How can I make the gate area at my farm safer?
Good question! The gate area is a place where accidents can happen easily, especially if you are moving a horse into or out of a group situation. Gates are high traffic, and for some reason horses love to hang out around them. It’s like the break room of an office building, lots of water cooler gossip. (Did you SEE his new saddle pad?)
Some gates, like this slide bolt, need some "extra" security. A stud chain works well. Keep it taut!
So let’s consider the actual gate:
-Gates are best when they are very close in height to the fence.
Fence height = gate height. And a super snug fit.
-Make sure there is barely any room between the neighboring posts and the gate. I’m talking centimeters here, so no mini or foal could get a hoof or head stuck.
-Double secure all latches, and keep the closures away from the pasture side of the fence. In fact, all bolts, latches, mechanisms, and other horse injury magnets should face to the outside of the paddock. The closure pictured below is generally considered to be horse-proof, but it should still be on the outside. (For total disclosure you should know it was Liv-proof for at least a few minutes the first time I saw one of these. HAHAHA!)
I don't know what these latches are called but it stumped me!
"Kiwi" latches are horse proof! Except for that one horse that can figure this one out. You can use them one handed, which makes them safer if you are also holding onto a horse.
-If you have wire fencing (like v-mesh), the posts next to your gate will have potential wires poking out everywhere as you switch from vmesh to gate. So the entire vertical edge of your posts need to have some sort of covering so that the edges of the mesh or wire are not available for scrapes (humans and horses!) or worse.
-Try and have your gates in the middle of the fencing away from corners. Herds like to congregate at the gate, and if positioned at a corner a horse can easily become trapped by his pasture mates. Same goes for people - don’t get stuck!
Double security here, too! If your horse doesn't play with everything, the halter hooks are handy. Or, you can use a small weatherproof trunk or box to store halters outside of gates.
-Allow 10-12’ for most equipment to be able to drive through. This is handy when you are spreading manure, or you need to move machinery for repairs.
-Make sure the gate can freely swing in both directions. Sometimes uneven ground can create an incomplete and dangerous gate swing.
-Make sure the hinges point towards each other. Otherwise, a horse can get his head in the gate, lift up, and pop the gate right off. The top hinge needs to face down, the bottom hinge needs to face up.
The TOP hinge.
The BOTTOM hinge.
-Think about the footing around a gate. It’s high traffic, so it’s often worn, packed, and poorly draining. Work on drainage, add gravel for traction, or build it up during dry times. If your gates are a frequent location for run, skid, and stop, consider having these horses use alternative paddocks if the footing is muddy after weather.
-You can also move water and food sources away from the gates to discourage lolly-gagging around the gate. This also makes turning out and retrieving horses from a herd safer.
-Make sure your horse knows proper manners. Stop, start, turn, release without bolting off, etc. Are critical as you negotiate a gate with a horse (and sometimes his friends). If you are unsure or your horse needs work in this area, have a friend work the gate so that you can school the behaviors. It’s never OK for your horse to take over and potentially shish-kabob you on a gate.
What tips do you have for gate safety?