There are times when you don’t have what you need, and you need it now. Most of us save time and money by knowing how to make do. Whether it’s a temporary fix to a problem that needs immediate attention, or just a clever idea that stands on its own, horse managers can benefit from some quick fixes.
No quick-fix list can begin without the horsemen’s old standbys: duct tape and hay string. What barn can run without these two items in the tack room? As one sage put it, “Duct tape holds the world together, and hay string ties the bow.”
1. Hay String. There’s a long list of fixes around the barn that hay string makes possible, starting with emergency tack repair. Take some on the trail in your pocket or saddlebags, and pack some in your show trunk. You will find a use for it. I know all the readers of Stable Management keep their tack in good repair, but even so, you might have the opportunity to help out an unfortunate buddy.
Hay string can be used to fix broken girths, stirrup leathers, and bridles, or tie on gear if you’re missing some saddle string. And what instructor hasn’t made a quick over-check for a grass-cropping school pony out of the cordage? Tie one end of a length of string to the crown of the bridle and the other end to the d-rings of the saddle.
The crafty among us can braid or macramé hay string to make halters, leads, running or standing martingales and longe lines. One horsewoman even admits to tying up a broken wheelbarrow axle to the frame long enough to finish cleaning stalls. For a quick-release cross-tie, put a small loop of hay string through the eye screw on the wall, then attach the cross-tie to the hay string loop. If the horse panics and pulls back, the hay string will break loose instead of the halter.
2. Duct Tape. You can mend a broken fence board, winter blanket, and various tack items with this do-all tape. Duct tape can be used to secure leg wraps (not too tight or you can cut off circulation) or hold foot poultices in place. It can even hold on a loose shoe until the farrier arrives. Modern duct tape comes in various colors besides the traditional silver, which makes it useful for color-coding a variety of barn items. Stripes can be applied to jump poles with colored duct tape, which is less messy and much faster than paint. Duct tape wrapped around your hand sticky-side up makes an instant lint and hair remover for your riding coat for a last-minute touchup before a class.
With last year’s hurricane season still fresh in our memories, the following idea in my duct tape survey is one that can save a lot of heartache for horse owners, and time and effort for rescue workers. When severe weather threatens your area, write your name, address and phone number on a piece of duct tape with a permanent laundry marker, and secure the tape to your horses’ manes. Horses that escape and become lost in a storm can be traced back to their owners quickly.
3. Silicone Lubricant Spray. Run out of detangler? Grab a can silicone lubricant from the garage. Spray a light coat on the horse’s mane and tail, then work it in with your fingers and brush out the tangles.
4. Leather Wipes. Leather wipes come in a dispenser just like baby wipes. Buy them at the grocery or department store. I’ve even found them in the dollar stores. They are perfect for a quick cleanup after every ride. Keep a container in your show trunk and use them to wipe away dust and grime from your saddle between classes.
5. Black Permanent Marker. Tuck one in your groom box at the horse show. Missed a spot polishing hooves for the show? A black marker is great for quick touch-ups on black hooves.
6. Instant Cones. Plastic jugs (laundry detergent, soda, milk) can be a substitute for cones when you don’t have the real thing. Fill them with water or sand to stabilize them.
7. Instant Riding Ring. A quick riding ring can be made with a roll of white electric tape, or even yellow caution tape, and t-posts. It is inexpensive and quick. Buy t-post caps to fit on top of the posts for safety.
8. Disposable Baby Diapers. Keep a couple of packages in your tack room and tuck some into your show box. The large sizes are perfect for padding under leg wraps and bandages. Flatten them out and wrap around the horse’s leg. The adhesive tapes will hold them in place long enough to start your run-downs. The smaller sizes fit over the hoof neatly to hold poultices in place—then secure them with duct tape.
9. Quick and Easy Saddle Rack. This saddle rack can go anywhere you can put a one-inch eye screw or eye bolt. All you need are an 18-inch length of 4X4 or a scrap of post or landscaping timber, one eye screw, and one tarp hook. Screw the tarp hook, which has a flat end with two pre-drilled screw holes, to one end of the 4X4, about one inch from the end of the post. The hook fits into the eye screw for an instant wall-mounted saddle rack.
In addition to the tack room, you can attach another eye screw next to the stall door, grooming stall or any place you need to have your saddle handy. In a lesson barn it is handy to have one of these hanging at the stall door of each school horse. The horse can be cross-tied in its stall, and tack can be right there just outside the door for quick tack-ups. An eyebolt welded onto the side of the trailer allows you to have your saddle handy for tacking up at one-day horse shows or on trail rides.
10. Instant Whirlpool. An effective whirlpool for hydrotherapy treatments in leg injuries can be made with a large bucket and a good shop vacuum, two items most horsemen already have around the stable. Simply fill the bucket with water, attach the vacuum hose to the blower end of the machine, and put the other end of the hose in the water. Prior to exercise, add hot water and Epsom salts to the whirlpool. Let the legs soak in the whirlpool for 20 minutes. This preheats the muscles, aiding in warm-up. After hot and serious exercise, use a cold-water whirlpool bath. As when using anything electrical around horses, make sure the cord is out of the horse’s reach.
These 10 tips are just a few examples of good old horseman’s ingenuity. Many household items can be brought into temporary or permanent use around the barn. The main concern is to be sure your quick fix idea does not pose a risk to the horse or its handler.