Who Is Your Back-Up'

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A recent bout of flu/pneumonia has knocked me down ?literally! I'm fortunate that my husband could cover the barn chores, although our horses would have been fine for a while. We have a creek running through our pasture and more grass than we have livestock. So even if they had to ?rough it? on their own outside for a week, they would have been fine.

If your horses aren?t boarded, do you have a backup plan if you're injured or ill' At a minimum, the horses need food and water. Stall cleaning can be skipped for a day or two if need be, and training can be put on hold.

Who is your backup person' Is this a kindly neighbor who thinks horses are ?neat? but isn?t really a horse person' They might be fine filling water tubs and throwing out hay but not leading a frisky horse in and out of the barn. You might be better off touching base with a local horse 4-H, FFA or Pony Club group for a knowledgeable teenager.

Are your horses clearly identified' That way, your directions saying that the ?red dun Quarter Horse gets ? scoop of grain,? while ?the bay TB mare gets 2 full scoops of grain? can be followed. Each stall should be labeled as to which horse resides there and any pertinent care information provided. A photo in a laminated sheet, including feed instructions, is a great way to do this.

In your grain room, any special supplements and feeds need to be labeled. To an uninitiated person, cracked corn may look just like rolled oats. Do you really want your yearling getting a full scoop of cracked corn' Probably not.

If you're planning a new barn, so that a novice can care for the horses, it's important to be able to feed/water without going into the stall.? There needs to be a pass-through over the feed-bucket area and access for a hose to the water bucket. Stalls with Dutch doors leading outside to a small paddock for each horse help, too. Doors could be opened and latched back, leaving your horses free to come and go. And a novice might feel more comfortable cleaning a stall with the horse safely shut outside.

In the winter, directions regarding faucets, heat tapes, etc. need to be written out. Burst pipes would only add to your illness woes. Manure management should be obvious.

Equally important is emergency information. Your farrier and veterinarian need to be listed in an obvious spot, not just coded into your cell phone. The names of backup helpers is great, too.

Figure out a way to provide some emergency funds for care. Maybe an envelope taped to the desk drawer in the tack room with some cash to cover feed purchases.

We all assume that we won?t get ill or hurt, but it's often the ?do it all? people who don't have help. Your horses need you to prepare now.

Deb Eldredge, DVM, Contributing Veterinary Editor