As the weather warms up, many farmers and ranchers are gearing up for increased maintenance around their property. Spring is also a great time to look at your management practices to ensure you’re creating a safe environment for your animals.
Mandy McCutcheon oversees elite equine athletes at Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses’ top-tier facility in Aubrey, Texas. She shares a few of the key protocols implemented at the barn to keep both livestock and humans safe.
POST DIRECTIONS CLEARLY. Each horse has its own place card with important information and a color-coded dot that transcends language barriers. This is helpful for rehab horses with specific dietary needs or exercise limitations, and also because the McCutcheon barn has visitors and staff from around the world.
“We have a dot system: red dots, green dots, yellow dots. So no matter what language you speak, you’re going to understand the dots,” McCutcheon says.
LOCK UP FEED AND MEDICATION. Feed and medications are kept with lids and in secured locations at McCutcheon’s barn.
“We don’t want horses to be able to free-feed should they get loose, because they could get sick,” McCutcheon says. “We have a medication room in each barn, and it’s kept locked and temperature-controlled. The horses can’t get to it.”
INSTALL EXTRA SECURITY MEASURES. Each of the stalls is open-air to allow for ventilation and socialization, but door latches include an additional snap to reduce equine Houdini escapes.
BE SMART. McCutcheon has grown up with common-sense safety protocol around the barn, and she continues these principles at the facility she owns with her husband, Tom.
“It’s habit for me to think about how I’m walking a horse around tractors, for example, thinking ahead,” McCutcheon says. “You need to be aware when you’re leading horses and working with them of what’s going on around you and the horse.”
Make sure gate and stall door gaps are opened wide enough for your horse to safely walk through. Watch for protruding latches that can catch a horse’s hip. And steer clear of any equipment that a horse could trip over.
COMPARTMENTALIZE HAZARDOUS OBJECTS. Farm and ranch equipment is stored in a separate building away from the horse barns, as are as any fertilizer, pest control or other chemicals on the McCutcheon property.
KEEP IT TIDY. As a general rule, McCutcheon keeps extra tack and equipment in the tack room, not in high-traffic areas.
“I don’t like anything lying around on the ground. I have a lot of spare equipment because things are going to break, but we keep it put away in the storage areas,” McCutcheon says. “It’s smart to keep things cleaned up — put up wire and twine. Keep your barn as safe as you keep your house.