We all know how much time we waste just doing chores at the barn, not to mention the money we spend as well but the good news is that with a bit of planning and ingenuity you can not only drastically cut the time you devote to chores but you can also save yourself quite a bit of money too. And with the extra time you now have and the extra money you’ve now got you can spend quality time with your horse and buy him a few extra treats too, after all, we all spend any leftover money on them anyway!
Over the years I’ve picked up a huge number of time and money-saving hacks, some I’m pleased to say, are my own discoveries while others I’ve learned from other people but I thought it would be helpful to list some of the most helpful and beneficial ones.
Barn hacks to make your life easier
- Use a grate when mucking out – place a wire grate (an old BBQ grill rack is perfect) at a 45° angle against the wall then simply pick the bedding up with a fork and throw it against the grate. The droppings will fall in a neat pile while the bedding will fall through the gaps in the grate.
- Fix scrub brushes to water and feed buckets – We’ve all been there before, you need to clean the buckets but can’t find the brush anywhere. Simply attach a piece of baling twine to a small scrub brush then tie that to the bucket, that way it’s there ready when you need it.
- Use the arms of the barrow – Instead of making multiple trips to the muck heap, fill flexible buckets with old bedding as well as the barrow then hook them over the arms of the barrow. That way you can carry much more each time, do this every time you muck out and it’ll make the task much quicker.
- Attach tennis balls on cross ties – Cutting a hole in a tennis ball and putting it over cross ties will not only stop that horrible clanging sound but will stop your horse chewing them while you’re grooming him.
- Secure a toilet seat to water and feed buckets – You can easily stop your horse from chewing his water and feed buckets by securing the seat of a toilet to the rim. He’ll no longer be able to get his mouth around the bucket so he won’t be able to chew it.
- Stop cribbing with a bar of soap – Nobody likes the taste of soap and horses are no different so rubbing soap over any areas where your horse bites or chews will help to stop him doing that.
- Pick your horse’s feet out in the stall – Keep a hoof pick hung up in your stall then you can pick your horse’s hooves out before you leave, that way you won’t have to sweep up after. Just make sure your horse can’t knock it off the hook.
- Spider strainer or sieve – Removing leaves during the winter and bugs in the summer can be a pain (especially when the water’s icy cold) but if you use a spider strainer or sieve this task is much easier. You can scoop them out without the need to get your hands wet at all.
- Baling twine saw – If you don’t have a knife with you, you can use baling twine as a saw to open bales instead. Just feed the twine through then, forming a ‘V’ start not saw back and forth. This will quickly cut through and open the bale.
- Revive rusty buckles and chains – You can easily remove rust by soaking the offending item in a little bit of white vinegar. This will remove the rust without damaging the metal – just be sure to rinse and dry it thoroughly after.
- Stop smelly bedding – We all know that horrible ammonia smell that gets right up your nose, even after you’ve left the stall. The good news is that a layer of Zeolites (An absorbent, natural mineral that is often used in cat litter) under your horse’s bedding will eliminate the offending pong, plus it’s highly absorbent too so will make your bedding last longer.
Horse care hacks that really work
- DIY ice packs – Buying ice packs from your vet or tack store can be pretty expensive but the good news is that you can make your own for a fraction of the cost. Simply take a ziplock bag and fillet with washing-up liquid then put it in the freezer. The liquid won’t freeze solid so it can be taken out anytime and applied to your horse’s legs.
- Keep diapers in your first aid kit – Applying a poultice to a foot abscess can be tricky sometimes but if you use a diaper instead it’s much easier, they’ll also stay firmly in place and are completely waterproof too. You can also put them in a little bit of water then place them in the freezer before using them to treat fetlock and knee injuries.
- Reuse syringes for medicine – It can be messy grinding tablets down and mixing them into a paste before putting the paste into a syringe to feed to your horse but if you put the tablets in the syringe to start with it makes life much easier. All you need to do then is suction in some water and wait for the tablets to dissolve before feeding to your horse.
- Calm nervous travelers – If your horse gets nervous in a trailer put a safety mirror inside. He’ll think it’s another horse and will start to relax. You can also put a mirror in the stall of a horse on box rest, again he’ll think there’s another horse around so won’t get stressed or feel lonely.
- Hide tablets in baby food – If you need to feed whole tablets to your horse you can hide them in baby food, just make sure the food doesn’t contain any ingredients that horses can’t eat; you can see a list of foods here that they can’t eat.
