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Keep Your Horses Safe Around the Farm

One of the disappointing things I've seen at many horse farms I've visited are clutter and safety hazards. I see debris, leftover or unfinished projects, old boards, often with nails protruding, hulks of old cars, trucks, tractors, bicycles, hay bail twine — you name it. I'm not sure why these items are left around; they're not only unsightly, they're also dangerous, especially if in areas accessible by horses.

Horses can get scrapes, contusions, punctures, and other injuries, as well as infections, by brushing against or actually hard-bumping wood and metal items. Many wood and metal items have sharp edges, or protruding items, like nails, screws, hinges, torn metal, the sides of sheet metal, blades of garden plows, tillers, harrows, snow plows, augers, mowers, bailers, and most other farming or field maintenance equipment. And bail twine is often picked up with hay or grass and sometimes chewed and swallowed. It also presents a restraining/tripping hazard if a horse's legs get caught in it. And as anyone who's been around horses knows, they WILL get into occasional trouble — why help them get hurt?

If you own a farm, whether private or a boarding facility, and any of the foregoing sounds uncomfortably familiar, there's no doubt that cleanup could be a big job. Depending how long the clutter problem has been growing and how long you've ignored it, it could be a one-day work session or could last several weeks. But if you never get to it, it'll never go away. However, once you do, maintaining a clean and safer property is much easier because you just properly dispose of small amounts of debris as you go rather than abandoning it every day.

The first problem you should "attack" is all forms of exposed, sharp objects. Often, these are nails in fencing that are too long and stick out the back side. Take a hammer and a pair each of cutters and pliers, and walk around inspecting your property, cutting off or pounding down exposed nails as you go. If the head is sticking out a little, pound it flat. Then, pound the nail over sideways and pound that flush into the surface, or better yet, cut it flush — you don't want something that horses can slam against and puncture or tear their flesh.

Do this examination and repair around both sides of all fencing, on all sides of buildings, and on any other structures and poles that are on your property. When installing new fences or structures, purchase nails or screws that are the proper length to secure the boards, but not so long that they protrude through the back side — there is no strength gained from the ends of nails or screws sticking out into the air. But SOME PEOPLE must believe it does, because I've seen this far too many times. I'll need to talk to them about the fallacy of "air friction" holding in static objects, like nails, for example.

Next, remove all debris and "junks" from your property — why have they been left there in the first place? Besides the danger they present, they're also unsightly and you'll be amazed at how much better your property looks. In fact, I guarantee you'll go out at least several times after the cleanup just because it'll feel so good looking around your now beautiful property and knowing it's ALL YOURS.

Then, pick up all the bailing twine lying on the ground, especially at outdoor feeding areas into which many farm owners just throw bails. Twine pickup won't take you long, even if there's a lot of it. Carry a pail with you or use a wheelbarrow (for really big jobs). One person picking up twine for just 20 minutes will clean up a huge area — it's just not a big job, but looks much better and is safer.

Once you've performed this cleanup, maintain it. Just consciously putting items away and putting trash into proper receptacles as you go is a minor inconvenience that will keep your clean farm looking very appealing.

Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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