12 Tips for Winterizing Your Barn
With the increased storm activity that we all have been seeing, and long winters approaching, are you ready for the fall and winter months ahead? Don't be left out in the cold, (pardon the pun), with endless projects when the snow starts flying. Organize your horse barn now and get your winter projects done so that you will be able to handle any inclement weather no matter when it hits!
1. Safer Stalls Prevent Injuries.
2. Ventilation, a Key to Better Health.
Horse Barns need to have good ventilation so that your horses stay healthy. You can offer natural ventilation through windows in your horse's stall. Hinged, grilled, or mesh doors allow you to open, close and clean your windows and sills while protecting your horse from the actual window. Grilled or mesh partitions in between each stall will allow horses to socialize with each other and let natural air flow between stalls. Any stall 'part' such as windows, doors, partitions and grill or mesh for partitions can be purchased separately and installed into an existing stall.* Dutch doors allow air flow directly into your horses stall. Installing a mesh bottom door with a Dutch door will allow both doors to be opened providing great air flow as well as letting your horse have a good view of the outside of his stall. The mesh door also protects the bottom Dutch door when just the top is opened! Additionally, mucking your stalls regularly will keep the build up of ammonia at bay.
3. Save Both Time and Money with Stall Mats.
If you feel that its time to look at a better way to keep your stalls in shape, think about adding stall mats or a mattress system. Some of the benefits include using less bedding, keeping a level surface for your horse which also allows for easier and more efficient cleaning. Horses don't 'circle' their bedding and hay into a dirt floor and you no longer take the base of your stall out with the old bedding when you clean. Stall mats save both time and labor as well as minimize stall base maintenance practically to none.
4. Never Guess if Your Horse Has Enough Water.
We all know that water is very important for our horses any time of the year and especially in cold months. Water not only hydrates, but also helps to keep horses warm in colder weather. If you're thinking about using automatic heated waters, now is a good time to get water lines run and individual waterers in stalls. Be sure to make waterers low enough that horses don't have trouble drinking from them, but high enough that hay and dirt don't easily get into the bowls. Generally setting bowls at a little below shoulder height works well. Smaller animals or ponies need lower bowls for easy access. If your horses are in pasture a lot, be sure to consider a waterer that is made for outdoor pasture use. Pre-plan and be sure it's situated in a place that horses can congregate easily. Since areas like this get so much wear, rubber wash mats around a waterer can help to keep the dirt around it firm and in place.
If you would prefer to use buckets in your stalls in the cold months, consider using an insulated bucket holder. They help to keep heavy ice formation at bay. By filling buckets twice a day, the labor associated with breaking thick ice from buckets is helped immensely. The use of the bucket 'floater' that lays on top of the water does not seem to be an issue with horses water consumption. If you would like to avoid ice completely, try a heated water bucket in your stalls. The buckets fit nicely into a bucket holder that also helps to keep them in place if water gets low, discouraging horses from 'playing' with the bucket. The cord is protected with a coiled wire, which can be run through the stall wall or out of the partition to a standard outlet. The buckets automatically turn on and off at 42 degrees, taking the worry away from a continual 'on' heater. Electricity costs are pennies a month, but peace of mind? Well that's priceless!
5. Maximizing Areas for Manure Disposal.
Be sure that when you clean your stalls you have the easiest path to and from your manure pile, bunker, compost, or wherever you dispose of used bedding. Whatever your means is for cleaning - tractor and spreader, 4- wheeler with bed that dumps, or even a wheelbarrow, think about your path when snow is on the ground and take measures now to make your path easier to use. Spreading small stone on a path helps with traction. Filling low ruts on the ground now will help to avoid places where you could get potentially stuck.
6. Store Up On Bedding.
7. Buying Hay at the End Summer Will Cost Less Than Through the Winter.
8. Cobwebs are a Fire Hazard.
9. Collapsible Saddle Racks and Blanket Bars Makes Working with Your Horse Easier.
The winter months can be chilly! So being able to get your horse tacked quickly and easily can be a big help. You can make or purchase collapsible saddle racks that allow you to have your saddle and bridle at your fingertips! Once your horse is groomed and ready to saddle, it's so convenient to reach behind you and pick up your saddle with It's pad and put it right on your horse's back. Collapsible saddle racks can be as simple as a homemade length of wood, approximately 14"s long by 2" wide with a large eye screw that can hang on a hook on your stall wall. When its not being used, it can be turned sideways and hang on the wall, flush. Or you can purchase a metal saddle rack that is sturdy for western saddles and collapses flat on the wall.
After a good ride on a cold day, your horse may become hot and need to be cooled off before being turned out or put in his stall. Using a cooler helps to wick moisture to the wool cooler top keeping your horse drier. The cooler will also keep your horse warm until dry. Once you are done with the cooler, what do you do with it? Blanket bars on the front of each stall or in a convenient place in your barn will allow your cooler and blankets to hang and dry easily. Some blanket holders lock out, away from the stall door, to allow for more room and ventilation. If you have several horses in your barn, the blanket bars help to keep each horse's blanket ready for easy turnout.
11. Make Sure that Your Lights are Working Properly.
As colder days approach, it gets dark out earlier. Lighting is an important part of seeing to do cleaning, feeding and daily checking of your horse. If your lights need to be cleaned from cob webs and bugs, remove light covers and wash your fixtures and replace any non-working bulbs. If your lighting could use some help, natural light fixtures can be bright with out heavy glare. There are also sealed lights available that eliminate the chore of cleaning with high ceilings. If possible, provide light in or beside each stall, in feeding areas, and outside of any entry areas. This will help you, or anyone else who helps, with your barn.
12. Horses Out in Pasture? Provide Protection.
Debbie has over 45 years experience with horses and equine-related businesses. She has owned, trained, boarded horses and run stables at various times in her career. She is a certified fence installer, has given balanced riding lessons, and has shown horses in Western, Western Pleasure, Trail, English, Hunter/Jumper, Fox Hunting, Hunter Trials, Dressage and driving classes. Debbie has been involved in foaling, and just about every aspect of horse ownership possible, and she welcomes your questions and comments. If you are interested in using any articles by Debbie, please send her an email.