When you need something for your horse or barn, you run to the local tack store or farm store, right? Well, if it’s for tack, or blankets, or riding clothes, the answer is yes, but for some items for use on or around your horse, a trip to the grocery store, hardware store, or home store, can provide cheaper and easier alternatives to horse-only products. I’m going to share a few of my must-haves, as well as some of my favorite alternatives. One thing you will have to do though, is let go of enough pride to not mind the strange stares and looks you may get buying human stuff in horsie quantities. You haven’t lived until you’ve gone through the line at Costco with 30 gallons of corn oil and 20 pounds of carrots, and gotten the puzzled once over from the clerk, who clearly thinks, “Guess the fried carrot diet works OK.”
The first thing to always consider is that for certain items, buying them at a tack store is going to ensure a price hike. Muck tubs, double-ended snaps, rakes, and brooms are all examples of items than can be found elsewhere for less. Lowe’s or Home Depot, or even your local hardware store are good bets for many of these. For muck tubs, I find the laundry or storage aisles of Wal-Mart, Kmart, or Target can yield a $5 to $10 savings over buying a “certified equine muck tub.”
That storage solutions sections of those stores is also a favorite of mine because of all the neato boxes, containers and everything else you can find to help organize your horse belongings. A friend of mine once said, “You can never have too much Rubbermaid.” Truer words were never spoken. Forget pricey custom bandage boxes, get a clear plastic one in your barn colors with a drawer to keep everything tidy.
However, one area I do think you need to go “for equine use” is large tack trunks. In my experience, the lighter storage chests and trunks found in human stores don’t tend to be strong enough to bear up to the weight of horse stuff for too long before the handles or bottom break or crack. So, I have a tack trunk made by an equine manufacturer, but everything in it is organized in human use containers.
When it comes to actual human products for use on horses, the list can be endless so I’m only going to mention a few of my favorites. The first one on the list, in big capitol letters, is duct tape. It has too many uses to list, and can be used on the horse, as well as in the barn. I saw a sign once (in a barn, naturally) that said “Duct tape is like the Force-it has a dark side, a light side, and it holds the universe together.” So make sure you have at least three rolls on hand at all times. There is almost nothing that can’t be fixed by the judicious application of duct tape.
A landlady of mine introduced me to the wonders of baby diapers many years ago, and I can’t live without them now. They are the ultimate easy solution for feet. Have a horse with an abscess that needs to soak? Or a horse with a sore foot that needs to be poulticed or have some other medication applied? You can struggle with rolls of cotton, elastic wrap and duct tape, fiddle with buckets of hot water and salt your horse doesn’t feel inclined to stand in, or you can just use a diaper.
For an Epsom salt soaking wrap, place a large handful of salt in the diaper, add just enough hot water to lightly saturate the salt and diaper, apply to horses foot and attach with the diaper tabs. Reinforce with duct tape. For other medication or poultice, apply to foot, and cover with diaper. The tabs on the diaper mean it can be attached the foot in no time, and all the breakthroughs in waterproof “no leaks” linings in modern diapers means the medications will stay locked firmly inside and on the foot.
Just remember when the helpful clerk asks you “How old is your baby” to not just off-handedly answer, “10” or they might call the authorities.
Another favorite produce of mine is WD-40. It doesn’t have any “magical” uses in the barn, just lots and lots of uses. Boots too tight? Spray some WD-40 on your calf and on the lining of the boots, and voila, everything slides on easier. When I’m taking out studs or putting them in (the kind that screw in to your horse shoes, not the equine male kind) a liberal does of WD-40 on the stud and stud hole keeps everything clean. I also like to pack my stud holes with cotton soaked in WD-40. And of course, the million different hinges, windows, etc. that stick in the barn environment can be freed with WD-40.
A few more favorites: Listerine, chamois, and skateboards. Rinsing the tail in Listerine once a month or so can get rid of the rail scungies and itchies like nothing else. I’m not sure why, and I probably don’t want to know, but an old horseman friend of mine shared that one with me, and if you can stand the smell (you should use the yellow “original” Listerine, not one of the newer flavored ones) it works great. A cheaper alternative to those pricey “non-slip” pads for use under your regular saddle pad can be an ordinary chamois used to dry off cars cut to the proper size and shape. They absorb sweat and keep everything in place.
And finally, the skateboard. Yes, an actual skateboard. It needs to be what I’m told is now considered an “old school” skateboard-one with a large, wide platform to stand on, and big, fat, wheels for “all terrain use.” If you travel fairly frequently with your horses and have to be setting up your tack room and equipment, or even if you don’t travel much but do often have to move feed, etc. then you need a skateboard. If you get a nice, big “old school” board you will discover that it’s the perfect size to put tack trunk on to wheel to and from the trailer (just tilt the trunk slightly in the direction you want to turn). You can also stack bags of feed or even a hay bale on there. The principle of just tilting slightly to turn makes maneuvering a snap, and you get a “dolly” without the size and expense pf a real dolly. It can pack easily in the trailer due to its small size, and can be easily stored in the barn. The big wheels are key though, since they will roll well in dirt and gravel, unlike newer models with the tiny metal wheels that get choked up without pavement to run on. Trust me, the skateboard will change your life.
I don’t know exactly where to get a skateboard of the proper type these days. I got mine from a neighbor’s son who was getting out of “old school” and, I presume, in to new school. Maybe skate shops have some just sitting rejected in an old school box somewhere, or maybe an auction site on the internet. But your best bet is probably to approach some people of a certain age and ask if they used to skateboard, and if so, do they still have their ride. Ask to borrow it, or just buy it for a nominal fee.
What you choose to tell people you are doing with the skateboard is entirely up to you.