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Barn Hacks & Horse Keeping Tips - Save Time & Money

​As equestrians we face a myriad of obstacles and tasks that ultimately reduce the time we spend with our beloved companions and dwindle our bank accounts. Following are some barn hacks and horse keeping tips that can save you serious time and money!    

Barn Hacks and Horse Keeping Tips

The Perfect Bucket Scrubber

Toilet brushes make excellent bucket scrubbers and prevents your hands from getting wet and chilled in cold weather. Available at most dollar stores.

​Did I Forget to Turn Off the Water? Solution

Have you ever forgotten to turn the hose off - or thought you did - after turning on the water to fill a trough? Save yourself from the stress of waking up in the middle of the night or being 30 miles from home when you ask yourself, “did I forget to turn off the hose”?  Use a hose bib mechanical water timer - no batteries required - and the peace of mind is priceless.

To prevent your hose from popping out of the trough if you have high water pressure, use a garden hose metal bubbler/diffuser.

​Totes for Flakes of Hay

​IKEA bags are a great solution to carrying flakes of hay without leaving half of it on the ground! The straps are long enough to put over your shoulder allowing you to carry more than one. Flakes of hay from 60-pound 2 strand bales and 100-pound 3 strand bales fit perfectly in them.

​Bagged Feed Storage

Use aluminum trash cans and drill holes in the lid to allow for maximum air flow.   

​Rubber trash cans have a much higher propensity to accumulate condensation and rodents can chew through even the heavy duty/thick cans.  

​Monitor The Temperature Inside Your Horse Trailer

Temperatures inside horse trailers should be a concern and monitored at all times. Install a temperature monitor with a base station - the same type used in homes to monitor the outside temperature without going outside. This is an inexpensive investment for your peace of mind and your beloved companion’s comfort.

Hang the sensor in a mesh bag for good air flow or mount it about halfway up the side of the wall in the trailer (as far away as possible from a warm body).

Livestock can generate quite a bit of body heat, even in cold weather.  Conversely, in warmer weather it can alert you if temperatures rise to a cause of concern. This allows you to open and close air vents and windows to achieve optimum comfort with confidence for your precious cargo.

Water Trough Skimmer

​To remove floating debris from the surface of the water, use a kitchen splatter screen. Available at most dollar stores.  

Pool Noodle Boot Trees

​Keep your boot shafts in great form with pool noodles. Simply cut the appropriate height and insert inside your boots. These are also great when cleaning or polishing your boots. 

Equine Emergency Identification Plan

In case of emergency have a plan to properly ID your horse, mini, pony, mule, or donkey. Depending on your geographical location you may want to leave ID tags on your beloved companions for entire  fire, flood or hurricane seasons.

Proper identification during an emergency/evacuation can help reunite you with your companion as soon as possible. The most effective and easy-to-use identification products are ManeStay and UltraLite emergency ID tags.  They are lightweight, waterproof, and heat and flame resistant.
ManeStay Equine Emergency ID tag horse keeping tip
ManeStay attaches in 3 seconds.
Ultra Lite Equine emergency ID tag horse keeping tip
UltraLIte is appropriate for long term/seasonal use, while riding, camping, turnout and transport.

​Use Drinking Water Safe Hoses to Fill Water Tubs

Did you know that most garden hoses contain lead and chemicals? Lead and chemicals are commonly used in garden hose manufacturing and leach into water.

My all-time favorite drinking water safe hose for filling water troughs is the EvoFlex. It is BPA-free, lead-free and phthalate-free. Its extra flexible design holds no memory, making it easy to position and store.

​Prepare Supplements Days/Weeks Ahead of Time

Food storage containers are a great time saver if you feed supplements. Opening and closing multiple supplement bags and containers once or twice a day takes time. Buy food storage containers and fill them ahead of time with supplements. Place a layer of cut and sifted peppermint leaf in the bottom to provide a non-stick surface. If you feed supplements twice a day and they differ, use round containers for morning and square for evening (or vice versa).  

Use the same size and brand so they stack nicely and store them in a dark storage tub with a lid in a cool dry place. Heat, light and oxygen can degrade the potency of vitamins and herbs.

This is super helpful if:
  • Someone else is feeding your horse.
  • You will be away from home at horse shows or camping.
  • If you have to evacuate during flood and fire season.
    Line the bottom of the containers with cut and sifted peppermint leaf to provide a non-stick surface.
    Store in a closed dark container in a cool dry place. Heat, light and oxygen can degrade potency.

    Vet Wrap = Soft Grips

    ​Vet wrap is fantastic as a soft grip on pitch forks, rakes and brooms. It provides a superior grip if you’re wearing gloves and prevents blisters on bare hands. If your handles are metal it provides insulation from the heat and cold. It’s also useful to color code any kind of handle including buckets.

    The Best Wheelbarrow Ever!

