Finding Space

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The mess in your aisles will make a deeper impression on customers than the grandest of barns with sparkling horses. The answer? Take control of clutter.

A key factor is planning, followed closely by consistent effort, according to Carolyn Invicta Stephens, designer and equestrian director of the efficient Las Campanas Equestrian Center in Santa Fe, N.M.

Planning, she notes, is what gives you storage areas that really work. An example would be the combined feed and storage rooms at Las Campanas, one at each end of the 50-stall barn’s main aisle. Of the two original feeding stations, one was converted to general storage, leaving the other to be the primary feed area and turnout-equipment site.

“There is never enough storage,” she exclaims, despite the handy conversion job; but at least working out the usage patterns of the barn allowed observation and flexibility to tackle the issue. Now, instead of having to run back and forth from one feed room to another for missing items, barn staff has a central station for all feed-related items, and all the peripherals, such as spare buckets and tack trunks, live at the other end of the aisle in the spare room.

Another bright usage of the feed room was accomplished with the conversion of one wall and the center floor space to wire-rack storage. The floor along two walls holds trash cans, each small enough to be fully emptied to ensure feed freshness. Then along the rest of the space, wall and floor racks permit a truly startling amount of equipment to be close at hand. And it’s carefully policed to ensure that it’s truly only the equipment that suits the specific needs of daily care. No riding equipment, no helmets, etc., find their way in there; it’s a staff-only zone with turnout boots, blankets and bug spray.

Among the tricks for keeping 50 horses’ worth of boots and wraps under control is the use of plastic milk crates, on their sides, with wraps and cottons stacked, all according to a specific layout. If you thought the term “A place for everything and everything in its place” was a bit old-fashioned, think again. Stevens has coordinated the routine, and the equipment that supports it, in such a way that every horse goes out with the right clothes on, comes back to have them efficiently stripped, and the next day it’s all there, ready for another round.

And besides setting strict guidelines for what goes where, there’s a culture of cleanliness in the barn that extends to every phase of horse management. Finishing the stall cleaning along one wing of the barn, a staff member empties the wheelbarrow, then hoses it down, as well as the rake and pitchfork, before carrying them off to a storage corner in a nearby building. There, rather than having dozens of hooks that each hold only one cleaning tool, a few large, vinyl-coated hooks are set in pairs side by side on the wall, allowing several pitchforks and rakes to be stacked.

Back in the feed room, items above floor level are also a priority, since anyone who’s stepped in a barn knows that dust and shavings can accumulate in the most unlikely places. By storing supplies on open wire racks, in open-sided crates, stray dirt falls through to the floor and the wheeled racks can be pushed aside for a daily sweeping.

Effective use of the barn aisle itself is a key to the clutter-reduction system, since the 18-foot-wide space allows safe passage of horses in two directions, even with a Warner storage trunk in front of each stall. In addition to the trunk (each client’s fair domain for whatever they’d like to stash), blanket racks on the doors capture equine clothing and canvas bags (in which blankets originally were delivered) hang from the blanket racks to hold additional boots and wraps as needed for each horse.

As Las Campanas learned, a little time and effort spent in organizing storage spaces will not only save time and effort in the future, but lead to a healthier, safer environment.

Take Control of Tools

Clean-up tools around the barn can be a bit of a mess and quite hazardous if they’re not under control.

What to do though, to keep them within reach, yet less unsightly and unsafe than they would be in the aisle? The answers are endless, but here are a few picked up from barns around the continent:

• Regular hardware-store tool racks, but set on a wall in a small “alley” designed purely to create more wall storage space. At the end of the alley, an array of wooden shelves built across from wall to wall, deep enough to accommodate folded blankets and washing towels.

• Big ladder-storage hooks set parallel along the walls, allowing multiple tools to be laid on their sides on the wall, up off the floor.

• Horseshoes, nailed across a 2” x 4” board with their heels projecting out to embrace a barn tool. The board, set high enough on a wall to keep the rake handles from hitting the floor, can be moved easily from one wall to another, given the need, without having to pull out hook after hook.

• A set of evenly spaced screw eyes across the front of a 1” x 4” board, with bungee cords stretched across. With the bungee holding the handles in place, even a bump by a passing person or horse won’t result in an avalanche of hardware.

• For capturing tools where wall space is at a premium, a garbage can, weighted with dry sand, set in a storage room or quiet corner, into which all the handles are thrust. —NA