Equine New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be resolving to do things differently. Whatever that means to you, we are putting a horsey spin on resolutions as they relate to what we do with our equine partners and our activities around the barn. Here are some resolutions to consider if you’re trying to change things up for the New Year:

  1. Commit to a barn safety evaluation. Look around and identify things that need repair such as loose boards, nails protruding, broken crossties, or loose electrical outlets. This is also a great time to revisit or create your fire evacuation plan. (link to fire evac article) Make sure you have extinguishers around in key areas and that they are functioning. You don’t want to discover your fire extinguisher is no longer working when you need it most.
  2. Focus on nutrition. Take a close look at your horse and determine if they require some extra weight, need to lose a few pounds (like many of us this time of year!) or look just right. Also check to see how your horse’s topline looks and utilize the TES tool (TES link) to review how it should look. This is a chance to re-evaluate your nutrition program.
  3. Work on an emergency fund. “Horses are extremely predictable and always make good decisions”, said no one ever. We all know that there is a high probability our horses will get injured or sick at some point in their lives. And often it’s on a weekend or holiday that incurs emergency vet fees. If you can put away some extra funds to build up savings in case disaster strikes when you least expect it, it will help soften the economic blow.    
  4. Clean out your trailer, tack box or your mobile tack room (i.e. your truck or car). “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a great mantra to start the New Year off right. There is nothing more satisfying than opening a neatly organized tack box or getting rid of the extra horsehair in your vehicle.
  5. Enjoy your time together. No matter what you do with your horse, commit to spending some quality time with them every day. Riding, groundwork or even just some grooming to see what lurks under that winter blanket or shaggy coat will strengthen your bond.

The start of the new year is always a great time to evaluate some of our equine endeavors. Comment below if you have any of your own horsey resolutions.

Tack and Feed Room Ventilation – Keep the Mold Away

Tack and Feed Room VentilationAs we deal with heat and humidity, attention is often appropriately focused on the comfort of our animals.  We sometimes neglect to think about the impact of heat and humidity on our tack and on our feed.  Controlling humidity and temperature in areas where tack and feed are stored is also very important for the success of an equine operation.

Tack that is exposed to high humidity and warm temperatures can mold/mildew very quickly with resulting damage to leather.  The following steps might be useful to consider:

  1. Make certain there is adequate airflow thru the tack room. This may require having windows that allow ventilation or the addition of fans to move air thru the tack room.  Locate the air intake and air exhaust areas so that air flows thru the room, not just at ceiling level.  If you install exhaust fans, consider where the air will be coming in to reduce exposure to dust or contaminants.
  2. Do not store wet saddle pads/blankets in the same area as leather tack. Do not put pads/blankets over the top of saddles on saddle racks.
  3. Make certain there is space between saddle racks to allow airflow between saddles.
  4. Consider using a de-humidifier in the tack room. If possible, install so it drains automatically instead of requiring manual emptying of the water container.
  5. If design and electrical wiring are adequate, consider a window air conditioner for the tack storage area.

Feed room ventilation is also important.  Feed may absorb moisture from the air and mold even if it arrives at the farm at a suitable moisture level from the store or the feed plant.  If possible, store feed out of direct sunlight as moisture migration can take place within feed bags, causing moisture to accumulate in one area of the bag.  This is also a problem when feed is stored in bulk bins.  The feed on the sunny side can heat up and cause moisture migration in the bin.  The bin should be ventilated to allow moisture to escape but must be set up so moisture does not enter when it rains!  Depending on material, bins can be painted with reflective color to help reduce heating.

During warm, humid weather, do not buy large quantities of feed at one time and make certain the feed is rotated properly so that bags are used up and bins are emptied and cleaned/inspected regularly.  If bags are stacked, make certain that they are stacked on pallets or material that prevents moisture contact/accumulation at the bottom of the stack.  Stacking bags directly on top of concrete or dirt floor makes the bottom bags very prone to getting damp and molding.

Pest control is also important for both tack and feed storage areas.  Rodents can quickly damage tack and can contaminate feed.  Keeping the areas clean and using commercial pest control may be one option to consider.

Keeping both tack and feed protected from excess heat and humidity is an important part of barn design and barn management!

Feed Room Security – What is most important to your horse?

Feed Room 004The area where feed is stored can be very important to the long term health of your horse.  Failure to store feed properly can be hazardous to your horse.

Feed storage areas should have the following characteristics:

  1. Dry and well ventilated – Feed must be protected from moisture. Feed bags should not be stacked directly on the floor as moisture may be absorbed in the bottom bags and the feed may mold in the bag. Any feed storage containers (bins, garbage cans etc.) should be water and pest resistant.  Also, you should completely empty and clean out the feed storage container on a regular basis.  If you store feed in bags, make old feed is not allowed to accumulate by stacking new feed on top of the old bags.
  2. Well lighted – It is important that you be able to see clearly the condition of any feed or supplement products stored in your feed room. Feed and feed supplements are produced under controlled conditions.  Once the feed has left a feed mill, it may be exposed to other conditions in storage, so it is wise to be able to see clearly what the feed looks like every time you feed your horse.
  3. Clean – It is important to keep the feed room/storage area free of spilled feed, dust and potential sources of contamination.
  4. Pest free – Feed tends to attract rodents, birds and insects. Spilled feed should be cleaned up.  If pest control is required, care should be taken to make certain that any pesticides or rodenticides cannot contaminate the feed and that animals cannot access the pest control material.  The hay storage area should also reduce the risk of exposure to pests.  Opossums are identified as potential carriers of Equine Protozal Myeloencephalitis (EPM).  Other species may also be carriers.
  5. Secure – Horses and other animals should be prevented from accidental access to the feed storage area. If the Houdini in your barn opens the stall and gets into the feed room, lots of bad things can happen!  Also, if you have multiple species, you need to keep horse feed clearly separated for any other species feed, particularly medicated ruminant, poultry and swine feeds.