Rider Insider: Equestrian Lifehacks

What unusual tricks have you discovered to make your life at the barn even better? Photo: Leslie Potter


Are you familiar with the term lifehack? The term is relatively new, having come along with the Internet age, but the concept is timeless. Lifehacks are unique, usually non-obvious methods or tricks to help make life a little better or make a task easier.

Some of these are mind tricks, like using smaller plates when you’re trying to lose weight. Supposedly seeing a full plate will trick your brain into thinking you’re getting more food and leave you feeling more satisfied when you’re finished. Others are innovative uses for items you already have, like using a water bottle to separate egg yolks. And others still are unexpected methods to handle everyday tasks, like folding those annoying fitted sheets into perfect, linen-closet ready rectangles.

The Internet abounds with lifehacks for improving productivity at the office, organizing your home or enjoying your food more (there are a lot of food-related lifehacks out there.) But when it comes to riding and horsekeeping, there’s plenty of room for innovative ideas.

Heartbreaker Tank
Have you found a unique way to keep your tack clean in a dusty barn? Have you discovered a trick for cinching up a horse who pulls the blowfish routine every time you tack up? Did you find an innovative way to keep high-traffic areas in the paddock free of mud and puddles during rainy weather? We want to know about them! Click “Submit a Comment” below and share your unique, unusual trick for handling a common rider problem. Some of the editors’ favorite responses could be featured in a future issue of Horse Illustrated!

This month,
Noble Outfitters is sponsoring the Rider Insider column in Horse Illustrated with a prize of a Heartbreaker Tank for the selected featured response. If you’d like to be considered for a prize, make sure to include your contact info in the email field of the comment form (emails will not be publicly displayed.)

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  1. We’ve all had those days… it’s cold, its windy, maybe its even snowing. You look outside and see your horse longingly staring at the riding arena, or waiting at the gate for you. You know he needs worked but you have absolutely no motivation to bundle up and head out into the weather. Whenever I feel like this, I sit down at the computer and head to youtube. It only takes watching one video of Olympic jumping, freestyle dressage, or a homemade video of ‘We are Equestrians’. The riding skill, the motivating music, it all immediately hypes you up and gets you motivated to get out there in any weather and train with your beloved partner.

  2. We’ve all had those days… it’s cold, its windy, maybe its even snowing. You look outside and see your horse longingly staring at the riding arena, or waiting at the gate for you. You know he needs worked but you have absolutely no motivation to bundle up and head out into the weather. Whenever I feel like this, I sit down at the computer and head to youtube. It only takes watching one video of Olympic jumping, freestyle dressage, or a homemade video of ‘We are Equestrians’. The riding skill, the motivating music, it all immediately hypes you up and gets you motivated to get out there in any weather and train with your beloved partner.

  3. I need to know where my meds and supplies are at all times. So, I have a case with a handle, where I keep everything in one place. Inside, there is the vets number, wound med, rolls of bandage cotton, ace bandages, sprays, a sharp knife, scissors, and even a bag of treats, and small container of grain. Its a lot easier know, that “if or when” one of my horses gets hurt, everything I would need is in one place.

  4. The first horse I started riding was a 15 year old who was bad tempered and just wanted to stay in her nice warm barn. I love horses so much that I wouldn’t care if it had no ears or tail! So one day before I mounted I whispered in her ear and said ” if your good ill give you a big carrot”. She behaved wonderfully that day knowing what was in store for her. She was a little better after that.

  5. I have many horses, all different sizes, so when I need to halter one of them, (specially, is a emergency or in a hurry, say when they get out), I never can grab the right halter.
    So, I now have then color codes, and also put the pegs, which the halters hang on, color coded. The color coding is just a small strip of colored clothes, or a color tape which I put on the snap or ring.

  6. My horsie lifehack is you can use leftover hay bale twine to open new bales of hay! Put the excess under the in use twine, twist, and poof! Open hay, and you didn’t need to find the scissors!

