Is the place where you store and dole out your horses' feed set up for maximum convenience and efficiency? Here are some simple feed-room strategies gleaned from real-world horse owners:
- Store concentrates (grain mixes, commercial feeds) in stackable, front-lid bins made for sorting recyclables (search recycling bins online; about $60 for a set of three at plowhearth.com). Use the label space on the front of the lids to record what's in each bin (key for horsesitters and other family members who feed). Stack them two-high atop a sawhorse platform and you'll have your feed at a convenient-to-scoop height that's safe from flooding, with a bonus of tub/bucket storage beneath the bins.
- As an alternative to the recycling bins described above for feed storage, use clean metal garbage cans with well-fitting lids (avoid plastic which can be airtight, causing feed to sour in hot weather). Place cans atop two or three cinder blocks to raise them to a convenient, flood-proof height.
- Build a waist-high counter (or use an old table) on which to mix grain rations (a metal sweat scraper makes a super mixing implement).
- Store your supplements in an inexpensive plastic cabinet made for garden supplies or garage storage?the extra space makes it easy to stock up when your favorites go on sale. (Find such cabinets in a range of sizes, styles, and prices at home- or garden- supply stores, or online.)
- If your feed room has a dirt floor, use rubber mats?at least around the area where your feed is scooped/mixed?to create a space that's easy to keep tidy (spilled, unswept bits can attract rodents).
- Place a length of duct or gaffers tape on each horse's feed bucket on which to write a name plus feeding instructions; use a permanent marker or strips of tape to indicate ?fill-to? measurement lines on the inside of each bucket (again, handy when someone else is feeding for you).
- Post general feeding instructions (encased in a plastic sleeve) on the feed-room wall to further guide feed-time helpers.
- Store your hay bales on wooden pallets to prevent them from getting moldy (from sitting on damp ground). If your feed-storage area is next to a dirt road or other- wise has dust issues, keep your hay supply tarped.
- Install a hay scale so you can feed your hay by weight, not volume, because flakes of hay can vary considerably, even within the same bale.
- Use one of those stretchy coils (used to hold office pens, avail- able at office-supply stores) to anchor a pair of scissors or box cutter near your hay supply, so you never have to search for something with which to cut baling twine. (In a pinch, use a piece of twine to saw through intact strands. Simply draw a length of twine back and forth rapidly in one spot until the friction helps it cut through the taut strand.)
- No electricity in your feed room? A camp lantern ($10 to $30 at big-box or camping stores) provides ample light, and with judicious use, the batteries last a surprisingly long time. You can also use a battery-powered headlamp ($15 to $30 at big-box stores) and/or a ?snake light? (a flashlight on a long, bendable stem you can wrap around your arm or hang from your neck?about $20 at the same stores) for hands-free light while feeding.
- Keep your feed-room implements (broom, rake, pitchfork) handy and out from under your feet by hanging them on a wall-mounted clamping tool holder (many styles at various prices available at big-box stores).
- Affix a dry-erase board to your feed-room wall so you can jot down needed items as supplies run low, plus display your veterinarian?s phone number and other important information.
Other Health/Safety Tips
- A horse-proof latch on the door or gate leading to your feed room is essential to prevent bingeing parties.
- If you use hay bags or hay nets (especially the new ?slow feed? small-mesh variety with 2-inch squares), you'll cut waste and keep your horses eating longer (better for their digestive systems, plus helps prevent boredom).
- Use rodent controls with care, making sure neither pets nor children can get at them.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy and in working condition.
And Those Empty Feed Bags?
Reuse them to:
- Line your barn?s garbage cans.
- Tack to the wall for collecting/storing baling twine.
- Collect recyclables and burnable garbage (burn the bag with the garbage inside).
- Tidily transport barn-muddied items?such as your boots?in your vehicle.
- Create a makeshift walkway when needed over muddy areas.
Another reuse tip: Plastic supplement buckets make great storage containers (horse cookies, anyone?).