We all know looking after horses is time consuming, but when doing all the associated jobs start eating into your riding and quality time then we start to get disillusioned and lose interest in horse ownership, especially when you are tired of a long winter.
I think it’s really important to prioritise your house keeping tasks, multi-task, and shave off precious minutes when doing the essential jobs. Sometimes I feel like the queen of saving time. I’ll put one set of tack away and, to the horse’s dismay, bring out the next set before turning out said horse and bringing in the next.
For example, is your wheelbarrow the right size? Taking one trip to the muck heap instead of two can save you a couple of minutes when mucking out. Likewise, is your bedding the most economical for your horse? Can you bank up fresh bedding at the weekend to bring it down during the week? Are all your tools fully functional? After all it takes twice as long to sweep the yard with a broom missing half it’s bristles!
When you arrive do you walk past the tack room to your stable? Is it worth getting your tack out en route, even if you still have to muck out or catch? Or what about returning your tack to the tack room and mixing up feeds en route? Or can you carry your haynets with you to the muck heap and fill your nets on the way back to the stable?
Poo picking. If you only fill half a wheelbarrow each day would you save time doing it alternate days? After all, you’d only walk around the field once, and empty the wheelbarrow once, so the extra five minutes you spend picking up extra droppings is counterbalanced by the time saved not walking around the field or pushing barrows on the other day. You’d probably save 10 minutes at least, and that is valuable quality time! Also, would leaving a wheelbarrow outside your field save you a couple of minutes as walking on your own is quicker than pushing a barrow?
Outside my stable I keep a hoof pick hanging up, along with my lunge line and cavesson. So I save valuable minutes hunting for a hoof pick when I bring Otis in. Likewise, the lunging stuff is to hand as I tend to lunge when I have limited time. Some stables have corner cupboards, which I think are really useful for essentials that you need everyday – grooming brushes, eye drops, baby wipes, brushing boots, whatever you use daily. Otherwise, a small box outside your stable is an option.
I also find being organised in terms of your storage saves time. How about grabbing a whip from your whip rack rather than rummaging down the side of your large trunk, amongst rugs, discarded brushes, crisp packets, holey gloves, and half eaten salt licks.
While talking about being organised, I find it amazing how much time you save by filling up multiple haynets or several hard feeds. Making up a week’s worth of haynets will shave minutes of your daily routine, thus giving more precious cuddle time.
Sometimes changing your routine slightly helps save time. For example, if you are just feeding your horse, and there’s more than one in his paddock, then instead of standing there guarding him as he eats, what about making a little corral with electric fencing and put your horse in there to eat. That gives you chance to poo pick, check the field, rugs and horses; meaning you are done and dusted in a very short amount of time. Useful before work or when you’re going out for the day.
Get a bike. This is most useful if your field is a five minute plus walk from the yard. Cycle down to the field in half the time, abandon the bike and bring your horse in. When you turn out you can cycle back. If you really wanted to, you could carry a feed bucket and haynet down with you. I have clients who use a bike and it really does save time and energy. It also has the added benefit of teaching your horse to associate bikes with good things.
I think it’s also useful to play around with your routine to find what best suits you. I’m a morning person so usually ride in the morning, and I’m more proactive and because I’m conscious of the time and needing to get to work, I don’t get chatting to anyone. Funnily enough, the other liveries are also time-conscious so there’s far less chatter and more jobbing!
Finally, if you still struggle to fit in that quality time with your horse then it’s time to consider what jobs you can off load onto someone else. Can you turn out your neighbour’s horse in the morning if they bring yours in at night? Or can the yard do your poo picking, or bring your horse in so he’s dry and content with a haynet so when you arrive you can hop straight on. I know it’s more expensive, but the increase in quality time and enjoyment levels are worth it.