Horse Health and Comfort in the Barn: Fire and Water

Make sure your fire prevention is up to snuff, and that your automatic waterers are doing their jobs.
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Fire is always a concern in horse barns and stables.

Keeping horses healthy and comfortable begins with providing a safe environment. Colorado-based equine facility architect Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB, of Animal Arts, encourages stable owners to start with fire safety. Fires that start inside the barn are equally terrifying as fires that start outside the stable.

“Look at the electrical system in you barn and check for frayed wires. Mice can chew wires and damage them,” Lewis said. “Electrical systems can fall out of code pretty quickly. A licensed electrician can do an inspection.”

Smaller barns tend to have less risk. There is less electrical wiring and there are fewer people coming and going. Fire alarm systems are often unaffordable for smaller barns. Larger facilities, especially those with multiple buildings, might want to consider an alarm system that is directly connected to the fire department.

“New fire safety codes for commercial facilities that care for animals include updated requirements,” she said.

A licensed electrician and your local codes officer can provide guidance. But note that these guidelines don’t apply to residential barns, she said.

Automatic Waterers

Automatic waterers are another item to watch when considering horse comfort. Theoretically, they provide cleaner, fresher water, but they are not foolproof.

“People can create a blindness to caring for them and assume they are working properly,” Lewis said. “They can break.”

For barns that haven’t used automatic waterers previously, Lewis recommended installing them in high-traffic locations. That encourages stable workers to check them daily. Installing shut off valves for each waterer allows for repairs and individual use without shutting down the entire system, she added.

“Choose a waterer that is UL rated so that it has been tested and proven to be safe,” Lewis said. “Horses are really sensitive to electricity. They can hear it, and they can feel a buzz that we can’t sense.”

Automatic waterers can be a timesaver, but it’s important to remember that they require regular maintenance.

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