Technology For Your Barn

stall watch video surveillance 2Whether you are building a new barn or redesigning your current barn, adding technology components can make your barn safer and your work more convenient.  Consider adding these types of technology to your barn this year. 


If you have a large barn, you might want to consider installing an intercom system. An intercom can be useful for quickly reaching anyone in the barn with important messages. From asking grooms to bring out certain horses to reminding students that their lesson starts shortly, a barn intercom spreads information quickly and efficiently no matter how large your barn is!

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is one of the most important technological investments that you should consider installing in your barn. Video surveillance can help to deter thieves, and may even reduce the cost of your property and business insurance. If you’re operating a boarding or training operation, the fact that your barn has video surveillance can be a reassurance to owners.

Stall video surveillance is another option.  Can’t remember if you blanketed that last horse?  Check via video.  Anticipating a new foal?  A video can keep an eye on the process until it’s time.  Worrying that your horse may colic?  Use a video to watch him through the night.

Hardwired Fire Alarm

If you’re not already planning to install a hardwired fire alarm in your barn, you should. The risk of fire in barns is significant, and you should absolutely invest in a quality fire alarm system. Additionally, contact your local fire department and find out if it’s possible to wire your fire alarm so that it sounds directly in the fire station itself. This feature can save valuable time in the event that a barn fire does break out.

Stereo Systems

Consider installing a stereo system in the viewing room so that anyone observing a lesson or training session in your indoor arena can hear the instructor’s comments. As long as the instructor uses a microphone, installing speakers in the viewing room can be a useful tool which allows everyone to clearly hear the session.

Many people enjoy riding to music.  A stereo system for the arena can allow for dressage freestyle competitions.  It is also useful if you are going to be holding shows at your facility.

Tack Room Alarm

Installing an alarm in your tack room is an excellent way to deter thieves. An alarm system offers your tack valuable protection, and provides you and any other horse owners with peace of mind each night. Installing a keyed alarm means that you can give the code to anyone who needs to access the tack room. With tack being one of the easier (and more valuable) items in a barn to steal and resell, the value of a tack room alarm can’t be overlooked.

white-horse-with-feederAutomatic Feeders

Making sure your horse has food throughout the day can sometimes be difficult.  Using automatic feeders can insure your horse always has something to nibble on throughout the day.


Installing wi-fi at your barn is a great option to keep your boarders happy.  Once they are done riding, they can keep up to date on emails and social media. 

Technology products keep getting better and better while the prices keep dropping.  You CAN afford to add technology to your barn!

photo credit:  Stall Watch, iFeed

A 5-Point Checklist If You’re Stabling Your Horse This Winter

ChelseaSnowHaving the option of having your horse on pasture board or turnout during the summer is great not only for your expenses, but for your horse as well.  Horses are happiest being able to graze all day, preferably in the company of other horses.

But if your horse is going to be in training or you want to ride during the winter, your best option is to keep your horse at a boarding stable.  Warm, indoor wash racks, cozy tack rooms, dry stalls and, of course, a covered arena are all attractive reasons to keep your horse in a boarding stable during the worst weather.

But there are some things to consider for your horse before you put him in the advantageous, but more structured environment of a stable.  Review our 5-point checklist to see what decisions you need to make.

checkbox 1. Loneliness – if your horse is used to being outside 24/7 with lots of other horses and things to look at, being kept in a stall for long hours can make him lonely and bored.  This can lead to bad habits such as cribbing or stall walking.  Coming up with distractions such as stall toys or treats like “Uncle Jimmy’s Hanging Balls” (and turnout when possible) can help keep him engaged.  If there’s room and the barn management doesn’t mind, having a “barn sitter” like a goat or chicken can also keep horses entertained.

checkbox 2. Exercise – If your horse has been turned out for long hours, most likely he’s gotten plenty of exercise just walking around and grazing all day.  And if he has other horses for company, most likely they all get a good gallop in every once in a while.  But in a stable, it will be more important than ever to regularly exercise him.  You can lunge him or even hand walk him around the facility.  As a trainer to ride him if you aren’t able or consider a lease with another horse lover.

