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Eliminate all the Little Dangers around your Horse’s Space

Published: 5/19/2008
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

One night, I strayed from my routine. I fed grain to my little Shetland pony in a bucket with a handle, instead of the shallow rubber bin I usually use. She takes forever to eat so I went in the house to start dinner for the rest of my family.
Five minutes later, I look out and Trixie is walking around with the bucket over her head.
Poor girl!
Stupid me!
Another morning some time ago, I was workin A safe barn is a happy barng at a commercial barn in Connecticut. I saw a rider leave her horse for a moment with the stirrups down on her English saddle. The mare reached back to scratch an itchy spot near her girth line and caught the metal stirrup in her mouth.
In a second, the horse panicked and was flailing her 1,000-pound body around the barn.
Poor girl!
Silly rider!
  Just goes to show: You don’t need open gates, rampant barbed wire, or a pasture full of poisonous plants to put your horse in harm’s way.

Goof Proofing Your Barn


Anytime is a good time to goof-proof your barn, paddock, pasture, ring, and trailer.
  • Never leave handled buckets or bins in horses’ space (unless they are clipped to the wall). They can get the aforementioned head or hoof caught in them.
  • Leave gates, stall doors, etc., latched closed or latched open. Something left to swing in the wind or by a horse’s whimsy is not OK.
  • If possible, make sure stall walls go all the way to the floor. I shudder when I see walls with six inches of space between the last board and the floor. The strategy might save that last board from rotting, but it's the perfect space to lodge a leg when the horse stretches out horizontally. The resulting injury might make it the last time he stretches out.
  • Make sure your feed room is inaccessible to your horses. One inadvertent open grain bin equals one scary and avoidable bout of colic. Yikes!

  Inspect your horse’s space a few times a year. It’s amazing how nails, posts, electric fence tape and the like can move over the course of a few months. These things never migrate towards being safer, but always towards being more dangerous!

  • Check electrical outlets. Ashley Hutchinson sent this photo of a mouse nest (complete with dead, shocked mouse) inside a fuse box. Yikes!
  • Walk your pasture (and the space around it) to check for poisonous plants. Make sure the fencing is solid.
  • Recruit a friend and fellow horse person to scrutinize the safety of your horse space and return the favor.
  • If you must halter your horses when they’re turned out, make sure they have breakaway or field safe halters.

Run your hands over your horse at least once a day. One of my horses had a small puncture wound on his leg (from one of those dreaded, undetected nails). I didn't catch it for perhaps 36 hours. Caught earlier, I could've avoided th

Phoenix grazes in a goof-proofed pasture

e vet call and subsequent course of antibiotics.

Do you have a nice, dry trailer floor for your horses? You don’t want them to slip.

  • Do the lights and brakes work? Drive the trailer without the precious cargo, if it has sat at the farm for a while. Brakes can lock up. Better to endure those initial jolts without giving Thunder a trailer ride from hell.

The more I write, the more I realize there are dozens more issues to tackle. So, I’ll sign off by imploring you to scrutinize your surroundings – sometimes, it seems you can never be too careful.
Add your safety checks!



View Reader Comments:

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3/11/2009 Martha
There's always something, isn't there? Especially after a winter like this one!
7/16/2009 FjordNewbies
Never had seen a warning about this one, but here it is from experience...the silver salt brick holders you put on the wall! Apparently one of the horses had pushed up the salt brick halfway, our foal was licking and one of the other horses bumped into him and his lip got caught on the edge of the salt brick holder where you slide in the brick and it sliced his lip open. Two vet visits later, the lip is healing, but it sure isn't pretty. We're sticking with the big blocks on the ground only from now on!

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