The Word On Wood For Your Barn

wood-barn-integrityThinking of remodeling or building a new barn this spring?  One of your big decisions (and biggest expense) could be the type of wood you use for your project. There are many types of wood out there and it can be daunting to figure out which one to use.  The general answer?  It depends on what’s most available in your area as well as your area’s weather condition.  Heavy snows may require one type of wood while areas with insect issues might be best with another.  Whatever you choose, if you’re building your walls with wood, use pressure treated wood whenever it’s in contact with earth or steel.  However, pressure-treated wood should never be placed where horses can get to it.

There are many horse owners who like the traditional look of a wood when designing their barn.  And if you are interested in “going green,” often wood barns provide a much smaller environmental footprint than those made with other materials.  Wood is also a natural insulator so is an excellent choice for areas where summer heat and winter cold temperatures are extreme.

When researching the best wood for your barn, look for lumber that has a high-bending strength, good nail holding power, moderate shrinkage, decay resistance, withstands splitting, good painting and weathering qualities, freedom from warping and is easy to work with.

Classic Equine Equipment keep in stock premium imported hardwood and Southern Yellow Pine.  Both types are milled to their exacting specifications – including a tongue and groove as well as a v-notch on the face of each board. Additional types of wood are also available upon request.  Wood is sold separately.

Tongue and groove wood material for your stall lining is one of your best options because it’s flush and there are no ledges.  Some horses find chewing on wood an amusing pastime.  But there’s a possibility of splintering and chemical ingestion. Keep your barn looking good and your horse safe by eliminating opportunities to chew.

brazilian-hardwoodTheir Brazilian hardwood is 1” this and comes in 12” increments.  A true hardwood, it is very dense and durable.  Although no wood can be considered “horse proof”, the strength of this wood is exceptional.southern-yellow-pine

The Southern Yellow Pine comes in 2”x 8”x 12’ lengths.  It is #1 or better premium wood – no warping, stains, stamps or discolorations.  Although not as dense as the hardwood, this is the strongest of the “softwoods” and is a very popular choice for horse stalls.

wood-alternative-hdpeHDPE (High Density Polyethylene) uses primarily recycled post-consumer plastic with a positive environmental impact to create a long-lasting, no maintenance and weather resistant material.  HDPE is UV resistant, easy to maintain and does not require staining.  It comes in a variety of lengths and colors.

Many barn builders use high-grade 90% Spruce J-Grade logs.  The lumber is uniformly seasoned in dry kilns which improves strength and stiffness.  It also enhances its appearance and increases its resistance to decay and insect attack. It can be used for all aspects of barn building, including a log siding. 

Red cedar is another option for your barn.  However, the oils in cedar that help protect it are extremely enticing to horses.  They love to chew on cedar wood so confine your use of cedar to the outside of the barn.  While beautiful, it is not as structurally strong as other types of wood.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, with reported growth rates of 39 inches in 24 hours.  Bamboo is best used as flooring in the tack room, your office or in the barn club house.

Be as picky with your choice of lumber as you are with the rest of your barn design.  Low grade wood may look just fine when you put it in, but five years later you can have problems.  Like most everything else, you get what you pay for.

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Vital Signs To Know For Your Horse’s Health

horse-with-headache

Knowing how your horse acts and reacts when he is feeling good will help you to faster realize when there is something “not right” with him. Every horse owner needs to know what is “normal” for their horse. Being able to report these to your veterinarian when you contact him can help evaluate whether a visit is necessary and/or how quickly your horse needs to be seen.

Get a baseline of your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration when he is healthy, relaxed and before working himYou may also want to get additional readings in both summer and winter and after riding to know what is normal for your horse in different circumstances.

What you’ll need:

  • watch that counts seconds
  • a thermometer – plastic digital one are best for ease and safety)
  • a stethoscope.
  • A notepad or record book for recording the vital sounds

TEMPERATURE:

The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees. However, a horse’s temperature can vary somewhat with the season. During the winter, your horse’s “normal” temperature may drop several degrees, but low temperatures generally are not causes for concern.  On the other hand, summer heat, as well as exercise, can often raise a horse’s temperature a few degrees.  These circumstances must also be taken into account when determining if there is cause for concern.

 It is easiest to take your horse’s temperature rectally with a clean digital thermometer. Coating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly can make it easier for you to insert and more comfortable for your horse.  Always tie a string to the end of the thermometer to make sure you can retrieve it.  You can also briefly wrap your horse’s dock in a bandage to make it easier to push the tail hair away to insert the thermometer. Most thermometers will beep when the maximum temperature has been reached.

