Spring officially arrives March 20, and the waning days of winter are the perfect time for cleaning and organizing. Here’s a simple eight-step plan for getting your barn, trailer and more in order before you launch into a full schedule of warm-weather equestrian activities.
Step 1. Tackle the feed room. Empty all bins, move trash cans outside and sweep the whole room. Keep an eye out for rodent nests. They usually indicate that a feed bin has been compromised. Check yours as you clean them to verify that they are still rodent-proof; replace any that are damaged. Wash all bowls, scoops, containers and buckets. Use the hose and some dish soap in the wash rack to make this chore quick and easy. Discard supplements that are beyond their expiration date.
Step 2. Take on the area where you store hay. Inspect the pallets or tires that keep your hay bales off the ground. Move them out, discarding any that are damaged, then sweep up the loose bits of hay as well as any twine and other debris that might be used by rodents as nesting material. Your effort will also facilitate air circulation—beneficial for keeping stored hay dry—and safeguard you from possibly twisting an ankle in a damaged pallet later on.
Step 3. Head for the stalls. Strip them to the ground if possible, discarding old bedding. Level dents and holes in the floor. Check the condition of any mats that you use and put them back in place. Inspect the lower portion of the stall walls for rust and damage. Use a pressure washer to clean dirty walls. Replace rusted screw eyes and other hardware. Remove nests and webs at the ceiling.
Step 4. Go above and beyond. Clean out the barn gutters. (Hire someone to clear them if you find the prospect especially daunting.) Check faucets and pipes for leaks that may have developed over the winter and summon a plumber to resolve any issues. Consider calling an electrician to inspect wiring and confirm it can handle the fans you’ll be using when the weather warms.
Step 5. Ready the trailer for the road. Approach it the same way you did your horse’s stall. Clear it of contents, thoroughly inspect the interior—floor, walls, windows and roof—and clean it according to manufacturer recommendations. It may be a candidate for pressure-washing. Replace any window screens that may be damaged. Check the air pressure of the tires, and make sure the lights and brakes—emergency brake included—work properly. Consider a tune-up if it’s been some time since your trailer had professional attention. The same goes for the truck you will use to pull your precious cargo.
Step 6. Tidy the tack trunk. Remove everything then vacuum accumulated dirt, dander and hair from the bottom and corners of the trunk. Sort and store similar or related items in clear bins with lids or Ziploc bags (available in a variety of sizes). This will help on show day when you quickly need to get your hands on your braiding kit. Now is also a good time to tend to your clippers. Have your blades sharpened, stock up on oil and lubricant and clear away all those tiny hairs so your clippers are pristine and ready for show season.
Step 7. Inspect the first-aid kits you keep for you and your horse. Discard preparations with expiration dates that have passed as well as items that may have been damaged or diminished by frigid winter temperatures. Restock them and replenish necessities—exam gloves, bandages, gauze and the like. Make sure thermometers work, and try out your stethoscope to make sure it’s in good order.
Step 8. Put blankets in storage. Deep clean them first, then inspect all components—buckles, straps, elastic pieces and hook-and-loop closures—and make any needed repairs, including stitching tears. Stow in sealed, rodent-proof containers.
After working many years as a groom for Olympic riders, Liv Gude created Pro Equine Grooms, an organization and website (www.proequinegrooms.com) designed to bring together professional grooms of all disciplines to acknowledge their skills, support their development and inform the horse world at large of their role and significance.
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.