Last Friday morning, I spent an hour or so out at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River. The drive from Richmond to Goochland is always uplifting and especially so on a crisp, cool autumn morning. Mary Martin, TRF Board member, and I got out to Barn 4 in the middle of Dr. Reid McLellan’s lecture about hay quality – I might do a post on that later, because I learned A LOT.
One thing I’m figuring out about Dr. Reid’s lectures: hang on for the ride and pay attention because all of his talks are full of stories and anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom. Sometimes directly on the topic and sometimes not, but always worth keeping your listening-ears open.
It seems like almost every lecture somehow or another comes back to the survival instinct of horses, whether he’s talking about grazing or grooming or training or hay bales. Friday’s lecture turned an interesting corner and I perked up when Dr. Reid said, “Everybody knows you don’t smoke in a barn except exercise riders and old grooms. No smoking in the barn!”
Unfortunately, every barn needs a fire safety plan because every barn is at-risk of fire whether folks are smoking or not. Dr. Reid explained further that a horse’s survival instinct in the wild will cause him to run through a fire not away from a fire because he knows he can’t out run it, she knows the best chance of getting away from the fire is through it in the opposite direction of the burn path. He also said that what we’ve done is tamper with a horse’s natural habitat and instinct by putting them in barns. We teach them that the barn is the safe place, where they’ll find harmony, so even in a fire or dangerous situation that instinct will drive them into the barn. “Horses are looking for harmony. If their most harmonious experience is the stall, that’s where they want to be,” said Dr. Reid.
Whether you have a private barn of your own, you’re a boarder, or you run a big facility, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the question Dr. Reid asks trainers all over the country:
When is the last time you had a safety meeting?
I realized as he was talking about fire safety that I don’t actually know where the fire extinguisher is at the barn where we board Albert and Latte. I have two ideas of where to look; the next time I’m out there, I need to make sure I put my eyeballs on it. But the first thing I’ll do if, God-forbid it, I ever encounter a barn fire: GET HELP. CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.
To help you plan for fire safety, check out these articles and fact sheets:
If you’re not familiar with TRF at James River, I posted about the program here.