Horse Care & Barn Management
This week’s new ongoing article series will be focused on horse care and barn management. Some of the topics we are going to cover in this series will be:
- Horse care
- Cleaning stalls and sanitization
- Tack maintenance, care, and sanitization
- Blanket maintenance
- Record keeping
- Nutrition/ feeding and watering
- Manure management
- Pasture management
- Barn cleanliness and care
- Tack and supply storage
- Machinery maintenance and costs
- Labor and finding good stable hands
- Summer/ spring barn care and maintenance
- Winter/ fall barn care maintenance
- Interviewing for a job at a facility- what you need to know
- Jobs within the horse industry
- Resources and suggested products
We aim to cover everything you need to know to either work at a facility, own one, become a barn manager, or just manage your home facility as best as you can.
Let us know if there is anything you don’t see on our list that you would like to learn about!
Horse care and winterizing your barn
In today’s article we are going to discuss the basics of horse care at home and some winterization methods you may want to implement in order to make this winter easier.
Here in Washington State, winter is coming in early!
I can feel the cold and see my breath throughout the entire day now. As I stoked the fire and sipped a cup of coffee, my mind wandered to winter and how we can best prepare our horses.
Winter can be especially tough for older, senior horses, young horses, or horses who do not have much coverage from the elements.
So, we are going to explore some low-cost ways to keep this winter fun and enjoyable for both you AND your horses.
Rules of surviving winter with horses at home:
Having horses at home can be the greatest blessing of all, but it can also present itself with its own set of challenges.
Some of the challenges you may experience (if you have not kept horses at home before) will be iced over buckets that need to be smashed and re-filled with warm water multiple times per day, potential bouts of colic, stall cleaning in the cold, manure management, and managing barn/ horse care chores.
All of these things can be tricky to deal with, but thankfully, over the years my family, neighbors, and I have come up with some nifty (and in my opinion) pretty awesome solutions to these problems that will leave you giving your own family some high fives!
First things first when it comes to winter:
The best thing to do before the full force of winter hits is to prepare your horses, barn, and property. This work prior to the winter will cut down on labor down the road and keep life more pleasant in the cold moths for you and your horse. Following is a list of suggestions for winterizing your barn and facility.
The first thing you need to do before winterizing your barn is to take time to thoroughly clean your barn and surrounding areas. According to Zarebasystems.com in their winterization article, they interviewed Kathy Key (Of Key Stallion Station) on what she does prior to winterization.
Here is what she had to say:
“Kathy Key of Key Stallion Station in East Pueblo, Colorado, uses the fall as a time to wrap up one breeding season and deep clean for the upcoming season. After removing all bedding and stall mats, her staff uses power washers to blast stalls from top to bottom, as well as the mats, and followed by a cleaning solution.
The stalls are then sprinkled with lime. Key’s staff has a similar procedure for corrals: all feeders and waterers are power washed, and the corrals are limed.
“We spread lime over the ground because it will kill viruses and bacteria in the soil that could be harbored over the winter, which could cause potential problems for the horses the next year,” Kathy said. “Cleanliness is so important, and the fall is a great time to address all of these things.”
While you are deep cleaning your barn, make sure that every hazardous item is removed, especially in paddocks or areas where your horses may go. Even something like a log covered in snow could pose a potential danger.
For your barn and stalls:
Here is a list of products (and things) you can do in your barn to keep ice and snow at bay.
- USE HEATED BUCKETS! Heated buckets are a huge lifesaver. It saves the awkward filling up the buckets in either the powder room or kitchen sink and then slipping and sliding your way to the barn.
There are multiple different kinds of heated buckets, but most just hook up right into your outlet. You want to be cautious of the cords due to their added thickness and length so your horse does not get its legs tangled within the cords.
Check out this insulated water bucket cover from SmartPak.
- Add extra lights and heat lamps. According to Equinefacilitydesign.com, they suggest:
“Be sure your lighting is strong enough. One rule of thumb is to make sure there’s enough light in the stall to read a newspaper — and not a backlit tablet, either, but real newsprint with real tiny letters! To be technical, you’ll need ten light candles for a twelve-by-twelve stall. Generally speaking, a pair of 8” fluorescent tubes, or a 200 watt incandescent bulb installed 10 feet above the stall floor, will provide that amount.”
You can also use the help of timers to keep your lights on longer without needing to come to the barn more frequently.
Aim for around 16-17 hours of “sunlight.”
This will help keep your horses coat from growing to extreme lengths which will help keep them from getting too sweaty when you work them during the cold months.
Make sure that you have plenty of blankets for your horses.
You can also add heat lamps to your stalls as well, but you need to be aware that they can pose a very serious threat of a fire if not hung properly, checked frequently, or are of poor quality.
Here is an article going indepth about heat lamp do’s and don’ts.
- Add insulation to your barn. Not everyone may be able to afford having a professional install insulation, but if you can, it is very beneficial. There are multiple methods of insulating you can do yourself, but you still will need to know how to install the product safely and have the right tools to do so.
