Have you ever heard of a blivet?  It’s where you have 10 pounds of s***, and only a 5 pound sack to put it in. In the world of horses, sometimes that takes the form of tack being packed into a tack room or trailer. Other times, it’s too much to do, and not enough time to do it in.

So in the spirit of community, your friends at HJU offer you the following “hacks” that we have each discovered in our various riding, training, showing, and competing endeavors. “Hacks” are practical, quick, helpful ways to make things happen – ways to help you handle the blivet of your horse life.

Since we’re amateurs here, I took the liberty of asking our friends at Professional Equine Grooms if they had any hacks they would be willing to share with their amateur colleagues. They gladly provided some of the suggestions in this blog from their store of tips and tricks. They also have a series of articles containing many more super ideas.  Check them out: The Best Barn Hacks: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Look for the name or initials in parentheses at the end of the tip for the contributor; a name is a Horse Junkies blogger, and PEG is Professional Equine Grooms.

Remember, many of the things listed here can be bought for cheap at places like beauty supply stores, discount stores (Dollar Store, Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc.), craft stores (A.C. Moore, Michael’s, etc.), organizing stores (Container Store, etc.), hardware stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, etc.), or even the bulk aisle at your local grocery store.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!  Here we go!

Technology

  • Heels Down Magazine — Available for both Apple and Android devices. Horses, fun, fashion, humor, music, riding tips, lifestyle…  ‘Nuf said!
  • SmartPak apps — There’s a SmartPak app that allows you to order tack and supplies or update your SmartPak supplements. There’s a blanketing app that pulls your local weather forecast, and adjusts for indoor versus outdoor accommodations, and helps you figure out what blanket to tuck your pony in with each night. And last but not least, there’s a quiz app to help you tune up your horse knowledge and trivia. All are free. (Sue)
  • FEI TV On The Go — What better way to get streaming video of current competitions while you’re on the go? (Sue)
  • Equitempo — It’s an adjustable metronome for figuring out the rhythm of your horse’s gaits. There are special settings for walk, trot, and canter. For dressage riders, this provides a baseline for choosing music for your freestyle routines. In addition, it can help you keep your rhythm – and your horse’s rhythm – consistent and while you’re training. (Sue)
  • FEI Dressage test app –To practice your tests, download the FEI EquiTests app (it’s free), and use the blank arena diagram to practice. You can chose arena size, and change between gaits with a simple finger swipe. (Sue)

Competition Turnout — For Your Horse

braids

  • Braids — Protect your braids by cutting one leg of an old pair of pantyhose or tights lengthwise.  Then stretch the leg over the length of the braid, and put a band over each one to secure.  (Kerry)
  • Horse tails — Protect your horse’s tail by stretching one leg of pantyhose or tights over his tail. Band it at the end and at the bottom of the dock to keep it clean in the trailer or overnight.  (Kerry)
  • Cornstarch — Does your horse have white socks? Need them extra white for a show?  Just rub some cornstarch on those socks before you enter the ring, and see the difference!  (Geri)
  • Hair clips — These are great to keep the unbraided mane from getting in your way while braiding. They are usually sold in packs of 3. (Holly)
  • Rubber bands — They’re a quarter of the price of tack store bands, and they work fine for quick braiding or mane taming. (Holly)

Competition Turnout — For You 

  • Mirror — Get a decent sized or full-length mirror and some adhesive Velcro strips to stick it up in your trailer or inside your tack trunk. Remember to get a plastic mirror, not glass. Perfect for a last minute check of your helmet, hairnet, and stock tie. (Laurie)
  • Nylon stockings — Put a military-grade shine on your competition boots by using old nylons with runs in them. You can either use scraps balled up in the toe of an old pair, or you can use a single leg like a towel to buff the leather to a brilliant shine almost instantly. Don’t laugh! The U.S. Marines use it to get that killer shine on their dress shoes.  (Kerry)
  • Armor-All or Lexol wipes — They’re great for a last minute touch up to put that winning shine on your boots as you enter the ring. Remember to knock the dirt off the bottom of your boots once your feet are in the stirrups as the wipe’s last hurrah (George Morris would be proud). They’re also a lot easier to pack in your show trunk than a whole collection of individual tack cleaning supplies.  (Justine/Sue/Holly)
  • Baby powder — This is good for helping your foot slide into tall boots and keeps them smelling fresh. Use it in your horse’s boots too to prevent rubs.  (Holly)
  • Sing out loud! — If you have trouble with your nerves before competition, sing to your horse out loud. It will force you to breathe and it also helps you keep a tempo. Lots of people sing Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees because of its strong, basic beat. (Nicole)

