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Posts that talk about the barn.

Stall door protection concept – improved

Stall door protection concept – improved

Stall Door Guard
Angled aluminum attached to a stall door protects it from wood-chewing horses

Four years ago we had a problem with Moonshine cribbing. Her bad habit was destroying the wood on her stall doors so I got an idea to cover the wood. This worked initially (see part 2) but eventually a tear developed in the thin aluminum and I worried about her cutting her tongue or face on the sharp metal. Other than that, the concept worked. To improve on the aluminum design, I needed something that would cover the affected area and hold up to a horse frequently licking it and occasionally biting it. While scanning the fabrication aisle at Home Depot, I came across a section of thicker, angled aluminum wide enough to cover the inside top of the stall door. I removed the old, thin aluminum section, clamped the new angled piece in place and drilled holes every foot. I then screwed the new section in place and made sure all edges were smooth. I’m a little behind on posting about this but the benefit of that is that I now know if this solution works. I’m happy to report that after a year of Moonshine licking and biting that stall door the new section is still in place, there are no sharp pieces or tears and Moonshine hasn’t suffered any injury. Total investment was about $8 and a half hour of time. Now that winter has returned and the horses are spending more time in the barn, I plan on adding this protection bar on the other stall door (each outside stall has two doors) and even though our other horses aren’t big wood chewers, I’d like the whole barn to match. The horses that occupied the barn before we moved here wore the stall door tops down so I’ll need to replace those but hopefully this will be the last time.

If you let it go, horses who chew wood can do a lot of damage. Here are a few pictures I took at an historic barn at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina showing extensive damage to a stall door top and on the walls.

Biltmore Estate horse stall door damage

Biltmore Estate horse stall damage

Do you have a wood chewer/cribber? What works for you?

Part 1 – Protecting Wooden Stall Doors
Part 2 – Stall door protection concept – 6 months later
Part 3 – Stall door protection concept – improved (this post)


The case of the missing horse hide

The case of the missing horse hide

It looks worse here than it does in person. It's not a deep wound.

When you become a horse owner, you quickly learn that one of the hats you’ll be wearing is that of a detective. How did my horse get out of his stall? Where is my horse’s fly mask? How did my horse end up in the next stall over with another horse? And sometimes, where did that gash come from? All of our horses at one point or another came back to the barn with some kind of wound that left us wondering how it happened. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to see them at least once a day, at feeding time or bringing them into the barn for the night. Even so, this morning while heading to Romeo’s stall to let him out of the barn for the day, I gasped enough to make him jump. The poor thing is missing a pretty big piece of skin on his forehead and also under his chin. First thing is first – treating the wound. It wasn’t bleeding much but it was dirty, probably from rolling or maybe just from dust. So we gently placed a halter on him and brought him out to the center aisle of the barn where we have cross ties. If you don’t have these in your barn, I strongly suggest adding them. Cross ties are simple two long ties (straps or rope) with quick-release latches that meet the horse in the middle in a way that keeps the horse from being able to move from side to side or even back to front very much. More about that in another post. So we cross tied Romeo and Mikki cleaned the wound with some antibacterial scrub. Romeo was a trooper, though he clearly didn’t care for it much. It probably stung. Then she dressed it with ichthammol, an thick antiseptic salve that does a good job of treating and protecting light wounds from getting dirty and infected. You really need to have a small tub of it around at all times. A few “good boy” treats and off he went to find new trouble.

So next up comes the detective work. As responsible horse owners, we must try to figure out what caused this problem. I realize horses seem to spend their lives trying to find new ways to kill themselves; they’re mischievous, it’s true. But we have to keep trying to avert disasters of all sizes. So we run down a list of suspects:

  • Something in his stall. Nails, gate bungs, etc.
  • Barbed wire fence. We still have some that needs replacing.
  • Pine trees. A large one has fallen in the pasture and needs removing.
  • Horse fight. Not likely, given the length and shape.
  • Old barn or fence. Sometimes used as a scratching post.

So we start in the barn. Romeo’s stall has a large gate so we checked for sharp bungs or edges and found none. I remembered taking photos of Romeo the day before and discovered this very same wound on him then, though for some reason it didn’t stand out then. So it may not have happened in his stall which leaves 7 acres or so of partially wooded property to review.

I’ll make a long story short by saying that we haven’t yet found out what caused the wound but some quick checking didn’t reveal any stand outs. My guess is that he really wanted a piece of grass that was hard to get to and scraped his head on some old barbed wire (which we really have to replace with something more horse friendly) or around a fallen pine tree that came down in a recent storm. But the fact remains that the case is still open and our detective skills, better with time and experience, are called upon often to solve horse mysteries like this.

What kind of mysteries do you have to solve that require your horse detective hat?

Do you think this hurt?

Do you think this hurt?

I came across this scene when checking Moonshine’s water recently. It’s so much tail hair that it took me a few seconds to realize what must have happened. Horses this time of year really swish their tails around to keep the flying insects away. Moonshine must have been a little too close to her water bucket this time and when she pull away, the tail hair got stuck under the hanger. What happened next, I can only guess. Either she panicked and it happened fast or it happened slowly. I’m not sure which would be more painful but I would bet pulling this much hair out of your tail hurts either way. Ouch!