If your horse’s temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian.

heartbeat2PULSE:

The pulse rate is taken by listening to the heart, located on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow. You can also take the pulse at the thick artery that runs underneath the cheekbone on either side of your horse’s face.  Place three fingers (never your thumb which has its own pulse) on the artery and press upward and inward.

Using a stethoscope can often make hearing and counting the heart beats easier.  Some people listen to the heart rate for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2.  However, if you have any questions, listen to the pulse rate for the full minute.

The normal pulse rate is 40 beats per minute.

 Horses that are fit may have rates as low as 28 so knowing your horse’s condition is important.   Young horses and ponies can sometimes have a bit faster pulse rate.

Rates between 40-60 are considered “serious”, but may be explained by an elevated
temperature such as on a very hot day.  Also, if the horse is suddenly frightened or excited, his heart rate can become temporarily elevated on a very temporary.  Wait a few minutes and then recheck to see if the rate comes down when he is more relaxed. However, rates above 80 are considered “critical” and indicate a very serious problem.

However, ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be regarded with suspicion and evaluated in the overall picture of how the horse is feeling.

RESPIRATION:

Respiration is how hard your horse is breathing. Watch his sides as he breathes in and out and count the number of complete breaths.  Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra abdominal effort, abnormal noise, labored breathing, or gasping are all indications of a serious problem.  

 The normal rate for horses is between 8-12 breaths per minute. Again, many things can effect this that must be taken into consideration before considering whether it is abnormal.  One common factor is his temperature, excitement or a heavy workout.

OTHER VITAL SIGNS

While temperature, pulse and respiration are the three most common vital signs used to determine your horse’s health, there are other indicators that you may want to check and report to your veterinarian:

  • Mucus Membrane Color: The normal color is pink
  • Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums, the color should return within 1-2 seconds.
  • Gut sounds (borborygmus): A horse should have a normal gurgling sound on both sides of the abdomen back near the flanks.
  • Hydration: Pinch and elevate the horse’s skin over the shoulder, then let go. If it snaps back into place very quickly, your horse is properly hydrated

For a chart that can be posted next to your horse’s stall with instructions on how to take temperature, pulse and respiration, as well as normals and critical values, click HERE.

Things to Consider Before “Dashing Through the Snow”

riding-in-snow-katie-peeryThis year, nearly all of the country is being hit with some sort of snowfall. Riding in the snow is one of winter’s joys and is a nice change for your horse. However, there are several things to consider. First, how will your horse react to snow?  It’s a different surface for him.  It looks different, it feels different – this can be spooky to some horses. If it’s merely a dusting of snow, this might not be an issue. But once it gets up around his knees, it becomes a whole new experience. Introduce him to it the say you’d do for any new experience.

Depending on where you live – or how long the snow has been around – there are two kinds of snow: soft and fluffy or packed and icy. Just as skiers and snowboarders love the soft, fluffy snow, this “powder” is ideal for riding due to its even smoothness on trails. However, it can take more effort for your horse to push his legs through it.  It’s just as important to give your horse a thorough warmup before riding in snow. This can help prevent sore muscles later.  Know where you are riding as powdery snow can also cover hazards such as large rocks or tree stumps.  The good news? It provides for a softer landing if you and your horse “disconnect.”

Packed snow is what you get when you are following a trail made by someone else – another horse, a skier, a snowmobile.  It takes less energy for your horse to walk through it, but packed snow can also turn icy so be aware of the possibility of your horse slipping. Due to the sun and shade provided by trees or other structures, a trail can have stretches of powder AND patches of ice that can come up unexpectedly.

horse-with-ice-balls-in-hoofThis wetter, icier snow is a prime cause of “ice balls” in your horse’s hoofs.  When your horse walks on snow, the heat of his hoof can warm up the snow while it touching the metal horseshoe can make it freeze again, causing a buildup.  After a while, this turns into an uneven mass that can cause your horse discomfort when walking and even real damage to tendons and joints.  There are several ways to help prevent this problem.  They include letting your horse go barefoot, using hoof boots or adding anti-snowball pads. 

Finally, make sure both you and your horse are dressed for the weather.  If you have snow, the temperature is probably already near or below freezing. And riding outside means no blocks from the wind, making it even colder. Consider a quarter sheet for your horse’s hindquarters to keep those big muscles warm. And dress in layers yourself. 

It looks like a long winter ahead so make the most of it with a fun, safe ride in the snow.

Photo credit:  Hidden Fox Farm