- Help your horse scratch his itch – Okay so this isn’t a time or money-saving hack but your horse will thank you for it nether the less. Buy a few scrub brushes from your local discount store and secure them to a post at the same height as your horse’s body, he can then happily relieve any itch he has without damaging the fencing.
- Easy squeeze tubes – It can be difficult to get everything out of some tubes, especially small ones, but if you put some tape over the end (with an inch or so excess) you can then use that to help you squeeze the contents out. Just make sure you write on the tape what’s in the tube so you don’t get things mixed up.
- Hoof picks everywhere! – There’s never a hoof pick around when you need one but if you hang them up at different places, such as outside the arena or feed room, then you’ll never be lost for one again.
Storage hacks designed to make the most of your space
- Pipe insulation padding – It can be really annoying when you put your saddle away after a ride only to have your saddle rack leave marks but the good news is that you can easily prevent this by putting pipe insulation around the bars. Instead of pipe insulation, you can also cut up a yoga mat or use pool noodles – you know the form float you can use for swimming.
- Utilize wall space – Every tack room has loads of unused wall space but if you stick some velcro to the wall you can then attach your boots to it. They’ll then be close at hand when you need them but also won’t take up much space.
- Rug storage – If your rugs are constantly slipping off of the hanging poles then cover them (the poles not the rugs) with vet wrap and hey presto your rugs will stay securely in place. This also works for other items you need to hang over poles.
- Maximize wall space – If you’re short of storage space or have a small tack room you can create extra shelving by fixing old packing pallets to the wall. They can often be picked up for free from many stores (a lot of heavy delivery companies use them or you could look online) and give you shelves that are perfect for storing bottles.
- Keeps tools tidy – Fixing some PVC tubing to the wall will not only allow you to keep your forks, shovels, and brooms out of the way but it’ll also stop them from falling over all the time.
- Stop mold – It can be difficult to stop mold building up on rugs when you store them away but if you throw a few sachets of silica gel (widely available on Amazon) in with them the mold won’t develop at all. You can either collect sachets from some purchases such as shoes and bags or buy them on Amazon but they’re great at absorbing moisture and therefore preventing mold.
Feeding hacks to save time and money
- Keep flies off of food – If you make all of your horse’s meals in one go then placing an old shower cap over the bucket will keep the flies off, as well as the mice at bay too.
- Make your own scoops – While they don’t cost a huge amount on their own but if you buy a different scoop for each foodstuff then it can get quite expensive. Yet you can easily make your own by using old milk bottles. Just cut the corner off of the bottom of a gallon (3 liters or 6 pints) bottle then you can use the handle to scoop the food out.
- Natural grazing – If you live in an area that isn’t sandy you might want to try feeding your horse his hay on the floor. This is more natural for them and will reduce digestion issues, therefore allowing them to get the maximum nutrition from their food.
- Use treats to make deworming easier – Most horses don’t like deworming paste and often associate syringes with the bad tasting paste. Rinse out an old syringe and fill it with something tasty like apple sauce. You can then feed that to your horse which will stop him associating the syringe with bad tastes and ultimately make worming much easier.
- Use treats to stop your horse being bored – If your horse gets bored easily just cut up a few apples and put them in his water trough. He’ll then have to work out how to get them out which will keep him occupied for ages. And as a bonus, he’ll get a nice treat when he does work it out which will encourage him to try and get the others out too.
Grooming hacks to keep your horse spotless
- Baby wipes – No grooming kit if fully complete without at least one pack of baby wipes in it. They can be used for so many things it’s unbelievable! From bringing out the ‘show shine’ in your horse’s coat to taming a flyaway mane and tail to removing dust from white socks.
- Hair spray – A little bit of hair spray can work wonders when it comes to keeps your horse’s hair in place, whether it’s keeping a braided mane and tail neat or holding quarter markings in place hair spray is a must-have, and best of all it will simply brush out after.
- Whiten your horse’s tail – If your horse’s tail is more yellow than white, cover it all with ketchup and leave it for around 20 minutes before rinsing it off. The ketchup will get rid of all of the yellowing and you’ll be amazed at just how much whiter his tail is.
- Save time and water when washing your horse – After you’ve shampooed your horse go over his coat with a sweat scraper to remove the excess suds before rinsing. This will only take a few minutes but will not only save water but will also make rinsing much quicker and therefore save you time.