    Quality tools of the trade are invaluable. The Rubbermaid® wheelbarrow is by far the best I've ever owned. The one pictured is 20 years old and has the original tires and tubes on it despite a variety of burrs on the property. It is manufactured in one solid piece so the handle never breaks off or cracks and can carry up to 300 pounds. The center mounted tires allow for easy balancing - combined with the handle design you have the option of pushing or pulling it. 

    Steak Knife Uses

    Keep a steak knife handy at the barn to:
    • Cut baling twine. I've used the same knife for 18 years!
    • Open a bag of shavings. Score/cut a cross extending over the edges, turn the bag of shavings over and press your knee into the center of the bag while pulling up on the ends.

    Administering Medications

    If you’re giving just a couple of tablets or capsules, A to Z Horse Cookies are a great solution. Break the soft cookie in half, place medication on the flat side, and give it a squeeze and press. They are low carb, low sugar, wheat, corn and alfalfa free. Made in the USA using human grade ingredients.

    If you need to administer numerous tablets or powdered medication, use a 60cc catheter syringe (it has a wider tip). Some tablets dissolve in a matter of minutes such as SMZs - others may need to be crushed. If you’re not sure, perform a test by placing one tablet in a cup with water. If it doesn’t dissolve within an hour, you’ll need to crush them. You can use a pill crusher or coffee grinder. 

    Place the tablets (if dissolvable) or crushed powder in the syringe and insert the plunger, draw some water or apple juice (doesn’t take much) into the syringe and shake well. To transform it into a paste consistency, draw some baby food (carrot or apple) and shake well.

    You may want to put some baby food with a small amount of water in it initially to introduce your horse to the syringe and provide a positive experience before you give the medication.
    60cc cathetar syringe to administer horse medication horse keeping tip
    Use a 60cc catheter syringe - it has a wider tip.

    ​Prevent Head/Neck Entanglement

    ​If hanging hay bags, nets or toys from an elevated attachment site:
    1. Attach a rope to the attachment site (eye hook, tree branch, rafters or stall grates)
    2. Slide a piece of PVC pipe over the entire length of the rope to avoid entanglement
    3. Attach a swivel clip at the bottom
    4. Hang your hay bag, net or toy from the swivel clip.

    ​Ratchet Wrench For Safety

    ​Keep an offset ratchet wrench close by if you use pipe panels for fencing. If a horse, donkey or mule becomes cast (while lying down or rolling, their legs are placed under the bottom rail preventing them from being able to stand up) you can quickly remove the pipe panel clamps and pull the panel away from their legs to free them.  My pipe panel clamps have 9/16" nuts. 
    Offset ratchet wrench to free a cast horse donkey or mule horse keeping tip
    9/16" - 1/2" offset ratchet wrench.

    Secure Hay Tarps

    Spike nails (8”or 12”) are an excellent solution for securing tarps on hay. You can easily drive them in with a rock or hammer; although they stay in place long term, they are easy to pull out.

    Bucket Safety

    ​Wrap your water bucket handle ends in duct tape or vet wrap to prevent eye or face injuries when your animals are scratching that itch, and to avoid your horse’s tail or mane from catching on it.

    Hay Net Loading Tips

    To make filling hay nets less cumbersome use a trash can or laundry basket (no handles) in 4 easy steps:
    • Insert the net into the can or basket.
    • Drape the net over the top.
    • Insert hay.
    • Close the drawstring.

    Organize & Store Horse Stuff

    ​Repurpose plastic zippered cases as storage for items in your tack trunk or horse trailer. The cases keep items clean, organized and easy to find.  

    Keep Hands Dry and Warm


    Plastic gloves to keep hands warm and dry. Barn hack


    Outside winter chores can be grueling, cold wet hands make it that much more challenging. Although mittens help to keep hands warm, gloves allow for more dexterity but become colder so much more quickly. The solution is to wear a pair of thin plastic gloves and put your winter gloves over them; for added warmth insert a heat pack. 


    Transporting Water

    If you need to transport water, line a container (muck bucket, trash barrel, etc.) with a clean trash bag, fill with water and close the top with a twist tie or baling twine. You can then haul it in whatever wheeled transportation you have - truck, wheelbarrow, golf cart etc. - without half sloshing out.

    Five gallon buckets with a snap on lid works well too!

    This is super if you are at horse shows, camping or anywhere the water source is oh - so far away .

    Stay Tuned...

    We will be adding more barn hacks and horse keeping tips to this blog post. Check back periodically to see our newest additions!

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    Monique Warren, Hay Pillow Founder with the Hay Pillow Slow Feeder product line - standard ground hay pillow, mini hay pillow, hanging hay pillow & horse trailer manger hay pillow

    About the Author

    Monique Warren invented the Hay Pillow® slow feeder and is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc. ​Warren has been an equine guardian for over forty years and slow-feed advocate for over 10 years. She contributes equine nutrition, digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, The Horse's Hoof and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.

    Monique's Story

    1 Comment

    • Great ideas, I would like to know how to get a ikea bag can you order one?

      Marsha Kelly

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