Stabling your horse can be a daunting responsibility on your part. You hold the key to his well being. By keeping your eyes open to potential hazards, you can drastically minimize, if not eliminate, all barn accidents. Here are some common safe practices to help do so!
Clear the barn aisle.
The ideal barn aisle is at least ten feet wide, wide enough to safely turn your horse around. Keep the aisle clear from clutter and trash. Designate storage places for stall cleaning equipment, tack boxes, feed buckets, etc. and keep everything in its place so your horse doesn’t run into anything.
Keep a horse length spacing between horses.
Barn aisles easily get crowded during busy barn times. Establish a set traffic pattern in your barn to eliminate jams. Keep yourself and your horse safe by steering clear of other horses. This prevents kicking and biting injuries.
You could easily clip your horse’s hip on the edge of the stall door if you don’t take the time to open it all the way. Take the extra effort to make sure you open any gates, stall doors or barn doors fully before bringing your horse through so that he doesn’t hit his leg and injure or scare himself. Passageways should be at least four feet wide.
Shut and securely latch stall doors whenever you leave your horse. He may quickly find out how to escape with even a crack left open. Many owners use stall guards which give their horses the freedom to hang their heads out into the aisle. This freedom can be problematic. Horses may try to bite other horses passing by in the aisle. Use extra caution when leading your horse past stalls like this.
Practice fire and other emergency drills.
Plan your escape route. Determine where you would put your horses after removing them from the fire. Loose horses commonly run right back into a burning barn because they are frightened. The barn represents safety, food, rest and comfort to them. So they will try to get back to it. Put them in a paddock and latch the gate or tie them away from the fire. Keep a halter and lead rope by every stall at all times. In a fire, you won’t have time to look for them.
Develop a plan for what to do in case of a flood, tornado or other disaster. Practice drills ensure quick, efficient actions if a real disaster does occur. Also, plan what you would do if a horse need immediate medical attention or transportation to a vet clinic.
Barn cleanliness minimizes more than just fire hazards. Cleanliness is paramount to your horses’ health. Uneaten grain in your horse’s bin can mold. If he eats it later, it can make him sick. Sweep up all spilled grain which attracts rodents. This also attracts flies and other insects. Dirty water buckets discourage your horse from drinking the proper amount needed. Generally, if the water is such that you wouldn’t drink it, your horse probably won’t either. Dirty water also attracts insects.
Clean stalls are very important to your horse’s health. If your barn smells strongly of ammonia, your horses’ lungs are likely irritated. Remove wet bedding daily and add fresh, dry bedding. Open your windows and doors for some fresh air. Germs abound in dusty, stale air. Just make sure no drafts are directly on your horses.
Keep electricity safe.
Keep lights covered with cages, so horses can’t break the bulbs. Make sure your horse cannot reach electrical cords and outlets.
Carefully maintain stalls.
Horses can find a way to hurt themselves on anything, so reduce the risks. Check stalls and the barn area for hazards such as exposed nails, sharp, splintered boards or cracked feed tubs, then make prompt repairs.
Store hay safely.
If you store hay overhead in a loft, make sure your barn has good ventilation, as overhead hay increases risk of fire. Hay dust from overhead is also a leading cause in horse respiratory disorders. All hay should be dry and free from mold. Leave some space between your hay and the walls, floor and ceiling to allow for proper ventilation. Before stacking, check for heat and mold. To check for moldy or wet hay, pull some hay out from the middle of the bale. Moldy hay smells foul and is discolored. Wet hay will turn moldy with time. To check for hot hay, place your hand in the middle of the bale and feel for heat. Any warm or moldy hay should be removed from the barn.
Lock up the feed.
Left on their own, horses will literally eat themselves to death. Protect your horse from colic or founder by keeping all feed in a separate feed room. Latch the door securely at all times. Prevent rodents from getting into your grain. Rodents contaminate grain with their saliva and their droppings, both of which can pass on disease to your horses.
Your horse is an investment and friend worth protecting. A little extra care and attention to details affords you valuable peace of mind that you are doing all you can to keep him happy and healthy.