checkbox 3. Feed – Horses do best on lots of forage, and when they are turned out all day it’s rarely a problem.  But inside a stall, your horse is restricted to what he can find to eat.  A good supply of quality hay given on a regular basis is a good way to satisfy his urge to graze.  There are a variety of hays available and your barn manager can help you choose the right one for your horse’s weight, age and activity level.  And, while most horses rarely need to be supplemented with grain, if your horse is now being ridden more frequently you may find that adding grain is a good idea.

checkbox 4. Blankets – When horses are turned out for most of the year, they develop a coat tosnow stabled horse S H DRESSAGE protect them through the seasons.  If your horse usually grows a good winter coat, he may be perfectly fine in stable that protects him from the cold and wet.  You still may want to consider a lightweight waterproof sheet if he will be turned out in rainy/snowy weather.  You may also want to consider whether to clip or not.  Clipped horses can be cooled much more quickly after a hard ride, but the downside is that he will need to be blanketed.  And sometimes double blanketed depending on your winter cold. I suggest several light layers instead of one heavy blanket so you can adapt his “wardrobe” to the temperature.

checkbox 5. Shoes – When horses are turned out in a pasture or ridden only on soft ground, it may be a good time to pull their shoes and let them go barefoot.  This can save you quite a bit of money in farrier expenses. If you plan on trail riding, you can use hoof protection like the Easyboot.  But when boarded at a stable, you may want to consider having your horse shod.  While many owners are part of the “barefoot” movement in all circumstances, some horses when ridden or in heavy training need the support of shoes to help with leg issues or to avoid stone bruises.

Depending on where you live, winter weather may only be a few short months or seem to last forever.  Use your best judgment when considering what is best for you and your horse for each of this items.

photo credits:  GreenGate Farm, S H Dressage



What To Look For In A Used Horse Trailer

horse trailer EQUISPIRITWhile we all dream of a big, beautiful, brand new horse trailer, sometimes the reality of finances has us looking at used horse trailers instead.  The end of horse show season is often a great time to search out good used trailers, but you may have to look hard and long (and often near and far, too!) as well as be able to compromise on your dream list.

Slant load vs. straight load?  Bumper pull vs. gooseneck? Ramp vs. step-up? Regular vs. stock trailer? Two-horse vs. three-horse?  All have advantages and disadvantages so don’t be quick to dismiss an otherwise good trailer because one of your preferences isn’t met.

But there are certain things in a used trailer on which you absolutely cannot compromise.  Those are the things that will keep you and your horse safe on the road.

  • The horse should have enough room to move its legs forward and sideways to keep its balance while moving. The horse should also be allowed to lower its head so he may remove debris (hay dust and other contaminants in the trailer) by coughing, therefore keeping his respiratory tract clear.
  • Rubber torsion suspension is available on almost all newer trailers. This type of suspension greatly reduces the amount of shock the horse absorbs through the floor of the trailer, also reducing stress. There is also a safety advantage to this type of suspension. If you have a flat tire, the remaining three wheels will maintain the trailer until you can get to a safe place to change the tire.
  • There should be no sharp edges or protrusions anywhere on the trailer, inside or out.
  • Floor boards should run vertically (the length of the trailer), not horizontally (across the trailer) and there should be good support underneath.
  • Horse trailer mats should not be slippery.
  • Ramps should be non-slip and not steep.
  • All tie rings, center dividers, chest bars, and butt bars should be easily worked by quick release.
  • All parts should also be strong enough to hold up to the largest, strongest horse you will be hauling.
  • When considering construction material, think about how well it will hold up to a panicky horse, or a traffic accident. If you have large horses, strength, not weight should be your first priority.

Does this sound like what you’d look for in a new trailer?  It is, but now you also have to horse in trailer LSU AgCenterlook at the condition of all these areas.

