Safety Tips for Your Horse


barn safety

We all want to keep ourselves and our horses as safe as possible. Think you’re up-to-date on all the safety measures? Check out our list of safety tips!

In the barn

•    Horses are curious and like to check out new things, so keep all chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, paints and medications securely locked in a storage room or cabinet.

•    Ensure barn doors and aisles are unobstructed and there are no projections that could injure you or your equine partner.

•    Tack, brooms, forks, shovels, wheelbarrows and other equipment and tools should stored in their own space away from your horses. Tack rooms should be large enough to safely and conveniently store all your gear, without clutter.

•    Keep flooring surfaces clean, level, and free of ropes, halters and other equipment, and make sure the surface provides adequate traction to prevent slippage and falls, and don’t leave ropes or halters. Consider slip resistant flooring if necessary.

•    If you have stalls for washing and grooming, they should be well lit and have crossties with safety release snaps to secure the horse. They should also be equipped with adequate drainage and ventilation. Keep these areas clean and neat.

•    Double check that all water sources inside the barn are properly grounded. Electrical outlets in wash stalls or other areas where water is used should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters.

•    It should go without saying that working fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system are musts in the barn.

•    Both the interior and exterior of the barn should be amply illuminated with UL or CSA approved lighting. All wiring and switches needs to be encased in weather proof metal boxes and metal conduit, while light fixtures should be protected with heavy duty screening wire.

•    Consider motion detector lights outside the barn to warn of potential intruders, or even a closed circuit video monitoring/security system.

•    Store hay away from sources of heat and electricity. In fact, it’s wise to keep all combustible material in a separate storage building away from horses, and keep a fire extinguisher there.

•    If your barn has a hayloft, ensure the ladder or stairs have handrails that are firmly secured and in good condition. Rails should also be installed around the loft area. All stall doors and latches should open easily.

•    Get rodent and weatherproof containers to store feed, grain, and treats in. Take further steps to rodent proof the barn by trimming trees, weeds and grass near the barn.

•    Are there any areas where moisture collects and puddles? Consider installing rain gutters and downspouts if you haven’t already.

•    Disposing of garbage promptly helps prevent rodents and reduce the risk of fire. Have several garbage cans or bins both inside and outside the barn.

•    Use safety glass or Plexiglas covered with metal screening or steel bars in stall windows.

•    Do regular safety checks of your barn, stalls and other outbuildings. Look for things like loose or protruding nails, splintered boards, curled stall mats, broken latches, etc.

•    Carry a cell phone on you at all times when you are at the barn, and have emergency numbers programmed into it.

•    Keep a close eye on any children or dogs around the horses.

•    Inside or outside the barn, stay aware when handling your horse. Lead him from the side, not in front. Do not walk directly behind him or under his neck. Make sure you let the horse know where you are at all times so you do not surprise him, and pay attention to how he is reacting to things.

While riding

•    Before hitting the trail, makes sure you’re riding a horse that’s suited to your skill and experience, and that you always can maintain control of.

•    Regardless of your expertise, always wear a helmet.

•    Ride with a friend whenever possible. If you’re riding alone, let someone at home know your trail route, and give them your cell phone number and the time you expect to be back.

•    Carry your cell phone on your person. Do not pack it on your horse, as it will be useless to you if you fall off and your horse runs away, or you can’t get up.

•    Bring along emergency reins and a GPS.

•    If you’re riding with a group of people at different skill levels, stick to the speed of the least experienced rider and maintain a safe distance between horses.

•    Make sure all your gear is in good shape before heading out on the trail.

•    Be smart and wear your safety gear, including your helmet and proper riding boots (a one inch heel is recommended for stability in the stirrups). Additional gear could include reflective wear for riding on the trails/roads and/or a safety vest.

•    Check out the weather forecast, and avoid riding if storms are imminent.

•    Bring water – for you and your horse.

•    Take along a basic first aid kit in your saddlebag.

•    Stick to marked trails; you don’t know what obstacles or hazards you might encounter in unknown areas.

Trailering tips

•    Make sure your trailer has brakes and that they meet state or provincial regulations. Electric brakes are the most common and more widely accepted than the hydraulic variety. In the U.S., two wheel brakes are required on trailers over 3,000 pounds in 31 states, while 11 states requires brakes on both axles.

•    A breakaway brake is not always required, depending on where you live, but it’s still a wise idea. Located on the coupler of the trailer, it activates the trailer brakes if the trailer happens to separate from your vehicle. It must have a fully charged battery that will engage the brakes for 15 minutes.

•    All U.S. states either require or recommend safety chains on your trailer, whether it’s a tagalong or gooseneck type.

•    If you’re transporting one horse in a two-horse trailer, put him on the left side. This might seem less safe, but because most roads are higher in the middle, having the weight on the driver’s side will help keep your trailer more stable. It follows that if you’re traveling with two horses, your should put the heaviest one on the left.

•    Before heading out, check everything over carefully. Inspect the trailer hitch, ensure ramps are up and doors securely closed, and that your horses are tied.

•    If you’re traveling a long distance, stop every five hours or so, depending the weather, and give your horse a break.

•    Make sure your horse has water in the trailer, and check the levels every time you stop.

•    Your horse should be tied so that he can comfortably lower his head.

•    Consider a trailer with a fiberglass roof. This material doesn’t form sharp edges if it tears and because it doesn’t conduct heat, it keeps temperatures inside the trailer more comfortable in warm weather. It can also be easily broken if you have an accident, the trailer flips on its side, and you need to get your horse out. Make sure, however, that the roof has a strong frame molded into the fiberglass.

•    When buying a new trailer, make sure it’s large enough to comfortably accommodate your equine partner. Horses don’t like being in enclosed spaces, so it’s important that the trailer has adequate space, light and ventilation. Your horse should have enough room to move his legs back and forth to keep his balance while the trailer is moving. Horses that stand more than 15.3h need 7’ of stall length and 3’ of headroom.

•    Consider a trailer that combines a variety of materials, rather than one that’s all steel or all aluminum. A hybrid trailer uses steel for the frame and chassis and aluminum or fiberglass for the parts that don’t get as stressed. This helps reduce the overall weight of the trailer without compromising on strength and safety.

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