We would all love to dedicate our time to being in the saddle and working with our horse but, along with the joys of riding, owning a horse brings the responsibility of carrying out barn chores! Your horse will need his stall cleaned on a regular basis - daily if he is also turned out to pasture and twice daily if he is living in his stall full time - but on top of that there are plenty of other jobs to do. Keeping the muck heap tidy, dealing with any rodents and insects and cleaning around the outside of the stalls, hay barn and feed store are all essential jobs – and not only do they make the barn look more attractive and well-maintained, but they are imperative for keeping the barn hygienic and functional.
Looking after your barn and facilities is much easier when you have the right tools! From mucking out to sweeping dropped hay, good yard equipment will make your efforts more effective and more efficient, getting you back to riding in no time. Our selection of staple tools for every horse owner will provide you with a full range of equipment to complete your tasks, no matter what they are.
1. Manure or muck fork
- Average cost: $20 to $40 for a standard fork
Without a doubt, the manure fork is the most useful tool you can own – you will use it regularly and for many different jobs, from mucking out a stall and picking up poop in the field through to shaking out new bedding. Generally made of metal or plastic, the more robust models may be more expensive but will no doubt last longer and be less likely to break or become blunt.
You can find a wide variety of manure forks available these days: wonder forks, mini-tine forks, flex 'n forks, bedding forks, etc. While they may be somewhat similar in size and appearance, many have terrific features that help you to finesse the job of keeping the corners and odd crevices in your horse's stall, clean and fresh. All these forks require continued manual agitation to prevent the fresh bedding from falling onto the ground.
Handy hint: Choose the sturdiest model you can afford, ensuring it is the appropriate length for your height and featuring an ergonomic handle, to prevent back ache and blisters to your hands.
2. Straw broom
- Average cost: $5 to $10
Sweeping up is so important – not only does it make your barn look neater and cleaner but it helps with hygiene. Accumulated remains of dirty bedding, hay and feed are a surefire way to attract vermin to your barn, so keeping the ground fully swept is a cheap method of vermin control. A thick- and rigid-bristled broom will be most effective at sweeping debris along easily, and you may want to consider one with an angled head to get into the awkward spots of your yard.
Handy hint: While brooms can be found at minimal cost, their handles have a tendency to break. Save yourself a few dollars by choosing one with a detachable head, so that you can replace the head or handle if one part wears out.
3. A metal rake
- Average cost: $15 to $40
There are so many uses for a rake around a barn, albeit, generally not inside the stall. For around the stall and in the field where there is uneaten hay, or for collecting dropped forage from the feed store, a rake can quickly gather up waste into a pile to collect with a scoop. In the fall and winter a good rake will help you to move ice outside the stalls and collect fallen leaves, so to prevent a slipping hazard or minimize the risk of Seasonal Pasture Myopathy. You can choose between a rake with either a wooden or metal handle – the preference is yours but it is a good idea, as with other barn equipment, to get the strongest tool you can afford.
- Average cost: $20 to $50
They may seem old fashioned, but the quintessential pitchfork is a classic for a reason! They are ideal for picking up and moving hay around, as well as moving straw bales when putting down bedding. They can be really useful for breaking bales apart and shaking out the straw.
- Average cost: $85 to $200
A really important tool around the barn, wheelbarrows are essential for pretty much every job from removing dirty bedding from the stall and moving hay and straw bales around through to collecting poop in the field. Wheelbarrows come in all shapes and sizes, with different types of wheels and moldings. A lot can be said for purchasing the best wheelbarrow you can afford: the more you pay, the better quality the model will be and so the longer it should last. More expensive models have sturdier wheels which are less likely to get punctured or deflated.
Handy hint: A plastic wheelbarrow bed is best for around the barn because it will not rot from the urine and droppings for which it will be regularly used.
- Average cost: $10 to $30
When you have horses, you will need a good shovel (or even two). When they become blunt, it can be difficult to collect the debris easily and you may end up taking longer to complete your work. It is a good idea, therefore, to purchase a high-quality shovel and, if you find you struggle with the shovel's weight, selecting a lightweight version.
Handy hint: More expensive shovels feature steel reinforcement along the socket and collar, which increases longevity.
- Average cost: $5 -$15
You can never have too many buckets! For feed, collecting droppings, carrying water and even storing things, buckets are essential for every livestock handler. Available in different materials (rigid or flexible) and sizes, buckets also come in a variety of colors, allowing you the chance to give your barn a little personal pizzazz.
Handy hint: You may need to replace buckets regularly as handles are liable to break when in heavy use. Consider buying some ergonomic grips to attach to the handles in order to limit the strain on both the wire and your fingers.
For all of the above, check out your local hardware store or more specialized equestrian retailers such as Valley Vet, Dover's, Jeffers and Horse Health USA.
Barn chores are an essential part of daily barn life and the quicker they are done, the quicker you can be out riding! Having the right range of tools for the job will allow you to do your work to the best of your ability each day, without compromising your limited time.
For more tips on barn maintenance and additional horse care, visit www.spalding-labs.com again soon.
*Image courtesy of Dollar Photo Club
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