The way a person interacts with horses says a lot about them, and a lot about their program. Further, a barn’s safety practices and rules say a lot about their horsemanship standards, their respect for the animals, and even their structure, organization, and growth potential. A barn’s aisle and crosstie area is the “hub” of the barn, and it is often the first impression for visitors. It’s the area with the most action and activity- so it can also be one of the most dangerous areas. This week, we will continue our Safety Series which began last week with arena safety, and move on to Barn Aisle Safety.
What do all great horse trainers have in common? Or great barns? Truly effective, well-run programs create consistent results, and confident riders and horses all know that they must make a practice of order. You can see it in their tack area at the horse show, and you can see it at home. It’s a priority. Yes, it helps with the aesthetic presentation of the barn, but even more importantly, it decreases the likelihood of accidents. In all safety rules and precautions within a barn (and probably anywhere) keeping clutter to a minimum is crucial. Less to trip over, less to spook at, less to be surprised by. Also, in an emergency, it makes in easier to find supplies and tools that you need. Therefore, order and organization goes hand-in-hand with safety. That must be the first priority for any professional program, and anyone who wishes to keep accidents to a minimum. Also, for more of a barn manager perspective on barn aisle safety, see these expanded tips from Stable Manager.
The crosstie area is a hotbed for safety issues. Again, it’s crucial to keep the area neat.
- Pick up manure immediately to avoid slipping or tripping
- Empty manure buckets on a daily basis so they don’t get overfilled
- Keep brooms and pitchforks safely tucked in manure buckets (outside the crossties) or hanging on the wall
- If your crossties are enclosed, make sure that multiple people don’t crowd inside them with the horse- it should only be one person at a time. The horse can get spooked, or move suddenly and multiple people can create a disaster.
- If the horse steps too far back, and feels pressure from the crossties over his poll, he is likely to panic and run backward to break free. If he starts to move far back enough that the crossties are taut, DO NOT try to pull him forward- this will only increase the pressure and make it worse. Go to the next crossties, or to the horse’s back end, but stay outside the crosstie area as much as possible. Gently cluck him forward a step or two, calmly.
- If the crossties are not enclosed – perhaps in an open aisle – it is very likely that the horse could run backward- it’s a common occurrence. Watch the pressure on the crossties, and watch for things coming toward the horse that could spook him backward. Again, never try and pull him forward, only encourage him forward from behind.
- Always drop the crossties and hold the horse if someone is passing- never go past under the crosstie
- Lesser known tip: If you have the snaps at the end of the crossties that you pull down with your thumb, always make a habit to attach the snap to the halter snap down. If the horse pulls loose, the snap piece that sticks out could do damage to their eye. It’s not likely, but a 1 in a 1000 chance is enough for me.
General Equine Interaction
These are reminders, hopefully already well-ingrained, but good to remember.
- Squat when working on horses legs- never be on your knees. You need to be able to get up and move swiftly. Most of the time when I’ve had to move fast, I’m working on a horse that never misbehaves. Things happen. Make a habit of not being completely vulnerable when they do.
- Never, ever put your hand on the ground for balance- they can crush your fingers in an instant.
- Pass behind slowly, keeping a hand on them (or at a great distance).
- Always approach a new horse with your hand out, palm up so they can smell you, and so you are non-threatening.
- Consider avoiding hand-feeding your horse on the crossties. It really does make a difference with manners, and horses become very pushy when they expect treats. It’s a hard habit to break, but it makes better horses out of them.
- Remember that horses don’t have to misbehave to hurt you. They are big, just because they are sweet doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous by accident. A lot of other variables are at play in a barn.
- Don’t leave the horse unattended on the crossties.
Be Watchful & Courteous
When you are in the aisle with your horse, it is your responsibility to be watchful and considerate of other people and horses.
- Don’t leave your horse unattended. It hogs the crossties, it’s not fair to your horse, and it makes random passerby responsible for him.
- Don’t create a mess around you- it shows a disrespect for the horses, the barn, and other people. Keep your area neat.
- Do not tack up in the crossties, create a mess, and leave it while you go ride- clean it up before you ride!
- Pick up all the manure- your manure, manure in other crossties, manure in the aisle. Don’t leave manure around.
- For extra bonus points, pick out your horse’s feet in the stall before leading him into the aisle so there aren’t extra dirt/ shavings in the aisle.
All of these things may seem hard, until you make them habit. When they are just part of your normal routine, life gets a lot less complicated. Which, in turn, is true about good habits in other areas of your life as well. It’s funny how horses do that for us- what we learn in the barn will almost always do us a great deal of good in our daily life, if we choose to let it inform our decisions. So keep things orderly, make best practices a habit, and enjoy things getting easier when you do.
To learn more about how to make barn life easier and more rewarding, contact Alicia Wilkinson today!