- Wash your horse without a bucket – Don’t have time to fill a bucket and wash your horse? Don’t worry you can quickly wash him with a grooming glove instead. Make sure his coat is wet then put a good helping of shampoo on a grooming glove (or your hand if you’d prefer) and work up a good lather on his coat before rinsing it off. Or you could follow the tip above before rinsing to save more time.
- Don’t have a sweat scraper? – Don’t worry if you don’t have a sweat scraper to hand, a piece of baling twine will do the job just as well, like a sweat scraper though don’t use it on sensitive areas such as your horses face or his legs.
- Tame flyaway manes and tails – If your horse’s mane and tail are a bit unruly you can remove the static and bring them back under control with a dryer sheet (something like Bounce or Downy are perfect). Rubbing your horse’s mane and tail with a new sheet will remove all of the static from the hair.
- Remove chestnuts and ergots – If your horse’s chestnuts and ergots are getting a bit long apply some vaseline or baby oil to them and leave for 15 minutes. You will then be able to easily peel them off.
- Perfect braids every time – Put a few plaiting bands over the teeth of your plaiting/mane comb to mark the width you want the braids to be. This will help you to make sure they’re always the same size, you’ve also got the bands to hand when you need them.
- Reuse old clipper blades – Clipper blades can only be sharpened so many times but rather than just throwing them away why not use them to shorten your horse’s mane? Just backcomb his mane then use the old blades to cut the ends of the mane.
- Smooth clipping – It’s a pain (sometimes literally for your horse) when the clippers don’t cut smoothly and snag on the hair but you can easily prevent this by using detangler or grooming oil (or any show shine product) on your horse’s coat prior to clipping. The clippers will then smoothly glide over the hair without getting caught.
Hacks to keep your tack looking like new
- No more tangled polo wraps – Detangling polo wraps after you’ve washed them is a nightmare but if you put them in lingerie bags before putting them in the wash you won’t need to, problem solved!
- Refresh scratched leather – You can remove scratches from leather with some olive oil. Put a little bit of oil on a clean soft cloth and rub it into the scratch then begin to work it in. It won’t take long for the scratch to disappear.
- No more mismatched polo wraps – If you keep all of the polo wraps together it can be difficult to find a matching pair, especially if you’ve got similar colors but if you cut different patterns on the ends of matching polo wraps you’ll never have an odd pair again.
- Why use saddle soap? – Instead of using saddle soap why not give beeswax a go instead, the natural acids in the wax will not only help to clean the leather but will also soften it too. In fact, I only use beeswax now as I find it does a far better job than saddle soap.
- Revive faded leather – If your saddle is starting to look a little faded you can quickly revive it and make it look as good as new again. Simply rub a bit of matching shoe polish into the leather and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it looks like new. Just make sure that you remove all of the excess, especially if you wear light-colored breeches.
- Make sure your horse always accepts the bit – When cleaning the bit use a little bit of children’s toothpaste to help to get it sparkling clean but your horse will love the minty taste to it as well. This will not only help him to accept the bit but will also encourage him to salivate, making the bit more responsive.
- Metal polish – You can use metal polish (or brass polish depending on the color) on metal fastenings to really bring the shine out. It’s especially good at getting that show shine on D rings and buckets but don’t use it on the bit or any fastening that will go near your horse’s eye or mouth.
- Use dental floss instead of thread – When repairing saddles and bridles (or rugs for that matter) use dental floss, this is not only stronger than thread but because of the nature of the floss it’ll also hold the repair better too.
- Don’t throw away old stable socks – We’ve all got worn-out pairs of long stable socks but rather than throw them out why not cut the foot end off them, you can then use them as girth covers.
Hacks to help you care for your horse in winter
- No more snowballs – If you get a lot of snow in winter you know that it can be difficult to stop it building up on the underside of your horse’s hooves and causing him to hobble. The good news is that but using hoof oil (such as Hooflex) on the underside of his hooves will prevent it from building up in the first place. If you’d prefer you can also use Shapley’s No. 1 Light Oil, this works just as well.
- Keep warm when riding – It can be difficult to keep warm when it’s freezing outside but wearing a pair of pantyhose underneath your breeches will keep you nice and toasty. They’re thin enough to fit comfortably under your breeches.
