A quick stroll through your favorite horse magazine, saddlery catalog or tack shop leaves no doubt about it — horse people love cool horse stuff that makes their life easier. Trouble is, by the time you’ve bought all those cool, helpful things, you may not have enough money left for your feed bill or entry fees.
Here is a list of some everyday items which most of us have around that can be surprisingly useful in the barn. The best part? If you don’t have them handy, you can get them at your nearest grocery or hardware store and avoid the typical high price of cool horse stuff!
1. Headlamp. You can find those handy little LED lights on elastic straps everywhere from your favorite boutique running store to the check out aisle of your nearest big box. You may even have one in the kitchen drawer or your tool box, but it can be a bright idea to keep at least one of these in your barn as well. Here are just a few uses:
• Not everyone has the luxury of electricity in the barn, and flashlights can be darned awkward when your hands are busy carrying water buckets. Strap on a headlamp and the light is focused wherever your eyes are.
• It’s thunderstorm season – ever had the power go out when you were doing evening feeds or night check? Keeping a headlamp handy means you can still see your way around. In fact, they’re great for night check, as they can be much less disruptive than turning on all the lights in the barn.
• Attach one to your horse’s breastplate while trail riding in case you stay out too long and the sun goes down. A great way to help your horse and you find your way through the trail.
• Dealing with an injured horse in a poorly lit area. Again – the light goes where your eyes do, so you can really focus in on injuries that are typically hard to see with overhead lighting.
Note: You do want to be sure you introduce your horses to the headlamp before you need it in an emergency. Some are initially quite spooky around the bobbing light, but most will adapt quickly. One young horse I know takes delight in trying to stomp on the light spot on the ground when he’s brought in on winter evenings by his headlamp-wearing owner.
2. Baking soda. Tired of scrubbing hard water stains out of your tack room sink or automatic waterers? Wish there was an easy way to keep helmets and boots smelling fresh? How about getting your saddle pads cleaner without a lot of harsh chemicals? The uses for baking soda are legion, but here are a few to get you started.
• Baking soda is a natural deodorizer. Use it in boots and helmets (be sure to shake or wipe out before wearing), in the garbage can and recycling bin, and down the drain in your tack room sink.
• Soothe insect bites. You know the crusty gnat bites horses get in lines across their chests? A paste of baking soda and water will help soothe the itch.
• Brighten and freshen saddle pads without adding harsh chemicals to the laundry. You can presoak saddle pads, leg wraps, and horse blankets with baking soda to help clean and freshen them.
• Baking soda safely scrubs away hard water stains and is an effective cleaner for sinks, buckets and automatic waterers. Just a little on a wet sponge, make a paste, scrub and rinse. Not as abrasive as scouring powder.
• And for those of you with a shelf full of silver trophies to keep clean – baking soda will do the trick. Simply make a paste, wipe and rinse.
• Pop on a pair when you’re cleaning muddy feet or using gooey hoof preparations.
• Like your stalls really clean? Use a pair of gloves to hand pick those last poops that fall through the pitchfork head.
• Protect your hands from getting wet when they’re really chapped or from getting slippery when using mane and tail dressings.
• Avoid those bizarre looking blue fingers and fingernails when using whitening shampoos.
A quick note – be sure to buy vinyl or nitrile gloves to avoid the possibility of someone (horse or human) having an allergic reaction to latex gloves.
4. Coffee bean grinder. – I only have one use to offer up for this, but it’s so handy, I had to include it. If you have a horse that’s on any tableted form of medication (isoxuprine, bute, doxycycline, etc.), getting your horse to eat it can be a real challenge. Enter the coffee grinder. Available for around $15, an electric coffee grinder can be a very handy item to have when you need to add pills to your horse’s feed. Once ground, the powdered medication can then be top dressed onto the feed or mixed with a little water (and a little apple sauce or molasses, if you like) and administered with an oral dose syringe.
Note – Be sure to check with your vet before grinding down any meds. Some may be available in powder form from a compounding pharmacy, and some may need to be fed whole (although this is not common with medications for horses).
• Voice recorder – most phones come with a built in voice recorder. These can be great when you think of something you need to add to your feed list and you’re out in the pasture.
• Calendar app – Use it for everything from lessons to vet visits. They can be great for scheduling the next 4 week visit with your blacksmith while you’re standing at his truck. Use the reminder function, and you’ll never have the blacksmith drive into the yard only to realize the horse he’s here to do is still out in the field.
• Texting: Not just to keep up to date with clients and family, but very useful to send photos/videos of an injured horse to your vet.
• Clock – Use the clock for everything from timing your musical freestyle to checking TPR, and reminding you 10 minutes before the end of the lesson you’re teaching so you can look for a good wrapping up point.
• Calculator – Not just for your checkbook! Ever try to figure out those medication dosages that are listed in grams per 100 pounds of body weight? Or try to remember how many feet long a 60 meter dressage arena is?
• GPS – Great for finding your way to shows, but your GPS can also be great on trail rides. You can use commonly available apps for runners to plot your course, see where you’ve been and keep track of mileage for getting your horse fit.
• Compass – Useful on trail rides or in remote areas where you may not have GPS signal and you know you have to head South.
• Flashlight – Useful until you get the headlamp I mentioned before.
• ICE – Most emergency responders suggest you keep 1 or 2 contacts listed in your phone under ICE (In Case of Emergency), but there is at least one iPhone app that goes further. It will keep an emergency contact name and phone number on your lock screen, so even if your phone is locked, someone can be contacted if you’re unconscious for any reason. This app also has a place to list medications and health conditions, but accessing those does require unlocking the phone.
I hope you’ve found this list helpful. Please feel free to post other hints and tips for horsey uses of everyday items in the comment section.