Liability Insurance For Your Barn

horse and dollar signWhether you are building your barn for your own personal use or as a business for boarding, training or breeding, you need to know what your liability risk is and how to best insure yourself and your assets from lawsuits.  While this blog is based on a seminar by Oregon equine attorney Kathryn A. Hall, the information is not to be construed as legal advice – it is strongly recommended that you meet with your own lawyer and an insurance agent who specialize in equine businesses.

Equine liability is the responsibility for equine-related loss, damage or harm.  This can be due to personal injury, injury to horses or property damage.   Depending on how your barn is used, you can be liable for contracts for boarding, training, breeding, lease or sale.  You may also be liable as the owner of the property or the business.   If you are also a trainer, you may have professional liability when advising or making decisions for clients.

As a landowner, you have a duty to be aware of dangerous conditions and to keep your premises reasonably safe by eliminating those conditions.  You also have a duty to warn people invited onto your premises of any dangerous conditions or activities, i.e. horses and horseback riding.  However, not all liability is automatic and states can vary.  If there was no legal duty to look out for or protect someone, there is no liability.  Or if there was a duty, but no breach of that duty occurred (sometimes accidents just happen), then there is no liability.  Again, it is important to discuss your state’s laws with an attorney.

How can you limit your liability?

  • Obtain appropriate insurance – your homeowner’s policy may not be enough.
  • Use well-written contracts, including waivers.
  • Use a separate corporate entity for your equine-related activities.
  • Understand your state’s equine inherent risk law.
  • Implement sound business practices.
  • Keep your premises well maintained.
  • Promote good horsemanship and safety.

One of the most common forms to help limit liability is the written contract.   It can clarify the parties’ rights and responsibilities, including disclaimers.  It should include such things as the jurisdiction and venue for any litigation, alternative dispute resolutions and the right of the winner to recovery attorney fees from the loser.  Make sure it is as complete as possible – don’t just say “horses are dangerous.”  List the ways they can be dangerous – running, kicking, biting, falls, etc.    Also be sure that the right person is signing the contract.   While most stables have a parent sign for minors, remember that an adult can only sign away their rights.  No parent can sign away a child’s rights nor can they sign away the right of the other parent.  Although this may seem like overkill, it is also best to have BOTH parents sign the waiver (unless one parent has sole custody of the child). 

You have probably seen numerous pre-printed forms at tack stores or “standard” forms on the internet.  These may only be appropriate for the most straight-forward of transactions.  However, they may not comply with your state laws and the quality is only as good as the person who wrote it.  Having an equine attorney for your state draft your contracts and waivers will ensure that it covers your specific business practices – plus the attorney will be on hand to defend it in case of a lawsuit.

Finally, ensure that your staff is reliable and well-trained, that you have plans to cover fire, disease and extreme weather, and don’t be afraid to turn around boarders, trainers or guests who won’t sign your paperwork or who you feel present an unreasonable risk.

Underfoot In Your Barn

rubber paversBefore you start building your new barn from the ground up, start with the ground and below. There are three parts to the underside – the foundation, the footings and the flooring.  Foundation and footings are what hold your barn up, keep it from shifting in cold and heat, and provide the stability to keep it from moving in high winds.  Those decisions are best left to the professionals.  An Extension Service engineer can take a look at your proposed building, the site and the soils and advise you on the proper footing depth and wall sizes.  You may want to hire a professional to pour the concrete walls or floors, especially when working with floors with drains or plumbing.

But flooring is what you and your horse will be standing and walking on.  The easiest and least expensive is just leaving everything dirt.  However, horses in stalls can start pawing the dirt and can eventually make quite a substantial hole.  In addition, if you have a high water table, a prolonged rain or melting snow can cause your stall and aisleways to become a muddy mess.

A better option is installing several inches of gravel, sometimes called screenings or 5/8 minus.  You want small, irregularly shaped gravel – the roundness of pea gravel can cause it to shift too much and large stones can bruise a horse’s hoof. Once the gravel is installed, compact it down.  You can rent a compacting machine, but if you just have a few stalls, you can also just spray the gravel with water, and then use a hand compactor to pound.  Repeat a couple of times, letting it settle a few hours between compacting.

