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You want to have a happy partnership with your new horse. To have this, your horse must be healthy and content. This begins in the stable. Your horse must be properly stabled in safe conditions (for both horse and rider). There are several things you must consider: the environment, stall design, and fencing.

Before bringing your new horse home, you should first check the zoning requirements in your area. You need to check that you have proper acreage to keep a horse(s). Other environmental factors you need to consider are manure management, water availability, and drainage. How will you dispose of manure? Manure must be dumped away from the barn in order to control flies in the barn area. Will you use manure as compost or will you have someone dispose of it for you? You will need to check that there is clean water available at all times. How will you supply water if you lose electricity? You also want to make sure there is proper drainage in the barn and pasture areas. Stagnant water will result in mud and other unhealthy conditions.

The next thing on your list is the barn and stable area. Are the stalls big enough? The minimum size should be about 10' x 10'. Depending on the size of your horse, you may need to go to a 10' x 12' stall. The floor should be absorbent and not too slippery. If the floor is concrete, you need to make sure there is adequate drainage and bedding. The stall partitions should be made of strong material, with no protruding objects so the horse does not injure himself. If the stall partitions are made of board, the boards must be close enough together so the horse cannot get a foot stuck in between. The boards must also be close enough to the floor so your horse cannot get a foot or leg stuck underneath. To keep horses separated, some stalls may have bars or wire mesh between the board partition and the ceiling. The bars or wire must be close enough so the horse cannot get his hoof through. All lights should be covered with unbreakable covers. There can be no exposed electrical wiring or outlets within a horse's reach. The stall doors must be easy to open and close for safety and the door must be wide enough (approximately 4') to allow ample room for horse and handler. Before leading a horse out, stall door must be fully open with latches in, so the horse does not catch a hip on the latch.

The type of bedding you use depends on your preference. Straw and shavings are the most common types. Straw is comfortable and somewhat absorbent. The drawback is that some horses tend to eat it -- resulting in a "hay belly". Straw also takes up more volume for disposal. Wood shavings are more absorbent and keep down odors. Horses do not usually eat shavings and some people think shavings stalls are easier to clean. In both cases you must consider the disposal methods, as some disposal companies will only take a certain type. Regardless of type, take care that bedding is dust free.

It is not only important to keep dust to a minimum in the barn area; you also need to make sure there is proper ventilation. Is there fresh air without being drafty? Horses need a lot of fresh air. You want to keep the dust and humidity to a minimum as these things can easily lead to respiratory problems. It is best to keep the horse turned out as much as possible.

Pasture fencing must be as sturdy as possible. Wooden board fencing, though expensive has been a commonly used fencing. Another good type is 2"x 3" woven wire fence. It is important that the boards on any type of fencing are secured on the inside of the fence. This makes the fence stronger as it is more difficult to break the fence by pushing the boards out. Your fence needs to be high enough -- usually about 5'. There needs to be space between the ground and the bottom of the fence to allow room for mowing and weed eating.

Fresh water needs to be provided at all times, whether in stall or pasture. You can get sturdy feed and water buckets at the feed store. You can get either hanging water buckets or a tub for the pasture. Some people prefer automatic waterers. Regardless of the type, buckets/waterers should be cleaned and checked every day. Feed buckets should be scrubbed at least once a week. You can use a hanging feed bucket or you can get feed tubs that are bolted into the corner of the stall. The type you use may depend on your horse's eating manners.

Overall, the most important thing to remember is the horse's (and your) safety. Always check in any area that there are no nails or broken boards sticking out and nothing dangerous lying on the ground. Having a horse can be a lot of fun, but it is also a big responsibility that takes constant awareness of yourself, your horse, and the surroundings.


Horse Industry Handbook, A project of the American Youth Horse Council, Winter 1994



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