  • Make sure the floor and undercarriage are in good condition. This goes for both wood and aluminum floors, and structural beams under the floor.
  • Check the suspension and tires. Uneven tire wear can signify some problem in the axle alignment or balance of the trailer. Dry rot is a common problem.
  • Sometimes the coupler can be worn inside, causing the coupler to be too large for the ball.
  • Check for rust or cracks in places where there is stress. Surface rust is typically not a problem, but anything that compromised the integrity of the trailer is. Stress fractures are a special consideration for all aluminum trailers.  Make sure the frame and welds are structurally sound.
  • Don’t forget to check the roof for stress or cracks that could let rain in.
  • Know if the brakes and lights work (and find out how much it will cost to fix them if they don’t!).
  • If repairs need to be made, ask yourself if you will be putting more money into it than the trailer is worth. Spending too much money for restoration may make the trailer suitable for your own use, but do not expect to add that much value to the trailer when you sell it.
  • Know that your tow vehicle will be able to safely haul (and stop!) the weight of this trailer.
  • Finally, be sure the trailer has a valid title and b sure the vehicle identification number matches the title.

Start your used trailer search with an open mind.  There may be features that you like or dislike, but you at least need to know which imperfections are tolerable and fixable on used horse trailers – and which ones are deadly and to be avoided at any cost.

photo credits: EquiSpirit, LSU AgCenter

What To Know About Leasing A Horse

horses and friendsLeasing a horse is an ideal way to see if you want the responsibility of owning your own horse.  You have the responsibility of caring for the horse in addition to riding it and you can see if the time required to own your own horse fits with your lifestyle.  Too often people are quick to buy a horse and then realize it’s too much work.  Sometimes the horse suffers from neglect when stuck in his stall for days, or the owner wants to quickly sell the horse and isn’t that concerned about the buyer.

Leasing is also a great way to always have a horse that is suited to the level at which you ride or your riding interest.  For example, if you want some additional “saddle time” when you’re just learning to ride, you might want to lease one of the riding school’s lesson horses.  But as you progress or start jumping, you may want to start riding a horse that takes more skill to ride or can take you over bigger jumps.   If the horse is for a child, you may want her to start with leasing a small pony, but as she grows you can switch to leasing a larger horse.  If you bought the horse that was right for you at that point in your riding career, you’d be buying and selling horses just about every year.  But with leasing, you can just end a lease on one horse and start a lease on another.

Most often, owners lease their horse because either they don’t have enough time to exercise their horse every day or they need help with the expenses of keeping the horse at the barn or in training.  If you are considering leasing a horse, it is important to get everything in writing.  I am not an attorney so this is not legal advice – it wouldn’t hurt to run a lease agreement past an attorney.

It’s important that you are very clear on who will be responsible for what expenses for the care of the horse.  It can be anything from splitting everything in half to you having complete responsibility for expenses.  Most often, this is based on how much you are going to ride the horse.  If you have a full-lease, you typically can ride the horse any time you want and as much as you want.  With a half-lease or partial lease, you and the owner (and possibly other leasees) will each have certain days on which to ride the horse.  It is important that you put in writing which days who has the opportunity to ride the horse.  Most leases end when both people show up to ride the horse at the same time.

Another problem sometimes occurs when the horse is hurt when someone is riding them.  Will it be the owner’s responsibility to pay for the horse’s care or will it be up to whoever was riding when the horse became hurt that will pay?  How will you determine who is at fault?  Let’s say you just rode the horse yesterday and when you put him in his stall he was fine.  But sometime in the night, he might have gotten himself cast and he strained a leg muscle struggling to get up.  Is it your turn to pay for vet treatment because you rode him last or should the owner pay because she has ultimate responsibility for the horse?  These things are best put in writing as a contract that is reviewed by an attorney.

rider watching another riderOther issues such as mandating wearing a helmet when riding or not going out on trails or what bit to use when riding are all additional questions that should be discussed before the lease begins.  Only by being sure that both (or all) parties involved in the lease understand the rules can a lease be the ideal situation for all, including the horse.

photo credit: Horse Network

20 Ways To Be Safe On The Trail

trailriding KRAKOWTOURS.netTrail riding this time of year is a treat for both you and your horse.  Cooler temps and beautiful fall colors, followed by a winter wonderland.  But don’t take for granted that your “bombproof” horse will stay bombproof in the colder weather and the appearance of more woodland wildlife.  Consider taking these steps to have a safe trail ride.

