Getting the Barn in Shape for Spring

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Horse Livery
Horse Livery by Virginia State Parks on flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Winter has a way of shutting down our outdoor fun and keeping us in a very “indoors” mindset. If you’re like me, you probably find yourself doing “just the basics” when it comes to outdoor maintenance during the winter, letting non-essentials slide until warmer weather comes again. But guess what? Warmer weather is here, so it’s time to get moving! Did winter take a toll on your barn or tack room? Did cold weather cause you to let some things—organization, general cleaning, tack care—fall through the cracks? Let’s get the barn in shape for spring!

Give stalls a deep cleaning

Even though we clean stalls all year long, spring is a good time to give them a real cleaning—beyond just the daily tidy-up. Some things to do to your stalls include:

  • Remove all bedding down to the mats, including those pesky corners!
  • Grab a broom, or a tough vacuum, and remove any cobwebs from the walls, corners, ceilings, and light fixtures.
  • Take this time to look the stall over and repair anything that needs fixing (hardware, bucket hangers, etc…).
  • If you really want to do a thorough job, haul out the rubber mats and clean the floor underneath, and hose and clean the mats outside.
  • If the weather is warm enough, consider washing the stall walls and floor, letting them dry, and then going back with a disinfectant of some kind. Any organic material left on the walls will make the disinfectant less effective, so use elbow grease to get the surfaces as clean as possible before disinfecting. (Ask your vet for advice on what disinfectant to use, and be sure to follow all the directions on the label. And don’t mix chemicals!)
  • When washing stalls, make sure you pick a time when your horse can be outside long enough for the stall to dry properly before he has to come back in. An electric fan can help dry the stall. Don’t re-bed until it’s dry!

Aisleways, too

Don’t neglect the areas outside your stalls as well. You probably give the aisles a basic sweep or rake every day, but spring can a good time to take everything out of the barn—muck bucket carts, tools, aisle mats—and do a thorough deep sweep. Get into the nooks and crannies! You can also use this time to vacuum the walls and ceilings, too.

Then, with your new clean barn, consider your organization system. Do you need some new hooks or racks for manure forks and brooms? How about hooks for halters, lead ropes and blankets? The more clutter you can get under control, the better.

Barn Aisle
Highmark Farm – Inside the Barn by Serge Melki on flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Organize your tack and tack room

Even if you kept riding all winter, odds are you didn’t put as much time into keeping your tack organized as you do in warmer weather. Now’s the time to take all your gear out of the tack room and examine it. Clean and repair the gear you need, give away what you don’t, and discard items that have reached the end of their useful lives. Then sweep and dust the empty tack room before putting everything back.

Maintenance

Spring is also the time to do annual maintenance on any machinery you use around the barn (tractors, ATVs, etc…). This could include oil and other fluid changes, spark plug checking, and tire checking. My favorite piece of advice? Check the tire pressure on your wheelbarrow. If it feels like your loads have become heavier over time, it’s probably because your tire needs some air (if it gives a lot when you squeeze it, it’s probably really low). Get a tire gauge and an inflator and fill up your tire to its specified P.S.I. Pushing heavy loads will suddenly become much easier.

Remember—break down the job to keep it manageable. You don’t have to do everything in one day! Spread out you spring cleaning into small chunks over many days and you won’t get tired of the work.

What are your favorite stable spring cleaning tips?

Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He’s the author of several books, including How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur Press, 2014). Dan’s barn is home to Summer, a Welsh/TB cross, Orion, a Welsh Cob, and Mati and Amos, two Welsh Mountain Ponies. Follow him at www.facebook.com/foxhillphoto.

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