Horizon Structures Presents Series….Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating Horse Barns


By Nikki Alvin-Smith

Don’t let your Halloween horse barn decorating turn into a nightmare by making a mistake with your creative design skills. Fires, electric shocks, poisoning, colics and possible injury to horse, human and family pets, can all be avoided with some careful forethought. 

Before you grab that hammer and start nailing up holiday trimmings or plant those chrysanthemums in the tub by the barn front door, check out these safety tips.

Light Up Your Barn The Smart Way

Extension cords snaking across aisleways and between barns and paddocks, holiday lights designed for interior not exterior use, and outlets, wires and lights placed within reach of an inquisitive horse’s nose, are all recipes for disaster.

In my travels as a dressage clinician I’ve seen Christmas lights strung along fence lines, extension cords crossing driveways and busy horse traffic areas, pine wreaths adorned with glass ornaments and flashing lights hung on the front of stall doors across grills. I love the holidays just like everyone else, but you do need to be careful how you adorn your barn and farm to safely celebrate the season. 

A good start is to make sure any lights used are UL approved for exterior use. Moisture and condensation in barns can cause damage to lighting fixtures/wires that might result in a fire. 

All lights should be plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI. This special type of outlet detects dangerous ground faultsand immediately turns off the power to stop shocks. This is especially important if you have children, pets and other curious critters in your barn. Almost any electrical outlet can be replaced with a GFCI outlet and when correctly wired GFCIs can additionally protect other outlets on the same circuit. Another option is to replace the circuit breaker in the breaker box. Consult a licensed electrician about upgrading to GFCIs’ in your barn. These are important for use year round for fans, (which should be sealed motor commercial grade), use for daily chores such as vacuums and clippers, and for vet visits where ultrasound, X-ray or other equipment may be used stall side. 

Avoid hanging lights or dangling wires within reach of curious equines who might investigate them and ensure that wires or extension cords are secured high off the ground. Otherwise they can be a trip hazard or be stepped on with a shod hoof or run over by a vehicle and damaged. A snowplow will always find them! 

If the lights are installed near doors or entranceways make sure their electric cables/wires will not become trapped between surfaces when doors are opened and closed.

Avoid glass ornaments that can shatter into a thousand small pieces if bumped, and keep all lights and heat sources in the barn free of cobwebs. 

It should go without saying that there should never be any open flame in a horse barn, so ditch the use of candles unless it’s on a cake for a few seconds. Even if your guests are visiting the barn for a party/event and are not used to the chill of winter in the barn, don’t be tempted to add a temporary heat source such as rocket, propane or kerosene heater and risk a barn fire. Provide blankets and hot beverages and warn them to wrap up instead. 

Pumpkins, Pine, Corn and Toxic Edibles

Embellishing the front entrance to the barn with ornamental flowers and shrub plantings in pots and containers, gourds and pumpkins, to celebrate Fall and the arrival of holiday season is a wonderful welcome for visitors. 

It is good to be aware that certain plants are highly toxic to horses, and many horse and pony owners are not aware that allowing their equine partner to take a nibble may do a great deal of harm.

For instance, the popular Chrysanthemum is toxic to horses. Their flowers, leaves and stalks cause neurological, topical and digestive irritation if ingested.

While pumpkins themselves are not toxic to horses, their stems can be a choking hazard. Unfortunately, other members of the Autumn gourd family are toxic to horses. 

Corn is fed to horses in many prepared feeds, but corncobs and cornstalks are a risky proposition. Ear corn and stalks can harbor mycotoxins (produced by molds) and harmful bacteria. Placement of cornstalks/corn tacked between stall doors or at the collecting gate to the ring, can end up producing nibbles for your horse that you don’t want him to chow down on despite their attraction to his palate.

Christmas brings traditional festive decorations of holly, poinsettias and pine. Cheerful red ribbons festoon wreaths and ropes of pine garland to bring the delightful promise of the season home. 

Pine is not generally considered a hazard to horses in small quantities, although if freshly cut the sap can cause irritation to mucus membranes. Don’t mistake yew for pine however, as yew is highly toxic. Traditional holly and mistletoe are also to be kept away from all livestock and pets as these too are poisonous, and poinsettias are particularly toxic for dogs and cats though only mildly toxic to horses.

Celebrations At The Barn

Halloween costume parties, Hanukkah celebrations with menorah’s brightly glowing (hopefully plugged in not candles aflame), and Christmas parties replete with Christmas trees adorning the aisleway are all fabulous fun-filled events.

Remember to unplug those coffee makers and Christmas tree lights when you’re done, keep an eye on the drink intake of your guests if you are serving hot toddies or other alcohol, and don’t be too rowdy around the horses in the barn for too long. While you may love noisemakers they do not!

KINDLY NOTE: This article is available for use in its entirety without edit, in any media format, on condition that credit, in any media format, on condition that credit is given to Horizon Structures Inc., and author Nikki Alvin-Smith as a byline at the beginning of the articlepublication and Horizon Structures URL address and Nikki Alvin-Smith URL is included.  Horizon would appreciate notification of any publication. Kindly contact Horizon Structures for photos to accompany the article. 

This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn specialists. Horizon Structures also offers both residential and commercial kennels, coops, multi-use structures and playsets. Please visit https://www.HorizonStructures.com to learn more.

About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need – 

Horizon Structures also sells indoor riding arenas, chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com

About Nikki Alvin-Smith: International published writer and creative content producer. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing specialist. Nikki also produces catalog and website copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures, advertising copy, photography, videography for a wide range of businesses.   

As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 35 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international level and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Iberian breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage training operation in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.

Horizon Structures LLC, Atglen, PA

Jill Siragusa

Tel: 888-447-4337


Media contact: Nikki@NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com

Tel: 607-434-4470