Competition Turnout — For Your Barn 

  • Flowers for jumps — Pick these up in a craft store instead of paying for expensive jump decor at a tack store. Seasonal flowers can give your jumps a great look. Better yet, pick up seasonal flowers after the specific holiday has passed for additional savings. Since they’re synthetic, they’ll keep. Look for greenery while you’re there. (Holly)

Clinics and Camps

  • Clothing — Keep your choices simple and basic: boots, pants, belt, and polo shirt. Figure on two changes of clothing per day. If it’s all the same, then you won’t have to worry about getting the right pants with the right shirt. And having fresh clothes for the afternoon will help get you through a tough day of riding with a demanding trainer.  (Sue)
  • Panty liners – These make great sweat-stoppers inside your helmet.  (Holly)

Feed and Feeding

  • Buy hay in bulk — If you can get a good deal on hay, and need a place to store the extra, look at a temporary storage shed. A 10 x 10 x 8 structure can keep up to 50 bales of hay dry and safe. And it’s portable too! (Lisa Marie)
  • Baling twine — If you don’t have your knife handy, and you need to cut a bale of hay loose, just use a second piece of bailing twine. Loop it around the piece you want to cut and use a sawing motion.  (PEG)
  • Shower caps — You can usually get a pack of 4-8 for just a dollar. They make terrific feed bucket covers to keep flies out of the grain. That way, you can set them out overnight to speed up your morning feeding. (Holly)
  • Measuring cups — Get one in the big quart size with a handle. It’s super for measuring feed. (Holly)
  • Pool skimmer — Use a pool skimmer to clean out your water troughs; you don’t even need the long handle. (PEG)

The Tack Room

  • Milk crates — Collect the grooming tools, boots, wraps, quarter sheets, and other equipment that is specific to each horse in your barn, and keep them in separate milk crates. Use a different color crate for each horse.  (Holly)
  • Hooks — Put up smaller hooks for hanging lightweight items like halters or lead ropes in handy and consistent places on each stall. They can also be used to hang hoof picks so they don’t get lost. (Holly)
  • Storage containers — Get one with lots of smaller drawers to store things like braiding supplies and stud kits. Larger drawers will work better for grooming supplies, tack cleaning supplies, saddle pads, towels, and tools.  hey’re great for things you need to keep clean but don’t want to bring in the house. (Holly)
  • Rugs — We’re talking about the small cotton throw type. They’re great for padding wooden or wire saddle racks to prevent scratches or marks on the underside of your saddle. Also, add a couple to your horse trailer tack room so you have something clean to stand on while you change clothes. (Holly)
  • Dog Brush — Use a dog hair slicker brush to fluff up your sheepskins and fleeces.  (PEG)

Barn Management and Maintenance

  • Plastic zip top bags — Use these to organize small items like eye screws, nuts, bolts, nails, studs, tools, treats, etc. in various sizes. I put my armband and emergency information in a clear one that lives in my horse trailer all the time. (Holly)
  • Bungee cords — Use them to tie anything: lids on plastic keepers, holding your horse’s fan on his stall front, etc. (Holly)
  • Detergent — Use a drop or two in a bucket of hot water for cleaning feed tubs and water buckets, etc. A small bottle will last a long time, and a large bottle will last nearly forever. (Holly)
  • Dish pans — We’re talking about the large, round type here. They can be used as feed tubs in a pinch. (Holly)
  • Plastic garbage cans — Clean and new garbage cans can be used for water tubs in an emergency. They can also be used to store grain or other organic things that are subject to rodents, or for storing clean fabrics like leg wraps and sheets in an outdoor environment.  (Holly)
  • Toilet brushes — They are great for scrubbing out water buckets because they get into the corners easily. When they’re worn out, just throw them out and get another! (Holly)
  • Towels — Small bath towels are lightweight and useful everywhere for wiping. And if one gets ruined wiping up spilled hoof dressing, it’s not a great loss. (Holly)