Another common flooring option is concrete.  It is expensive, but easy to clean and disinfect.  It can also be hard and cold on the horses that are standing on it.  Many barn builders use concrete in feed and tack rooms to help prevent rodents from burrowing in.  Concrete is also common in aisleways and washracks where it is easy to keep dry and clean.

The addition of stall mats (like those by Classic Equine) can help keep horses from pawing dirt floors and can add additional cushioning with gravel or concrete floors.  Classic Equine Equipment also offers Tru-Step® Pavers for a safe, comfortable and nonslip surface in horse stalls, aisles and wash racks.

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”  – Musician David Allan Coe

The Barn Owner/Barn Builder Bond

CEE doorsA barn is built by just two people – you and your barn builder. He may have many other people on the job, but the success of your barn is going to depend on your relationship with your barn builder.

When looking for a barn builder, referrals are always a good way to find one.  But remember that someone’s dream barn or way of working may not be the same as yours.  If the referral came from someone who had a simple shed row barn built and you are thinking of something with dormers, a hay loft or special flooring, it may not be the right fit.  Ideally, you want a barn builder who will not only listen, but will offer suggestions as well.  But one that knows that the final decision is always yours. You don’t want someone who has just one way of doing things no matter what you want.  On the other hand, if you’re new to barn building, you don’t want a barn builder who does everything you say, even though he knows it’s unsafe or there’s a better way to do it.  Your barn should be a collaborative effort.

Here are some things to discuss with a potential barn builder:

  1. Discuss the site location with your builder.  If he has reservations about your choice, discuss them and work to find an alternative site.  Also, make sure you know who is responsible for site preparation.  Sometimes the barn builder handles it; sometimes they want you to take care of it before they start.
  2. Discuss the timetable for your barn. If you are building a huge barn, the builder will need to set aside adequate resources to start.  This may mean that scheduling may be pushed back a month or more.  Consider whether you’re willing to wait that long.   On the other hand, a small barn project can sometimes be slid in between completing one large project and starting another.  But big projects can run longer than anticipated and that window of opportunity can disappear, so confirm with your builder exactly when they will start your barn. And when they will finish.
  3. Discuss zoning requirements, permits, code inspections, etc. and what these entail. Also, determine who will be responsible for getting these. 
  4. Discuss who will contact underground utility companies about buried lines for cable, phone or other utilities. Don’t assume it will be the builder – he may be assuming it will be you!
  5. Ask about the crew who will do the job. Have they been with the company long?  Or do they use sub-contractors?  Are they covered by the builder’s insurance?
  6. Ask about the contract and ask if you can see it (and possibly have your lawyer review it) before signing.
  7. Ask about how problems with workmanship will be handled after the barn is built. How long will the builder stand behind his work?

Finally, while hiring a barn builder is the most efficient way to get a barn built,  most barn builders have limited time and expertise in designing a custom barn to meet your specific needs.  If you need more assistance in the design of your barn, you may want to consider using an architect who specializes in equestrian facilities.  The architect is there to evaluate the needs of the owner, from overall site planning, programming, phasing, and design to overseeing the entire construction to make sure the barn is built as intended.  Yes, the cost is more, but if your barn is your business (or just your passion), an architect can help you with both form and function.

Take the time to find the right people to do the job for you.  And, to help matters along, try to have a pretty clear vision on what you want your barn to  look like.  Yes, you can leave it up to your barn builder, but then it’s not YOUR dream barn, it’s his.

Photo  Credit:  Classic Equine Equipment


How An Equine Architect Can Help You Build Your Dream Barn

cee-project.jpgYou’ve made the decision – THIS is the year you’re building your dream barn! You’ve got the ideas, you’ve got the money, you’ve got the permits.  Are you ready to go?  Not quite.

You might not have considered the fact that you may need to expand the idea of just building a barn and look at building a “facility” – barn, arena, turnout, storage, parking, etc.  There are many options available to someone who wants to build just a barn, but once you start adding all the other structures, it can get a bit overwhelming.  Here’s where an equine architect can definitely be worth the investment.  You can even ask an equine architect to help you find the ideal equine property for your needs.

 An equine architect can help translate your ideas or complete vision into reality. Typically, an architect is a person trained and licensed to plan, design, and oversee the construction of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings. In the architectural profession, technical knowledge, management, and an understanding of business are as important as design. While not an official designation, an equine architect is someone who has experience and expertise in designing and building equine facilities.  These can include horse parks, race tracks, show venues and boarding, training and breeding facilities.

