Sometimes the most helpful key to horse safety in the barn is to use your powers of observation–look in every nook and cranny with an objective eye. Consider the horse as an inquisitive creature whose job it is, other than to eat and lounge, to investigate the world in which he lives. If he can stick his nose or leg into it, assume that he will.
One of the first places to survey is all doors, gates and latches. Check for sharp projections associated with these areas. For example, protruding lengths of bolts easily lacerate horse skin. Make sure doors close securely and no gaps remain between posts and walls and the gate or door. Provide sufficient space, at least four feet, for a horse to pass through safely.
Cleanliness and organization are key elements to safe horse keeping. Keep aisles clear of obstructions and debris–hoses should be hung properly and wheelbarrows, rakes and other implements parked away from horse contact. Secure trash in metal containers that prevent varmint and rodent access. Just as it is good practice to minimize loud noises or sudden movements when working around horses, dogs should be kept under control to avoid startling a horse.
If using crossties, these are best secured to the wall using breakable material such as baling twine. Safety-release straps are useful, but be aware that if the release mechanism is connected to the halter, it may be impossible to reach in the presence of a panicking horse.
Provide good traction in aisleways, wash areas, and stalls.
Place feed containers and water systems at sufficient height so they won’t entangle horse legs.
Electricity is an essential component of horse facilities and it poses its own set of hazards:
- Sheath exposed electrical wires in PVC or metal pipe to prevent probing horse mouths from biting into it.
- Mount light bulbs high enough to be out of reach of even a rearing horse. Bulbs are best shielded within a metal cage.
- Water heaters should be well grounded and checked periodically to ensure that no current is passing through that causes shock to the horse.
- Extension cords should not be run along or across trafficked areas in the barn aisles or in wet areas.
Routinely check fencing and repair broken, missing or loose boards and wires in paddocks and pastures so a horse doesn’t incur an injury.
Following these simple guidelines can prevent many accidents that often occur in horse facilities.