Whatever you call them: tops, secrets, simple tricks, life hacks, there are a multitude of little ways horse owners have of saving time and money. These are a few of my favorites. Use them for your favorite Standardbred, or horse of any breed!
1. Make any cross-tie or trailer tie a breakaway tie by tying a loop of baling twine to the tie ring, and snapping your cross-tie or trailer tie to that. It will break automatically under pressure, leaving the tie attached to the horse's halter for easy catching, it's safer for the horse than non-breakaway or person-activated ties, and it's free!
2. Replace the broken breakaway crown piece on your leather halter or breakaway halter by cutting up old worn-out stirrup leathers and punching holes on each end.
3. Reduce the workload of your trough heater, save money, and reduce ice build-up in your water troughs over the winter with insulation. Wrap foil-bubble-foil insulation around the sides of the water trough and tape it in place. Scraps of plywood and 2 x 4s can be fashioned into a "lid" for the top of the trough. You want it to cover about half to two-thirds of the top of the trough, leaving a section open for the horses to drink from. Attach more foil-bubble-foil or foam insulation to the underside of the plywood for a thermos-like effect. A clay brick can also be heated and dropped into troughs for electricity-free warming (not recommended for plastic troughs).
4. Reduce snow from balling up in your horse's hooves in the winter by applying vegetable shortening or cooking spray to their soles. Though snow and ice balls may still form, they will fall out faster and easier.
5. Keep an electric tea kettle or coffee pot in the barn to warm water
for making warm mashes and thawing frozen water buckets in the winter.
6. Use feed bags to feed your horses in the pasture instead of buckets. Everyone gets their allotted portion of grain and supplements with no waste, and bullies can't steal more than their share. Colored duct tape can be used to color code or label the feed bags by horse, and they can be filled in advance and hung on stall fronts to save you time.
7. Before you discard a worn-out piece of tack or equipment, save any of the usable hardware from it, such as buckles, loops, straps, Velcro, and snaps. It may save you a couple bucks and/or a trip to the tack shop to repair an item in the future.
8. Old horse blankets or saddle pads can be repurposed as pet beds or equipment covers. An old horse blanket or cooler is about the right size to make a handy dust cover for your lawnmower.
9. A 3" quick link fastener and 1" bolt snap can replace the broken hardware on your nylon stall guard to extend its life.
10. An old metal tube gate makes a great rack for neatly hanging saddle pads or horse blankets.
11. Empty cat food or tuna cans can make great bridle racks. Just screw them onto a piece of wood and attach it to the wall. Be sure to wash them thoroughly before using them!
12. A 2-3 foot section of landscape timber (or other rounded pole), a screw eye, and a screw-in hook make a quick and easy fold-down saddle rack for your barn aisle.
13. Resurrect a worn-out fly mask by sewing a strip of polar fleece over the worn out fleece edging. The polar fleece will provide padding and the raw edges won't fray.
14. Diapers make a handy and absorbent hoof pack for abscesses or hoof wounds. Wrap the diaper around the hoof using the side tabs for a snug fit, cover with self-adhesive first-aid wrap (Vetwrap), and cover well with duct tape. Maxi pads also make absorbent wound dressings that can be stuck onto an outer bandage wrapping/cover.
15. Empty plastic peanut butter jars make great containers for a variety of
items around the barn such as horse treats or first aid items like
cotton balls or hypodermic needles. They're shatterproof, water-tight,
and their contents can be easily seen.
16. Old tube socks work great for cleaning and oiling tack. Don a latex glove, then slip your hand inside the sock to apply tack cleaner and oil while keeping your hand clean and dry. Tube socks can also be used as tail bags.
17. Bits and metal stirrups can be washed in the top rack of your dishwasher. Your spouse would probably prefer that you wash them separately from the forks and dinner plates.
18. A large memory foam bath mat makes a cushy orthopedic under-pad to slip under your English saddle pad.
19. Save money by stocking up on next year's supplies during end of season clearance sales. For example, buy next season's fly masks and fly spray in the fall so that you're ready the following summer.
20. Take good care of your tack and equipment. It will last longer, look nicer, and be less likely to break.