The architect hired by a client is responsible for creating a design concept that meets the requirements of that client and provides a facility suitable to the required use. In that, the architect must meet with and question the client [extensively] to ascertain all the requirements and nuances of the planned project. This information, known as a program or brief, is essential to producing a project that meets all the needs and desires of the owner—it is a guide for the architect in creating the design concept.  After a complete and thorough discussion with the client on all of their wants and needs, an architect accepts a commission from a client. The commission might involve preparing feasibility reports, building audits, the design of a building or of several buildings, structures, and the spaces among them.

The architect participates in developing the requirements the client wants in barn and stallsthe building. Throughout the project the architect can co-ordinate all aspects of the design team. This is where an equine architect can be a major help on larger facilities.  They will know who offers the best footing or who is having a sale on stall components.  Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers and other specialists, are hired by the client under the supervision of the architect, who must ensure that the work is coordinated to construct the design in a timely and efficient manner.

Architects can also deal with local and federal jurisdictions about regulations and building codes. The architect might need to comply with local planning and zoning laws, such as required setbacks, height limitations, parking requirements, transparency requirements (windows) and land use. Some established jurisdictions require adherence to design and historic preservation guidelines.

Equine architect John Blackburn of Blackburn Architects, PC explains the difference between a barn builder and an equine architect.  “A design/build contractor is selling a product, not a service, and is not often a trained architect, which limits his or her ability to think creatively outside of the box.  With an equestrian architect, you’re purchasing a service rather than a product. The architect is there to resolve the needs of the owner, from overall site planning, programming, phasing, and design to overseeing the entire construction to make sure the barn is built as intended.”

While hiring an equine architect may seem like just another expense, your equine architect is there to help make your dream come true.

Photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

Getting Back To Work

horse in shavings horseandhoundUKMost likely during winter, your frequency and length of ride time decreased quite a bit.  Now you want to start enjoying longer trail rides or maybe competing in an upcoming show.  This information can help to condition your horse after a lay off.

Just like with human athletes, horses must be conditioned properly when returning to work after a long hiatus. It’s recommend to begin by concentrating on aerobic exercise first.  Start with low intensity exercise preferably in short multiple sets per day. This will help build cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone/ memory while guarding against fatigue of tendons, ligaments, muscle, and joints.  

A good place to start with a horse that has been laid off for 2-3 months would be:

  • A 15 minute walk session – the longer walk warm up gives the horse plenty of time to stretch and get accustomed to the weight of a rider again.
  • A 5 minute uncollected trot set – this allows the horse to build cardiovascular fitness.
  • 10 minute cool down
  • Do once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Five minutes of uncollected trot and the five minute cool down allows the rider ample time to evaluate the horse’s fitness level by measuring the length of time it takes the heart rate to return to an acceptable level.  If the heart rate remains elevated for longer than five minutes after the trot set, decrease the length of the trot to build up fitness. These short sessions limit the wear and tear on the horse and allow for two sessions per day so fitness is increased faster. 

To build up aerobic fitness, the target heart rate is 150 bpm or greater.  Normal resting galloping conditioning HORSECHANNELheart rate of a horse is 32-44 bpm.  Normal heart rates vary between breeds and individuals. Knowing your horse’s normal rate is paramount.  Fitter horses will have lower resting heart rates just like human athletes. Use the values to guide length of trot time during the starting stages of your exercise regimen.  Then gradually add in canter work.

Heart rate response is the most accurate method to determine fitness. Heart rate monitors are commercially available, but can be costly.  Using the help of someone on the ground, your horse’s heart rate can be easily measured. Using an index and third finger, a pulse can be easily felt under the mandible.  Count for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to calculate beats per minute (bpm). Calculations made from counting for only 10-15 seconds produce greater error.  In addition to heart rate, respiratory rate, gum color and texture, presence and amount of sweat, and rectal temperature are all good parameters to measure.

In addition to cardiovascular fitness, it is also important to remember your horse will be building musculoskeletal fitness. Short periods of cyclical loading like multiple short duration sessions of moderate intensity exercise are best.  This type of work reduces the incidence of stress fractures and reduces the strain on boney structures. 

