Safety: What to Look for in a Barn
In a recent online “Horse Behavior and Safety” course with University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) I asked my students to contribute their ideas as to what concerns they should look for in selecting a new stable for their horse. At this point, they had participated for two weeks in an intense online course that focuses on handler and horse safety in numerous situations, and facility safety concerns from barn fire prevention to trailer safety. Their answers and tips were quite insightful–and I would like to share them with you. Out of the hundreds of students and comments, I have trimmed them down for this blog post.
First, numerous students noted that it’s nice to visit by appointment, but that you might want to consider “just stopping by” a couple days after your appointment unannounced. What goes on when people are expecting you to visit is sometimes different that what happens day-to-day. Several noted that they like to talk to other boarders and working students about any issues with how the facility is run to get a feel for the daily ins and outs of maintenance and attitudes towards safety.Others said they like to watch some lessons being given and just observe for a couple of hours at feeding time and while the barn is being cleaned so they can see if the management and staff are doing safe practices with horses (especially leading them back and forth to pastures, etc.).
Some of my concerns reach into environmental care, such as whether the farm fences off the ponds and water sources so that a) horses don’t destroy the riparian environment, and b) no horse falls into the ice in winter.Others branch into asking if they keep the horses out on pasture as much as possible (considering the weather), so they get to be a herd and simulate mother nature’s environmental effects (exercise, grazing, grooming, etc.). Yes, that’s a medical concern too, because frantic bored horses in stalls for too long get themselves in trouble (cast, colic, kicking, stereotypic behaviors, etc.). These resonated with many students who shared similar issues with current and past barns where they’ve boarded
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