Is your barn safe for your horse? Take a look at the following six barn hazards, then tour your barn. If you spot a hazard, fix it today!
Hazard #1: Sharp protrusions. If there’s anything sharp in your horse’s stall — such as nails, splinters, or sharp edges on a broken plastic manger — he’s likely to scrape, puncture, or lacerate himself. His eyes are particularly at risk. Action steps: Visually scan stall walls, then run your hands over all surfaces, including feeders, waterers, and feed buckets. Check the ceiling, too. Remove splinters, and replace any broken boards. If the sharp object is hard plastic, remove it, replace it, or wrap it in duct tape. If you find sharp nails, pull them out, or whack them in.
Hazard #2: Unsecured feed. Rodents and birds can contaminate feed with urine and feces, which can make your horse ill. Mice might chew on the insulation around any accessible wiring, which can cause a barn fire. And if your horse gets into the grain, he could colic, suffer laminitis, or both. Action steps: Keep pellets and grain inside heavy metal containers. Make sure the lids fit tightly. Look for locking lids. For maximum protection, keep feed in mouse-proof cans inside a horse-proof (closed and locked) feed room.
Hazard #3: Improper hay storage. Hay dust interferes with your horse’s breathing and can harm his respiratory system. Hay is also a major fire hazard. Action steps: Store hay away from your horse, preferably in a separate, well-ventilated building. Keep hay on pallets to keep it safe from ground moisture. Stack bales on their sides, and leave spaces between bales to promote air circulation, which helps keep the bales dry. If necessary, make a “floor” with pallets, stack the hay, and cover just the top two-thirds of the stack with tarps, so air will circulate.
Hazard #4: Electrical wiring and cords. An exposed electrical cord can electrocute your horse or cause a barn fire. Horses will chew anything. Action steps: Enclose your permanent wiring in PVC conduit. Use extension cords
only when absolutely necessary, and then use only heavy-duty models designed for outdoors. Be very careful with fans and water heaters, and protect these cords with conduit. Avoid heat lamps, which can start a fire. Don’t overload your circuits.
Hazard #6: Cobwebs and dust. The cobwebs that accumulate in barns are dangerous because they’re flammable, and they trap dust, bits of hay/straw, and bedding particles. Action steps: Routinely dust and remove cobwebs. A long-handled feather duster is ideal for dusting light fixtures; a light broom is useful for stall grilles, walls, and corners. Pay special attention to light fixtures, outlet covers and switches, and panel boxes.
Jessica Jahiel, PhD, is an internationally recognized clinician and lecturer, and an award-winning author of books on horses, riding and training. Her e-mail newsletter is a popular worldwide resource.