Get Organized!

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Is constant clutter taking over your tack room? If you’re having problems coping with too much tack in a small space, fear no more. We’ve spoken to some experts in the industry, as well barn owners, riding instructors and managers to find the most effective solutions for a disorganized tack room. By following these useful guidelines, your storage area will soon be looking like new.

Make the Most of Your Space

One of the most common problems when it comes to tack rooms is that there never seems to be enough space. Whether there are piles of saddle pads growing in the corner waiting to be washed, or not enough saddle racks, here are a few solutions for even the smallest barns.

The first question to ask is, can you organize everything efficiently, or do you need (and can you afford) to build another tack room in your barn?

When Mike Armour of Bright Valley Farms in Spring Valley, Calif., found that he didn’t have enough space to contain his own tack along with that of his boarders and riding students, he decided it was time to expand his storage space. Instead of adding on to his farm, he created additional tack rooms out of stalls that weren’t being used.

“I had a 32-stall barn and a twelve-stall barn that I decided to set up for my customers’ tack,” says Armour. He converted stalls from his twelve-stall barn into six tack rooms for his personal use and the riding school. He also provides individual tack rooms to boarders at the farm, and allows them to set up their tack rooms whichever way they like. “The individual tack rooms seem to help boarders relax. It’s like their home away from home,” he says.

While there may not be enough empty stalls to convert into individual tack rooms for each boarder at your facility, even converting one stall into a tack room for boarders can relieve the pressure.

If you’re lucky enough to have a full stable, but are still seeking more space, perhaps you have an open area available in your barn where you can install tack lockers.

With a variety of different tack lockers available, you should be able to find something that can fit both your budget and the available space at your barn. Some companies, such as Dry Creek Tack (www.geargridcorp. com), specialize in individual tack lockers that can be shipped directly to your barn in a plethora of colors. Other companies will come to your facility and build personalized lockers to meet your space needs. If planning to build your own lockers, consult a specialist who is knowledgeable about tack and equipment to ensure that your lockers provide optimum space for it all.

Time to De-clutter

If you don’t have a lot of space or the money to convert a stall into a tack room, there are some additional options for making the most of what little space you have. Whitney Shapiro of Capstone Training works out of two facilities—Charlottewood Equestrian Center in Woodinville, Wash., and Liberty Bell Farms in Snohomish, Wash. Although Charlottewood Equestrian Center offers individual tack lockers to its boarders, Liberty Bell Farms doesn’t. Shapiro makes the most of her space by de-cluttering and consolidating the items in her tack room as much as possible.

“Because my tack room isn’t huge, we share a lot of products,” she says. “We have community fly sprays, which helps cut down on the clutter. We also keep items that we aren’t using in a Tupperware container or tack trunk. There’s an upstairs office space where we have clients put their winter things in the summer and summer items in the winter.”

Aimee Boyer of Harmony Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Mass., also likes to keep clutter out of sight. “My rule of thumb is that everyone’s extra tack and supplies stay inside a trunk. There are allocated bridle, saddle, saddle pad and helmet racks, but other than that we try to keep everything in tack trunks.”

If your tack room is lacking in space, it is important to set some rules for your clients to follow. By requiring boarders to leave their unused tack items at home or in a different storage area in the barn, you’ll soon have more space for important items that are being used.

“I’ll let my riding students keep their boots and helmets in the tack room,” says Jineen Walker of Loland Oaks Farm in Rutland, Mass. “But we don’t let them leave their clothes here, because I would probably be stuck with a pile of dirty clothes.”

“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of picking trash up and putting things back when you find them,” says Shapiro. “I also urge people to have their saddle pads and other dirty laundry washed.”

If you do choose to allow your students or boarders to keep riding clothes at the barn, why not consider hiring a professional laundry service to clean clothing items? Shapiro uses a laundry service to clean saddle pads and other dirty items that pile up in her tack room, and bills clients that want to be included in the service. If you’re afraid that such a service will be too expensive, and you have the space, consider purchasing a new or used washer and dryer and offer laundry services to clients. The start up cost may seem expensive, but clean saddle pads and show clothing at the barn may lead to happier customers, and a bigger payoff in the long run.

The Power of Products

Whether you’ve already started consolidating items in your tack room or are just getting started, there are many products, from saddle racks to stackable shelves, that can help you better utilize your space.