Many veterinarian and trainers are in favor of “two a day” workouts. Short workouts twice a day are great for increasing aerobic fitness quickly while limiting the stress on the musculoskeletal system.  They also allow the horse’s epaxial (back) muscles to get used to carrying an actual load again. Remember over the winter your horse has lost some of his topline. His muscles have changed, check saddle and pad fit carefully. The fit will more than likely change once or twice during all of this conditioning so be prepared to make tack changes as the need arises.

The best advice to equestrians getting back in the tack- BE FLEXIBLE. This is a dynamic process and an individual one. No one horse will regain fitness on the same schedule as the next and no two horses will be starting from the same point.  Show good horsemanship – know your horse and adjust to what he needs. Problems arise when there is poor planning and a cookie cutter agenda.

Photo credit:  HorseChannel, HorseandHound


Horse Tails

grindstone from flyerBraided, bundled, banged or natural.

Go to any horse barn or event and you are likely to see a wide variety of horse tail styles.  Don’t get me wrong – they will all be beautifully cared for.  But, depending on the discipline, you may see them in all shapes and forms.

While the rules for the particular discipline does not include how the tail should look, many of the disciplines have “tradition.”  And many of these traditions are based in practicality.

driving bundle CarriageDriving.netIn polo and occasionally in the marathon (cross country) phase of polo bundled DreamTimecombined driving, you will see horse tails braided bundled up into a fat braid.  This is mostly done for safety.  In combined driving, you have numerous reins as well as traces (the leather lines that connect the horse to the vehicle).  With all the twisting and turning in marathon driving, it could be easy for a tail to get caught in the reins or under a trace, making the horse uncomfortable.   In polo, the braid can help the tail stay out of the way of a swinging polo mallet or a competitor’s face.

dressage LifeLongEquestrianIn dressage, the tails are always long and lush.  It is part of the beauty of the dressage movements.  Did you know that some competitors even use fake tails to get the look?  And, yes, it’s legal for most breed associations.  Check the bottom of tails and you will see that they are cut straight across.  This is called a “banged tail.”  Actually, the bottom is cut on a bit of an angle so that when the horse moves, he lifts his tail and this type of clip will make it look like his tail is cut straight across. And, when the tail hairs are all one length, they are less likely to break off, keeping the tail looking full. 

Some tail styles help show judges select winners.  In hunter shows and in equitation braided HorseChannelclasses, the tail is almost always braided.  This helps the judge see how the horses uses himself on the flat and over fences.  Braiding a horse’s tail is fun for some and a nightmare for others.  If you don’t have the technique or the patience, it’s usually best to hire a professional braider.

When in doubt as to what style your horse’s tail should be, you can’t go wrong with leaving your horse’s tail in its natural shape.  Make sure it’s clean with no tangles or bits of shavings stuck in it.  Neaten up any hairs that really stick out and you’re good to go.

There are lots of tricks to give  your horse a beautiful tail.  Some people buy a “tail bag” and keep the horse’s tail in it to keep it clean and untangled.  Some swear by certain shampoos and conditioners (both made for horses and made for people).  Most will warn you to never brush your horse’s tail – you can break off some of the hairs and get that “punk” look.  If your horse’s tail has tangled, gently use your fingers to pull the tangles apart.  If you do brush, always start at the bottom and get that tangle free before moving up the tail.

Remember, as one of my horse show friends used to say, “It’s not as important to be good as it is to look good.”

Enjoy the “Show” With An Arena Viewing Room

viewing roomA viewing room often acts as the hub of a barn – it’s a place for riders and others to gather and relax while watching friends or family ride. Your viewing room may also double as a lounge or meeting place. Whatever its purpose, these tips for creating an ideal viewing room can ensure that the room is welcoming and functional.

Don’t Underestimate the Room’s Size

When planning out your viewing room, think about the largest events that your farm is likely to host. Will shows be fairly small, or do you anticipate significant attendance? Will you host popular clinicians?

It’s important not to underestimate the size of the viewing room that you will need. It’s best to build a spacious room that can accommodate a large audience. Remember, your viewing room may become the hub for parties and meetings. It never hurts to have extra space.

Select a Floor That Is Easy to Clean

Your viewing room is sure to receive lots of traffic, meaning that you will want a floor that is easy to clean. Wooden flooring offers a luxurious appearance, but it requires upkeep and cleaning to keep it looking great. Laminate flooring designed to resemble wood offers a lower-cost flooring alternative with easier maintenance.

