There always seems to be an endless list of equipment that you need at the barn, not to mention ‘essential’ things that don’t do the job as well as you’d expected or hoped. Then there are the items that were never meant to be used at the barn but seem to fit the job perfectly, which is where this article comes in. I thought it would be fun to list some of the unusual household items that I use around the barn. While some of the things listed below will no doubt be obvious I’m sure that there’ll be one or two of them that will come as a surprise.
I also thought it would be a good idea to include a section of alternative household items that are not only helpful around the barn but also be helpful to your budget as well.
Household items that should be included in your first aid kit
As well as the obvious list of things you should have in your first aid kit there are a handful of household items that are helpful to keep too. Some of them may surprise you too.
- Psyllium – Useful to have in your first aid kit anyway but especially good if you live in a sandy area. There are plenty of veterinarian products that do the same thing but ‘over the counter’ psyllium does exactly the same job and is a lot cheaper. It’s a natural laxative that a lot of vets recommend to help clear the digestive system. The only caveat I would add though is that you should double-check with your vet first before giving it to your horse.
- Latex gloves – Some people may say that latex gloves aren’t a household item but they certainly are a must-have for your first aid kit. These sterile gloves are designed to be thrown away after you’ve used them which makes them perfect for wearing whenever you’re treating an open wound or any area you want to keep as clean as possible. If you’re allergic to latex then you can use household rubber gloves instead of latex-free disposable gloves.
- Makeup remover pads – These small round pads are great to keep in your first aid kit because they can easily be used to help clean areas as well as to apply ointment or lotion. Their single-use design means that you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination, simply throw them away after you’ve finished.
- Sudocrem – Not just for soothing diaper rash, this antibacterial and antifungal cream can be used to alleviate the effect of insect bites, sunburn, and minor abrasions. It’s certainly worth have a tub in your first aid kit.
- Aqueous cream – Not necessarily a first aid essential but it’s definitely something that you should keep around the barn and I think that a first aid kit is as good a place as any. It can be used to add moisture to dry hooves as well as to help soften the hard, ‘scabby’ like patches of skin your horse may get around some delicate areas.
- Tampon – These are perfect for plugging small wounds because they’re completely sterile. I have a box of multiple sizes although generally, the smaller ones are better. They also expand to fill the area which is just what you want.
Household items that can really help you around the barn
Anything that helps you around the barn has got to be a good thing but why not look further than your local tack shop? Everyday objects that you’ve got lying around at home can often help at the barn. I’ve listed a few of them below.
- Bathroom organizer – Not really essential but it’ll help to keep things tidy and in one place. I’ve actually got two, one that I use for grooming and one for first aid. I keep smaller items in them such as scissors, plaiting bands, latex gloves, and various things like that. I also keep a list of important numbers as well as any medication my horses have on the door of the first aid organizer.
- Mouth wash – Mouth wash is one of those great products that have multiple benefits around the barn. The menthol in it is great for soothing insect bites and itches during the hot summer months but the antibacterial effects can also be put to use. It can be used to clean your horse’s hooves and remove germs but if you live in a soft water area it can also be used to clean water buckets. And as an added bonus it also leaves everything smelling fresh.
- Baking soda – If you live in a hard water area then you’ll need to use something stronger than mouth wash to clean buckets and baking soda is just that, it’s widely used in baking so it is perfectly safe for horses to consume. Like baby powder, it can also be used to whiten your horse’s socks and or stockings.
- Spider strainer or sieve – In the fall and winter, you’ll be amazed at just how useful these little things can be at removing all of the fallen leaves and bits of ice from water troughs. You’ll no longer have to rummage around to make sure you’ve got every single leaf, nor will your fingers freeze when you try to remove the bits of ice floating on top. This nifty little kitchen utensil will do the job and do it super quickly too.
- Rubber gloves – Just plain old washing up gloves are a must-have around the barn. They can be used to keep your hands dry while cleaning out buckets or while washing your horse. It’s also a good idea to wear them while cleaning up muck, removing ragwort, and other mucky and messy jobs.
- Multitool – This might seem like an obvious thing to include but I have to confess I only discovered the benefits of using one at the barn a few years ago! It had been a very windy November and a branch had come down on part of the fence around the pasture I was using. Luckily the fence was okay but it was an oak tree and I need to move the branches before the horses started to eat the acorns. My husband had his pocket knife with him and we used that to cut and remove the branches, ever since then I’ve made sure that I not only have one at the barn but always carry one with me when I’m out on a trail.
- Washing up brush – While I’d admit it’s not essential, a washing-up brush is great at cleaning out feed buckets. You know what some of that stuff is like, once it’s dried I swear it turns into cement! With a washing-up brush and some warm water (and baking soda or mouth wash), they’ll be spotless in no time!
- Electric drill – While an electric drill can be extremely useful for repairs and DIY jobs around the barn it also has another use that you might not have thought of – if you don’t have a hole punch then an electric drill can do the job instead. It’ll neatly ‘punch’ as many holes as you need in halters, fenders, stirrup leathers or anything else you can think of!
Household items that are great for grooming
It often seems that if something is designed for grooming (or most other horse-related activities) then the price rockets. Yet some ‘horse grooming’ products have a cheaper household alternative that is just as effective.
