Five Barn Products Worth the Extra Money
- How to Save Money on Your Horse Expenses
Horse owners everywhere are feeling the economic pinch. Costs associated with horse ownership have risen dramatically. Here are some budget-friendly tips to help you keep your barn in the black.
Barn products galore! Who can help but be caught up in the excitement of trying new, brightly-colored goodies in the stable? Well, I can! I not only don't have the extra dollars to spend, but I absolutely hate it when I do buy one of those "new, improved, wonderful!" products only to find it doesn't work as promised, and it will collect dust in the shed until I finally give it away to the first person who says, "Hey! I've seen those advertised, and I want to try one!"
So to make your own path a little bit easier, here are five great products I can wholeheartedly recommend. These are noteworthy for being labor-saving, time-saving, potentially money saving, or just more comfortable for your horse (and you can't put a price tag on that). If I've found a down-side to them, I've noted it here.
As a bonus, to save a few extra dollars to spend on these worthy items, check out the cost-saving tips in the link above.
#1: The Basket-Type Apple Picker / Manure Fork
My mother's not a horsewoman, but she's a smart and generous woman nonetheless. However, when she initially offered to buy me one of those then-new basket-type manure forks, I declined. I assumed they weren't any better than the old-style flat picker I'd used for decades.
In my stubbornness, I managed to avoid the basket forks for a few years more. I don't know what made me break down and try one, but once I did, I quickly realized I'd never use another flat fork again. I can't emphasize how much of a difference in the basket-style forks -- oh, the time and labor saved! They save on shavings, as well, as it's much easier to sift with the basket sides.
I occasionally have cause to use (and curse) the old-style flat forks, whether I'm at someone else's barn or using the small travel-size fork that stays in my trailer. It reminds me once again of what an improvement the basket forks are, and what a stubborn creature I am.
Some brands of these forks come with a one-year warranty. I usually get about three years out of mine before the sun, heat, and stress get the better of my forks. After that first tine breaks, they get rotated to the shaving pit, where they still serve well in scooping bedding. Replacement heads are also available for most brands. My favorite? The Miller Dura Pitch II Fork. Note: Don't confuse the Dura Pitch II with the Dura Fork. The Dura Pitch has the deep basket that makes the difference!
#2: The Little Giant Better Bucket
You've probably already realized I don't rush out and buy every new gizmo that I see. No, I'm reluctant to throw that hay money out the window on untested products. I'm a fiscal conservative, in my own home as well as in my political leanings. This bucket, though, appealed to me immediately.
I don't have steel feeders in every stall and turnout. I use buckets in a few locations. I've often noticed the horses' frustration with traditional flat-sided buckets as they cram their snouts in, clearly uncomfortable, as they reach for the last bit of grain. One of my geldings gets so impatient that he spins his bucket around and around, and one of the fillies paws constantly when eating from the bucket.
It never occurred to me, though, that a simple design change could make such a difference. Thank heavens it occurred to the good people at Little Giant: they noticed! They made a bucket called "the Better Bucket," and they're right: it IS better. The front of the bucket is sloped outward to easily accommodate a horse's muzzle. That simple improvement is all it took to make a bucket that's comfortable and less frustrating to the hungry horse. No more bucket spinning by Buck the gelding!
Better yet, the Better Bucket is available in two sizes. I leave those "personal sized" mineral blocks in each bucket, and even the smaller size leaves ample room for the horses to get around the mineral block while eating their grain.
These buckets are priced reasonably. I like them well enough I'm spending the extra $$ to replace all the existing flat-sided and corner buckets I still have in the barn.
#3: Elasticized Ropes for the Trailer and Hitching Post
I was skeptical. I didn't like the thought of an elastic rope snapping back, bungee-like, should a horse break the tie or the snap. Little did I know that the horses are so far less likely to set back with an elasticized rope that the odds of them snapping it are much less than with a traditional rope!
When I'm starting young horses to tie, I find them much happier with the elastic rope. They learn to give to pressure -- and that impacts so much else that they do later in their training process. They don't panic when they feel that pressure on their head if they do set back. They quickly learn to move forward again and alleviate the pressure on their own.
I use the elasticized trailer ties in the trailer as well as in the barn. I don't care for them as working lead ropes (for leading the horse) but they're indispensable for hard-tying. I suggest the types with the safety snap (quick release) on one end and the bull snap on the other. Suggestion: use the bull snap end to tie to the trailer or hitch post, and the quick release to attach to the halter. If you have to release a horse that is setting back, you don't want that elastic rope whipping back and striking you or your horse after you detach it during an emergency -- which it will do if it's left attached to your horse rather than to the fixture they've been tied to!
