If you’re setting up a new horse property or revamping an older one, there are certain amenities equestrian facilities in the Northwest must have to make caring for horses more pleasant. Let’s face it, taking care of livestock in the Pacific Northwest creates a unique list of requirements. Some of these things are absolute essentials and others are a bit more of a luxury. The following list features nine of the highest priorities for a Northwest equine facility.
- Freeze-proof Water Faucets
Cold happens in our Northwest winters, and broken pipes are expensive and difficult to repair especially when the ground is frozen. Investing in freeze-proof water faucets is worth every penny.
And when you’re laying water pipes, think ahead to all the places you’re going to want water in the future. All paddocks and pastures should have adjacent water faucets for ease of watering and to accommodate automatic waterers. And don’t forget to have water available close to the arena for dust management.
- Electricity (and a Generator for Emergencies)
Be sure you have grounded electrical outlets close to your horse stalls for heated water buckets or troughs. Also, extreme weather can easily knock out the electrical lines to your farm. Rural areas are often the last to get help. Hire an electrician to wire for a generator that will run your well pump. The investment will be worth it. We can get by without lights for a few days, but not without water.
- Let the Light Shine
Winter nights are long and dark in the Pacific Northwest. Good lighting will increase your safety and be necessary in emergencies. Horses need care at all times of the day and night and good lighting allows you to get chores done in the dark. Have good lighting to your feed, hay, shavings, and manure storage areas as well as parking areas.
- Feed Storage
The horseman’s saying is, “Always have at least two doors between your horse and the grain bin—and the bin lid doesn’t count.” A well-built feed room keeps your horses safe and secures the investment of your feed and supplements. Consider insulating your feed room to keep the area warmer in winter and cooler in summer in order to keep feeds and supplements at an optimum temperature. A solidly built feed room will also help keep rodents out.
- Roofs and Overhangs
This is an obvious one. The more roofs in this country the better. And not only do horses and humans need a roof, you need to cover shavings, hay, and your manure storage area. Consider some kind of covered horse trailer and tractor storage too.
Think also about overhangs in as many places as possible. Even a one-foot overhang on a stable roof will make a difference in inclement weather, especially after freezing and snowy weather. If gutters freeze up or overflow, your barn will be less likely to flood if you have a bit of an overhang. A larger covered “porch” area for your horses will be appreciated in all weather. Horses seem to prefer being outside under an overhang than inside their stalls.
One of the nicest indoor arenas in the Pacific Northwest is Meadowgate in Stanwood, Washington. Meadowgate has a covered track that completely surrounds their covered arena. This area is perfect for walking horses while others are lessoning, warming up or cooling down, or for a place to hang out and watch the arena action.
- Fencing Makes Good Neighbors
Proper (safe) perimeter fencing will keep roaming dogs out and your own critters in. Few things bring more peace of mind than a good fence. Consider a property gate too, especially if you live near a busy road.
- Tack Room with Adjacent Grooming Space
If you ride your horses you need a place to keep their tack that is out of the dust, away from critters and secure. Considerations should include proximity to your grooming and tacking-up area and how easy is it to load your trailer from.
Tack room considerations such as a washer and dryer, sink, tack cleaning area, and a blanket drying rack will make horse care much easier too.
- A Good Place to Ride
We all dream of an indoor arena but in many cases a well-built outdoor arena will work for most months in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, there will be some days where you can’t ride outside, like when the weather is freezing or there’s snow on the ground. Perhaps save that book you’ve been wanting to read for that weather.
- A Wash Rack
A safe, convenient place to bathe your horses with warm water is a real luxury for you and them. Add overhead heaters for drying and warming and you’ll both never want to leave.
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.