a fresh stall.
My main concern was always that the composting underneath was going to ignite! And with no turnout, the horses would be trapped. In fact, one of the reasons the BO had for the process was to "keep the horses warm" in the winter.
Would I actually do this now? heck no. I'm just adding my experience to the thread...
The deep litter method is used for heat with sheep and goat keepers. I used to have sheep and tried it once year in their pen (2 ewes), and it was DISGUSTING to clean after a couple of months, not even a whole winter. The stench after peeling up the layers was unbelievable, but it wasn't bad until piercing the layer.