January 23, 2020

Barn Design for Your Service Professionals and others

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with horse industry professionals about what they need to have in "your" barn when they come to you as a service provider. These professionals include your Veterinarian, Farrier, body worker, chiropractors or others. Often times when we build and design a barn our thoughts are about what "I" want and we can easily overlook what other professionals who come to the barn for service visits may need to perform their duties efficiently.

Convenience is a consideration when you are building your barn.  Placement can be an extremely important issue as well if you live in an area that floods often, has the possibility for high wind events, trees falling, tornadoes or any other possible hazards.  Access is the third component, all accesses needs to be highly visible, marked appropriately and easily accessible for everyone including the fire department or other emergency personnel.  It should have an all-weather access road, visible signs showing fire hydrants and fire extinguishers and each stall should have 2 exits for emergency removal of animals when necessary.  There should be adequate clearance for vehicles to move around the entire structure in the event of a fire or other emergency as well. 

Is your barn easily accessible?

After accessibility the next thing to consider is safety of the work area for your professionals, first and foremost, it should be away from other horses or animals.  Nothing can be more dangerous for the professional than if another horse is harassing the one being tended to. If a dog runs around a corner and the horse is startled then injuries may result. If the professionals we employ do become injured, then how likely will they be to return for further appointments?  We’ll be discussing areas of concern and options to help with both your animals, professionals and your own safety when it comes to our horses.

Let’s discuss these safety tips more in depth so that you provide the best working environment for all:

Water and Electrical outlets:  These should be readily available and accessible when needed for things like X-rays, washing a wound, cooling off hot shoes for the farrier and general clean-up.

Water valves should be above ground level, not accessible to horses from their stalls and you should have a main shut-off located just outside your barn and clearly marked. 

Electrical outlets placed in your working area should be located at least 3 feet off the floor, this will help to avoid electrical shock and possible damage from washing out your barn aisle.  You should also avoid using extension cords whenever possible.  Additionally, all electrical wiring should be in conduit to avoid rodents eating the wires and the possibility of creating a barn fire hazard.

Always hire a professional electrician for this job.  The best “general rule” is to have an 8’ lamp over every 2 stalls, and a minimum of 1 fixture every 10’ down the aisle or under a porch.  Make sure the fixtures are mounted high enough on the rafters to avoid rearing horses from hitting them.  You can also use free standing flood lights as long as they are securely fastened. Vehicle headlights or small bulbs that are too high to be effective are not always suitable for night-time visits and emergencies. Your farrier will also appreciate good lighting when visits fall during dark times of the day or natural light is not sufficient.  Exterior lights are also an important factor, they will help direct professionals or first responders to the area safely and give them visibility needed as well.

Is there easy access for first responders?

Level clean working surface: A level clean area where your horse can be tied or cross-tied. The presence of rubber mats to allow dirt and debris to be cleaned away from the working area. Make sure the floor or ground is clear of rocks and manure before the professional arrives. If you do not have an area that is level, you need to consider grading an easily accessible area which may be away from your barn, so that your professionals avoid injury when working.  Make the area large enough that if you or your professional needs to move away from your animals, they do not trip over logs, rail road ties or other debris. 

Shade or covered work space:  If you live in an area that gets lots of rain, wind or sun, for the professional’s benefit this is obvious. If the area you have available is not shaded you should consider an umbrella, pop-up shade tent or move the horse to a shaded area to work. Please however make sure that your horse is desensitized to these items, so that if wind or other elements make noise your horse does not spook causing injury to themselves or others.

Stall doors: Your stall doors should have unobtrusive closures.  Stall doors that have hooks or locks that clothing can get caught on can be very dangerous to the professionals and your horse. If the horse is too close to the door and gets the halter caught then everyone can be in danger.  Just be aware that if you have latches with any type of hooked-end that you know where your horse and yourself are at all times. Lighting:  The more the better, it is very important if you are calling a vet out for a colic in the middle of the night. You and the vet need to be able to treat the horse, see what is happening and be safe while administering care to an ailing animal.  Stall doors should also be large enough for the removal of a deceased animal.

You can reach out to EquestriSafe at www.EquestriSafe.com or via email at info@Equestrisafe.com

Teresa Spencer
Author, presenter, horse owner, entrepreneur; helping horse owners get the barn of their dreams and educating them on the importance of barn layout and safety as well as equine safety during emergencies. Proud member of CSHA(California State Horseman’s Association), former member of: Equestrian Trails – Corral 138, AQHA, APHA. For more information visit www.EquestriSafe.com

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