Tuesday, January 06, 2009

more rain and barn improvements

We're having more rain. The ground never truly dried out from the last rain, so this morning when I looked out there is standing water everywhere. The only thing that saves us from total mudville is that the property slopes both in front and in back. The barn sits on the highest point, and the previous owners wisely made very slight "ditches" in the various paddocks so the water can drain away.

The riding arena drains like a dream, so it is nearly always rideable, and during times when we have lots of rain, I often use it as an exercise paddock for bored horses. The footing cleans and stimulates the horses' feet, they get a bit of activity, and the fact that Cody will almost always roll before I can stop him is a small price to pay for the satisfaction they feel coming back into the barn.

Yesterday I spent a little while thinking about improvements I'd like to make. Like a gardener pondering seed catalogs in the middle of winter, I'm sitting inside thinking of ways to make various areas better, while outdoors the rain keeps falling and horses munch hay.

Last night I found a site with photos of the exact thing I was thinking of - screen panels with pea gravel or crushed stone. My plan is to make a path from our back gate up to the barn door, where the stone area will extend maybe 5 feet out in a sort of box-shape. I'd like to do the entire small barnyard, at the other end of the barn, this same way, since I use that area for cleaning feed tubs and for hosing/bathing in the warmer months.

At every gate and water trough, I'd like more "squares" of screen/stone, so those areas don't get muddy and horrid when it rains a lot.

I'd never thought of using this system in stalls, but after the great putrid stall spot debacle of a few months ago, I think I might test this system out in one stall to see how it works. The stall base, then the panels, then the crushed stone screenings, then the stall mats, then the bedding. It seems the panels would keep things nice and level underneath.

I've also been thinking about feeding hay inside the barn. We have mangers built in at ground level in each stall and they do keep the hay contained quite nicely. However, unless we totally pack the hay in, the horses seem to run out at some point during the night. I've been reading about slow feeding hay nets and bags, which make the hay last, keep the horses chewing longer, and keep them occupied. None of ours are locked in stalls, but even so, to have the hay last and reduce waste would be a good thing.

The small mesh hay bags were my original choice, but then I couldn't quite figure out how to secure them in the mangers so they wouldn't be tossed all over the barn like beach balls.

These feeders look interesting. They would stand right inside the mangers, and should anyone ever need soaked hay, voila, they would do the job nicely.

I've also priced potable hoses, which I can get immediately. I've been reading about garden hoses and what happens in the sun to the plastic, and don't want to be adding that to my horses' water.

There was also a similar concern about the hard plastic water troughs sitting out in the sun, and someone suggested old porcelain bathtubs. Yikes. I actually thought the hard plastic Rubbermaid troughs with stainless steel inserts would be perfect, but to my knowledge, they do not exist. I'll keep looking and thinking about that.

I'm thinking about making a barn "wish book" where I cut and paste pictures and jot in ideas as I have them. Sometimes living with things a while changes my mind, so it's always good to let the ideas for change sit and simmer for a bit before I carry them out.

NOTE: The slow feeders are VERY expensive, but perhaps provide a model for designing your own, or worth the money if you need the soaking option for an IR horse. Obviously, nets are the cheapest way to go.


Grey Horse Matters said...

They all seem like good ideas. We are thinking of doing some similar things. We've made a small paddock that we call the 'sick paddock' and are going to use stone dust in it so we always have good footing(no mud). At all the entrances and around the waterers the same thing would apply.
My daughter just found some great hay nets for the stalls. I believe they are from England and a little pricey but they look like they will work to slow them down and keep more hay in their bellies than on the floor. I'll let you know if they work out. So far we've only gotten one as a tester.
It's a good idea to make a sort of scrap book with all the ideas for the farm. I'm afraid if I suggested that to my daughter, we'd have a full blown novel by the time she was done. And my husband's head might actually implode.

billie said...

LOL, Arlene. I can relate to the novel-sized barn wish book AND a husband's head imploding from such.