It’s important to properly prepare your barn and equipment for the changing weather conditions and needs of your horses. Not only will these practices keep your animals in top shape, you’ll also save money and time making sure your barn is able to handle the new season well. Here are some tips to get you started:
Many people feed their horses ample amounts of hay during the winter. From a barn full of fresh bales to dwindling piles of hay, organization often goes by the wayside. As spring approaches, go through the hay storage areas to get rid of any leftovers you don’t need or hay that is questionable or bad. Sweep the floor to clean up any dirt or dust before placing the still edible hay back. Chaff and hay particles aren’t just problematic for your breathing; your horses will appreciate a clean barn, too. Also, make sure you’re frequently changing the hay in the barn stalls to ensure your horses are in great health and that they have dry, top quality bedding and food. Laying in wet hay can cause skin irritations and sickness, so avoid it as much as possible.
Just like many homes have a junk drawer, the tack room can quickly become a jumbled mess of hardware, saddles and cleaning products. The key to a happy horse and riding life is to have tack that is properly cared for. Start by sorting through all your gear to establish what you still use and what could be donated to a horse rescue. Then, clean everything. Follow leather protocols for washing, soap and oiling. Polish as needed and repair and wash any blankets or other fabric items. Finish Line’s Neatsfoot Oil is 100 percent natural and keeps your tack in shape for years to come. Also take on cleaning the actual tack room, from sweeping the floor to dusting and removing any cobwebs. Having a well-kept tack area will make it easy for you to find what you need in the moment and takes away the dread that comes from knowing you have to dig through a messy room. Then, make your best effort to keep the tack room neat and organized all through the warm seasons.
Now that the weather is warming up, you won’t require the winter equipment you’ve been using the past few months. Always clean everything before storing it, from water bucket heaters to stock tank heaters. Wash horse blankets, clean the barn floor and give the entire building a good scrubbing on a warm day. Use fans to make sure the floor thoroughly dries before your horses bed down for the night. This keeps their stalls dry and prevents health issues caused by dampness. Store large equipment somewhere out of the way. For snow blowers in particular make sure you put them up after the last snowfall so you don’t have to drag it out again.
“Clean and maintain all winter equipment before storing it.”
This is also the time to do any maintenance on equipment you will use for the spring and summer. Tackle any tasks you left over like oiling and maintaining the bale elevator, lawn mowers and tractors. You’ll be ready for preparing the pasture and loading equines into trailers when the time comes, allowing for more time to do what you really love: spend time with your horses.
While having a clean barn that’s ready for spring is important, you still have to help your animals adjust to the changing weather as well. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends horse owners start with vaccinations and immunizations like those that prevent West Nile Virus, Tetanus, equine influenza, equine herpesvirus, Potomac horse fever, rabies and equine encephalomyelitis. Try to spread out the vaccines over some time rather than giving all at once. This is also a time to pay special attention to your horse’s hooves. With the changing temperatures, the ground is likely thawing which can lead to muddy pastures, wet feet and cracking hooves. Follow your usual hoof care routine of cleaning and picking, and be extra careful about how much time your horses spend in wet environments. Horses who have slow-growing hooves may benefit from using Horse-Shoe, an ointment that may fight inflammation and improve circulation to the hooves with niacin, calcium iodate, biotin, methionine and gelatin.