- Baby oil – Why spend money on expensive show shine products when baby oil will do exactly the same job! It helps to condition their coat at the same time and will even help to keep your hands soft – just don’t use too much at any one time.
- Baby powder – If your horse has got white socks or stockings then after you’ve washed and dried them try rubbing a little bit of baby powder into them to really brighten them up. This is a great tip for getting them really white just before a show but it’s important to make sure they’re completely dry first otherwise the baby powder can become a bit clumpy.
- Metal pan scourer – That might sound like a bad idea but believe me, they’re wonderful at getting the mud off of your horse, especially on long manes. They’ll remove the mud but won’t pull your horse’s hair out at all.
- Metal vegetable rack – Instead of using plastic grooming boxes to keep all of my grooming kit in I use a metal kitchen rack with wheels on. It’s portable which is great for moving everything around the barn but the best thing is that all of the dust, dirt, and grime will just fall through the gaps. I can even hang bottles from the sides so I’ve got everything to hand. It doesn’t have to be a huge rack, just as long as you can get everything you need in it.
Household items that have a surprisingly horsey use
While some of the things you’ve got at home may have an obvious use at the barn there are also a lot of things that I bet you hadn’t thought of.
- Dryer sheets – You know the sheets you put in the tumble drier to keep your clothes smelling fresh? Well, they’re great to use around the barn too, they’re perfect for removing the static electricity from your horse’s mane and tail during the winter but they have their uses in the summer as well. Bugs hate the smell of them so stuff a few of them in your pockets or hanging out of your boots and guaranteed the flies will keep away. Plus they smell nice!
- Headlamp – Not all barns have electricity and during the long dark winter months, this can be problematic, especially if your horse decides he would rather stay at the bottom of the pasture and you’ve got to go there to catch him. A headlamp can be very useful to have around anyway, yes you could always use a flashlight but with a headlamp, you still have both of your hands free.
- Plastic potties – Stackable potties from the discount store are pretty cheap and can be used as an alternative to pole pods. You can stack them as high as you want the jump to be but they’re ideal for lower cavaletti (A training aid that is made by fixing a pole to two X shaped uprights, it can then be rotated to give various height jumps.) style jumps.
- Old vehicle tires – Okay I know they aren’t really household items, but like plastic potties, they’re great for making small jumps plus they can also be used to keep buckets from being knocked over. If your horse is anything like one of mine he’ll always try to knock his food bucket over to see if there’s any more underneath then you’ll know what a pain that can be. Instead, place the food bucket (or water bucket) inside an old tire and it’ll be much harder for him to knock it over.
- Duct tape – This is one of those wonder products that you should keep everywhere, not just at the barn. It can be used for quick repairs of rugs, to hold poultices and bandages in place, and can even be used to temporarily repair a broken fence. I always make sure I’ve got some in my car, at the barn and if I’m going on a long trail ride I take some with me – better safe than sorry I think.
- Baby wipes – Like duct tape, baby wipes are another one of those miracle products that have so many uses. They can be used to quickly remove sweat marks and grass stains from your horse’s coat, are great for giving your tack a quick once-over and even adding shine to your horse’s coat.
- Airtight food containers – Available in a variety of different sizes these containers are great for so many things. I keep a few just for filling with clean water to treat wounds but they’re also good for keeping small items together. If I’m going on a long trail I take a couple with me with things like first aid supplies in them.
Household items that will save you money at the barn
We all want to save money when we can and doing this at the barn is no exception. Sometimes just buying something from the local discount store can cost far less than it does at the tack shop yet do the same job. Other times the household item can be adapted for use at the barn.
- Dustpan & brush – Yes you can buy these from your local tack shop or online but buying one from a discount store will do just as good a job but at a fraction of the cost.
- Diapers – Yes you did read that right! Diapers can make a great poultice for leg and foot wounds. Add sugar and povidone-iodine (A mixture of polyvidone (a binder often used in tablets) and iodine that has disinfectant properties and is often used in surgical scrubs and medical ointments. It’s sold under various names such as Betabine) to the diaper and you’ve got a homemade sugarcane (An antiseptic remedy regularly used by vets) poultice.
- Baby powder (or baking soda) – I know I mentioned this before but honestly, buying baby powder is a no brainer, it’ll get your horse’s white socks and stockings unbelievably white and is far cheaper than the expensive whitening powder that has been made ‘especially’ for horses. If you’d prefer you can use baking soda instead of baby powder.
- Microfibre cloths – Available from most discount stores they’re perfect for giving your horse’s coat shine but can also be used to help dry him too. After washing or grooming give him a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth and you’ll get a stunning shine! And best of all they’re machine washable.
- Sponges – I don’t have an alternative to using sponges but I do have a cost-saving tip, rather than buy them from a tack shop why not look in your local discount store. They’ll have loads of them in different shapes and sizes but best of all they’ll be a fraction of the price.
Do you have any suggestions?
That’s my list of household must-haves that I use around the barn but do you think I’ve missed something out? Why not let me know your tips and tricks for any household items you use. You can either leave a comment below or let me know on social media.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