Here are some helpful hints to make both your life and your horse's life easier and more comfortable:
- To get botfly eggs off your horse's legs, try scraping them lightly with a serrated (toothed) grapefruit knife.If blue-green algae cause slime to form in your water trough, dump in three or four aquarium catfish. You can find them in any pet store. They?re inexpensive and they?ll eat the algae so your horse's water stays fresh. Put the fish in a tank inside when the weather gets cold so that they don't freeze in the trough.
- Pamper your horse with disposable baby diapers. They make great shipping bandages. With the plastic side against the horse's skin, they hold in moisture and body heat for poultices. You can soak the diapers in Epsom salts or any medication and wrap them with the absorbent side to the leg. They can be cut, fitted and taped under saddle pads, girths and bridles as protective padding so your horse doesn't get tack sores. Keep a box of disposable diapers in your tack room. (The cheapest kind will do fine.) You?ll probably find even more uses for them.
- If you have to feed grain or water out of buckets in the pasture, here's a good idea. Salvage a couple of old tires, stack them and put the bucket in the center. Fill any chinks with rocks. Now your horse won?t be able to knock over his bucket easily. Even better, the black rubber will absorb heat in the winter and keep his water from freezing.
- White patches on a horse can get sunburned in the summer. It can be especially bad on the face, where hair and skin are thin. Dab on an inexpensive sunscreen, being especially careful not to get any in your horse's eyes. This should keep him from catching too many harmful rays.
- Don?t throw out old socks or pantyhose. They come in handy in the barn. Pantyhose legs with the toes and tops cut off are good for holding leg wraps and bandages in place. Gather them up as you would if you were putting long socks on yourself. Then stretch them over the horse's hoof to the middle of the bandage and smooth them out. Pantyhose feet stuffed with horse hair and tied at the end make good tack scrubbers. Old socks without holes can be filled with any kind of powder you want to put on your horse's coat. Tie off the end of the sock and pat it over your horse for a light, even layer. Old socks (with or without holes) can be used as polishing mitts for your tack and your horse. Start building a stash of old hose and you'll see how useful they can be.
- For cold-weather riding, try these tips: wear hunter?s mittens which have a slit in the palm for the trigger finger. You can poke your fingers out to buckle tack and do other small jobs. You can keep sticky snow from forming uncomfortable clumps in your horse's hooves if you coat them with a layer of ski wax. You can get ski wax at most sporting-goods stores. Make sure you cover the entire sole of your horse's foot to keep snow from sticking there and on a frigid morning, you can warm his bit in a washcloth soaked in hot water. You?ll probably find that he's more eager to take it.
- Baking soda has many uses around the barn. Sprinkle a little on a new plastic toilet brush to clean water buckets. It will get the crud out and leave the buckets smelling better. A handful of baking soda dissolved in a bucket of water will get sweat and dirt out of your horse's coat without leaving a shampoo smell. Sprinkle handfuls on the wet spots in the stall after you?ve removed the soiled begging. It will help kill odors. And you can mix baking soda and water into a paste to out on your horse's insect bites. It will help reduce the itch and swelling. You can get large boxes of baking soda at a supermarket or a 50-pound bag from many feed stores.