  1. Always wear a helmet. You might also want to consider wearing a safety vest.
  2. Always ride with a partner or let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  3. Carry a cell phone and/or GPS.  Carry them on your person, not in a saddle bag.  If you and your horse are separated, your cell phone may go galloping down the trail without you.
  4. Always wear proper riding apparel and foot wear. They can help prevent you from scratches from branches or a fall.  Proper boots will keep your foot securely and safely in your stirrup.
  5. Pack a rain coat or light sweater – weather can change in an instant.reflective gear ACTION RIDER TACK
  6. If you will possibly be riding after dark, wear reflective clothing and take a small flash light.  Reflective items for your horse are another good idea.
  7. If riding during hunting season, even if you are not riding in a hunting area, wear highly visible clothes (orange or fluorescent) and make enough noise to hunters are alerted to your presence and that you are not a deer!
  8. Have your horse wear a halter under his bridle and bring a lead rope in case you have to tie your horse on the trail.
  9. Bring a people first aid kit.
  10. Bring a horse first aid kit.
  11. If you ride during bug season, use a fly mask and fly spray on you horse, bug repellant for you.
  12. Carry a hoof boot in case your horse loses a shoe.  
  13. Think long and hard before going on a trail ride bareback. Then think again.  There are a lot of things on the trail that can cause your horse to spook and having a saddle can help you stay secure and control your horse.
  14. Keep at least one horse length between you and the horse in front. If your horse might be prone to kick a too close horse, make sure everyone knows it or tie a red ribbon to your horse’s tail.
  15. Wait until all riders are mounted and ready before you move off.
  16. Stay alert. While it’s natural to get lost in the fun and beauty of a trail ride, remember that you are still riding and must stay alert to potential problems.  If you see a potential problem (like a hole), make sure you notify the other riders.
  17. Always go at the pace that’s most comfortable for the least experienced rider or greenest horse. If your group decides to move at a faster pace, especially canter, make sure everyone in the group agrees or don’t canter.  Horses are herd animals and will want to stay together and a beginner trail rider may not yet be comfortable at the faster pace.
  18. Stay on the designated trail. Not only will this keep you from getting lost, but can also be a safer route.  Off the trail there may be holes, poison ivy or tree branches that can trip your horse.Hikers and horses on trail MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL
  19. On multi-use trails, horses have the right of way due to their size and unpredictability, but don’t assume that other trailer users will know this. Bikers should yield to hikers and horses, and hikers should yield to horses.  Politely ask them to move off the trail while you pass.  Thank them. 
  20. Know what to do in case of emergencies. These include an emergency stop, how to deal with a barking dog or wild animal on the trail and knowing some basic self-defense moves to keep YOU save from attackers.

Follow these same rules next spring and summer to stay safe year-round!

Photo credits: Krakow Tours, Action Tack, Marin Independent Journal




Putting A Stop To “Scratches”

scratchesPastern dermatitis, often known as scratches, is a common problem of inflammation of the skin behind or around the pastern of the horse.   In most cases, the infection is caused by bacteria or a fungus that enters the skin through any openings in the skin – small wounds, cracks or even chapping.  The most common signs of scratches are scabs and crusting around the pasterns.  There may be a clear liquid substance leaking from the area.

Treatment is fairly straightforward.  Gently wash the area with an antibacterial soap or solution, then thoroughly dry the area – both the hair and the skin.  It is important to keep the area around the pastern clean and dry to prevent reinfection.  It may help to clip the hair around the pastern.  You can also apply a thick ointment to help protect the pastern as well as remove the scabs and promote healing.  If the area doesn’t heal in a couple of weeks, contact your veterinarian to see if stronger medications or cleaning solutions are necessary.

While scratches aren’t a life-threatening illness nor is the treatment difficult or long-term, it is always better to prevent the problem in the first place.  Scratches seem to develop when your horse has prolonged exposure to wetness.  Moisture from bedding or mud can weaken the skin and make it susceptible to cuts and possible infection. The following ways will help you prevent this problem.

Keep stalls clean.  This means not only picking up manure in the stalls and paddocks, but being sure to remove any urine-soaked bedding.  After the area has been clean, you can add some stall freshener like PDZ, but allow the area to dry thoroughly before adding bedding to the spot.   

horse in mud CanadianHorseJournalKeep paddocks, shelters and all turnout areas dry.  Since moisture is bad for the horse’s skin and is the leading cause of scratches, having him stand in wet grass or, even worse, ankle high mud is just asking for trouble.  During wet weather, use a sacrifice area with well-drained footing like crushed gravel to help keep feet and pasterns dry.  You can even use stall mats like the ones by Classic Equine Equipment in paddocks or in high traffic muddy areas such as the opening to a shelter.

