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Hi Cherry,

We moved with our ponies onto a five acre hobby farm which was previously a dairy operation.  There is a large cement yard around the barns causing a lot of wasted space. It would be a perfect winter/sacrifice area for spring though, the barn shelters the north and west sides. I was wondering if there would be anyway to cover this? A base layer of gravel with sand on top? How deep? Ripping it out is not an option, and I don’t like the idea of horses on concrete.  Wondering if you have any suggestions? Thanks,

Allison

Hi Allison,

Well of course I have to go on the record that my suggestion would be removing the concrete but I realize the effort, expense it would take and that you said removal is not an option.

By the way, what you have are concrete pads, not cement. Concrete is comprised of cement (a fine powder), aggregate (sand, stones) and water. It is sometimes reinforced with steel mesh or bars (rebar). When concrete is poured it is agitated and worked so the large pieces of aggregate settle somewhat leaving a sand/cement mixture on top to form a smooth surface. Concrete is one of man’s most durable building materials and it can be a major undertaking to remove it, especially if it is reinforced with steel.

So here are some other things you probably have already considered or have even done by now.

Using the concrete as is for eating areas would be OK, but if the ponies would also be required to use them as loafing areas, standing for long periods of time and/or laying down or rolling, then concrete pads would not be good for the long term for obvious reasons of abrasion and discomfort. However, concrete covered with rubber mats might make a super nice feeding area which would be more comfortable than bare concrete and easy to keep sanitary (as long as the ponies don’t urinate there).

If the areas will be used for loafing, then covering the concrete pads with rubber mats or rolled rubber flooring could work. Another option would be covering the concrete with road base, which is a mixture of gravel and dirt and then a layer of a well-draining fine gravel such as decomposed granite (which is what I would use here in the western US) could work.  Note that if your ponies use the area as a toilet (which they most likely will do) then you will have to diligently manage moisture, odor and sanitation. With a situation like this, whether it is in stalls or outdoor pads, you should plan on an annual overhaul. Perhaps this is something you can do if you only use it seasonally.

You asked about gravel and sand. Gravel on concrete could be like walking on ball bearings and would be tough on hooves and not much more comfortable than plain concrete. It would allow somewhat for drainage of urine, especially if the pads are sloped away from the barn which I imagine they are.

Sand is also a risky choice if the area would be a place you would feed the ponies as sand colic would be a problem if they ingested sand with any hay that fell out of their feeders, for example.

No easy answer. Please reply to this blog and let us know what you have done or are planning to try.

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We did a fire extinguisher inventory this week on our home, offices, barn and all ranch outbuildings and replaced or recharged 4 units.

Check the gauge annually to be sure the fire extinguisher is properly charged.

This should be an annual event, so here’s a reminder for you to put it on one of your TO-DO lists.

To view a video clip on how to choose a fire extinguisher, go here and choose the 4th video clip in the left hand column.

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Our barn needs a new ceiling. It’s currently very old foamboard which is covered in mildew and mold. We need a material that will breathe and will be light reflective. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated by us and the horses. Thank you! Sherri

Hi Sherri,

I don’t know of a material for your application that would be both breathable and light reflective. I would suggest a polyiso material with white reflective surface for the ceiling surface. To dissipate the moisture produced by keeping horses in the barn you’ll need to install a sufficient number and size of vents in the walls, ceiling and roof.

Here is a link to a polyiso product.

Polyiso is made of a polyisocyanurate foam core faced with 1.25 mil embossed white acrylic-coated aluminum on one side and 1 mil smooth aluminum on the other. It is installed with the embossed white surface facing into the barn.

We cover ventilation requirements and suggestions in our book Horse Housing and in our DVD Your Horse Barn.

Good Luck!
Richard Klimesh

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I am hoping to connect with Cherry Hill about the definition of the basic keeping of horses.  I live in Massachusetts and recently purchased a 12+ acre parcel for the purpose of building a barn and both indoor and outdoor riding rings.  We are living on the property.  I have obtained my Animal Keeping Permit and Building Permit from the Town.

One of the abutters in not pleased with the prospect of my project and is objecting through various means.  I am trying to connect with experts in the care and keeping of horses to help confirm that horses are “kept” in stables/barns and paddocks (turnout) and the indoor riding ring is not where horses are “kept”.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

Regards, Lisa


Hi Lisa,

The definition of horsekeeping, I’m afraid, has about as many definitions as there are horsekeepers ! It can range from a bare bones dirt lot to deluxe accommodations and hand-on care. Sadly some poor horsekeeers do make a bad impression on non-horse people and it is no wonder why problems arise.

Responsible, conscientous, mindful horsekeeping does indeed include barns, pens, paddocks, turnout areas and daily care. However, many times when time and money constraints arise, horsekeepers cut corners and those shortcuts can result in unsightly changes to the property and possible sanitation and health issues for neighbors.

In terms of a legal definition, I’ve been contacted over the years by various townships, cities, and counties as they try to establish legal parameters for keeping horses. Number of horses per acre, types of fencing, the distance buildings and horses must be from adjacent properties, fugitive dust that is churned up in paddocks and outdoor arenas and much much more.

