4 Ways to Get Ready For Spring – From My Farm to Yours

March 25th, 2014

Four Ways to Get Ready for Spring ~ From My Farm to Yours

In Ohio, we have had our share of snow this year! I know that spring will be here soon because the birds have started to sing their full songs and my chickens have started to lay again! The snow comes and the sun melts it into the lifeless looking grass. Soon all of those puddles of mud and pastures will be turning lush and green. That’s when I know its high time to get busy and evaluate pastures, fence lines, gates, water areas and out-door sheds.

1. Walk or ride your fence lines

horse fencing for SpringI know that this is a subject that I have talked about before, however, it is worth addressing again. After seeing many accidents that could have been avoided, this takes the number one slot of things to check on before spring weather approaches. Our horses spend most of their time in their pastures. It is their natural home, and I feel that too many of us forget this. We can spend our money on all the latest gadgets for our horses, the newest boots and accessories, but without safer and big enough pastures, we hurt our best investment, our horses well being. Ride or walk you fence lines and look for any protruding nails, screws, or loose brackets. If you have wood fence be very sure all rails meet end to end, and do not extend outward (this would be the place where your horse is getting cut, and you could not figure out where it happened). If you have PVC, be sure that all rails are in the routings and be sure that your electric is working to full capacity. Take a note book along and jot down notes of what material you may need to do any repairs.

Also take a hammer, small crow bar, and extra nails for quick repairs, if needed. Using some bright plastic tape at repair spots will help save time in re-finding the spot that needs repair. If you see any high traffic areas where your horses are starting to push or lean on your fence, (maybe they found the grass is good on the other side, or a tree that has grown large enough to reach the leaves) take measures to stop the abuse. Consider cutting natural boundary lines far enough away from a leaning (average size) 1200 lb horse, perhaps consider adding more rails to that area (coated wire, or 1″ flex), or the use of electric.

Lastly, is the size of your pasture large enough to let your horse get the exercise that is needed? Is it large enough to handle regular grazing? If not, you may want to consider cross fencing to use one area as a dry lot and allow the other area to rest. Damp wet ground can turn into a rutted, muddy mess from happy horses that smell “spring” in the air! Cross fencing with rotational grazing can help to save your needed pastures.

Additionally, as the ground dries out, you can knock down manure piles and help to prevent worm problems in the resting pasture. The best option may be to build an additional pasture with an isle between your pastures. The isle helps to eliminate the wear on a common fence line (cross fence), and makes turnout easier with ornery horses!

2. Check your gates and pass through areas

Winter weather has mysterious way of “moving” some of our most perfect and leveled gates! Frost and thaw naturally create damp and frozen ground that “moves” as the weather changes. It is just a fact of nature. After some amount of time or wear, gates must be re-leveled and checked to be sure that spaces between posts are no more than aprox. 3 inches. If spaces get larger this could be a potentially dangerous spot for ponies and horses heads or legs. The problem occurs when horses push through the space, and pull back quickly from its “flight instinct”. Needless to say, neck and leg injuries can be fatal. It is our responsibility to check these areas (not to mention this can happen with stall doors as well) for the safety of our horses. Adjust “J” bolts at gate hinges for proper spacing. Also make sure that the long end of the bolt does not protrude too far out on the other side of the post. If cutting the bolt is needed consider using washers and a heavy nut to cover the remaining end of the J-bolt.

Be sure that the space where your gate opens remains small. Chain closures leave room for a gate to have some movement. A good alternative is to install a gat latch the does not allow the gate to have movement. We use a two way locking gate latch which not only keeps the gate from moving, but also has a built in ledge that the gate sits on to keep it from sagging. If your gate is long and has a drastic sagging problem, you can install a gate wheel and it will help to keep the gate level. Additionally, using a fine stone screening at your walk through areas will help to keep the opening in good shape. It will also save you and your horse from walking in puddles of mud during turn-outs!

Double check “people pass through” areas as well. Make sure that posts are not leaning or have not moved. If you’re not familiar with this walk area, it is formed with 3 posts close to a barn or solid wall. Three posts are positioned in a triangle pattern allowing enough “squeeze” room for a person to walk through but not a horse. The space is wide enough that horse cannot get legs hurt in the spaces.* Beware with ponies however. I have heard and seen (with my own eyes) the magic that they posses! They seem to get out of the smallest of areas at times!

3. Check watering areas.

This is an area that you should always keep an eye on throughout the year. Water is one of the most important things that your horse consumes. Especially after the winter thaw, it is good to do a close evaluation of you water station. If you have tubs and they are metal, check rusted and dented areas. Slow leaks can create a loss of water for your horse and wet areas that will attract bugs, mosquitoes, and not to mention wet soggy mud. If you have plastic tubs, check for cracking. Automatic waterers should be checked frequently for proper filling. All water containers should be cleaned, bleached, rinsed thoroughly and kept clean. If you have a big problem with horses that like to play in your water tub, consider using fine stone screenings under and around your water station. The additional use of stall mats in this area helps to eliminate frequent maintenance around the waterer.

4. Outdoor sheds and outdoor coverings.

If your horses are outdoors all or most of the time, it’s important to their health to have an area where they can get out of inclement weather, wind, snow and sun. A 3 sided shed provides a place for horses to get relief form the weather. Be sure to check sheds for any areas of abuse. Split wood, broken pipe, or broken siding can be areas waiting for an accident to occur. Make repairs and you will be saving your horse from injury, not to mention a hefty vet bill. If your horses have “nested” and made large impressions in the ground, refill in those areas with dirt and consider using some sawdust or straw in nap areas. It will be more comfortable for your horse, and will help to avoid spaces under the frame of the shed.

Be sure, in windy areas, that your shed has not moved….it does happen…and that the back of the shed faces the predominate wind flow direction. Also in windy areas, be sure to anchor your sheds in the ground. They can blow over. Once again this could create an accident with your horses.

Get your chores done, and be ready for the beautiful weather to come! Ride and spend time with your horse. It’s the best medicine in the world for you and your equine friend!! Be ready for spring, and have a great ride; I will talk with you next month!

Debbie Disbrow, President
RAMM Horse Fencing & Stalls

This article was written by Debbie Disbrow, president of RAMM Fencing & Stalls. Debbie has over 40 years of experience with horses and equine-related businesses. RAMM Fencing and Stalls is one of the leading farm and barn equipment providers in the equine industry. RAMM is committed to customer service, quality products and thorough follow-up. Contact Debbie directly at debbie.disbrow@rammfence.com or for more information, visit www.rammfence.com or call 1.800.434.8455.

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