If you cannot afford to insulate and you are not comfortable doing it yourself, there are a couple old tricks in the book to help keep your barn a little cozier for you and your horses.
- Add shavings or bedding to the isle ways of your barn.
- Close off windows, doors, and open areas while still allowing air circulation within the barn.
- Add more bedding to each of the horses stalls.
- Add heaters to tack rooms, laundry rooms, viewing areas, or anywhere that freezing temperatures could become destructive to your facility, such as a utility room.
For your horse’s paddocks and turn-out areas:
Winterizing paddocks and turnout areas is important to do around fall/ early winter time. Take a look at your fencing and repair it if there are any repairs that need to be made. The next thing you need to look at after checking your fences and clearing away any hazardous material is to set up your water troughs for winter. You can do this multiple ways. According to thehorse.com’s 2021 article on keeping water troughs thawed with and without heaters:
“Insulate your trough.
Obviously this helps keep the exterior cold out and the interior warmth of the water in. Styrofoam board and/or foil covered insulation works well and can be wrapped around the outside of the trough. What works even better is putting one trough inside another, with a gap of a couple of inches all the way around. Then, place insulation on the bottom between the two troughs and around the outside of the interior trough. Finally, fill any gaps with spray insulation that sets hard. You can also build a plywood box, line it with insulation, and put your trough inside it.
Ideally, the top of the trough also needs to be insulated with just enough surface exposed for the horses to drink. A plywood lid with the underside covered in insulation works well.”
Blanketing your horse:
Blanketing your horse can be an extremely useful tool for both show horses and non show horses who may be worked consistently throughout the winter.
You do not necessarily need to use a blanket as your horse will grow a thicker coat but keeping a shorter, summer coat during the winter months can help keep your horse from getting overly sweaty and potentially ill due to the sweat drying and your horse getting cold.
Over the years I have seen numerous horses who did really well WITH blankets, who couldn’t make it through the winter without them, but have also seen plenty of horses without who did just fine.
This will be a personal preference, but you also need to keep your horse in mind.
When trying to decide whether to blanket or not there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself that will help you make a decision if you are on the fence about blanketing.
- How long have I owned/ leased my horse? What climate are they used to?
- How old is my horse? Do they have any health issues? Horses with health issues may need more blanketing than others.
- What climate am I living in? How cold do the winters get?
- Does my horse actually grow a thick winter coat? Sometimes, if a horse (especially a show horse) is kept blanketed year round they may have a harder time growing a winter coat. For example, I owned a little mare named “PT” and she needed to be blanketed year round due to always being blanketed in the past.
- What is my budget for blankets and blanket care/ maintenance? Occasionally horses will tear and rip their blankets or they may be worn so frequently they need repairs. It is important to keep these things in mind.
How many blankets you use on your horse will also depend on your climate, goals for your horses conditioning and coat care, and your own preference.
Generally speaking in regards to show horses, you will want to keep them blanketed up much more than non show horses.
Here is an example for what I use in Washington State with my own horses during the winters. Here, we only get down to about 0 degrees at most, with most winters ranging from the lower teens up to the forties.
What’s in my blanket storage for each horse: (Plus links to my favorite products!)
2 Schneiders stable sheets
Stable sheets come in a variety of options from lightweight “rugs” to 3-season sheets that have microfleece inside them.
Here are some great options for sheets for all breeds and body styles of horses:
Adjusta-fit V-free sheet– Best for QH/ stockier breeds
Adjusta-fit cutback sheet– Best for Arabians and lighter boned, high-necked horses.
Fleece sheet– Fleece liner for under blankets
2 Schneiders heavy-weight or extra heavy weight blankets and 2 midweight blankets
When you are considering your stable blankets, or inside only blankets, you need to think about the breed and build of your horse.
There are blankets that work great with some breeds and can wreak havoc on others.
For example, a quarter horse will fit best in this midweight stable blanket and this heavy weight blanket whereas an Arabian or Saddlebred would be most comfortable and have less rubbing in this midweight blanket and this heavyweight blanket due to the cutback neck.
2 Schneiders neck covers
Neck covers come in sheet form, midweight form, and heavy weight form. They also come in a full head and neck option or just neck coverage.
1 Turn out blanket- extra heavy weight/ waterproof.
OR This is another great option. And also this one. (For turnout blankets, I personally love a “high neck euro fit style” it helps prevent manes from being rubbed out and adds a little more extra protection from the elements.)
You can also find sleazies at sstack.com, but they can be found almost anywhere. Make sure you get the “NFL tough” material if possible, if not, my personal favorites are: Dura-tech zipper sleazy, Ultra flex full body sleazy, and if your horse has a tendency to get rub marks from their blankets this shoulder guard may fix your problems.
As you can tell, I am a huge fan of both blankets and Schneiders tack. After trial and error with many brands, they are my favorite.
Thank you for joining me today while I talk about some of my favorite things to do to prepare for winter along with . These things really will make your life much easier, let us know if you try any of these things out and what your experience is!
God be with and bless each and every one of you.
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