The Best Helpers

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Horsekeepers spend a lot of time in the barn, and if they’re smart they’re always on the lookout for tools that will make the daily chores less time-consuming, easier on the checkbook, and kinder to the back. Following are six innovative products that have my favorite quality—elegance. That is, they provide the most value from the least effort, and they multi-task. That means fewer tools, and more work done. And that makes them must-have items in the serious horse barn.

1. A hand cart that’s a sled, a trailer, a dump bed and more

The instant a horseman lays eyes on the Ursa Field Wagon, he knows what to do with his collection of beat-up wheelbarrows and muck carts—have a garage sale. The Field Wagon’s four big tires glide easily over rough terrain with the give of a pneumatic tire, but they’ll never go flat. The ingenious vertical front axle pivots 270 degrees for a turning radius of 0. The smooth 50-inch-long by 25-inch-wide cargo bed is easy to clean and disinfect, has a drain plug, is tough enough for mixing cement, holds over 5 cubic feet and up to 500 pounds at a convenient workbench height—yet is designed to distribute weight in such a way that the risk of tipping over is minimized. And, it’s mounted on a dump chassis that can be operated single-handedly.

There are other, less obvious features as well. For use on snow and ice, the bed is easily removed from the wheelbase and pulled like a sled. Available accessories include a trailering arm and hitch for towing with an ATV, a canvas tool holder that hangs over the bedside, and wings to extend the sidewalls for lofty loads. The Field Wagon, with a 7-year warranty, retails for about $600.

For more information, contact Ursa, Inc. at 1-866-877-2744 or www.ursawagon.com.

2. Hot running water

For deep-cleaning the barn or bathing a horse, hot running water doesn’t have to be a luxury found only in elite facilities. Affordable instant hot water systems, no plumber required, are available in a variety of models, ranging from less than $100 to sky’s-the-limit. Though heavier models (40 pounds and up, plus the weight of the propane tank) are technically portable when installed on a handtruck, they’re also attachable to a wall in the barn’s designated wash area. The more lightweight models (some as light as 7 pounds, plus the weight of the propane tank) can be practical even on backpacking trips—a great option for on-the-road performance horses, small horse facilities and boarders at stables that lack hot water wash racks. Buyers can choose from models that (a) connect directly to a garden hose, (b) use a reservoir and deliver heated water via their own A/C- or D/C-powered water pump, or (c) get enough water pressure for a 5-minute shower from 10 strokes of a manual pump.

My favorites, priced with adaptors for use with garden hose and 5-gallon propane tank:

a) Zodi Hot Tap HP ($300). Contact: 1-800-589-2849, www.zodi.com.

b) Paloma Portable Horse Washer PH-6 (propane model; about $430). Contact Paloma at: 1-888-726-9752, www.gaswaterheaters.com.

c) Coleman Hot Water On Demand, model 2300-700 (about $230). Contact:?1-800-835-3278, www.coleman.com.

At present one of the most efficient places to shop for portable units is at camping/sportsman supply outlets, and on eBay (www.ebay.com). The Coleman is also available at selected Target and WalMart stores.

3. A handy tote

A scoop of this, a tablespoon of that—every horse gets his own personal concoction of concentrates, supplements, and medications. The best way to assemble each “meal” is on-site, from a tote with separate compartments for each ingredient. The Bucket Boss Parachute Bag is just the thing. It’s a durable cloth carrier with six generous pockets, a drawstring closure, and a heavy-duty strap handle to strap over a shoulder while scooping. Also great for shots/deworming days.

For more information, check out?www.bucketboss.com. Available at storefront and online hardware stores such as www.northerntool.com ($10); 1-800-221-0516, item #169836.

4. A better way to fight filth

Dust, molds, chaff and cobwebs are so pervasive that we tend to believe they’re inevitable in a horse barn. Dust gets into lungs and settles on everything, including those major investments in tack and feed. Dust, chaff and cobwebs on hot light bulbs are a fire hazard. Brooms and blowers move more around than out, so vacuum the filth instead. For the smallest budget, a leaf blower that doubles as a vacuum costs about $100—keep it on the “suck” setting to pick up dust and debris, and be prepared to empty its small bag often. For healthier budgets, there’s the shop vacuum, available from many brands including the original ShopVac (www.shopvac.com). Shop vacuums range in price from under $100 to $2,000, but a very nice contractor’s wet/dry model with a powerful two-stage bypass motor runs about $250. The main drawback is a tendency for the hose to clog when picking up longer pieces of hay or straw and dried manure. For just under $1,000, consider a lawn vacuum, with a hose extension so you can park the vacuum outside to minimize noise and fumes, and a rigid attachment to reach cobwebs in the rafters. One example: the Swisher brand, item 250097, at www.northerntools.com.

5. A better fastener

Looking for a better way to hang a damp saddle pad or pair of riding gloves, or to fasten a tarp over a stack of hay or a pickup bed? Fasten a water bottle to a saddle horn? Hang a heavy horse blanket, a note to the farrier, a flashlight? Odds are there’s a way the Rhino Clip can help. Every barn should have a box of these tough little gizmos in the tack room, and every saddle bag should carry a handful of them for those just-in-case situations—they’re a bargain at $2 each. Available at major hardware stores, or wholesale from Northwest Product Design Group, LLC through their equestrian distributor (see below). The Rhino’s nylon-filled fiberglass is resistant to UV light and sub-zero temperatures, and its adjustable bite can hold everything from a tarp with torn-out grommets to a thick felt blanket. Plus, it’s guaranteed not to break under loads up to 150 pounds. Info:?Star Shewey Distributors, (208) 437-3323.

6. A better extension cord

The dangers of extension cords in horse barns are obvious: inquisitive animals, powerful jaws, heavy bodies, metal shoes. But it’s a pain in the neck to put the cord away after each use. How about an extension cord on a spring-action retractable reel? They’re available at storefront and online hardware/home improvement stores for $35 to $100, depending on length and utility rating.

Install overhead in each location where electric devices are used often. Reach up, plug in, do the job, unplug, give the cord a tug and it rolls itself safely and conveniently out of harm’s way. Be sure to get an outdoor-rated cord. [sm]

Karen Hayes is the author of five horse-care books and is a retired equine practitioner. She and her husband raise Friesian horses in northern Idaho, where Karen tests innovative products such as those featured in her latest book, “The Perfect Stall.”