Time is money. Finding tools or equipment that enable you to move through routine chores more quickly means you’ll have additional time for tackling larger projects or for expanding revenue-generating services. Gaining even one hour a day adds up to seven extra hours a week or about 30 more hours a month.
We’ve searched online, reviewed Pinterest boards and talked with manufacturers to offer you a sampling of tools and equipment that can help you complete your daily to-do list more quickly and more efficiently. In the article that follows, we’ll highlight our finds in the hope that we’ll help you discover a tool or two to make your repetitive farm tasks less time consuming.
Some of the items we’ve highlighted carry larger price tags and might require budgeting. Before you dismiss an item because of its cost, think about how it could potentially benefit your barn and make chore time more efficient. Not every item will be a fit for every stable, but having an open mind might lead you to find an item you simply don't want to live without.
Please note that inclusion in this article is not to be regarded as an endorsement, and exclusion does not imply any problem with other products. We simply investigated options for your farm; the rest is up to you!
Traveling Water Reels
Rolling, unrolling and standing at the end of a hose to water the arena is a necessary evil. Moisture is the key ingredient to maintaining a supportive, dust-free footing. Now you can “cut the cord” and automate your watering process.
Traveling sprinklers, originally designed for sports fields and vegetable crops, are gaining in popularity among stable owners. The system is comprised of a large hose and reel. When it is not in use, the hose is wound around the reel and is stationary. When it’s time to water, the hose is pulled to the far end of the arena and set on the ground. The hose includes a sprinkler on a cart. The system is pre-programmed so that as the sprinkler sprays water, the hose retracts back to the wheel over a specified period of time.
“Traveling sprinklers save time and water by operating automatically and unattended. They apply a precise, uniform application of water that is determined by the selected travel speed. It turns off automatically when the sprinkler arrives back at the reel,” said Terry Smith, general manager of Smith Irrigation Equipment, and the Smith Retractable Reel.
The nozzle affixed to the end of the hose is designed to precisely apply water in a uniform pattern across the entire arena. “It provides much better results than other methods of application like hand watering or a water truck,” Smith said.
Best of all, the water reels have low maintenance requirements that are similar to other pieces of machinery. Annual lubrication, inside storage when it is not in use and inspection and replacement of worn or broken parts on a regular basis assures dependable service.
Depending on how dry your footing is, it might take several uses to reach a desirable moisture level the first time. Tom Matt, the Eastern Regional Sales Manager for KIFCO water reels, said that after the moisture is at an acceptable level, two to three applications a week are typically enough to maintain the footing based on how often the arena is used and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor arena. Watch a video from KIFCO.
A popular model for horse arenas is the Smith E110G or KIFCO E110. The retractable reels can be adjusted to travel anywhere between 0 and 160 feet per hour to control water application depths.
“For instance, our E110G traveling at 160 feet per hour using 12 gpm at 50 psi can apply 0.10” inch of water over an arena surface size of 100 feet x 320 feet. That is 1.75 hours of watering time. To double the depth to 0.20” inches of water, you would simply set the travel speed to 80 feet per hour. These machines are the only ones capable of providing that broad of a travel speed adjustment with no modifications to the reel,” Smith said.
The waterers are typically powered by an electric battery, but solar panels are an upgrade option. Prices, on average, range from $3,700 to $4,200.
“The sprinkler is not only capable of watering an arena, but it can also be used to water paddocks and grow grass for the horses,” Matt added.
Stall Cleaning Tools
There’s no getting around the manual labor associated with stall cleaning. It’s a process that simply can’t be automated...well, not yet. When it comes to stall cleaning, there’s nothing more frustrating than forks with broken tines, basket sizes or tine spacing that’s inadequate for the task, or handle lengths that make it difficult to maneuver the muck fork.
There’s nothing glamorous about picking poop, but we’ve sought out options that make the task more efficient. In our search, we’ve found two forks that are lightweight, come with adjustable handles and offer multi-year guarantees.
The SmartPak Forever Fork’s adjustable handle provides every user with a custom fit. The lightweight model weighs less than two pounds, and the large basket holds a high volume. Its 2-year guarantee offers peace of mind. “It’s very durable, nearly unbreakable,” said Kelcie Griffith, marketing coordinator for SmartPak.
Another option is the Noble Outfitter's Wave Fork. You can choose from more than 60 color combinations to liven up the otherwise mundane job. The fork is made from lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum so that it’s lightweight and durable. The tines are a copolymer plastic resin construction that allows them to bend without snapping. It is made in the USA and comes with a 5-year guarantee.
Feeding Time: Feed Faster
Hungry horses impatiently bang on stall doors, sounding the dinner bell. Save steps and feed more quickly with a Feed Wagon on Wheels from ALU Jumps USA. The easily moveable cart sits on four wheels and includes brakes for increased safety. The wagon measures 73” long x 45” high x 27” wide and can carry up to 20 buckets at one time. The wagon is considered a special order.
Feeding Time: Slow, Insatiable Eaters
Hay nets are nothing new for slowing gluttonous horses at feeding time. The SmartPak Slow Feed Bag offers an innovative design that makes it easier and faster to load hay.
“It has extremely durable hardware and the flexible gator mouth holds its shape so loading hay has never been simpler,” Griffith said.
The 2-inch-wide holes force horses to eat more slowly, and the hook-and-loop closure make it easy to secure and hang.
Gadgets to Lighten the Load
When a hose just won’t reach, carting 5-gallon buckets of water is a tiresome task. The H2GO Bag Water Carrier is a heavy duty bag that fits inside any standard wheelbarrow. The water carrier holds up to 19 gallons of water and includes a spigot for easy pouring at the destination. The product is available from Valley Vet Supply for $19.95.
Gadgets for Peace of Mind
No one wants to think about the unexpected. But as the caregiver of someone else’s horse(s), you need to be prepared for storms, floods, fires and emergency situations that can arise without warning. In extreme instances, releasing the horse(s) might be the only option.
The newly developed I.C.E. Manestay Equine Emergency ID contains emergency contact information and easily clips into the horse’s mane and can help you find horses after an emergency. (I.C.E. stands for in case of emergency.) Ask clients to have one ready and waiting at the barn so you’re better prepared for the unexpected.
We hope you’ve found an item or two in this article that can make chore time and horsekeeping easier and more efficient at your barn. Even if one or more of the items is added to a wish list rather than a purchase list, don’t lose sight of how it’s worth budgeting in and waiting for.
If you didn’t find a tool or piece of equipment to fit your facility or budget, we have one last tidbit to share. Much of the items highlighted here were found flipping through the newest edition of mail order catalogs and by conducting simple online searches. Pinterest yielded some of the most interesting finds. So take some time and find an item or two that you can’t live without.
Increasing efficiency and saving time opens up opportunities to increase revenues and spend more time with family after the work is done--that’s a win-win in either case.