1. Eliminate Fire Hazards
There’s more to fire safety than simply hanging up a “no smoking” sign in the barn. It’s always a good idea to take stock and evaluate our barns and our safety precautions, because it’s easy to overlook simple things. Cobwebs, for instance, are surprisingly flammable and, once ignited, can rapidly spread flames throughout a barn. Be sure to vacuum or sweep your stable walls and ceilings whenever needed. Freshly-cut (uncured) hay has the potential to combust and shouldn’t be stored in the same building as your horses. Even obvious fire hazards can be easily overlooked if they’re common items we use around the barn everyday—gasoline cans, for instance. They’re essential for running our ATVs and other barn equipment, but these cans should never be stored—or even left briefly unattended—near the barn. Overkill? Not a bit.
2. Avoid Aisle Clutter
We’re all guilty of this one. We set down a bale of hay or a grooming box in the barn aisle “just for a second” and then forget to come back for it. We absentmindedly leave a stall pick, broom, saddle, or helmet on the floor and “temporarily” becomes a day or two. Besides the visual distraction and organization problems, minor clutter can also be a real safety issue. Items in the aisle have the potential to trip people or horses—or even spook horses. There’s also the chance of creating an aisle that is narrow and unsafe. It’s never a good idea to “just squeeze by” while leading a horse in an aisle that is too narrow—the possibility of being crushed is just too great. Instead, make it a rule and a habit to put away tack and other items immediately after use, and to have proper places to hang and store stable tools.
3. Skip Slippery Aisles
In addition to clutter in the aisles, it’s important to think about the aisle floors. During summer, some concrete floors can become slippery from humidity; in winter, melting snow can be slippery. In addition, a buildup of hay bits or other debris can become a slipping hazard over time, so a good sweeping schedule is key. For long-term problems with wet floors, you can try to increase the barn’s ventilation during summer and try to sweep away snow before it becomes a problem, or install rubber mats to minimize the possibility of slipping.
4. Discourage Dogs
Sometimes dogs and stables don’t mix very well. While it’s true that they can be a fine combination in some situations, a dog can also be one more unneeded distraction around young horses or at times when your horse is feeling spooky or fractious. Even well-behaved dogs that are used to being around the barn can become excited or unpredictable if the right situation presents itself. For these reasons, unless your dog is truly reliable, it’s probably better if he isn’t allowed to roam loose at the barn.
What are some of your favorite barn safety 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. Dan has certainly never left anything in the barn aisle.