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October 8, 2021

Horse Safety in the Barn

Horse Safety in the barn is an often overlooked item.

How you setup your barn is critical for your horse's safety.

I recently moved to Colorado from Washington. While I was transitioning between the move from Washington and Colorado, our friends in Colorado agreed to take my horses until we found a place of our own. It was an incredibly generous offer and my friend made some big sacrifices to move things around in her barn so our horses had a nice temporary home.

I have two horses and she had one stall available so we did our best to make it work. The challenge is that one horse is always the boss. In this case my miniature horse Chloe was the boss. My 1100 lb. Quarter horse mare, April, was terrified of a 300 lb. Mini. We came up with a temporary enclosure for Chloe within the stall so they could each have their space and April wasn't being tormented by Chloe. Eventually we let them in the bigger part of the enclosure together.

There was a 3' doorway from the stall to a field. The two horses seemed to get along well enough without any incident and things were fine for a while. One day I came out to find April with a huge bump on her chest. At first I couldn't tell if it was from a kick or some other injury like a nail sticking out somewhere. We finally discovered it was a pallet that had done the damage. It was the corner of the smaller enclosure within the stall. Chloe evidently got April cornered in the stall and started kicking.

Chest injury after trying escape from the stall - Photo ©NWHS Photo

April, in a panic to get a way, caught her chest on the pallet causing a cut which then swelled up like a balloon. I know better but I had been pretty fortunate for a couple of months so I figured the girls had worked out their issues and the arrangement was going to work out. I've since learned to always trust my instincts. I really didn't have any other options but we finally figured out to put Chloe in the entry way to the barn where she could still get shelter, water but have her own little pen.

The lesson here is to always trust your instinct if you've been around horses for a while, and if not, find a good resource to teach you how to take care of your horse safely. Here are some tips for keeping your barn safe:

  • Always check for nails, sharp edges and protrusions in your stalls.
  • Keep horses separated if they have a run in shelter, or have one with an open front where a horse cannot get cornered.
  • Be aware that horses that are together will kick, bite and pin there ears to establish a hierarchy within the herd.
  • Always leave a safe escape route or keep the horses separate.
  • Have good ventilation.
  • Good lighting is a must for dark winter days or night time visits to the barn.
  • Be sure there is nothing a horse can get hung up on when entering or exiting the stall, especially if blanketed.
  • Keep a Fire Extinguisher in the barn
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in the barn in a highly visible area.
  • Keep aisle ways clear and free from clutter (put it away!)
  • Cover exposed wiring and any electrical chords for water heaters, or lights in the stalls.
  • Inspect stalls daily for loose or broken boards.
  • Keep a set of tools handy for quick repairs.
  • Always have a first aid kit in the barn.

This is just a short list of things to check. Always be aware of possible sources of injury and just know that no matter how safe you make a barn, horses seem to find a way to get hurt. Just do the best you can to keep your horses safe, comfortable and happy.

For more information on barn safety see this article.

Another great resource from CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association) click here.

Karen Pickering
Owner/Publisher Karen’s lifelong love of horses began at a very early age when she wore out a couple of rocking horses before convincing her parents to get her the real thing. That ill-tempered bay gelding, Brandy, was a challenge for the young horsewoman, but it drove her ambition to become a horse trainer. After attending Canyonview Equestrian College’s Horsemanship Program, Karen realized she needed work that was a little more lucrative than training, so she took a job with Customs Brokerage to pay the bills. There, she discovered an affinity for computers and a talent for creating informative, entertaining newsletters. The Northwest Horse Source began as such a letter in December 1995, with a distribution of 1000 copies for its 12 black and white pages.  Now 25 years later, it's an online magazine and website with a reach of over 19,000 per month and growing! Not bad for the results of one woman’s dream to work with horses!

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