Make sure that your paddocks are safe for whatever your horses get up to!
Make sure that your paddocks are safe for whatever your horses get up to!

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s we come out of the chilly winter season, it’s time to start looking forward to the warmer summer season. Summer means sunshine, green grass, much-needed rain, longer days, and more time to ride. With so much to look forward to, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is maintenance around the yard.

If you’ve let the cold winter get the worst of you, and things around the yard are looking a bit tatty and chaotic, now is the time to spring-clean!

Hard work first

Makeshift gates always spells trouble
Makeshift gates always spells trouble

It’s always easiest to start with the hardest work and leave the nitty-gritty for later. With summer on the horizon, your horses are bound to be in higher spirits, and this ultimately spells lots of playing in the paddock. Paddock maintenance is of utmost importance for your horse’s safety. Whether you use post-and-rail or electrical tape to fence off your paddocks, now would be a good time to walk along all the perimeters and make sure that there is no damage to the barriers.

Horses who stand in individual camps next to each other often play over the fence, and this can result in damage to the fencing. Make sure that there are no weak spots, and replace any fencing that is damaged. It’s often a better idea to replace the entire piece of damaged fencing than to try and repair it by tying the broken parts together with string or creating a temporary solution. This can be more costly, but consider the potential danger a ‘quick fix’ poses to the safety of your horse. Pieces of wood sticking out or the use of string and wire to tie broken fencing together can easily result in scratches or a puncture wound. Rather be safe than sorry and fix broken fences properly!

Water sources

The last thing anyone wants to do during winter is play with water, so now is the time to put some elbow grease in and scrub all the algae off your water buckets or troughs. While some algae is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about, it’s important to remember that algae grows much faster in warmer water and can contaminate the water in a few hours. Some types of algae can become toxic and therefore harmful to your horse. While you should be giving your buckets a general wipe-down every week, consider a proper clean with thick-bristled brushes and natural cleaning agents such as apple cider vinegar. Stay away from domestic products such as bleach!

Good grazing

Paddocks should ideally be rotated to optimise grazing
Paddocks should ideally be rotated to optimise grazing

While we know it’s not possible for all yards, paddock rotation is an absolute must for any yard that has the luxury of enough space. Paddock ground often succumbs to overgrazing and natural damage caused by the horses’ footing. While large paddocks can be a luxury to have, they are harder work and must be carefully watched for your horses’ sake. As we move into summer, be cautious of any weeds or harmful plants that may start cropping up. If you are concerned about the natural vegetation in your paddocks, or if you would like to look into growing better grass for your horses, consult a specialist who will be able to best advise you about your options.

Latches and bolts

Gate latches and stable bolts can easily be damaged. Walk into any South African livery yard and you will almost always come across at least one makeshift paddock and stable lock. Baling twine seems to be everyone’s best friend when it comes to a temporary solution, but don’t forget that our horses can be escape artists, and the last thing anyone wants is a horse on the loose!

Safe stables

Whether you have brick or wooden stables, it’s important that these are checked on a daily basis and not only when it’s time to spring-clean. Horses can spend a lot of time unsupervised in their stable, and no one wants to wake up to an injured horse in the morning.

Make sure that the stable walls are intact and secure. While wooden stables are designed to be secure, they certainly aren’t indestructible. A horse who likes to kick his stable will gradually weaken the wood, and it can eventually give in and break. Holes in the wall should be repaired immediately. Older style wooden stables that are constructed with wooden planks can easily be kicked out in comparison with wooden panels. Heading into summer is a good time to do a full bedding removal and thoroughly clean the base of the stable.

Tack rooms

A chaotic tackroom is every yard owner's worst nightmare
A chaotic tackroom is every yard owner’s worst nightmare

If there’s one thing that is any yard owner’s pet hate, it’s a chaotic tack room. Each horse should have his own saddle and bridle rack that is clearly marked – especially in a livery yard. Most livery yards allocate clients a space in the tack room for their box, in which boots, blankets, cleaning products and other tack items are stored.

Tack rooms should always have good lighting and be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the build-up of dust and dirt. Now is a good time to clear out the tack room and do a good scrubbing of the walls and floors. It’s a good idea to invest in a plastic or wire drawer set in which you can store items according to category. For example, you can allocate a drawer for lost items, first aid supplies, bridle pieces (such as loose nosebands or cheekpieces), bits, and tack cleaning products (such as saddle soap and sponges).

The full article appears in the September issue (114) of HQ