Being an equestrian can be rather expensive, particularly when you try to purchase a simple item and it has been upcharged two or three times simply because it has a horse label attached to it. While we love our horses as part of the family and we want to purchase every little thing for them, do not forget that there are plenty of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and barn hacks that you can do to save money and make more happen. An owner first needs to make sure that they budget reality and that the horse is always cared for alongside taking care to not put themselves in a situation where they are financially struggling. When you are free of financial stress, you can do way more for your horse in good spirits.
But all horse people are broke!
That is the common joke and stereotype of the horse world but it does not have to be true! First and foremost, make sure that you make a budget in which you spend less than you make per month. RPE endorses the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps in finding financial peace and stability through following his path to becoming debt-free and building wealth. Following his simple steps, you will write out a detailed budget for your expected income and designate all of your bills and expenses. Doing this will take away part of the stress and burden in knowing that you already have money set aside for important categories (such as gas and horse feed). Once all basic categories are covered (including your Debt Attack category), you may look at planning small sinking funds on the side in which you let money grow in an external account that is to be used for that sinking fund target. Sinking funds can be Christmas gifts, horse show expenses, vehicle maintenance, big future anticipated purchases, horse medical bills & supplements, and more. However, try to only create a sinking fund for what you actually need! Once you are out of debt (if you have any as many normal people do - don't try to be normal, it sucks!) and financially stable, you will be amazed at the lifestyle that you can build.
DIY projects not only help save money on plenty of services and products but also provide a certain level of self-satisfaction in solving a problem or creating a product yourself. There are many DIY barn projects and barn hacks that are available online through enough searching and enough creativity. This page is dedicated towards highlighting successful DIY projects and barn hacks that have been extremely useful and cost-effective for RPE.
There are plenty of barn maintenance and organization hacks to research and adopt that make life much easier and more professional. Organization and keeping the barn tidy is an important trait of RPE in order to make sure everything has a place and that the barn is open and inviting. Aside from consistently cleaning the water trough, raking the aisle, and sweeping the stairs and mats, RPE also makes sure that the stalls and cross-ties stay clean, tack is regularly checked for cleaning, and a binder of thorough information and a summarized check-list for feed shifts allow for all handlers to have clear understanding of RPE's expectations when caring for our horses.
LED White Christmas Lights - Beautiful Barn Lighting
Light in a barn is extremely helpful during operations, particularly during the long nights that fall during the end of the year. In my situation, I had lighting inside the barn and in front of the barn. However, I found myself struggling with the lack of lighting that was available on the side of the barn under the overhang. It made sense for when the barn was built, as we would groom and tack up inside the barn stalls at the time. However, I much prefer tacking up outside and on cross ties now as it's more open and it's easier to get around. Up until now, I've simply dealt with the dilemma but also haven't been riding as much in the dark season with the cold. Now that I'm looking at riding more after work with the arena lights set up, I wanted to make sure that I had enough adequate lighting for before and after. Not only were the lights easy to set up, but the LED bulbs also output a solid amount of light for one strand. In addition to now having extra lighting under my overhang, the project also just glows like the night sky and has an elegant and beautiful look to it. I only have one 60' strand up at the moment, but very well may add one more as they easily attach to each other.
Baling Twine - Ribbon Decoration
There are many uses of baling twice which have been implemented from decorating the barn with show ribbons to hanging up box fans during the summer season along with bungee cords. And if you find yourself in possession of too many ribbons that aren't doing anything, put them to work and allow them to decorate your barn. You'd be amazed at the difference colorful ribbons in a riding stable makes.
Vet Wrap - Protection & Stability
As for our wood railing that younger riders use for stability, everyday vet wrap has been used to prevent any wood splinters from occuring and also allow for more grip.
JeffersPet Portable Blanket Bar - Blanket Organization
Portable blanket bars from JeffersPet have been the most budget-friendly product that is a steal in its purchase price for blanket organization. Vet wrap can also be used on the blanket bars for a better grip as well so that the blankets do not slide right off.
Cost-Efficient, Customized Tack Trunks
The 37 in. Husky Utility Cart has been a barn favorite for tack and feed trunks that comes with two keys, wheels attached, and a grooming / tool caddy all included for the cost-effective price of $50 at Home Depot (actually bought my third one on sale for $40!). But if you would rather get your tack trunk sold with or without wheels for over twice that much, you do you. I also customized each tack trunk for each mare by using some simple paint tape to make a large letter stencil and spray painted each letter with multiple layers.
Cost-Efficient & Simple Skirt-Hanger Saddle Pad Dryer & Organizer
If you have any hanging area, such as a staircase or higher shelf, you can add a pole or a curtain rail to allow for skirt hangers to help you organize your saddle pads. You can buy pretty cheap skirt hangers from a local dollar store that can handle the job well. Not only does it help keep everything looking neat and tidy all in one convenient location, but hanging them inside-out can also help keep them clean and allow them to properly dry after a good workout.
Cost-Efficient & Simple Metal Bit Warmer for Winter
Not sure why it took this long for this hack to come to light, but RPE uses a simple heating pad during cold weather to warm up the metal bits of the horse's bridles so that they're ready to ride. The heating pad also helps warm back up our riders' hands if they need a few minutes to regain feeling in their frozen fingers!
