10 tips to take the work out of stable chores... Many gadgets on the market these days claim to make horse care easier. Some are great, others are not; some are expensive, others are not. My top ten favorites for making barn work less of a chore?
10. A toilet brush for cleaning buckets and stock tanks. Especially in cold weather, using a brush without a handle is enough to make me want to leave the buckets and stock tanks unacceptably dirty.
9. A hose reel. I like to know how much my horses are drinking, so filling water buckets every day is a must. Dragging the hose down a long aisle, then coiling it back up is a tedious chore. A hose reel is a neat, quick way of rewinding and storing a long, heavy hose.
8. Bucket hooks. The C-shaped kinds that don't have to be snapped are great and inexpensive. No more trying to lift a full bucket of water and opening a snap at the same time.
7. Blanket bars on every stall door. These don't work well on swinging doors, of course, but they're great on sliding doors. Keep blankets, boots, fly masks and other turnout needs within easy reach.
6. A power blower. The electric kind is great for straight shots down the barn aisle. For going in and out of stalls and around corners, I find the gas-powered kind more useful. In any case, they're quicker than sweeping and do a better job. If the barn is really dusty, turn the horses out before using the blower.
5. Detachable feed tubs. Some horses are neat, cleaning up every scrap of feed so the tub never looks used. Others are messy eaters, sliming the tub and leaving crusted feed everywhere. These are the same horses that usually won't eat well out of a dirty feed tub. Tubs that bolt to the wall make cleanup a major chore, but the kind that hook onto eye bolts with snap hooks make feed tub cleaning, well, a snap.
4. A muck-bucket cart, one of the best inventions ever. Wheelbarrows are awkward and can only be dumped, not lifted. With the cart, a muck bucket can be moved with one hand, leaving the other hand free to carry a manure fork. The cart takes my muck bucket almost everywhere with little effort or danger of tipping.
3. Hard plastic stock tanks. They are almost indestructible and are shaped so that they're easy to empty when it's cleaning time.
2. Stock tank heaters. The floating kind is okay--warm water's always better than ice--but the kind that screw in near the bottom of the plastic tanks are even better. Unless you have a horse that likes to put his feet in the tank, the submerged heater will be safe. Outdoor electrical receptacles should be set outside the fence, out of horses' reach.
1. Stall mats. Rubber mats are number-one on my list. Mats make stalls easier to clean and require less bedding. Best of all, my horses are never left standing in craters or on mounds of uneven ground. Installed properly on a level, packed surface, mats will reduce stall-floor maintenance for years.
Susan Konkle is a freelance writer living in Rockville, Va.