Just picture it (and maybe you have): the grand horse farm, perfectly designed and sited, and blessed with every amenity you and your horses could ever need or want. Total showplace, magazine cover-worthy—there’s even a hot tub for the horses! And this the very place where you have your horses now, right?
Um, probably not. Most of us who keep and care for horses, especially at home, don’t have or even prioritize grandeur. But practicality? That’s a different story. You’re probably always looking for ways to lighten the hard work, make things safer (vet bills add up!), and cost less in the long run. You may even have an annual budget for getting such things accomplished, one project at a time. (If so, we salute you!) Here, gleaned from our network of readers and other horse friends, are 15 keep-it-real ideas for improvements that they’ve loved. When you find an idea that clicks for you, a few clicks will tell you more: Enter the boldface terms into an online search engine for further information and to find suppliers.
Like an automatic dishwasher in the kitchen, these are improvements you could get along without, but at a cost of additional daily labor.
1. Automatic horse waterer. Imagine—a no-hose horse life, and no need to refill buckets and water troughs twice a day. And water that’s fresh when a horse wants it. You can have all these benefits with an automatic unit that provides horses water on demand. Some are designed for wall- or pedestal-mounting in stalls and pens, and others can be placed out in the open, as in a pasture. You’ll still need to check and clean your waterer(s) on a regular basis, but the hose drag (and worse, the frozen hose) will be a thing of the past. I happen to have these in my barn and love them.
2. Automatic horse feeder. An outgrowth of the pet-care industry, this type of device can come in very handy for the horse owner who must work odd hours or be gone past feeding time on occasion. Some units dispense grain and concentrates, while others can be programmed to deliver flakes of hay as often as six times a day. Most are designed to feed just a single horse at a time, and are ideal for horses with individual stalls or pens.
3. Barn hot water. The traditional way to add this feature is with an electric water heater and the plumbing to support it. However, using a garden hose for the water source and portable propane to heat water as it passes through a tankless heater with exit nozzle, you can have hot water at the barn (or at a show) without electricity or a plumber. Popular for cabins and campgrounds, these non-electric units vary in size and capacity. Some come on dolly carts for ease of moving from place to place.
4. Horse fly-misting system. This can be as small as a wall-mount, battery-timed, spray-can mister that you activate when and where needed (in your grooming area, for instance), or large enough for 24/7 insect control of an entire barn. The former resembles an aerosol room mister that uses replacement canisters, while the latter type usually stores water-based insecticide in a 55-gallon barrel, dispensing it at timed intervals via multiple mister tubes and nozzles installed where needed.
Prefabricated parts of a whole can make relatively easy work of numerous farm improvements. They also allow you to make improvements incrementally, as you can afford it
5. Stall fronts. This includes the whole category of prefab stall components, which you’ll find with a stall fronts search. However, the fronts themselves have the most variables in function, depending on brand and style chosen. You can get grillwork; Dutch doors; full-entry doors that slide or swing open; feed doors that slide, swing, or drop down; built-in blanket/ halter hangers; even pet-door inserts. A stall-front upgrade is one of the fastest ways to change the face and functionality of your barn aisle.
6. Stall mats. As with “stall fronts,” this search term yields a range of products. All involve flooring systems for equine application. These products, often made of rubber, can be used to line the floors of stalls, trailers, alleyways, grooming/hoof-care areas, and washracks. Until you’ve lived with matted stalls, you probably won’t realize how much time and effort you previously put into maintaining dirt-floor stalls and their inevitable holes and sloppy craters. The savings on bedding is also quite considerable.
7. Horse fence panels. Available in various lengths from 10 to 16 feet, metal fence panels can be connected to create pens, runs, riding arenas, or even an overnight horse-camping corral. They allow you to reconfigure space as needed. They’re sturdy, impervious to horses acting like gnawing beavers, and may minimize the need for posts. They’re also widely available at farm/ranch stores around the country and if well made, will last for decades.
8. Horse gates. You might be surprised by how much functionality you can add to your place just by changing its gates. Especially handy: Gates that can be opened and relatched with just one hand, leaving the other free for controlling the horse; and gate-in-a-gate styles that allow handler entrance through one while the main gate remains closed.