5 Steps for Fall Cleaning

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Nothing motivates better than a fresh look—a new feature, a new arrangement or even just a good old-fashioned deep cleaning. And, there’s no better time to give your stalls a facelift than right now, as we head into the relative doldrums of winter. Following are some quick, easy and effective ways to put a fresh face on your stalls, and make them safer to boot.

1. Let there be brightness As the days get shorter, better lighting helps brighten things up. So, unscrew the incandescent bulb overhead and screw in Orion West’s OW-36SI fluorescent. Shaped like a layer cake, it’s a fully sealed unit that uses a fraction of the electricity while providing cheery, nearly shadowless light that’s sunlight-bright—bright enough to use for prevention of winter coats. The OW is cool, safety-circuited for freedom from bulb-failure surges, lasts more than 10 times longer than a regular bulb, is so well sealed that it can be power-washed without leaking and won’t shatter. Check it out at www.equinelighting.com, or call Orion West at 877-351-0841 toll free.

2. Cleaning with a safe and organic grime-cutter Now that the lighting has been upgraded, you can see that a cleaning might be in order. A “spring cleaning” really makes sense in the fall, after the summer’s activity has left a thick layer of dust on everything. While the weather’s still mild, move your horses to a temporary location and roll up your sleeves. And, thanks to a cleanser you might already have in your kitchen, that dirt is about to be history.

First, remove all removable equipment, such as water buckets, feeders and salt holders. Scrub them thoroughly with an abrasive fabric pot scrubber and a solution of white vinegar—1/3 vinegar to 2/3 tap water does a great job of cutting through organic stains such as dried slobber, “sneeze marks,” urine and manure stains, sweat and fly spots. Rinse in clear water and set aside to air-dry.

Second, strip out all disposable bedding and discard. If you have portable rubber mats, consider pulling them up to give the sub-floor some air. If there’s a strong ammonia smell under the mats, fill a clean, garden-type sprayer or a hand trigger spray bottle with a fresh batch of 1:2 vinegar solution and wet the entire floor with it. Leave the mats pulled up so the floor can air dry while you continue your deep cleaning.

To truly remove the dust, rather than simply kick it up, put the broom aside and grab a barn-caliber vacuum cleaner. An industrial shop-vac will do—the heavier-duty, the better. If you don’t have one, call your local equipment rental shop and rent one for a day. Be sure to get a long, rigid wand attachment so you can reach the debris that’s high overhead. Don’t forget to remove the cobwebs, spider nests, dust and hair nestled on and around fixtures and on the tops of exposed beams and half-walls.

Back to the vinegar solution: Make a weaker solution—1 part white vinegar to 10 parts tap water—and scrub all windows, inside and out, with a fresh pot scrubber, then finish with a squeegee.

If the weather’s dry enough to ensure everything will dry in time, use a long-handled scrub brush to scrub all vacuumed surfaces with the 1:10 vinegar solution. The bristles will carry the vinegar solution into the nooks and crannies of the walls for a truly deep cleaning that’s naturally anti-fungal. If the stall was extremely grimy to begin with, a second scrubbing, and possibly even a rinse, might be needed.

Next, replace any stall mats, buckets and feeders. Now, take a deep breath. Notice how “alive” and fresh the vinegar wash made the stall air? Touch-up cleanings every month will maintain that throughout the year.

3. Paint Your Face for Beauty and Fire Safety If the weather’s still warm enough, now would be a good time to apply a fresh coat of paint to the stall faces. Why not choose fire-retardant paint? There have been some great improvements in this area—it’s no longer necessary to use toxic products and high-pressure sprays. Try a non-toxic, brush- or roller-applicable, water-based product such as Contego’s Thin Film Intumescent Latex primer. It goes on like regular paint, and you can top it off with any high quality paint of your choice. It’s so effective as a fire retardant that several major insurance underwriters are considering reductions in the cost of their fire coverage for buildings treated with the product. Check it out at www.contegointernational.com, or call 800-434-6444 for information and the name of the nearest dealer.

4. Web Door Although it’s frowned upon by most horse-care experts, a lot of people close up the barn in the wintertime. Trouble is, they’re also keeping stale, potentially toxic air in. If you insist on closing up, consider replacing your solid stall doors with web gates. Not only will they give the stall a brighter, less claustrophobic feel and vastly improve air circulation, they will also accommodate the horse’s natural social tendencies and discourage neurotic stall vices. Web doors are available at most farm and tack stores.

5. Personalize Three Ways If your clients want their own nameplates on the stalls, great; but fashion some of your own with the more useful information. A poster with special feed and care instructions, contact information, emergency instructions (in bold-face red letters), insurance requirements, etc., at every stall can save valuable time. Any local Kinko’s can help you make a colorful notice and laminate it for a nominal fee. If you are a busy enough barn, you can purchase a laminator at any Staples or Office Depot for around $200.

With a little elbow grease and not much money, your stalls can get a makeover that clients, and horses, will notice.