Sunday, November 14, 2010

Before the Snow Falls: Getting Your Barn Ready for the Winter

By: Darlene M. Cox

While it may be hard to fathom during late summer or early fall that snow will be blowing; winter will be here before you know it. Now is the time to prepare your barn for the winter months. Anticipation for the cold season ahead and advanced preparation for such will make the transition into the winter season much easier and safer for you and your horses. Here are a few suggestions on how to transition your barn from summer to winter:

  • Clear the clutter. Clean out your tack room. Inventory your tack and grooming implements. Toss the ones that are worn or broken. Recoup some cash for those that you may have duplicates of (Ebay, garage sale, tack auction, etc.). Clean up aisle ways, wash bays, indoor arenas. Remove stall fans to storage, inspecting them for any damage to electrical cord and components, Discard if any are noted. Store light-weight sheets and blankets, replacing them with winter blankets to have readily available for those cold and frigid turnout mornings. If any blanket needs to be repaired, now is the time to do it. If the aisle way to your barn is pea gravel, you may consider bringing in a new load and raking it smooth to provide for stable and dry footing over the winter months. Warm weather delivery serves the dual purpose of advance preparedness and prevents muddy tire trenches that may result from winter time gravel delivery.
  • Inventory your medicine cabinet and cleaning/grooming supply chest and remove any items that will freeze or somehow be adversely affected or damaged by cold temperatures. This would be a good time to take note of what medical or grooming supplies you might need to replace or purchase explicitly for winter-time usage.
  • Indoor air quality is very important to horses and humans alike during the winter months. Dispose of old hay and bedding. Sweep out dusty hay loft floors; de-cobweb stalls and aisle ways, particularly around lighting fixtures.
  • Inspect all electrical components. Make sure your outlet boxes are cleaned of cobwebs and dust, and are securely mounted. Inspect outlet ports for power, noting those that are not working properly as the wiring may need to be inspected by an electrician. Inspect wiring for any wear and tear. If damage is noted, contract a licensed electrician to replace. Inspect electrical cords of any electrical implement that may be used. Replace all fuses and double check that the correct fuse is installed appropriately (i.e., if the slot in the electrical box calls for 10 amp fuse, don't put a 30 amp fuse in). Check the circuit box for weak circuits. Fire/electrocution hazards can be prevented by replacing weak circuits and blown fuses. Inspect fire extinguishers for charge. Replace batteries in existing smoke detectors. If you don't have smoke detectors, consider installing them. Inspect any electric water-heating devices for wear and damage. Discard and replace if any is noted.
  • Insulate any exposed water pipes with spray polyurethane foam, do not use electrical tape. Replace water hose with one that does not freeze.
  • Prepare stalls for usage by installing stall mats or bedding that will alleviate the build up of excessive ammonia from urine. Ammonia can damage your horse's lungs and be a major contributory factor for upper respiratory infection. The rule of thumb is: if you can smell ammonia, the damage has already been done. Re-working the stalls will also provide better footing and prevent possible casting incidences.
  • Check all the hardware (latches, hinges, etc.) on stall doors to ensure they are not damaged or in need of replacement. Horses have been seriously injured by damaged stall door hardware.
  • Eliminate excessive draftiness. While you do not necessarily want an air-tight barn, neither do you want one that is so drafty your horse may be inordinately chilled. Seal any major air leaks in stalls by repairing/replacing boards and/or window shutters.
Being proactive and prepared for the upcoming winter season will ease you into winter with a lot fewer worries during those cold winter nights when you know your horses are comfortable and warmly bedded down in their stalls. Happy trails!

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