Ranch in California does Disaster Preparation Right


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This week I am in California, and was afforded the opportunity to visit a boarding ranch in San Diego that demonstrated many of the safety suggestions (for both horses and for people) that owners and boarders usually talk about but rarely provide.  The weather is deceptively beautiful a large percentage of the time – but horses being horses, and people being people there are still potentials for hazards.  And since California has a reputation for the disasters that can befall them, I was interested to see how they dealt with these issues.

As I rode through the ranch in the sunshine which features very amenity that horse people could dream of ( even private tack rooms (small cabins actually) for each boarder) I noticed some of the best practices that most horse people would be looking for related to health and safety of their horses from large paddocks for each of the horses with shelters and small groups in each, ultra safe fencing and gates, safe footing and feeders and waterers that are maintained, three times per day feeding, etc.  There were arenas, round pens, wash stalls, mounting blocks everywhere it was amazing to see the level of detail and efforts made by the owners / managers of the ranch. No wonder there is a waiting list to board your animals at this facility.

But when I looked closer I expected to find the “little dirty secrets” that I usually see at facilities.  You know the manure poorly managed, horses singled out into stalls with no contact with other animals, or the broken waterers and feed bunks and fence boards that just happen, but never seem to get fixed.  The vegetation that moves in then takes over.  The holes that never seem to get filled.  The lights that stop working, then hang forlornly for years. The old hay bales that sit and rot in the corner until they mold away.  The more I look usually the more I find out of sight, out of mind.  Maintenance is a function of design if you get the layout correct then the maintenance is easier because fewer things get broken or destroyed but we all know horses are destructive just by themselves.

I was pleasantly surprised and found that it was impossible to find anything that I would consider a poor practice.  No T-posts or dangerous sharp items sticking out anywhere.  Halters and lead ropes on the gates for every horse while they are in their paddocks, with names and owners’ info attached.  Wide avenues between all paddocks and pastures to be able to get a vet truck to the location of every paddock and pasture, and room to turn as well as providing biosecurity for the groups of horses.  Safe footing with no holes or traps for feet or heads. Signage warning non-boarders to stay off the property with their horses for biosecurity reasons, and no trespassing. Annual or semi-annual meetings of all boarders to discuss safety practices and regular emails or newsletters with updates, events and information they might need about ranch policies and changes.  Removal of all manure to a composting area away from the horses.  Wide ditches to drain away the flash flooding that happens when it finally rains in this desert area.  Removal of vegetation that would encourage a wildfire and beautiful plantings of desert succulents and fire resistant ice plant.  Parking areas for clients away from the animals to limit accidental impacts either way.  Fire rings for small campfires in the camping
areas at the cabins with hoses

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Written by:

Rebecca Gimenez Husted, BS, PhD, is the primary instructor and president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Her first book, Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, was published in 2008. She is an internationally sought instructor in technical rescue techniques, procedures, and methodologies, and she has published numerous critiques, articles and journal submissions on horse safety, technical large animal rescue and horse handling issues.

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