Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Top 15 Horse Tips

My pal Victoria over at Teachings of the Horse passed along the “Great Horse Tips Award” to me today, and I am honored. I’ve got more tips than a Beverly Hills nail salon, so I’m happy to share them with anyone who might be interested.

My horsekeeping is all about safety for my horses and efficiency for me.

Tip #1 - Don’t keep your tack in your barn if you can help it.
Unless you are Martha Stewart and have a large staff and a hermetically sealed tack room in your barn, your tack will be covered in dust. I keep mine in the garage, which is conveniently located next to the Horse Porch. The blue container with the duct-taped cross? That would be the equine first aid kit.

Tip #2 - Have a safe, protected area to tack up, doctor, bathe, trim, and otherwise care for your horse.
This is the Horse Porch, which connects to the garage. It’s convenient, out of the wind most of the time, and in the shade. There is a concrete patio along one side, but the area where the horses stand is a layer of crusher fines about 6” deep - it’s easy on their feet and absorbs water.

As long as we're here, I’ll share some of my favorite things in my grooming caddy:
Oster grooming tools - well designed and well made.
Cowboy Magic - makes mane and tail combing really easy and smells great.
Weight tape - I’m obsessed with keeping my horses healthy, and monitoring their weight is part of that.
Healthy Hair Care Products Herbal Horse Wash - for those times when the horses do have a “spa day,” this stuff connects to the hose and dispenses the right amount of soap. It rinses off easily, too. The herbal ingredients seem to soothe Lyle’s skin during allergy season.
HHCP Hair Moisturizer - this is a concentrate that you dilute with water and use in a spray bottle. I spray it on my finishing brush and it helps remove that top layer of dust from their coats.
Happy Glove - that’s the black rubber mitten with the little nubbies on it. My guys LOVE to get scratched all over with this thing, and it’s really good for getting the crud off their legs.
Curved rubber squeegee - much better than a straight sweat scraper for removing most of the water after a shower.

Tip #3 - Hot and cold water for shower time
I rarely give my horses full-blown shampoo-and-conditioner baths, but I do like to hose them off in the summer after hot and sweaty rides. My house-builder claimed that an outdoor faucet which mixes the hot and cold water was not available, so I improvised with some various hose thingys.

Tip #4 - Skidmore’s Leather Cream
The woman who made my chinks (Barbara at ... a must-have for every self-indulgent cowgirl who wants to give herself a REALLY nice present) recommended Skidmore’s, and this stuff is too awesome for words.

(That's Smooch in the background, still hunting for hoof trimmings from the farrier's last visit.)

Tip #5 - A night latch
I first learned about this handy-dandy piece of tack from Buck Brannaman. You can buy the fancy-schmancy official kind from a tack shop, or you can use a sturdy dog collar. Either way, the effect is the same. You buckle it around the pommel of the saddle. It gives you a much firmer grip than holdin’ onto the saddle horn when your horse gets western.

Tip #6 - Manure Management 101
A clean barn/corral is another of my obsessions. Here is my arsenal of poop-scoopin’ tools: a Rubbermaid cart with tires that don’t need air and can be pulled with one hand - I collect the poop a few times a day with this; all the collected poop gets transferred to a Newer Spreader; then every other day, I tow the Newer Spreader to a sacrifice area and drive it around – the poop gets crumbled and spread and eventually turns back into dirt.

Tip #7 - Portable corral panels
Every horse facility should have a bunch of these. They come in handy in lots of ways: as a temporary pen for a guest horse; as a set of stocks to safely doctor an uncooperative horse; as dividers for a quarantine area. I’ve had the kinds that assemble with pins and the kinds that go together with chains - chains are definitely the way to go, imho.

Tip #8 - You can never be too careful
For my convenience, the feed room door is right near the stalls - that means the horses have access to it, too. So the door is double-latched.

I’ve gotten carried away here and this post is long enough. And I've got to go scoop poop one more time before it gets dark. Look for tips #9 - 15 tomorrow.


  1. Whoa - you are the QUEEN of tips!

    I LOVE your horse porch, and the footing, which is something I have in mind for an outdoor wash area.

    We would probably save a lot of work if we moved tack into our garage, but ours is not convenient to the barn at all.

    Martha Stewart has NOTHING on the 7MSN - I'm just saying. :)

  2. Great tips and pics to illustrate them!! By the way, LOVE the chinks! I noticed them hanging on the tack wall, so happy you mentioned them a few paragraphs later, I was going to ask! I am about to order a pair. I have seen the buckskin ladie's site once in the past...but after seeing your gorgeous ones I am heading back there to check them out!! Any recommendations or tips on ordering or designing a pair? I have to have them custom made because I am so dang short and tiny.

  3. Well, I certainly gave this award to the right person! These are awesome tips! I'm looking forward to 9-15. And I like your place so much more than Martha's, really, I do.

  4. All great tips. We are using our panels now for an injured horse, it's great because we keep moving the panels and making him a new pen every couple of days. So instead of being barn-ridden in a stall he can be out with his friends and still contained so no new damage to his leg will occur. I like the double latch on the feed room, horses are pretty inventive and KNOW where the feed is, so double locks are a great idea.Can't wait for tip #9-15.

  5. Thanks, everybody, for all the nice things you've had to say about my place and my horse tips.

    Ponygirl, when you order a pair of custom chinks, whomever is making them should ask you to take measurements in very specific places, while wearing the jeans you usually ride in. The Buckskin Lady's chaps are cut to those measurements, but her side buckles and front and back buckles are fully adjustable as well. The chinks will last forever if you take care of them - which just means using the Skidmore's a couple times a year, and storing them properly, as you would store any other fine leather goods. So if they seem pricey, just remember they'll live longer than you do and you might just want to be buried in them anyway. I went for the elk leather - it's so soft and drapey. And she'll tool your brand or name or initials on the back piece, too. Don't tell anyone, but when mine arrived, I wore them around the house for days. But practically speaking, the leather-to-leather contact with the saddle is like riding with velcro on your legs instead of slippery jeans, and you can't beat 'em for saving your skin from all this cactus.

  6. I agree. Martha's site may be good, but she does not hold a garden flower to yours.

    And ... it must be your day for Awards! Check this out:

  7. Thanks SO much for the chinks tips! Oh, I know when I get mine I will be wearing them around the house and probably sleeping in them! One more thing: does the inner hide of the elk shed on your jeans/pants? My aunt had a pair that shed and she said they are still shedding....and I tried a pair on at Parelli and they shed all over my jeans...does this go away after some wear?

  8. Pony girl, the insides of these chinks have never shed. It's the most velvety soft suede but there is none of that pile stuff anywhere.