  7. Don’t have access to electric to use the bit warmers in the winter time.(who wants to put an ice cold bit in thier horses mouth). I take the little hand warmer packs open one to activate it when I get to the barn I put it next to bit and wrap with a hand towel. By them time I’m done grooming and saddling my horse, her bit is nice and warm.

  8. To warm up your horses bit prior to bridleing in the Winter, simply place the bridle over your head & under your coat during grooming. By the time you are ready to bridle, your body heat has warmed the bit.

  9. Two little things I do to make my life easier in the barn.
    1) I hang part of a cheap, clear shower curtain over the bridle rack to keep our bridles and helmets clean.
    2) I purchased an inexpensive kid’s butterfly net to scoop bits of hay, grass, bugs and dirt out of my water trough. It helps keep the water clear and fresh between complete scrubbings.

  10. My life hack; Duct Tape.It fixes cracked buckets, helps bandages, leaks,fold it over and it could double as a belt. Get a patterned tape and decorate any boring trunk. Put it on the inside of your pants to fix a hole, or tape a blanket back together. Duct Tape is a miracle.

  11. I must say that I have several. I cannot waste time in the mornings as I have a long drive to work. I have a tall trash can for filling hay nets: I simply use the net a I would a trash bag and fill up. Above the can I have a sturdy metal scale so I can weigh the net and put more in or take more out.
    I wear a cap with light to help me pick droppings , I have heated buckets for winter and rubber mats around the hay areas : no mud!

  12. When ever I go to the barn my 4 year old sister always forgets to wear her mud boots and she wears her uggs, of course I have to babysit her and after all the snow melting its really muddy in the paddocks so I take trashbags and duct tape them over top her shoes so I can so see my horse without getting in trouble for dirtying her boots! Problom Solved!

  13. When building our barn, we cut holes in the floor of the hay loft above the stalls and put little trap doors over the holes. This way we do not have to carry our hay down to the stalls, we just drop it through the floor.

  14. Its been below zero more mornings than not this winter, and breaking ice out of buckets takes forever. Insulated buckets cost a fortune….especially when you need lots of them! So I make my own using bubble foil insulation and heavy duty duct tape. Wrap the bucket 3 times in bubble foil, then folder over on the bottom. Starting at the bottom, cover with duct tape, carefully sealing all the edges. Tape up around the rim of the bucket. The cost of materials is about $12 per bucket, not including the cost of the bucket. The buckets stay ice free most nights, but at about -5, they get a very thin layer of ice. But because no ice forms on the sides, the ice can be easily picked right up out of the bucket. The horses get access to water all night, and my morning routine takes half the time! I used the same trick for my 20 gallon troughs in the pastures.

  15. I use an empty shavings bag to roll up a wet/snowy hose so that my gloves don’t get completely soaked – the last thing you want to happen in winter. Also works well with mud!

  16. I bought a pool skimmer (just the head) to skim bugs, leaves, grass and hay out of the water trough. It’s sturdy enough to handle all the leaves in the fall and large enough that a couple of swipes cleans the entire trough. I can hang it on the fence with a bit of baling twine. It really cuts down on the number of times the trough has to be dumped and scrubbed.

  17. To help standardize feeding in our barn with many different people taking care of the horses, we glue on a plastic sleeve to each of their feeding buckets and then put their daily grain and hay rations in it. The sleeve makes it easy to update the diet cards and it also helps keep them clean.

  18. About half my pasture is wooded with brush and brambles which makes using conventional tail bags dangerous and expensive. I solved my problem of keeping a nice tail by braiding their tails, tying a fake tail made of hay strings doubled over, knotted, and trimmed into the braid, and wrapping the hair, and hay string knot with vet wrap. This wrap lasts for several weeks, the hay strings swish like a real tail allowing the horse to swish flies comfortably all while keeping their tails safely full and long.

  19. If you put about 1 cup of apple cider vinegar in your horse’s water tanks, it will kill all the mosquito larva and will keep you tank clean and free of algae.