While area rugs can warm up a viewing room considerably, remember that they will need regular vacuuming and cleaning, too. It’s wise to select a darker colored rug, which will not show dirt and stains as readily as a lighter colored rug will. Don’t forget to include doormats at both entrances to the viewing room.

Choose the Glass Carefully

If your viewing room is located at the same level as your indoor equine arena, then it’s vital to carefully choose the glass panels that will be used. You should absolutely install a kickboard, and set the viewing room back from the arena, if possible. Using safety glass can help to minimize the risk of a horse kicking the glass. Lexan is another excellent option.

Include a Small Fridge

Having a fridge – even a small one – in your viewing room will be well appreciated, especially on hot summer days. The fridge can also be used to keep cold packs and cooling vests and wraps at the ready.

Build in Bookcases and Display Areas

No viewing room is complete without some horse books and a place to display trophies and awards. Consider incorporating bookshelves and display areas into the room’s construction for a cohesive and stylish finish.

With a little planning, your viewing room can be a comfortable gathering place in your barn.

Photo credit: Equine Facility Design

5 Things To Know About Arena Footing

arenaNow that winter is over (hopefully), you swore that you are not riding in a muddy arena next year.  Whether you want an indoor or an outdoor arena, it’s the footing that will make or break how good your arena is for you and your horse.  Good footing is important in reducing the risk of lameness as well as optimizing performance.  Constant wear and tear of the joints from bad footing is a leading cause of soft tissue injuries of muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  In addition, a horse that does not feel secure and safe on footing will not feel comfortable jumping or otherwise performing to the best of his ability.   Below are five things you should consider for the best arena footing for your horse.

1. Design for Your Arena Based on Usage

Different types of horse sports may require different sizes and types of arena.  Are you doing some training of young horses?  A round pen may be a necessity.  If you’re a dressage rider, your arena would be a minimum of 20m x 60m.  If you are jumping or holding driving competitions, your arena will be considerably larger.  If your facility will be holding horse shows, you may want to consider extra room for warm-ups or to meet the requirements of your show’s sanctioning organization.

Will your arena be indoor or outdoor?  If outdoor, will it be used in all types of weather or just in the summer?  Will you be using it for lessons where students ride on the rail for much of the lesson, or vaulting where the horse will be working on a consistent circle?  These answers will not only help you design your arena, but will help you determine the best footing for its use.

2. Location, Location, Location

Before you begin any work on your arena, objectively look at your proposed site.  Is it level enough for riding, but with enough slope for water to run off?  Are there any drainage issues, especially during our typical rainy season?  If you anticipate having to water your arena during the summer, is it located near a water source?

Another important factor is to know what type of soil you have.  Different types of soils may determine the type and depth of base you will need as well as the type of footing.  Dig a 4 foot deep hole in your proposed site to get the best idea of what sort of soil you have.  While your soil may appear to be sandy on top, it may actually be heavy clay only a few inches down and that will affect your drainage no matter what type of footing you use.

Finally, when roughing out your arena, consider making the site a little bigger than the actual dimensions of the finished arena, especially if you are using fencing or wish to allow room for horses to warm up around the arena.  For example, for a 20m x 40m dressage arena, the “pad” should be approximately 30m x 50m.

3. Start with a Good Foundation

An often overlooked, but extremely important aspect of good footing is the part you rarely see – the foundation.  This is not the place to cut corners on either time of materials.  According to the U.S. Dressage Federations arena and footing guide, “Under Foot,” your arena foundation ideally should consist of a sub-base (most often the existing soil of the site) and a base (usually made of crushed and compacted stone to produce a solid, non-shifting and non-slippery surface).  The depth of the base is usually determined on how the arena will be used – remember your design plan?  A dressage arena may not have as deep a base as one used for jumping or for heavy use. 

The use of geotextiles, a type of synthetic material available in different thicknesses, is an excellent addition when building your arena.  It goes between the sub-base and the base and improves drainage, prevents soil or rocks from your sub-base from moving up and mixing with your base, and generally protects the sub-base during construction of the base.

Footing is only as good as its base. While you can create an arena with just a base and the riding surface or even with just adding footing alone if finances are an issue, you may end up saving money on the arena only to pay vet bills later.  What’s on top is not nearly as important as what is underneath your riding surface.  