- Keep your hands warm – Nobody likes cold, numb fingers but if you put a pair of medical exam gloves (such as latex or nitrile) underneath your riding gloves your hands will remain warm and because the exam gloves are very thin you won’t lose any dexterity.
- Make zips and fastenings bigger – When your hands are numb and you’re wearing gloves it can be pretty difficult to get hold of the zip or buckle but if you attach a zip tie or colored tape to them you’ve got a fair bigger area to get hold of, making the whole task much easier.
- Add grips to cleaning tools – Wrapping bike tape around the end of your cleaning tools will give you extra grip, a must when the weather is bitterly cold. It can also help in the summer when your hands a much hotter.
- Non-stick snow shovel – Spray a little bit of Shapley’s Magic Sheen (or any other show shine) on your snow shovel and the snow will no longer stick to it. Do this from time to time and you won’t have to worry about the snow sticking all winter long.
- Use a sled – If you have an old sled and there’s enough snow on the ground why not use it to help you carry things about. Instead of carrying heavy feed bags and hay about you can put them all on the sled and then just pull it to wherever you need it.
- Stop pipes freezing – If your water pipes aren’t buried deep underground then spread a thick layer of muck over them. This will help to keep them warm and stop them from freezing.
Hacks to help you get through the summer
- Make your own bug spray – Rather than buying expensive spray simply boil a pint of water then add a sliced lemon (including the rind) and leave to stand for at least 10 hours. When it’s cool you can either sponge it directly on your horse’s coat or put it in a spray bottle ready to use whenever you need it. The lemon contains d-limonene which is used in most over the counter insecticides.
- Keep bugs (and rodents) away – Remember those dryer sheets we used to tame your horse’s mane and tail? Well, bugs hate the smell of them so riding with a few in your pocket (or stuffed into the top of your boots) will help to keep the bugs away. Rodents also don’t like the smell so putting some around your feed bins will help keep them away.
- De-stressing fly repellent – There are so many ways to keep the flies away but one of the advantages of lavender is that not only will it keep the flies away it’ll also help to relax and destress your horse. And best of all it doesn’t matter how you use the lavender, it can be a spray, dried, or even lavender oil – they all work just as well as each other.
- Horse lollies – If you’re worried about keeping your horse cool during the sweltering heat then fill a bucket with water, apples, carrots, and other fruits your horse likes before putting the middle of a rope into the bucket before freezing it. When frozen you can then hang it up and your horse will be able to keep cool for hours.
- Iced water – Horses will understandably drink a lot more water during the summer but the water can start to warm up pretty quickly. Adding ice cubes regularly to the water will help to keep the temperature down and help your horse to keep cool.
Hacks for when you’re in the saddle
- No more sore feet – If you’ve just bought a new pair of riding boots you can stop them rubbing your feet and making them sore by putting wet socks on before you put the boots on. I know that your feet will be wet but that will help to soften the leather and allow it to mold to your leg and foot.
- Always carry a hoof pick – This is more of a must-do rather than a hack but you carry a foldable hoof pick with you while riding you’ll be able to remove stones straightaway. Also with a foldable one, you’ll be able to comfortably and safely keep it in your pocket.
- Label jump heights – You might not think that this is much of a hack but if you need to regularly adjust the jumps you won’t need to measure them every time, it also makes it quick and easy if you have a non-horsy person helping you.
- Inexpensive jumps – Instead of spending a lot of money to paint (and then repaint) your jumps just use colored duct tape. You can get the tape in practically every color as well as a multitude of patterns so you’ll never be short of ideas.
- No more smelly riding helmet – Riding hats can be difficult to clean when they start to get smelly but if you wear a bandana under your helmet then that will soak up the sweat which will stop the helmet itself from smelling.
- Put hooks on arena post – Putting some hooks on a couple of the posts around the arena will mean that you’ve always got somewhere to hang your jacket when you get too hot. It’ll also help it keep the area tidy and will stop it from being blown away.
- DIY boot tree – Boot trees can be expensive, especially if you’ve got a few pairs of boots but pipe insulation can do the job just as well. Just cut the pipe to the right length and, if your boots are wide, put a couple of lengths in each boot.
Hacks to save you money
Many household items can be bought for a fraction of the cost of ’specialist’ horse equipment but the good news is that a lot of things you use around the house can also be used at the barn too. In fact, there are so many that I dedicated a whole article to just that – you can read it here.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