“In my mind, tack room makeovers start at the door,” says Melissa Hamlet, VP of purchasing for SmartPak Equine. “You need to make sure things are organized and neat. Once you have someone who is messy, it doesn’t matter what your fixtures are.”

Encourage your clients to keep their tack items tidy while you attempt to better outfit your space, Hamlet says. Use customizable signs to label different areas of the tack room and help keep everything better organized.

The variety of saddle and bridle racks ranges from economical and simple fixtures to more expensive, aesthetically pleasing brass saddle and bridle racks. But there are many tasteful products available if you’re on a budget. “We have saddle or bridle racks that come in both black and red that are less expensive than the brass,” says Hamlet. “If you pick black, you don’t have to worry about clashing with barn colors, especially if you have different trainers operating out of your facility.”

Dave Goosens of Country Manufacturing in Fredericktown, Ohio, suggests using collapsible saddle racks that have an attached bridle hook. “These saddle racks are probably our most popular style,” says Goosens. “It seems like a lot of tack rooms aren’t built big enough, so when you’re not using the rack, you can fold it down and get to other things when you need to.”

There are also rotating saddle racks and freestanding saddle rack trees that are helpful in smaller areas. For example, Dry Creek Manufacturing offers pullout saddle racks and tack grids to help keep tack organized in even the smallest spaces, as well as freestanding saddle racks.

If you don’t have the money to purchase saddle racks, there is always the option of constructing your own. “We built all of our saddle racks here,” says Jineen Walker, who was looking for a more economical route when building her farm. “It’s standard stuff, but we did stack up multiple saddle racks on a wall above one another. Most of our barn equipment is handmade and very traditional, and by constructing the equipment ourselves, it helped us economically and is aesthetically pleasing.”

Some other less conventional and inexpensive items you may find useful include portable or collapsible laundry bags, plastic stackable shelves, and portable storage drawers. These can help you organize and maintain any saddle pads, blankets, and miscellaneous tack items that may be causing clutter.

Organizational Tactics

Beyond the fixtures and other storage products, one of the most important steps is ensuring that everyone’s tack is assigned to a specific area and kept organized.

Education is key. “Some of the most common problems I’ve encountered stem from students not knowing what saddle goes to which horse, or where to put it back,” says Walker. “I think one of the reasons why clients are usually sloppy is because they don’t know where things go.” At Loland Oaks Farm, Walker makes riders familiar with these details when they first start riding with her.

It’s a good idea to assign a certain area for the lesson program’s tack that’s separate from the boarders’ tack. “Although we don’t take boarders anymore, when we did, riding students would sometimes get the boarders’ tack confused,” says Walker. “We did have a separate area for boarders’ tack, but if a student was using a boarder’s horse, that’s where the confusion would begin.”

Placing signs throughout the tack room can cut down on confusion. By using signs with a horse or horse owner’s name next to their assigned saddle racks and bridle hooks, riding students will easily identify where each horse’s items should go. Walker suggests color coding tack to a certain horse if you don’t have a lot of space to hang up signs.

You can also organize by the numbers. Bright Valley Farms owns 68 horses used for lesson programs and guided trail rides. With so many horses at his farm, Mike Armour uses a numbering system to ensure horses’ tack doesn’t get mixed up. “We keep all bridles and saddles together, because they’re each individually sized to the horse,” says Armour. “There is a big list outside each tack room with all the horses’ names, and each horse is assigned a number, which is marked on their saddle and bridle. Everything at our farm is in numerical order.”

Aimee Boyer organizes her tack by size, using metal freestanding shelves for saddle pads, categorizing them by baby pads, half back pads, and square pads. She uses a similar system for girths, itemizing them by their size, and placing 48” girths on separate hooks from the 50-52” girths, with the 54” girths on a completely different hook.

“We have a section of wall where half chaps are hung on hooks, while paddock boots are in cubbies underneath,” says Boyer. “We have shelves for horse boots, and another for liquid grooming products. We also have one corner of the tack room dedicated to cleaning tack, with a hook hanging from the ceiling and a bucket filled with different leather products.”

Deciding on a set amount of space to store your tack, de-cluttering, and creating an organized system within your storage area—these are the initial steps to take to give your tack room a face lift. With summer being the busiest time of year for business, there is no time like the present to give your tack room a makeover.