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Horses Grazing in Pasture
Heading to the Rodeo!
Horses Behind Fence
There are a variety of educational publications to learn more about horses and/or
programs within the Arkansas 4-H Horse Program as well as the Extension Horse Program.
Click on the links below to access and download publications.
For information related to 4-H Horse Competitions, please visit the 4-H Plant and Animal Science page or contact your local county agent.
There are a variety of career paths for those interested in working in the Equine
Industry. One of the best qualities of working in the Equine Industry is that fact
that any person of any age can find some type of work associated within our industry.
With these options, decisions should be made regarding what level of commitment one
is willing to invest in a certain opportunity. For example, being a horse trainer
or owning a boarding facility isn’t a 9-5 job Monday – Friday. For most folks in those
occupations, it’s more than just a job or even a career; it’s a way of life and most
wouldn’t trade what they do for anything. However, there are many other options for
those that may not want to go into training or boarding. But no matter the occupation,
one should consider following questions outlined by Dr. Rick Parker from the College
of Southern Idaho:
The equine industry can be a very enjoyable and rewarding career path. A keen eye
for business and a well laid plan cannot be overstated.
As hay supplies dwindle over the next few months and the uncertainty of feed prices
continue to exist, horse prices may continue to be low for some horses. Of course,
the talented horse with ability will continue to sell well, but there are always those
horses that make buying a huge temptation due to their low price. Even as a veteran
buyer or novice, there are some items to consider making that purchase:
One of the things that I have noticed in agriculture news lately is the unfortunate
occurrence of barn fires across the country. While barn fires are probably never 100%
preventable, there are some things that we can do as horse owners that may prevent
this disaster, or at the very least minimize the damage and loss of horses. While
doing some research in the area of barn fires, I came across some information I found
valuable, yet simple enough that it could be done quickly to ensure my barn was up
to date on fire prevention.
At the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, Rebecca Gimenez,
Ph.D. stated that barn fires kill more horses annually than any other type of nonmedical
emergency. Of 11,500 agricultural storage facility fires per year, 88% are barns or
stables with animals. This results in $250 million in property losses each year. In
87 horse-barn fires incidents reported in 2006 and 2007, 461 horses died and an unknown
number were injured. Like most tragedies, I never think that it could happen to me.
Thus, I don’t take near as much precaution as I should when it comes to protecting
my horses in the event of a barn fire. After much research on the topic, I was able
to put together as list of pre-cautions/actions horse owners can take to help prevent
What is the evacuation plan for every horse and person from the facility? Have you laid out an evacuation plan and discussed with your family and employees?
Horses are known to run back into a barn fire, so simply opening the door is not enough
to ensure they will escape. A halter and lead rope should hang on each door so that
it is easily accessible and can be placed on the horse and led out quickly. Stalls
and barn doors should remain unlocked at all times. Stall and barn doors should also
be clear of any objects that may slow down the evacuation process.
Store hay, shavings, cleaning products, and other combustibles away from the bard.
These items will help the fire spread quickly and increase the temperature of the
fire exponentially. Keep only a small amount in the barn and replenish as needed.
If they are to be kept in the barn, cleaning products, oil, and alcohol should be
kept in steel boxes.
Minimize human error. Keep “No Smoking” signs visible around and inside barn and demand that there be no
smoking in the barn. Also, exercise extreme caution when using welders or cutting
torches. The sparks from these items or from cigarettes are enough to ignite a fire.
Vehicles should be parked away from the barn. The heat from exhaust pipes have been
known to start hay stacks on fire. Furthermore, have an electrician make frequent
visits to the barn to check the wiring system for aging and rodent damage. If possible,
cut off electricity to the barn if no one is home or around the barn.
Keep appliances to a minimum. Avoid using space heaters or radios that are not battery operated. Overloaded circuits
can lead to wires becoming hot and reaching ignition levels. Keep light bulbs caged
and switches covered.
Install lightning rods at the highest point of the barn. Lightning rods on rooftop high points are connected by cables that run to ground
to divert the energy of a strike away from the structure itself. Some barn owners
choose not to use lightning rods, mistakenly believing that they attract lightning,
but the devices simply conduct lightning that would have hit a structure anyway.