Know your bedding.  Some types of bedding may be coarse or may have been chemically treated.  While this won’t affect all horses, check to see if your horse’s bedding is retaining moisture or otherwise irritating his pasterns. 

Be kind to pasterns.  Bell boots are helpful in preventing horses from stepping on their front pasterns with their back feet, but make sure the boots fit properly and are not rubbing against the pastern and causing irritation.  Once a horse gets his legs wet from walking through a puddle or wet grass, everything seems to stick to them.  Sand from an arena can also cause irritation if it isn’t brushed off before putting on leg wraps or boots.  Also, if your horse has been standing in mud, be sure to brush or wash his legs off.  However, take care and don’t become too aggressive in cleaning the pastern areas.  Remember that too much water will soften the skin and make it inviting for bacteria.  Brushing dried mud with a stiff brush can cause those tiny cuts through which bacteria love to enter.  Finally, some people like to keep the pastern area neat and clean by clipping – just make sure the clippers are clean and you don’t nick this sensitive area.

With these tips, you can help prevent your horse from getting scratches or keep it from coming back.

Photo credit: Canadian Horse Journal

Breed Profile: The Haflinger

Haflinger 2As many long-time equestrians get older, our taste in horses begin to change.  Where once we all rode big Warmbloods or Thoroughbreds, we start to notice just how high it is to mount and dismount these breeds.  Many of us have problem knees that the horse’s height can aggravate.  Finally, some of us may want to try other equestrian sports, such as combined driving.  Check out the breeds that might the needs of the riders “of a certain age” and you will probably come across the Haflinger.

Haflingers were bred to be versatile enough for many under-saddle disciplines, including endurance riding, dressage, equestrian vaulting and therapeutic riding, but still solid enough for draft and driving work. The Haflinger was originally developed to work in the mountainous regions of its native land where it was used as a packhorse and for forestry and agricultural work. 

The history of the Haflinger horse traces to the Middle Ages. The origins of the breed are uncertain, but there one theory is that Haflingers descend from horses abandoned in the Tyrolean valleys in central Europe by East Goths fleeing from Byzantine troops in 555 AD. These abandoned horses are believed to have been influenced by Oriental bloodlines which may help explain the Arabian physical characteristics seen in the Haflinger.

Haflingers are always chestnut in color, and come in shades ranging from a light gold to a rich golden chestnut or liver color. The mane and tail are white or flaxen.  The height of today’s Haflinger has increased from 13hh to between 13.2hh and 15hh.  The first official documentation of the present day Haflinger (named for the Tyrolean village of Hafling) was in 1874 when the foundation stallion 249 Folie was born of the half-Arabian stallion 133 El’ Bedavi XXII crossed with a refined native Tyrolean mare. All modern purebred Haflingers must trace their ancestry directly to Folie through seven different stallion lines: A, B, M, N, S, ST, and W.

The head of the Haflinger is refined, with the neck is of medium length, the withersHaflinger 1 pronounced, the shoulders sloping, and the chest deep. The back is medium-long and muscular, the croup is long, slightly sloping and well-muscled. The legs are clean, with broad, flat knees and powerful hocks.  The Haflinger has rhythmic, ground-covering gaits. The walk is relaxed but energetic. The trot and canter are elastic, energetic, and athletic with a natural tendency to be light on the forehand and balanced. There is some knee action, and the canter has a very distinct motion forwards and upwards. An important consideration in breeding and what makes the Haflinger an ideal horse is its temperament. A requirement for a quiet, kind nature has become part of the official breed standard and this is part of any breed inspection.

The Haflinger is also recognized around the world for another reason.  On May 28, 2003, a Haflinger filly named Prometea became the first horse clone born.  But for regularly born Haflinger, registration is done through the American Haflinger Registry .  There are many rules there for registering and breeding your Haflinger, as well as tips for buying your first Haflinger.

If you are looking for a horse that is safe, versatile, intelligent, athletic and long-lived, the Haflinger may be a great choice. 

Photo credit: American Haflinger Registry