When was the last time you took a tour of your horses' run-in shed? Chances are you don't go there often if it's some distance from the pasture gate. Yet an untended run-in shed can easily convert from shelter to safety hazard for the tenants as the building and grounds deteriorate. Make routine inspections of your run-in shed at least monthly, paying particular attention to the following common trouble spots:
Footing--A run-in shed with a floor deep with mud and manure or slick with filth is a health hazard. Wetness is the root cause, so first determine the source of the unwanted water; then regrade outside, refill inside or repair water lines to address those failures. Repair or replace leaky roofing or siding, which lets in well-defined wet spots during rainy weather.
Impermeable floor material may cause urine and blowing precipitation to pool under trampling feet, in which case, excavation and replacement with a multilayered, drainable surface is the sure cure. A layer of crusher-run stone added to the top is a less reliable fix. When wetness occurs only during precipitation events, add or adjust gutters and downspouts to direct rain runoff away from the run-in shed's open side and interior.
If the building site was poorly chosen and puts the run-in shed in the path of surface water or underground springs, bring in the earthmoving equipment to create drainage diversions away from the building. An apron of solid footing around the building contributes to a more stable interior floor, which should always be dry, regardless of the weather.
Chew damage--Bored, hungry or wood-fancying horses can chew through the supports of your run-in shed at an alarming rate. Check the shed's exposed wood, particularly its weight-bearing members, for soundness. Where damage is extensive, you may have to replace some of the lumber, and this time, take steps to protect the wood, starting with a wood choice, such as oak, that is less enticing than soft pine/spruce/fir.
Be certain the herd is receiving adequate hay or grazing, which should keep their mouths better occupied. If a resident wood addict continues to chomp away, you can install a physical barrier either on the wood (PVC sheathing is a safe option) or on the chewer (a grazing muzzle with breakaway attachments).
Wiring--If your run-in shed or associated automatic waterer has electricity, check that all wiring is completely enclosed in metal or strong plastic conduit. Exposed wires can kill a chewing horse or start a devastating fire.
This article originally appeared in EQUUS magazine in April 2002.