Look up the word “hack” in the dictionary and the result is not the most appealing: “a rough cut, blow, or stroke.” But type in the same four letters into the more modern Urban Dictionary with the word “life” in front of them, and the word has an entirely new meaning:
A clever solution to a tricky problem. A tool or technique that makes some aspect of one’s life easier or more efficient. Tips and tricks that get things done quickly by automating, increasing productivity and organizing.
However you define the term, we could all use some helpful tips to make life easier, especially in the barn, where we’re constantly torn in different directions between riding, equine care, and horse show prep. “I’ll happily get on that horse for you as soon as I finish cleaning my tack, fixing the water pump that just broke, and returning the work call from my (other) full-time job!”
Below are some lesser-known tips to make your life at the barn easier, more efficient, and more cost effective:
1. An alternative for ear plugs
It’s quite possible I’ve lost more equine earplugs than I’ve purchased—at least it feels that way! There can never be enough earplugs in the barn, but a single pair can cost up to $15. Multiply that by a barn of 40, and these tiny necessities become a rather large expense. Save the nice earplugs for the show ring, and when schooling, substitute them with cotton. The great racemare Zenyatta was known for wearing cotton in her ears in all of her races, 19 of which were victories that led her into racing’s Hall of Fame this summer.
Another fun fact: Cat toys make fantastic earplugs. You can purchase a pack of four Leaps & Bounds Foam Ball Cat Toys from PetCo for $2.99. They look just like POMMS earplugs except that they come in bright colors.
2. Olive oil
Did you know that olive oil removes water stains? Use this household item to clean off the jumps in your arena or your tack trunk after it’s undergone some inclement weather.
3. Limit scuff
One of my all-time favorite barn hacks is to place tennis balls on the end of crossties so they don’t bang into the walls and scuff up the tack trunks in their path.
4. Hooray beer!
Is your horse not sweating enough? As it turns out, beer is the solution for our equine athletes.
5. You can lead a horse to water…
But you can’t make him drink. If your horse isn’t drinking enough, put some powdered Gatorade in his water bucket to make it more enticing.
6. For the speed eaters
A horse that devours his food too quickly is more susceptible to colic. Slow down a particularly ravenous eater by putting a couple large, smooth river rocks in his bucket. The effort it will take for him to move the rocks away will slow down his eating.
7. The power of the clamp
Use a handheld spring clamp to make moving heavy stall mats easier. The extra grip and leverage make a world of a difference and immensely improve your efficiency.
8. Cribbing collar covers
If your horse needs to wear a cribbing collar, purchase a pony-sized girth sock and place it over the collar to create more comfort for your horse while still discouraging the unhealthy behavior.
9. Baling twine
It’s the best quick fix for just about anything, from hanging crossties to making makeshift halters when you’re in a pinch. Got a problem? There’s a good chance baling twine is the solution.
10. No bran, no problem
If you haven’t had time to make your horse a weekly bran mash to cleanse his system, mix his grain with mineral oil.
11. Optimum organization
Make your schooling tack—from halters to bridles to girths—easier to organize and identify with engraved dog tags or festive wine glass charms.
12. The best household item at the barn is…
Every barn needs a label maker! Using one to label stalls, buckets, bridle racks, etc., is a very effective way to organize a barn, especially one with a lot of traffic. The labels are clean and easy to read, and they’re easy to replace when horses are bought and sold. Organization is a key element to a successful barn.