How to Keep Your Stable Tidy
Keeping a stall clean is one thing–keeping an entire barn clean is quite another. If you’re new to owning a barn or thinking about buying one, this article will outline everything you need to know about keeping your horse’s house squeaky clean.
Some tasks, like stall cleaning and water buckets, need daily maintenance. Other tasks, such as picking pastures or cleaning water troughs, only need to be done once a week. Make a schedule for all other tasks, like inspecting fences and cleaning blankets, that only happen once or twice a year. Remember that it’s easy to keep a barn clean—but hard to get it clean. So don’t let tasks pile up!
Daily Barn Chores
Some chores need to be done every day, no questions asked, no matter how tedious.
Cleaning stalls: Grab a pitchfork, broom, and bucket or wheelbarrow. Sift out all of the manure and remove all the pee spots. Give a quick sift to the rest of the shavings as you re-cover the floor. Sweep sawdust away from where you feed.
Water: Fill all stall buckets (dump any that look gross or have hay in them first) and water troughs. If you have automatic waterers, make sure they are clean and functioning.
Hay/Grain: If your horse left any grain behind, dump it out. If they left some hay, it’s usually OK to leave it for a day as long as it’s dry.
Clean aisles: Once you’re done with stall cleaning, give the aisles a good sweep or blow.
Clean feed areas: To keep the mice at bay, sweep once a day. Make sure no grain is left hanging around and give a good rinse to any gummy-looking feed buckets.
Do you have to clean stalls every day?
If you only bring your horses in to eat or to dry off after a bath, probably not. Otherwise, stalls should be cleaned every day.
The importance of keeping water buckets clean
Would you drink from a dirty water bottle? Probably not, and your horse doesn’t want to, either. Plus, you want to avoid stagnant water, which is a prime breeding place for pests like flies and mosquitoes.
Weekly Barn Maintenance
Fortunately, many tasks can be done once a week.
Pick Pastures: Grab a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork and give all of your turnout spaces a good once-over. Remove as many piles from each as you can. Instead of doing all turnouts in one day (talk about having sore arms!), I like to do one or two a day and spread this chore out over the week.
Clean water buckets and troughs: Don’t just dump the buckets. Use warm soapy water and give each one a thorough scrubbing. Dump and scrub all water troughs.
Clean feeders: If you dump hay or grain in, give it a good cleaning, too. You may just need to wipe it down with a rag, or you may need to give it a good scrub.
Check stalls and common areas for safety: Stalls, wash racks, grooming areas, and anywhere your horse spends time should be given a once over for any safety hazards such as exposed nails, splintering boards, or mats that are losing their non-slip quality.
A commonly overlooked maintenance task
Fans and other ventilation systems are often overlooked. I like to give this type of equipment a good cleaning twice a year in spring and late fall. Remove all dust and any spider webs, and make sure everything still works.
The best non-toxic cleaning agent for use around horses
Would you be surprised if I said bleach? Used in small quantities, bleach is a safe choice to use for all kinds of disinfecting, from stall walls to water troughs.
After you use bleach, rinse and wait at least one hour before letting horses drink from it.
Seasonal Stable Tasks
Some of these tasks may be done once a year, others every few months.
Cobwebs: Every few months, give the barn a thorough once-over to remove them all. Cobwebs attract dust and can be a fire hazard (as well as unsightly!)
Clean grain bins: Once a season, scrub your feed bins with soap and water. Let dry before adding new grain.
Sweep hay storage: Every few months before your next delivery, remove all pallets and sweep up all hay. Replace any broken pallets.
De-winterize: Once the warm weather is here to stay, take a day to inspect all blankets. Make repairs and clean as needed. Fold (clean) and store in Tupperware bins out of sight.
The value of proper tack storage
Proper tack storage can mean the difference between a saddle that lasts you a lifetime and reins that snap while you’re riding.
Store saddles on racks in low-moisture areas and never put away tack before it’s clean and dry. I tend to wipe down my tack daily, then give it a more thorough clean once a week.
When is the best time to clean winter horse blankets
Clean blankets as soon as you no longer need them. Depending on where you live, this could be as early as March, or as late as early May. You can also do this in stages if you use blankets of different thicknesses.
For example, your heaviest blankets can probably be cleaned and stored in March while you could wait until April or May for medium and lightweight blankets.
Semi-Annual and Annual Barn Activities
It can be easy to forget about these tasks, so get a barn calendar and write them down.
Replace fire extinguishers: Check the dates twice a year, replace as needed
Check fire alarms: I like to change the batteries every six months
Inspect any security systems: Make sure any locks, fences, gates, and cameras are fully functional (and not rusted)
Inspect your roof: Check for any leaks and keep it clear of any debris
Pest control: Once or twice a year, have a pest company out to take care of any potential issues with ants, termites, and even flies. Barn cats are a great way to keep pests at bay too!
Power-wash stalls: Once or twice a year, use a power washer (or a bucket and scrub brush) and give the stall walls a good clean.
Where can you get a power washer?
If you don’t own one, see if a friend or neighbor does. You can often rent them from stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon.
Use non-toxic paint
Water-based (aka latex) paints or anything labeled as non-toxic is a safe bet, as they don’t release any harmful elements into the atmosphere. Whenever you need to repaint any part of your barn, choose a day that will be warm and sunny and leave the horses outside until the paint is completely dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are common barn spring cleaning tips?
Clean and store all blankets. Give all your tack a good deep-cleaning. Take some time to clean out aisles and wash racks of excess junk. You can also use this time for fence repair and maintenance.
Q: Why is it helpful to clean by zones?
Barns never seem as large as they do when it’s time to clean them. Trying to tackle the entire barn in one day is not only impossible, but discouraging. Instead, divide all tasks up into zones (stalls, aisles, feed, tack, etc.), and focus on one zone at a time.
Q: What kinds of equipment do you need to properly clean a barn?
At the end of the day, a broom, a bucket, a brush, and water are all you need. Having fancy equipment like a power-washer can make some of the chores go faster, but they aren’t necessary. If possible, I like to involve the other horse owners. If everyone pitches in, the tasks take less time.
Q: Are cleaning supplies toxic to horses?
Some can be, but there are plenty of safe options (provided you follow all instructions). Lysol and bleach are good choices. You can also make cleaners from ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide.
Q: Are cobwebs a fire hazard?
Yes, this is why it’s important to keep your barn free of them! You don’t need to go after them every day, however. If you keep your barn and stalls clean, I find I only have to clean cobwebs every few months.
Cleaning isn’t a favorite part of anyone’s daily routine, but it’s super important when you own horses. If you keep on top of all of these tasks, it takes less time than you think. If you have a big task ahead of you, or are feeling overwhelmed, recruit some volunteers and offer them pizza in exchange for their help.
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