Each locale has its own laws and wording so it would be best for you to work your appeal within the wording of your specific laws. Stating things appropriately for Larimer County Colorado for example might be inappropriate for your location and  might cause an unintended issue to arise. 

If you care to write more specifics, please feel free. In the meantime, be sure to use my book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage as a reference guide. And browse the articles on my website horsekeeping.com

Best of luck,


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Help!  I have a wonderful 5 yr old QH mare that started stall kicking before feeding time and now pins her ears and bites at the stall wall while eating her grain or hay.  She is destroying the stall bit by bit.  We tried kicking chains to no avail.  Now we are using a horseshoe around her heel  and it seems to be working. However, she is still bodyslamming into the wall and pinning and biting the wall while eating.  We have no idea why she is doing this or what is causing her to be so nervous.  We purchased her in May and this didn’t begin until mid July, while we were away on vacation.  She has been treated for a capped hock numerous times and I don’t want this to get worse.  I had my trainer take her for a week and the kicking stopped.  Now that she is back in our barn it has begun again.  I have also talked with my farrier.  I need help as we love her dearly and don’t want her lame.  Unfortunately, we are stuck using our neighborhood barn and can’t really change her schedule.
She goes out at 7:30 am after feeding, to her paddock.  we bring her in at dinnertime and she stays in her stall at night. She is ridden by my 10 year old daughter and myself.  She gets 2 days off a week as be both take a lesson as well.  I would appreciate any guidance you could give.  Sincerely, Kim

Dear Kim,

Behavior such as you describe can have a variety of causes. Some are physical factors which you should discuss with your veterinarian. Others could be more psychological which can be modified with management and training. Observation and figuring out the cause is the first step.

Physical causes could include hormones and eating discomfort.

Mares can be “nervous” as you say, but usually only during certain times of their estrous cycle, so if this happens all the time year round, then hormones are probably not part of the cause.

If a horse is uncomfortable when eating, anywhere along the digestive tract from the teeth to the esophagus to the stomach to the intestines, the horse might exhibit odd body movements.

The most likely psychological explanation would be that it is an exhibition of “pecking order” behavior. At your “neighborhood” barn, if there is a horse in the next stall, your mare could be reacting to that horse’s presence. When eating, she might exhibit aggressive behavior on the stall wall with biting and body slamming to communicate to her next door neighbor – stay away, this feed is mine.

When at the trainer’s the behavior might have disappeared because there was no horse in the next stall or the horse next door was not a threat.

When working on changing a horse’s behavior, always start with the obvious things first:

Check to be sure the feed ration is appropriate

Make sure the horse is receiving adequate exercise and turnout time

Make sure the horse has no health issues such as dental problems, intestinal discomfort and the like.

Change the horse’s companions and neighbors to see if that is changes the behavior.


Best of luck and let me know what you observe and determine!

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I’m thinking of constructing a “natural” horse run-in shelter, like by building an earth shelter or 3-sided “shed” with dirt vs a wood barn. Any thoughts or experience?

Andrea

Hi Andrea,

I’m sorry to say I have no experience in earth shelters for horses but am posting this in case one of the readers of this blog or my Facebook page might have some information that might be helpful for you.

If you decide to go with a conventional horse shed or barn, be sure to consult the following publications:

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage

Horse Housing

Your Horse Barn DVD

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Hi Cherry,
I have an quarter horse mare that I just bought she is the sweetest thing in the world, she is at the stables where I keep my other horse the owner sold us the other too and perfectly healthy,my quarter I was testing her and noticed that her thighs and back legs are very swollen I know for an fact that she has not been out for one month so due of being in her stall for so long I am pretty sure that is the problem. Also when I made her trot she was limping but her hoofs are very long and broken that will be fixed this week. I will exercise her every day  and i massage her legs, someone said that it never goes away I am not sure about that. It is cold now and the barn is not heated so I do not want to put cold water on her legs can I do cold compresses and the then wipe her dry?
When she walks she does not limp only when she trots what are your suggestions on that?
I just want to know if this stays for the rest of her life or with exercise and taking her out it will go away she is not in pain
Thank you so much
Monika

Hi Monika,

There was a salty and sweet vet that I worked with once that used to look at a horse like yours and say, “All she needs is fresh air and exercise.”

A horse that has not been out of her stall for a month will “stock up” which is a horseman’s way of saying “swell in the legs”. Some horses stock up if they don’t receive daily exercise. All horses should have either free daily exercise (turnout in a large area where they can run and buck and roll) or daily exercise such as longeing or riding.

But before you even think about exercising the horse, she needs hoof care. All horses should have their hooves attended to (trimmed or shod) every 6-8 weeks. When a horse’s hooves have become so long as to begin cracking and breaking off, it is way past due for the horse to have farrier care.

When a horse limps at the trot, that means the horse IS in pain – it hurts to put its weight on that hoof or limb.

So my suggestions are to get the horse hoof care immediately, keep her on a 6-8 week hoof care program per your farrier’s recommendation and exercise her daily.

Then your sweet horse will be comfortable and will last you a lot longer.

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