Horses and chickens living together

Horses and chickens living together

One of the things I neglected to mention about our daily summer routine is leaving the stall doors open. The main reason for doing this is so our free range chickens can feast on the bugs that lurk beneath all that fertile ground. We’ve had chickens for a few years now and have found them completely compatible with horse life. In all the time we’ve never had problems with them not getting along. For the most part our chickens and horses don’t spend a lot of time together. Horses have the night shift in the barn and chickens have the day shift. Every once in a while a chicken will still be in a stall when a horse goes in. This results in either a lot of squawking, followed by a chicken flying out of the stall on its own (they can actually fly a little) or the chicken just hangs out scratching around the stall, peacefully coexisting with a horse until it’s done munching bugs.

They do an amazing job of keeping bugs down all around our place and keep the stalls from getting too compacted by using their large, strong feet and claws to scratch several inches of dirt. They’re especially good at digging around the edges. That must be where the good bugs are. When they start digging too far down around the foundation of a support beam, we just push dirt back with our boots.

Putting out hay takes a little more time. Although our chickens have a regular roosting spot and house (a moveable one we built called a chicken tractor), sometimes one is missing for a few days. When we put hay out we usually find the reason she was missing. Apparently hay makes a great nest! We just need to be careful we don’t squish any eggs when we’re moving bales.

So if you’re considering chickens, chances are they’ll be compatible with your horses. They’re a lot of fun to have around and it’s nice having a regular supply of fresh eggs. We’ve found ours to be winter-hardy here in east Tennessee as long as we provide a regular source of food and water and ample bedding. And you don’t need a rooster unless you want baby chicks.

Do you have chickens around your horses?

Our current Summer horse routine

Our current Summer horse routine

Cash with a grazing muzzle

Fat horses have motivated us to shift our summertime horse routine. Since Cash foundered last month, we noticed all of our horses were on the heavy side. It’s been very hot and humid so they’re not getting much exercise. We didn’t want to put grazing muzzles on all of them. Our solution has been to put them into the barn at night to reduce access to hay and grass. A nice side benefit is that we’re sure to see them twice a day to check for irregularities.

So an average day looks like this: 

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So Long to Our First Barn Dog

So Long to Our First Barn Dog

On Monday, we had to say goodbye to Jack, our loyal Jack Russell terrier.  My parents and I bought him as a birthday gift for Bill in 1998.  He was, as we liked to fondly call him, “the worst birthday present ever.”  Being a Jack Russell, he liked to bark at anything and everything.  To be expected, but so annoying!  As a bonus, for his first few months with us, he peed in the house and would not stop, culminating with an incident during a move from one house to another when he peed on our bed right before we fell into it, exhausted. Believe it or not, he survived that night, and that was the last time he ever peed in the house until his final illness.

He turned into a pretty good dog, though, and we loved him a lot.  He was our only dog when we moved here to Tennessee in 2005.  He adapted from city dog to farm dog quite well – he LOVED it here.  His favorite place, other than on the couch in the air-conditioned house, was the barn.  He had a thing for horse apples and hoof trimmings.

Last January we took him to the vet because we were afraid the Buddha belly he’d developed was more than just fat.  Alas, we were right.  It was fluid buildup due to liver failure.  The vet thought he probably had liver cancer.  We started him on diuretic medication to make him more comfortable and began to wait for the inevitable.

A year later, he was still plugging along, but he had developed diarrhea and started peeing in the house.  Took him back to the vet and discovered that he was now also in kidney failure.  We put him on SQ fluids and a special diet and waited for the inevitable.

The diuretic stopped working a couple of months later so we stopped giving it.  His breathing got to be more labored but the tough little dog hung in there.  He started having problems eating too, and after a really tough couple of weeks, he virtually stopped eating altogether last week.  We reluctantly agreed that the time had come.  So on Monday, July 25, we had to say goodbye for good.  Jack was 14 years old and we’d had him for more than 13 years.  Wow, was that hard.  Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any easier.

RIP little Jack buddy.  We’ll miss you.

Keeping Barn Plants Alive

Keeping Barn Plants Alive

Currently living barn fernsIn our travels we’ve seen some pretty fancy barns. We’re not rich so we can’t afford a landscaping staff to decorate and care for our barn plants like the beautiful Biltmore Mansion stables, for example. But as soon as the weather warms enough to stop threatening frost, I look for ways to liven up the place. Last year I added simple black metal hangers from our barn posts and bought some ferns. This may sound weird but I saw something similar on the porch of a funeral home and I liked how it looked. But I have a poor history with plants. Some colorblindness prevents me from easily telling the difference between green and brown. Unless something is shriveled up, I’m likely to keep watering it, wondering why it doesn’t grow or flower again. I also tend to have trouble with how often to water plants so I either over or under water. Ferns looked hardy. After all, they grow wild in the woods with no one to water them. How hard could it be? But a month into my barn beautification experiment I was reminded why I wasn’t a horticulturist. I might not have been able to tell if they were brown or green but those suckers looked dead to me. Unfazed by my plant failures from last year, I invested in some new ferns this year and I think I may have figured out the secret. Each day when I let the horses in, I water the ferns. Since they’re in hanging baskets, they seem to dry out quickly. And judging from the moist environment in the mountains where ferns thrive, I’m guessing the container-bound ferns prefer to be moist as well. I judge how much water to give them by sensing the weight empty versus wet. I’ve gone as long as a single day without watering without trouble. It’s extra work but the results are worth it to me. I’m going to have to find someone to water my plants when we go on vacation.

I learned one important lesson that in retrospect should have been obvious. Do not put a plant within reach of horses. Remember, they have long necks! Last year Moonshine ate the fern on the pole nearest the pasture.

I’d love to hear how you decorate your barn with plants or flowers in the warmer months. Any green thumbs out there? In the meantime, maybe someone can tell me if the ferns in the picture are green or brown. 🙂