Fill your spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and water

  • Spray bottles — Use them for fly spray, mane and tail detangler, plain water for misting, or alcohol for leg brace.  Most can be written on with a permanent marker for identification of the contents. (Holly)
  • 5-gallon paint bucket — They’re tall, they have a handle, and they have a lid. Best of all, they’re easy to stack in the tack room or trailer, and can be easily labeled with masking tape and a marker. Use them to keep collections of things together. I put all my stray leather goods in one (girths, stirrup leathers, flashes, etc.). (Sue)
  • Scissors — Use children’s scissors to cut open hay bales, grain sacks, supplement packs, packages, or other things. Get the brightest colors you can so they are easier to find. And if they get dropped in the hay room, they’re a lot safer than knives or box cutters. (Holly)
  • Hand sanitizer — This is great in the tack room, in your horse trailer, or at the wash rack. (Holly)
  • Collapsible laundry hampers or recycling bins — These are great for horse trailer show-day garbage (when lined with a trash bag), or for recycling drink cans in the barn. They’re also very useful for sorting barn laundry. (Holly)
  • Sink scrubbers — Great for scrubbing water or feed buckets, while limiting the spread of fungi or other nasties. Either toss them when they get grungy, or run them through the dishwasher with a splash of Clorox to disinfect them, and use them again and again.  (Justine/Sue)

Tack

  • Breastplate blues — If you are struggling with getting a five point breastplate on your girthy horse, just do up the back buckles first.  Then attach the girth straps just through the front buckle/billet. (Nicole)
  • Stud chain — If your horse needs a stud chain, wear it around your neck while trailering, or when it’s not in use away from home. That way, you won’t lose it. And it makes an amazing statement piece/ribbon holder. (Nicole)
  • Velcro woes — Stitch removable thigh/knee blocks directly onto your saddle.  This way, you avoid losing them when the Velcro doesn’t hold them on anymore.  I do just one stitch with heavy saddlers waxed thread into the seam of the block, and loop it once through the saddle’s Velcro pad.  (Holly)
  • Coolers — For a less expensive option to a full cooler, pick up an open knit bedspread. They make a good lightweight cooler for mild days when you need a cover for a wet horse, but don’t need a full heavy cooler. (Holly)
  • Soft toothbrushes — Great for getting leather cleaner and conditioner into the tiny crevices in your bridle and saddle that a rag or sponge just can’t get to. And since the toothbrush is soft, it won’t scratch the leather.  (Sue)
  • Car sponges — Look for these in the car care section. Car wash sponges are the perfect size body sponges for bathing horses. (Holly)
  • Kitchen sponge/scrubber — The small packs of kitchen sponges with the rough side are super for tack cleaning. Just be careful about scratching the leather with the rough side. (Holly)
  • Small brushes and scrubbers — These are great for cleaning bits and buckles on tack and other hard to reach things around the barn (Holly)
  • Polyester throws — These are just the right size for exercise blankets. Just fold them in half, put them under the saddle and above the pad when you tack up, and voila! An exercise blanket at a quarter of the tack store price! (Holly)