4. Find Your Footing

When selecting the footing surface for the top level of the arena, go back to your arena design and consider how the arena will be used, whether indoor or outdoor or heavy use vs. private barn.  Do you need the traction and cushioning for jumpers or the firm support for dressage horses?

To keep cost down, consider what’s accessible in your area. Both sand and hog fuel are possibilities.  There are also footing options made from rubber.  Crumb rubber is made from recycled tires, but products made from other sources of rubber are also available. Rubber products are typically mixed with sand.  All options have pros and cons depending on your discipline, ease of maintenance, whether for indoor or outdoor use, and cost.  To help eliminate respiratory problems of both horse and rider, good footing should not be dusty or have an odor.   If possible, “test drive” different types of footing – what feels best to you and your horse when you ride on it? 

Always be sure to purchase your arena footing from a knowledgeable and reputable company.  It is best to purchase less footing material than you think you’ll need.  It’s easy enough to add more product, but almost impossible to take out footing if it’s too deep.

5. Maintenance

Now that you’re beautiful arena is complete, it’s important to regularly maintain it so it will last for years to come.  Depending on your type of footing and where you live, routine watering, dragging or harrowing, or applying dust-reducing agents may all be part of your arena’s regular upkeep.  It’s better to head off potential problems by looking for and repairing ruts, holes or uneven areas and slippery spots than to wait until the damage has been done.

Remember to also maintain the area directly outside the arena.  Footing can be pushed outside and this can block drainage.  If you created drainage ditches to help with water runoff, be sure they are kept free of weeds or debris.

If you are still confused about how to build your arena or what sort of footing to use, there are a number of arena consulting firms in our area who specialize in designing arenas or making footing recommendations specifically for your discipline or the area where you ride.


“Underfoot, the USDF Guide to Dressage Arena Construction, Maintenance and Repair” by the United States Dressage Federation

“The Equine Arena Handbook” by Robert Malmgren

“Horse Stable and Riding Arena Design” by Eileen Fabian Wheeler

Photo credit: Classic Equine Equipment

The Scoop on Wood Pelleted Bedding

pelletedFor many years, straw was the preferred bedding for most horse owners.   It was dust free, comfortable and easy to compost.  According to Brett Scott, PhD, extension horse specialist at Texas A&M University, straw also made a good bed because it dried well and stayed fairly clean if manure is picked out often, but it was not as absorbent as some other types of bedding.  And was definitely more labor intensive to maintain.  “It can be difficult to clean; you typically have to remove a large amount to clean out the manure and, thus, end up using more total bedding,” says Scott. Over the years, several other types of stall bedding have been developed, included shavings and, one of the newest, wood pellet bedding.

What are wood bedding pellets?  According to, you can think of wood pellet bedding as a super compressed form of fine wood shavings. These fine fibers are very low in dust, free of allergens, easy to clean and very absorbent. Pellets made of pure soft wood produce only minimal fine, airborne dust or odors that can sometimes come from other products and cause respiratory problems in horses.

Once you have initially laid a stable, the pellets will absorb moisture from the stable environment and develop into soft wood.  Some people add a misting of water after laying the pellets to turn them into soft wood fibers. when the pellets are dampened they expand to several times their original volume. Most companies under rigorous quality controls throughout the manufacturing process to ensure that the bedding you receive is the ultimate dust control, absorbency and durability. Mucking out time is reported to be reduced by as much as ½ when using wood pellet bedding.

There is another reason wood pellet bedding is advantageous over other forms.  It is better for the environment.  Conservation groups like the Alameda County (California) Conservation Partnership believe one of the major benefits of the use of this material is the 40-60% reduction in the quantity of the waste material (soiled bedding) that is generated. Horse waste may be managed at the site, composted, applied to farmland, or unfortunately in some cases, is sometimes merely disposed of in landfills. Using wood bedding pellets enhances compostability which allows a higher proportion of manure to bedding from stall waste in the compost pile. From the perspective of natural resources conservation and environmental stewardship, reducing the volume of waste material is a positive step that horse facilities can take to become “environmentally friendly”.  Horse facility owners are increasingly being asked by local regulatory agencies to develop facility manure management plans in order to get operating permits.