The drawbacks to the elasticized trailer tie? Longevity. They quickly dry rot when exposed to the sun. That's a problem here in Arizona; if you're in Seattle, it may not be a factor. For that reason, I don't leave them on the outside of the trailer (or I'd be replacing them every month).
Elasticized tie and lead ropes are available in quite a variety, now. Some have loops on the end for conveniently tying to pipes or boards; others have snaps on each end; and they are available in various lengths (trailer, standard lead rope, and cross-tie) and thicknesses. I've even made my own using bulk bungee rope -- but honestly, for the trouble it is to make them, it's worth the money to simply buy pre-made ties. Note: some of the trailer-tie size have quite small emergency snaps, designed for those narrow tie-hooks affixed inside your trailer. However, if you are using them in the barn on standard-sized tie rings, the small snaps may not fit.
If you switch to the elasticized, you will save on the various "no set-back" gadgets that cost a whole lot more, and having used both, I much prefer the elasticized option.
#4: A Heavy-Duty Garden Utility Cart
Oh, how I resisted. I admired the bright green cart every time I saw it, waiting outside the feed store, calling to me softly. It might be useful, I thought, but that price tag! On a whim one day, knowing I had a few bales of hay to unload and feeling a little bit richer than I had a right to, I asked the guys to go ahead and load it up for me.
I ordinarily get a case of buyer's remorse anytime I indulge in discretionary spending. The hay cart? No regrets. It has been far more useful than I expected. One full-size (three strand) bale of bermuda hay fits neatly into it, and it has saved me countless footsteps in running back and forth to the haystack. Now I lift one bale into the cart and pull it to the barn. It saves time, effort, and -- surprisingly -- feed money. Bermudagrass hay is notorious for falling apart when you lift the flakes; now, I no longer have a path of scattered hay -- instead, it stays in the cart, where it is easily scooped up to be fed.
If you feed baled hay, spend the few dollars more to not only buy the cart, but to get one that is sturdy, can hold plenty of weight, and has drop-down sides ease in loading and in versatility for bulkier objects. You can use it to tote your saddles, bags of grain, buckets, and just about anything else we horse owners require.
The better carts have an adaptable handle so you can convert them from hand-pull to tractor or quad pull. With the fat tires and movable front axle, they're easy to pull and easy to steer. I can't imagine not having one now. Unlike the dump-style cart I use for shavings, the hay cart is far easier to haul hay around the barn; it's easier getting the bale inside, and easier to pull than it is to push the wheel-barrow type when you've got 120 pounds of feed inside.
Do yourself (and your back) a favor, and put this cart on your list.
#5: Feed-Through Fly Control
Here's yet another product I was initially skeptical about. I didn't like the concept of another chemical going into my horses' precious bodies, and I certainly hesitated at the cost of this pricey supplement. I figured flies would come in from elsewhere anyhow, and besides, I picked up manure twice a day, so I didn't think flies were breeding on my premises. Guess what? All that has changed since my very first season using these products.
The improvement in fly control was dramatic and quick. I'd estimate that I had 75% fewer flies in my barn area after using the product than before. Occasionally, during the tighter financial months, I'd lapse on the feed-through, and I immediately regretted it. It especially pleased me when horse-owning friends visited and asked why I had so few flies -- it's reassuring to have one's own observations validated by visitors.
I have had visitors proudly announce that they use fly predators. They're big believers in those little critters, and they adopt a supercilious tone of condescension when they find out I do not use them. My reasoning is this: I have limited dollars to spend. If I had an unlimited budget, I'd try the predators in addition to the feed-through control. However, since I have to limit myself to one option, I choose the feed-through as I'd rather prevent the larvae from developing in the first place than to hope the little predators are able to locate and successfully eat every larvae that does hatch. As Barney Fife would have said, "Nip it in the bud!"
Horse Owners: Do You Regularly Try New Horse Products?
The products are expensive. They're still worth every penny. You may find yourself saving a little here and there on fly spray, but probably not enough to make up for the extra expense; however, when you notice the dramatic decrease in biting flies on your beloved ponies, you'll be inclined to agree that it's a worthwhile expense.
Do note that every horse on the premises must be on the feed-through products for them to be fully effective. There are a few different brands I've used, and my preference is Solitude. It is more expensive than Simplifly but the same amount is fed to each horse, rather than having to estimate by weight. Please note: -- Simplifly is not approved for mares in foal or breeding stallions, whereas Solitude is. However, I mistakenly fed both my stallion and one mare in foal the product throughout the first summer of her pregnancy, and have seen no detrimental effect.
Copyright (c) 2013 by MJ Miller
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