Guard against spontaneous combustions. Avoid leaving manure piles and insufficiently cured hay around the barn. Because there’s
no ventilation in damp hay, the heat thrown off by the process builds until the ignition
point for the drier surface hay is reached. Hay should be stored on pallets with a
small amount of distance between each bale if possible. Though it increases labor
and expense, keep only a limited amount of hay stored in the barn.
Install a warning system. Flame and heat detectors with electronic eyes can signal the presence of heat or flame
as it is rising, and carbon monoxide detectors are valuable, too. Cheap smoke detectors
aren't as useful because they are triggered by air particulates and dust to give false
Keep at least one fire extinguisher near or in the barn. Tags on fire extinguishers should be checked and contents updated at the local fire
department as necessary. An extinguisher should be 10-20 pounds, minimal. Personnel
should be trained in extinguisher use, as there is no time for a learning curve when
a fire is doubling in size every minute.
Distance between buildings and barns. All outbuildings and barns should be a minimum of 50 feet apart from each other. The
greater distance between each building, the less likely a fire can spread from one
building to another.
Most horse fatalities are due to smoke inhalation; as a horse panics, rises in heart
and respiratory rates increase inhalation of toxic fumes. Thus, is imperative to have
the proper plans in place should there be a fire in your barn. Special thanks to Jane
Seegal, Rebecca Gimenez, Ph.D, and Nancy S. Loving, DVM for their contributions to
More often than not, our horses will show signs of stress. And just as often, horse
owners can control the amount of stress seen in our horses. There are many indicators
of stress. If stress levels stay low, chances are, the ride and overall experience
will be a much positive one. Further, you will add life to your horse and allow him
to be much happier and overall health will increase as well. But how do we recognize
stress in our horses? Does it increase when we leave home? Chances are, the less frequent
you leave home with your horse, the higher the stress level will be when you do leave.
Never the less, horses can show signs of stress at home on a daily basis in some cases.
Horses that are experiencing stress may offer many signs to its owner. For example,
they may appear to be frightened and/or nervous. We may see this in the form of running
or in some cases they develop vices such as cribbing and stall weaving. Abnormal sweating
can also signal a stressful situation for your horse. Muscle tone can also provide
some clues. If the horse is tense and the muscles are contracted, it may be tying
up. If the muscles are flaccid and extremely relaxed and the horse is depressed, the
central nervous system may be damaged. If any of the signs are observed, a closer
inspection is needed.
In order to fully recognize a horse’s change in condition, it is a good idea to keep
permanent records for each horse in your care. The file should include:
Stress can be grouped into four different categories for horses:
Behavioral Stress – horses do not see the world as we do. They have what is known as monocular vision
as well as binocular vision. With the monocular vision, they are able to see to each
side of their head, much better than humans. They also have binocular, which allows
them to see objects in front of them. However, horses are unable to see approximately
4 ft directly in front of them. Further, horses hear much better than humans. All
of these factors can be possible explanations of why they seem to spook easily and
without warning on occasion.
When a horse is stressed, he may also show signs of agitation. A horse that is agitated
may lay his ears back and swish his tail. This is not to be confused with a horse
that is fearful. This horse will clamp its tail down, its body is tense and eyes may
be wider than normal.
Horses are known to also feel less stress when around other horses. Even if a horse
cannot be in the same pasture as other horses, they will feel more ease when they
are able to see other horses that are in close proximity.
Mechanical Stress – stress level in horses can also increase greatly when there is some type of structural
injury. Examples of this may include: lameness, local inflammation, swelling, heat,
and/or pain. Checking for injury or lameness should be a part of the everyday routine
for maintenance of your horse. The best time to do this is while feeding in the morning;
and again at the evening feeding session.
Nutrition and Metabolic Stress – the horse’s digestive system is designed to handle frequent meals small meals.
Further, when the horse is in a grazing environment, they are better able to maintain
optimum health. To reduce stress, horses require that a certain proportion of the
diet be roughage. Vitamin and mineral requirements must also be met but not exceeded
for the stage and condition of the horse.
Three metabolic problems in horses are closely related with nutrition:
Immunological Stress – stress caused by disease and/or parasites can range from superficial discomfort to
death. A good vaccination program is the best defense against infectious diseases.
Additionally, an effective deworming program must include good management practices
as well as regular use of antiparasitic drugs.
Some important guidelines include:
As horse owners, we will never completely be able to keep our horses from becoming
stressed. However, with routine checks and awareness, we may be able to manage it.
Special thanks to Dr. Rick Parker for his contributions to this article.
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