  20. Bits get soooo cold in the winter. I know I wouldn’t want that cold metal bar in my mouth! So while I am finishing grooming I will put an already warm hand warmer on the bit and wrap a glove or towel over it to get the bit warm. It keeps my hands free and makes the bit and tad more comfortable. Just be sure to take it off before you put the bridle on!

  21. I always hang my bridle around my neck and inside my jacket while I groom my horse Ace. That way the bit is nice and warm by the time I am ready to tack up and it is not far for me to grab it quick.

  22. Don’t be afraid to take advice and ask for help when you need it. And it’s useful to keep things organized so that you know where everything is…it looks better that way!!

  23. Our five horses are tied into their side by side stalls all the same way, with a piece of baler twine wrapped around the two boards that make up the back of their cribs, and hooked on a hole at the top of the boards. That way there if there was ever a problem they can break out but if they are just calmly backing out the twine is strong enough to keep them in. It’s virtually free, easy to fix and saves money in broken halters and lead ropes.

  24. When I rode in some of the equestrian classes at NMSU, one way they kept their tack clean (without letting the dirt build up on the tack) was for a student to do a quick scrub up on their bridle with saddle soap each time they put tack away. Many buckets and small tack sponges were kept in the tack area, so a student just had to hand their bridles up after they were done, put some water in the buckets, and then quickly soap/clean off the bridles. Kept the tack wonderfully supple and clean!!

  25. On the 20th of each month, I clean my tack, brushes and other equipment I used the month before. If I don’t stick to that schedule, I forget! This helps me to ensure that my tack is clean and my horse and I are happy.

  26. At my barn, we open our horses’ stall doors and their pasture gates and they walk by themselves to their stalls. You may say it’s dangerous but it’s just like being led with a rope that they have done a thousand times. We have never had a problem with it. It helps decrease the work and it helps if your an old lady!

  27. I reuse old containers for organizing my tack and feed room such as a peanut container for bands, and glass jars for treats, etc. Also we use human hair combs and detangler to save extra bucks for everyday use.

  28. We use old containers that food come in to make up the supplements for a bunch of days so we just have to dump them in when the time comes.

  29. use old coffee cans for nails, old truck tool box for my blankets and extra gear and a toolbox for all the brushes combs gloves medicines and other what not

  30. Always have a flashlight, or better yet,a flashlight app if you have a smartphone. One October morning last year,I went to the barn early to trailer my horse to a show, and the power was out! Thankfully I had a flashlight app and was able to get him to ready and to the show

  31. I’ve found that it’s easy to keep track of and organize my horse’s stuff if it’s color coded. My poor gelding got stuck with pink, but it’s helpful, especially if other people take care of your horse or if you have multiple horses, that they each have their specific color.

  32. Sometimes when I’m jumping, the horse I’m riding seems determined not to canter after we land. A trick that I use sometimes to get that canter is to give the horse a little tap with my crop while we are atill in the air, or right as we take off. Usually it encourages the horse to move just a little faster and break into the canter.

  33. Whenever I went to shows and had to apply hoof oil to my horse, I always used to get the brush and/or hoof all full of dirt, sawdust, etc. Now whenever I apply oil all I do is have my horse step on a paper plate! Your brush stays clean, and you don’t have to worry about re-doing the oil because all sorts of junk sticking to your horse’s hoof!

  34. I used to put all of my horses and halters and bridles on hooks together. and couldn’t tell who’s bridle/halter was who’s. but sense we got more hooks i can tell who’s who’s in the dark when saddling for a cattle drive early in the morning hooks are so handy.

  35. we got a matching set of cupboards and a chest of drawers. from a friend that moved away and we put them in our tack room to organize our horse medicine,hoof picks and brushes and is really heplfull.

  36. Baby wipes. I repeat: baby wipes. You can never have too many baby wipes. They will clean up a dirty horse quickly before entering the ring, will get all that dirt off your arm after you curry a really dusty horse, get rid of those terrible dry nose boogers that my horse sometimes gets. They’re an irreplaceable tool.


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