Horse Grooming and General Care

  • Baby wipes — They clean everything from your hands to your tack. (Sue)
  • Listerine — Use Listerine as the base in a spray bottle to treat rain rot. Remember to get a sugar-free version of Listerine or you’ll just feed the fungus instead of killing it. There are different versions of this one: straight Listerine, half Listerine and half white vinegar, or a cocktail of 2 cups Listerine, 1 cup water, and your choice of 1/4 cup baby oil or 1/3 cup Skin So Soft or 1/2 cup vitamin E oil. Any mouthwash, straight from the bottle, makes a good antiseptic. (Justine/Sue)
  • Baby oil — It makes a great hoof oil. Look for the unscented and non-perfumed varieties. (Holly)
  • Shampoo and conditioner — Get the human types at the beauty supply store in larger quantities for a more economical option.  Stick with the milder and less scented versions.  (Holly)
  • Witch hazel — If your horse gets a spur mark, or otherwise has hair removed involuntarily, apply witch hazel to the bald spot. It helps get the hair to grow back in its original color, not white.  (Sue)
  • Cotton balls — Need to plug a stud?  Apply ointments?  Wipe eyes? Dab something? Use a cotton ball. You can even stuff your saddle with them in an emergency. Get the bags with resealable tops to keep the rest clean for the next time. (Holly)
  • Warm towels — To create hot towels in the cooler weather for stain removal and warming up the bit, use a (supervised) crock pot with water and small dish towels. Hot toweling is a great way to clean your fuzzy winter horse! (PEG)
  • White vinegar — Use either straight, or cut 50% with water. Great for cleaning bits after a ride, especially during the summer when the horses seem to slobber extra. Also excellent for cleaning your hands after you’ve gotten messy. (Bonita)

Horse Discomfort

Belinda feeling good with a bunch of diaper rash cream in her mane.

Diaper rash cream in the mane – who knew?

  • Mares in season — Lots of times, mares in season become incredibly uncomfortable with the dirt and gunk that can build up on their teats. Once you’ve cleaned the area, apply a lotion consisting of 1-1/3 cups coconut oil, 1/2 cup vitamin E oil, 1/2 cup water. A spray bottle is really handy here.  You can also put the lotion on a baby wipe and use that to apply.  (Justine)
  • Fly spray — Mix 3 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons eucalyptus oil, 1/3 cup Skin So Soft, and 2 cups water. Put it in a spray bottle, and apply as needed. (Justine)
  • Blue Star ointment — If you horse gets a reaction to injections on their neck, like welts, try applying a little Blue Star. (Justine)
  • Gnat bite remedy — 2 parts SWAT (the fly repellent ointment), 1 part hydrocortizone cream, 1 part campho phenique. Apply liberally to soothe the itch, and get hair growth re-started. (Caroline)
  • Desitin — If your horse rubs their mane or tail raw, try putting Desitin (yes, the diaper rash cream) on the area. It smells like a baby, but it works.  (Justine)
  • Hand sanitizer — It’s basically gel alcohol, so it can also be good for bracing your horse’s legs after a tough workout! Be sure to check ingredients and don’t use on any cuts or scrapes. (Holly)
  • Vitamin E cream – This works on hotspots or chafed places, like elbows and heel cracks. Look for the kind without perfumes or added ingredients. A note of caution: I always look for the kind of basic lotions, mixtures, ointments or products that are free of perfume, menthol, artificial scent or flavor, or that are specifically non-allergenic, as these versions are better for use on horses. If you aren’t sure, don’t buy it or use it, and please ask your vet first.  (Holly)

Wound Care

Dear Colby, I swear you do these things to me on purpose!!

