Regardless of the size of the stable or the size of the budget, a tack room is a necessary space for storing saddles, bridles and other equipment in a safe and organized fashion. An effective tack room does not have to be expensive, but it does require a lot of planning and thinking about how the space will be used.
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Take time to think about how the space will be used, what your goals are and what you want to store in the tack room. “To properly size a tack room you need to inventory what you are storing there,” said Joe Martinolich, principal and director of Equine Facilities Designs at CMW, Inc. “Know how many horses, the number of saddles per horse and the discipline you ride.” Also consider what purpose the tack room will serve. Will it be designed to store only saddles and bridles or will it be used to also store other equipment like bits, wraps, blankets and tack trunks.
During the planning process you will also have to decide if the tack room will be a multi-functional space for social gatherings or a space for cleaning tack and/or a laundry area with room for a washer and dryer to launder blankets and wraps. “A tack room can become more than just a place for storage,” John Blackburn, senior principal with Blackburn Architects says.
"Benches and seating areas create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages riders to kick off their boots and chat about their horse’s progress, clean tack together, watch training videos or simply sit and enjoy one another’s company."
“The tack room should be relatively convenient,” said Martinolich. “Keep it close to or nearby a wash stall or prep/grooming area.” A barn that frequently trailers to multi-day shows, which requires frequent loading and unloading, should consider “where the tack room is located in the barn relative to unloading a trailer after a show,” said Blackburn.
Ultimately, “the location of a tack room is all about minimizing the number of steps a person has to take to get their horse ready,” said Lachlan Oldaker, specialty practice leader/senior equine architect with GH2 Gralla Equine Architects.
The level of security in a tack room depends on a barn’s traffic. Keeping track of equipment and tack can be a challenge at boarding stables with clients coming and going all day long—especially when it comes to the barn’s own supplies. “You have to think about how to keep your tack and equipment from walking away or from being used by other people,” Blackburn says.
Locking areas, separate tack rooms or locking storage can solve this problem. “One project we worked on had separate tack rooms,” said Martinolich, “one for the boarders and one for the stable owners and managers.”
A well-planned tack room should have a place for everything. As long as a tack room is efficient, it does not necessarily have to be fancy. There are always ways to be creative and save on a budget. “An interesting alternative to storing saddles is to run a beam from one end of the room to the other, along the wall. (Almost like a vertical jump). The saddles can sit on top of that, pommel to cantle, in a row. This is a very inexpensive solution if a customer does not want to spend the money on individual saddle racks,” Litoff said.
Designing a tack room and storage area for a busy lesson barn required a no frills approach for this expert. “The tack room is not fancy, but it is efficient,” Oldaker said. “We used a peg board to hang all of the extra bits and we created a place for everything so that things did not end up on the floor.”
Stable owners do not have to invest a lot of money in a tack room. “You can get a lot of bang for your buck on the basics and then dress it up as far as you want to take it,” Martinolich concluded. “As long as it is organized, the details are up to your personal taste."
More Than Tack
Even though the fundamental purpose of a tack room is for storage, it can become much, much more. “Tack storage is pretty basic,” Blackburn said. “Function is most important. Then you can add to it and make it a place you and your clients want to hang out.”
A tack room can be transformed into a lounge and social gathering space. “I like to see a tack room as more than a store room,” Blackburn said. “I like it to take on more of a social function.”
Benches and seating areas create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages riders to kick off their boots and chat about their horse’s progress, clean tack together, watch training videos or simply sit and enjoy one another’s company. Personal touches transform a tack room from an everyday storage area into a place of enjoyment. For riders who have achieved success in the show ring the tack room may become a display area for trophy saddles, bronzes and buckles.
The finishing touches in a tack room are a reflection of the stable owner’s personality. Incorporating multi-colored decorative wood, as Martinolich did for a barn on Long Island, New York, emphasized the stable owner’s personal taste in décor as it matched the woodwork in the rest of the barn.
Inspiration for distinguishing details can come from unexpected places. “The owner of one barn I worked with had 100-year-old hardwood from old wine barrels,” said Colleen Litoff. The wine-aged wood was used to make saddle racks and other fixtures for the tack room. “Look at as many different tack rooms as you can and see how they are laid out,” she added. “look at kitchens and kitchen suppliers to get ideas for organizing features, like pull-out wire baskets or trays for storing cleaning supplies.”
Once basics have been covered it is also important to consider:
- Air conditioning, dehumidifier and/or heater: Controlling the climate of the tack room can inhibit the growth of mold on leather equipment.
- Lighting: Overall good lighting coverage is important. Use fixtures that have an even throw of light so you don’t have dart spots or dark corners.
- Doorway width: “Make sure the door in and out of the tack room is an adequate size so when you are carrying a saddle you have enough room,” said Oldaker. Sliding doors and tack room walls that pivot are gaining in popularity.
- Dual Purpose Fixtures: “A window seat or bench can serve as a storage bin. A saddle stand can be built like a freestanding cabinet, with a rounded top for holding saddles and interior storage,” said Colleen Litoff, of Georgetown Stable Outfitters. Multi-functional fixtures can save a lot on space.
- Wall Space: Include as much wall space as possible. Extra room will always be needed to keep bridles, lead ropes, girths and more organized. Oldaker suggests a peg board on one wall to organize bits.
- Extra Storage: A small area in front of each horse’s stall can provide organized storage nearer the horse. “Incorporate a certain amount of storage right at the stall for lead ropes and small items,” said Martinolich. “A small cabinet with doors keeps the items close by and organized.”
Designing a tack room can be a lot of fun, but it does require planning. “It may sound simple to design a tack room, but there is a lot to consider,” concludes Blackburn.
For additional information or for guidance on designing a tack room for your stable, contact:
GH2 Gralla Equine Architects