We have a local supply - free and pick your own! I use those builders buckets to collect it - less messy than trying to fill old compost sacks. The pile consists of new manure, and manure that has been standing there a while. The aged manure has the advantage of being pre-rotted. The difference is that it is more like brown crumbly soil when you collect it, and less like 'apples'. It also smells less pooey. If you collect new stuff, 6 months is a rough guide to when it will be 'well-rotted', and if you keep it in a pile it will heat itself up, and I suppose if you put it in a bin it might rot faster. Some people use a bit of it to mix with other compost materials in a general bin. If you spread it about, it won't heat up to rot, but eventually the worms will drag it under, but if it has not rotted, it might 'burn' the plants - presumably with uric acid or something, but I don't know the exact bio-chemical reasons - just know it can burn the plants. Also, if it hasn't rotted, I think it is harder for the goodness to come out and get into the plants. But I know there were people years ago who picked it up off the road and slung it round their roses immediately, probably leaving a gap round the stem of the plant so it wasn't touching. You are right, there is lots of conflicting advice on the net, and I never really got to the bottom of manure, but the above is pretty much everything I know. (Oh and that you need to be sure of the stables that they don't use any chemicals that would upset plants in their care of the horses). I know nothing of the stables here, except that lots of other local gardeners help themselves and have done for years, so I presume it must be good stuff. Good luck on your hunt. I think it is hard to go wrong, and the smell isn't that bad really.