Open-Top Round Bale Feeder - Extend Hay Life
We just recently got the Tarter Equine Pro Feeder with Hay Saver (Horse Bale Feeder) from R&D Cross with the goal of extending the life of our round bales through less wasted hay. Especially with going into winter where there is less grass to consume, the horses usually consume a given round bale a day or more earlier with the change in their grazing routine. Having some protection for the round bale that at least ensures that they do not stomp all of the dropped hay into the ground (which Mocha loves to do as she now has a lovely bed of hay she likes to sleep on in that area) should help with this dilemma. However, this section will require updating after a bit of time in an official review. We also were only looking for open-top bale feeders so that no horse can get their head caught while eating if a more dominant horse comes by.
Grain Scale - Effective Equine Nutrition
Feeding based on weight and not by scoop measurements is a critical factor in horse care that is often overlooked due to a lack of effort. This is not any kind of an attack towards people who are feeding by scoop measurements (I used to do the same based on the grain amount recommendations for different horse types). Having switched to ADM Horse Grain and taking more care to measure out grain consumption by body weight, I have noticed a drastic improvement in the quality of my horses' energy and moods. And finding a scale is not at all difficult, as I purchased two relatively cheap food scales off of Amazon in which I keep one in the barn and one at home. The scales have been working perfectly without a battery replacement for over a year so far and allow for proper zeroing-out of the feed scoop so that I may accurately measure the weight of the actual grain amount. After doing multiple conversions to get from pounds to ounces, my feeding system has never been more consistent nor effective!
Metal Trash Cans - Grain Storage
While on the topic of grain, metal trash cans are my personal recommendation for grain storage. Not only do they stay nice and clean with every use, but they also provide a strong barrier that critters cannot get into. And when the occasional critter does come and manages to figure out how to pop off one of the lids, I either put a cinderblock on top or use a bungee cord to secure the lid to the side handles. As for distinguishing which can is which, I prefer the larger cans for my base grain and the smaller cans for my supplemental grain. On top of can size, I also use duck tape with sharpie to clearly identify to additional handlers which grain is which to prevent confusion and mixups.
Cheap Plastic Shed - Grain Delivery System
As for restocking grain, my local feed store delivers grain due to conflicting hours and unloads all contents into my pop-up, plastic shed that I purchased just for this reason. Instead of having the delivery people deal with bringing the grain to the barn and risk the horses getting out (the barn is in the pasture), this shed stands outside the gate and has been a fantastic investment that is simple, straight-forward, and protective of my delivery until I arrive and restock my feed cans.
Heavy-Duty Pop-Up Outdoor Carport Storage Shelter with Installed House Vents - Small Storage System for Round Bales
Getting a round bale every week for the herd can get a little taxing on my supplier delivering the rounds. Having been looking into a solution for proper storage for a while now and reading tons of reviews, I finally made a decision to try out one of the pop-up carport sheds. I purchased a 7x12 ft one for approximately $200, as well as purchased a pair of basic house vents to be secured with Gorilla Glue to prevent condensation. Assembling the shed would've been much easier with a second hand but was doable by myself and a mounting block (the cover was the hardest part). After the shed was assembled, I made sure to carefully measure and cut out a section for the vents in the front and back of the shed (making sure to start with too-small a hole and slowly widening it as necessary). Once I was satisfied with the vent sitting comfortably inside the hole (it had the popped-out back portion of the vent that it could rest on - was not completely flat), then I applied Gorilla Glue around all inside edges of the vent before popping it back into the hole. Using a PVC pipe to lean against the vent and apply pressure for stabilizing, I applied more Gorilla Glue along the edges of the vent both on the front and back and left it for several hours under pressure. So far, so good! I am satisfied with my round bale storage system to protect against the weather elements (not forgetting the wood pallets to keep off the ground). I also added a slight ramp to my front pallet to make storaging onto the pallet much easier as it is being done by hand.
Color-Coding Each Horse - Simple Use & Organization of Care & Equipment
Since the beginning of owning horses, my family got into the habit of color-coding our horses according to each horse owner's color preference. I have continued the habit of color-coding each horse's care and performance equipment since and it truly does make life easier, particularly when there are new handlers involved who are still learning where everything is. For our horses, In Your Dreams is associated with purple, Celtic Class is associated with blue, and Dark Delight is associated with red. These color associations help with their feed buckets, stall water buckets, blanket sizes, and more and are definitely a habit of recommendation!
LED Flood Lights - Bright & Far Arena Lighting
We installed two 100W LED Flood Lights for arena lighting after thorough research of product details and reviews. The pair that we have actually came as a deal for two which was also a plus and a family-friend electrician was able to install them for us! LED was definitely the way to go without doubt and the light reaches across the field in some areas that are not blocked by trees! Ideally, we would like to get more of them but that would require running new wires (the old light posts were already set up) and frankly it would be more of a luxury than anything at the moment. Plenty of light covers the riding area between the two as well as the lights that are already on the barn. Extremely happy with these lights!
24/7 Security Camera Surveillance - Protection & Peace of Mind
Another must-do for any barn is to do one's research and determine the best security camera surveillance system that is appropriate for you. Cameras offer multiple benefits that range from protection to solving the mystery of why your horse may come in lame on a random occasion (maybe they got kicked or slipped when playing during turnout, you'll never know unless you have proof!). If there is a proper WiFi setup, you can even set up your system to allow remote viewing from a mobile device so that you can check on your horses and facility whenever you feel like, or even keep an eye on when workers and riders are expected to be out to make sure that everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing without problems. With plenty of storage, I can even go back and review a ride if one of my riders has questions about what they could've done better or what they could spend time working on when coming out to ride independently. There's simply too many benefits to installing a security camera surveillance system to not even consider doing so!