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Stable staff are campaigning to phase out an “outdated” mucking out system that leaves them covered in manure.

The use of “muck sacks” – piling soiled bedding on to a flat sheet so it can be bundled up and carried to a muck heap – is still common in some training yards.

But George McGrath, of the National Association of Stable Staff (NASS), says it’s time to change.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” he told H&H. “Most yards do use wheelbarrows, but there are a few – usually the older ones – who see nothing wrong with taking out soiled bedding in this way.”

He estimated around 20% of trainers still use this method, but said the cost of buying wheelbarrows puts them off changing.

The use of muck sacks is not only unpleasant, but can also result in back injuries. “You throw the sack over your shoulder – and the contents seep through. Lads don’t object to mucking out – just to wearing the manure.”

Mr McGrath added that it’s not uncommon for some lads to buy their own wheelbarrows.
“We understand these are tough economic times, but this needs to be phased out.”

Lucy Katan from the British Grooms Association (BGA) said she didn’t think it was usual practice in general yards, being more common in the racing world, but the BGA fully backs the campaign.

“This is a practice from the dark ages,” she said. “So many grooms suffer from bad backs, which can be career threatening.”

NASS wants the National Trainers Federation (NTF), to do more for change this.
But Rupert Arnold from the NTF said he had consulted members earlier this year and trainers wished to make their own decision over muck sacks.

“When used properly, muck sacks are a safe and tidy way of carrying hay and used bedding,” he added.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse and Hound (10 November, 2011)