Hazard-Free Barn

To prevent injuries, make sure these dangers aren"t lurking in or near your barn.
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To prevent injuries, make sure these dangers aren"t lurking in or near your barn.
Photo by Caroline Fyffe

Photo by Caroline Fyffe

How are horses like small children? With both, you must be on guard constantly against things that might hurt them. To help you keep your horses safe in their home, here's a handy list of hazards to banish from your barn and the surrounding area.

Skimpy Allowances. Tight spaces invite trouble. Aisles and doorways should be at least eight feet wide to avoid crowding/bumping. Ceilings should be high enough to avoid contact with a rearing horse's head ideally nine feet or more. stalls should be at least 12 feet x 12 feet to minimize the risk of a horse's becoming cast.

Unsafe footing. Your barn's floor must provide satisfactory traction, especially if your horses wear shoes. Texturized concrete is a safe, inexpensive nonslip option for a barn aisle. Replace or repair loose or torn stall mats.

Sharp Edges, Points. Loose or splintered boards, protruding nails or wire, damaged hinges/latches, torn buckets or feed tubs, or anything else that can lacerate or puncture flesh presents a serious danger. Make repairs or replacements in a timely fashion.

Unsafe Partitions. Any wall or divider that separates two horses must be strong and smooth, with no place for flailing hooves to become caught or hung up.

Clutter, Garbage. Barn aisles, doorways, and commonly traveled pathways around the barn should be clear of tripping hazards and obstructions. These include feed cans, trunks, saddle racks, wheelbarrows, chairs, shovels, brooms, and manure forks. Garbage should be neatly stowed in containers with lids. Detritus such as bits of plastic, wire, baling twine, and the like can cause colic or serve as the nidus for an enterolith; keep your stalls, aisles, and paddocks free of it.

Tangle Spots. Hooves can get caught in or trip over misplaced crosties, lead ropes, longe lines, wash hoses, electrical or extension cords, etc. Keep such items neatly contained/stored.

Binge Risks. Grain, concentrates, and treats that aren't secured behind latched or locked doors invite raids that can lead to colic or laminitis. (Rodent-proof containers should be used to protect feedstuffs from contamination.)

Poisons. Toxic chemicals or other substances should never be stored where horses (or children) might be able to get to them. Plants toxic to horses should never be used as ornamental shrubbery around the barn or anywhere horses might contact them. (Check with your cooperative extension for local varieties to avoid.)

Electrical Shock. Light fixtures should be out of horses' reach or encased in strong, metal mesh cages or, in the case of long fluorescent fixtures, plastic tubes. Electrical wiring and switches should be encased in metal, weatherproof boxes. Electrical outlets in wash-stall areas should be equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter, and all water sources should be grounded.

Fire Prevention

Fire safety falls into its own hazard category. To make your barn as fire-safe as it can be:

  • Allow no smoking in your barn, ever. Post signs and enforce them.
  • Stock your barn with appropriate fire extinguishers, and know how to use them. (If you're not sure, check with a local fire official.)
  • If finances allow, consider installing a commercial sprinkling system or heat/smoke detectors, and treating your barn with a fire-retardant product. Avoid clutter, especially of flammable
    materials like paper, straw, shavings, and oily rags. Keep your barn neat.
  • If possible, avoid storing hay in the same barn where horses are housed. If you must do so, make sure the hay is properly cured and not stacked too tightly; overly moist and/or crowded hay can cause spontaneous combustion. Don't overuse extension cords; hire a licensed electrician if need be to add more wiring and electrical outlets.
  • Keep your barn roof in good repair; water leaks into light fixtures or electrical outlets can cause shorts.
  • Don't store gasoline or diesel fuel in your barn. Store any other combustible liquids (such as oil-based cleaning supplies, alcohol, clipper grease, etc.) in a metal container with a lid.
  • Develop and post a fire-escape plan, along with all relevant emergency numbers.