What “stuff” at the barn can I share between horses?
Well….to be totally paranoid and safe, not much, maybe some shampoo or grooming spray. Each horse should have his own set of everything - brushes, buckets, saddle pads, boots. Not so realistic, but there are some ways to have top notch bio-security and be practical at the same time.
A few things to think about:
Horses that travel to shows, expos, trail rides, rodeos, etc. are exposed to a lot of bio-security risks, simply because they leave the farm, are around new horses from around the country, region, state, and then come back to home base. This is how some horse diseases spread!
Or, you are at a barn where no one shows or goes anywhere! You still need to be vigilant about skin issues, respiratory infections, and everything else.
Avoid sharing grooming tools to avoid spreading rain rot and other skin "stuff"
So - this is how I keep my horses safe at home, and especially when they go on “field trips”.
- Saddle pads can be shared if necessary, but only if they are fresh from the laundry. Skin issues, like rain rot, can jump from horse to horse via shared tack and grooming tools. After one horse has worn it, it either goes to the laundry right away or it stays with that horse until it needs the laundry. It’s easy to keep track if you have a hook or bar near your saddle so they can stay together.
- Horse boots and polo wraps can be handled like saddle pads. Fresh from the laundry, they are fair game for any horse, but once on a horse they stay with that horse until the next laundry.
- Saddles. Well, I don’t like to share saddle because a custom fit is best, and there’s no chance in heck that one saddle fits more than one horse perfectly. But - because saddles have a saddle pad under them, the likelihood of sharing yucky skin stuff is reduced if you do share saddles.
Bits are often custom fit for one horse, so sharing may not be possible anyway.
- Bits. Each horse should have their own bit to use. Not only for fit and positioning, but also for helping to keep viruses and other potential sicknesses from spreading. If you do need to try bits on another horse, a thorough scrubbing or run through the dish washer will disinfect the bit.
- Hoof picks. These are scattered throughout the barn, and I like to hang one on each horse’s door as well. If you pick hooves for the first time as you are leaving the stall, this also helps keep your barn aisle clean. I can say for certain that most barn share hoof picks between horses, but if you have a case of thrush, you may want to use only one hoof pick for that horse, and that horse only. I can’t say if thrush could be passed from one horse to another, but why risk it?
- Grooming brushes. Ideally, each horse has his own set. A next best option is for each owner to have their own set. The most common thing that grooming brushes can pass between horses is a skin infection, like rain rot. It’s also a good idea to regularly clean your brushes!
- Water buckets and feed bins. Each horse should have his own if possible. For shared pasture situations, it’s hard to regulate who eats and drinks from what…. But at least having specific feed bins is a start. This is also critical if you have a pasture horse with an allergy - he could be allergic to his horse friend’s meal.
I believe that water buckets and feed bins should be cleaned and scrubbed at least weekly (or more depending on how messy they get) and bare minimum rinsed every day. After a good scrubbing, they can go back to the barn anywhere. After rinsing, try and get the buckets into the stall they came from - and no stacking of buckets! It’s easy to rinse the buckets as you are cleaning stalls, the water can go into your wheel barrow, down the barn aisle to cut dust, out the back window to water the plants.
A great reason to label stuff!
Of course, even in the most pristine barns, you may have a horse that gets a virus or skin infection or other contagious sickness. This is one of the reasons that catching stuff early, by taking everyone’s TPR daily, is important. Then you can isolate and manage the sick horse as well as the healthy ones with bio-security measures. It’s also a dandy reason to color coordinate your entire barn - every horse gets a different color for boots, lead ropes, buckets, you name it!
What sorts of stuff do you share and what do you never, ever share between horses?