This article was originally published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on Friday, May 20, 2016
Organization can make the difference between wasted time and efficiency; between safety and injury or illness. The stable yard needs to be designed around the unique needs and idiosyncrasies of the equine nature. Since horses are often escape artists and reactive beings, all fences and buildings need to have safety features.
Smooth walls and highly visible fences without sharp features are a must. Gates should close without gaps that could catch a hoof. Horses should be fed in a natural grazing position from tubs that keep the feed from mixing with sand. Since we are in the desert and sand is often ingested no matter how we plan, the feeding of psyllium in bran mashes is a wise monthly practice. By planning a schedule for the stable yard, you can have the horse(s) set for the day in a minimal amount of time. We feed first thing in the morning and fly spray each horse, put on fly masks, do any treatments or medications, top up water tubs, do body checks for any injuries then have our own breakfast.
Next is the mucking and turning out of horses for exercise. We notice consistency of manure. This is an important indicator of health in horses. If there is less manure than usual, we immediately check for dehydration by pinching skin on the horse’s neck – it should not stand up. We will feed an extra wet bran mash right away and add electrolytes to the feed. Water consumption is always noticed and noted.
Once a week we scrub water tubs clean, put odor neutralizing powder on urine spots, add dirt to low spots and check fences. Many of our fences are of electric tape and we check for a charge all along the line. Here in such dry weather, a “dead” electric fence can be as simple as a ground not working and soaking the ground rod with water can fix the problem.
Storage of feed must be inaccessible to the horses (fenced off or in a secure building). If a horse eats his fill of hard feed, he can die of colic or he can founder. Either are disasters that are preventable.
As summer arrives, we field wash all the horses’ winter blankets and pack them away covered in powdered rosemary to repel bugs and mildew. Girths, saddle pads and the like need washing. We use Dr. Bonners castle soap because it leaves no chemical residue. We soak feed bowls in water with a bit of bluing – just a squirt into a tub disinfects safely and is biodegradable.
We are working right now on the organization of the rooms we use. Tack needs to be put away properly and objects set fair to avoid tripping someone. It is an ongoing process to keep everyone safe. This is a good time to check equipment and have repairs made.
We spray the tack room with oil of peppermint to repel mice; spray neem oil around the feed room to repel ants (neem oil is safe enough to use as toothpaste, I also use it in my kitchen). Pulling weeds and gathering stones from arenas are also ongoing tasks to keep the horses safe and sound.
With a schedule and some dedication, the stable can run smoothly and you will find more time for riding when the tasks become habit.