  • Disposable diapers — Depending on your horse, you may need anything from infant size to toddler size. But diapers are a great, self-contained way to keep an injury site clean after you’ve re-treated and re-dressed it. We used it on a hoof abscess, and it worked brilliantly. It’s the clean layer that goes right up against the injury site. (Justine, Deysha)
  • Duct tape — A million and one uses, including keeping that diaper (above) on the horse until the next time you need to treat the wound.
  • Lysol disinfecting wipes — Recommended by a vet to clean wounds, but I’d be prepared for a kick reflex! (Caroline)
  • Saline solution — It’s just as good as the equine eye washes at a fraction of the price. (Holly)
  • Panty liners — Useful for first aid applications on your horse’s legs because they will protect your bandages from ointment stains or discoloration. (Holly)
  • Epsom salts – Dissolve a generous handful of salts in warm water (with a little Betadine if you like) for soaking abscessed hooves. Salt water kills germs.  (Holly)
  • Spatulas — Great for applying poultices, greasy hoof packing, or stirring mashes and wet feed without dirtying your scoop. Get the kind with a heavy sturdy handle (Holly)
  • Rubber/plastic/poly gloves (disposable) — Use these for applying ointments, leg braces, poultice, or hoof packing. Or just use them to protect your hands from over drying when washing things.  (Holly)
  • Poultice wrap — Use the paper lining of the feed bags to wrap poultices on your horse’s legs. (PEG)

Horse Clothes

  • Blankets — When the rubber ring on your blanket buckle breaks, use several braiding bands in its place.  (Alison)
  • Bag of “small stuff” — Keep a bag for hunting and horse shows with all the “small stuff” in it, like hair nets, face wipes, pads, gloves, Kleenex, a first aid kit, sunscreen, bug spray, a hat for hiding your helmet hair, chapstick, medical armband, and mini dressage tests laminated and hooked together on a key ring (a gift from a trainer that was really awesome). Also put some dry socks and a clean t-shirt at the bottom. This bag lives in the truck during show season. Then I can just throw in a granola bar and a bottle of water in it before each hunt or show. (Holly)
  • Blanket rack — Use broken broom or rake handles, cut to a uniform length and drilled through each end.  String them together on heavy cord or bailing twine to make your own blanket rack.  Tie knots in the cord where you want each rung on the rack to sit. (Holly)

Safety and Security

  • Locker keys — When you’re in a public barn with a lot of strangers touring the stables regularly, it can be a bad idea to leave your locker unlocked. But when other people ride your horse, they will also need access to the locker to get to boots, wraps, etc. So keep two complete sets of keys. Leave one set in the pocket of your stall-side tack holder. Keep the other set on a separate key ring. Keep that second set with the keys to the vehicle you tow your trailer with (mine stay in the center arm rest). That way you always have a set, and the barn staff has access to one should they need it. (Sue)
  • Riding alone — We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t ride alone, whether on trail or in the ring. But sometimes it can’t be helped. If you do ride alone, use a locator like RoadID. If you don’t move in 5 minutes, it alerts the people you’ve chosen. Plus it shows your location on a map so you can be more easily located. Look here for more details. It’s free, so there’s no excuse not to.  (Sue)
  • Medical wristband — An alternative to the traditional medical armband, which can provide more information if needed, is the RoadID wristband. It looks like a bracelet, and can be color coordinated with your riding gear. For a younger rider, the fashion statement may be enough to get them to wear it more regularly. If you do the interactive version, you can keep an updated medical history and set of contacts on the Road ID website, which is accessible to emergency responders in the event they need it. (Sue)
  • Embroidery — This isn’t exactly a “hack,” but… If your tack or equipment has a tendency to get borrowed when you aren’t around, and winds up in some far corner of the barn, consider embroidering whatever you can. It’s an easy way to show ownership when your saddle pad winds up on another horse. If it’s something that isn’t easily embroidered, like a lead rope, consider getting an engraved tag. If all else fails, use a label maker to print something short (horse’s name, initials, your last name, etc.) and attach that to your goods.

And of course,

Treats

  • Ginger snaps and peppermints — You can get big packages of mints enough for the whole barn for just a few dollars. After Christmas the candy canes go on sale. Check for treats after other candy intensive holidays like Easter and Halloween. Remember to stick to the versions made from regular sugar/molasses/etc., and not the artificial sweeteners. Serve in moderation.
  • Apples and carrots — Lots of mega-marts are now stocking super large quantities: 50 lbs of carrots, and 25 lbs of apples, all in one bag. They can also sometimes be found at horse expos.

Again, a special “thank you” to our colleagues at Professional Equine Grooms.  It’s really nice that we can help each other out as we all enjoy our horses.

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