One of the first manufacturers of wood pellet bedding in the Northwest U.S. was Eagle Valley ABM.  Now called Talon ABM, it is still widely available in our area. While how wood pellet bedding is produced may differ by manufacturer, here’s how Talon ABM is made. ABM (Advanced Bedding Management) comes from raw pine material, only sourced from sawmills that cut more than 85-90% pine, with occasional portions of White Fir.   There are no additives or chemicals involved. The product is manufactured from 100% wood. At no point during any part of the process is any other substance, other than clean water, blended in with the raw material. During manufacturing of the product, raw material has essentially been sterilized. Material is dried for up to thirty minutes at a range of 800°F down to 145°F at the conclusion of the drying process. The product is then subjected to approximately 20-30,000 PSI pressure, increasing temperature back up to approximately 200°F prior to cooling to room temperature.  The product is packaged in clear bags so that the quality of the product can be seen.

Nature’s Bedding is also made of pine and provides the same benefits.  They helpfully provided a “how to” for a 12 x 12 stall setup.  Remember that no two animals are the same.  Every animal and their owner are different –experiment to see what works best for you and your animals.


Step 1 – Completely strip the stall

Step 2 – Choose either a Thin or Thick Bedding Preference

  THIN – evenly spread 4-5 bags of NB throughout the stall

  THICK  – evenly spread 6-8 bags of bedding throughout  the stall

Optional step – Some horse owners prefer to lightly mist the pellets with water immediately after spreading – this instantly creates a softer stall.


Step 3 – Rake dry bedding from the perimeter of the stall to the wet/damp areas.  Remove manure from raked areas.

Step 4 – Add additional bedding as necessary.  Adding 1 bag per week is common.

WEEKLY/MONTHLY MAINTENANCE (every 1-4 weeks based on personal preference).

Step 5 – Completely strip the stall and begin the process again.

In conclusion, most users of wood pellet bedding feel it provides the horse a healthier, brighter, cleaner living area.  Its superior moisture absorption controls ammonia and odor.  Ease of manure clean up reduces insect attraction.  Both cost and time to clean/bed stalls is reduced. The environmentally friendly aspect makes waste easier and faster to compost and have removed.

How/When/If You Should Deworm Your Horse

deworming horse 2The controversy with how to deworm, when to deworm and even IF you should deworm has been loud and heated.  The solutions seem to be either overmedicate (and your horse develops a resistance to dewormers) or don’t deworm at all (and take a chance your horse gets infested).  But there IS happy medium.  Here’s how.

The best place to start is with a fecal egg count (FEC) to determine the high, medium and low “shedder” – those horses that seem most prone to worms.  Typically, 80% of horses are responsible for 20% of the parasites. This easy and inexpensive test by your veterinarian on your horse’s manure helps you identify the horses that need the most aggressive treatment, and allows you to save money and the risk of resistance on the others.  Once identified, you and your veterinarian can help map out the best plan for your horse from the different drug classes of dewormers available. 

Next it’s important to give the correct dose by weight. Use a weight tape of necessary to be sure that your horse is getting the right amount. And be sure that your horse is swallowing all the medication.  It’s a good idea to have another fecal egg count done 1-2 weeks after deworming to be sure that the medication is doing its job. If you still see a high egg count, it could mean that your horse is not getting the right dose of medication or that the worms are resistant to it.

But getting your horse the right deworming program is only half the battle.  Changes in pasture management are often also needed management to cut the risks that worms will infect or reinfect your horse.  Strongyle eggs are passed in manure. Larvae hatch in the field and are picked up by grazing horses.

Ways to reduce this risk include picking up manure in paddocks, putting hay/grain in feeders instead of the ground, keeping manure away from water sources, reducing the number of horses grazing in each pasture, rotating and resting pastures every few weeks to interrupt worm life cycles, and drag or harrow pastures in hot, dry weather to break up manure piles to kill eggs and larvae.

Parasites are a herd problem so a good plan covers all the horses on the property, whether that’s your backyard or a large boarding stable. The number and age of the horses, the amount of pasture they have and your geographic location are all factors. Frequent trips to shows and new horses coming onto the property can increase ­exposure risks. All new horses should have a fecal count done upon arrival.

Using this plan can help protect your horses from parasites now by cutting back on overuse of medications and underuse of pasture management.

Photo Credit: Practical Horsemen