Securing Water Buckets

You know how some horses tip their water buckets over in their stables? Making a soggy mess of their bed and going thirsty overnight.

Phoenix isn’t a serial offender, but it happens frequently enough for me to look into alternative options.

Most people who don’t have automatic drinkers have buckets with handles, which are filled by carrying smaller buckets to it, using a hose pipe, or filling it at the tap and carrying it to the stable. But once these get empty they can be tipped over easily and played with. Plastic tub trugs are the most common ones.

I had a scout round the yard to see what other people use as a water container, and saw that some people have containers on wheels, which they fill at the tap and roll into their stable when full. They are called “rolling garden carts” online and are widely available. The useful thing about these is that a normal sized water bucket will fit within.

Now this is great for your back, but how can I use this to stop Phoenix knocking the bucket over? Well there’s a handle at the top of the cart which I could attach to the wall.

I didn’t want to faff around with string on a daily basis, so I asked my chauffeur for some ideas.

I’m really impressed with his solution. Using an old leg strap from a rug, sewn onto the handle of the cart, we now had a clip to fasten to the wall. Then we (the royal we) screwed an eye plate to the wall to clip the cart to.

It’s very easy to use, unclips easily and it’s nice not breaking my back carrying water in the morning. So here you are, a little stable life hack for you!

Feeding Breakfasts

One of the biggest logistical things I’ve noticed on DIY livery yard’s in the winter is the fact that everyone’s morning routine varies according to what time they start work. Which means that it can be quite stressful for horses waiting for breakfast or turnout.

Many yards I’ve observed have a rule that the first person on the yard feeds the entire yard. Which reduces the stress in horses when their neighbour is being fed and they aren’t. However, in order for this system to work several things need to be taken into account.

Firstly, feeding breakfasts needs to be done as quickly as possible. After all, the first person on the yard doesn’t want to spend fifteen minutes trying to feed the hungry horses, because they’ve got to go to work too. So every livery owner needs to prepare their feeds the night before and leave them dampened or soaked ready to be fed straightaway.

Secondly, feeds need to be stored so that they’re readily available for the half asleep early risers, clearly labelled, yet not left on the yard for cheeky ponies to help themselves when their small owner’s backs are turned, or left to encourage vermin.

Thirdly, everyone needs to know what time breakfast is. After all, there’s nothing worse than turning up for a quick pre-work ride only to find your horse has only just had breakfast. One way to reduce this risk is to give your horse a smaller ration in the morning, and their main hard feed in the evening if you usually ride in the mornings. And vice versa if you ride in the evening so you don’t have to wait as long in the cold and dark while they cool down and eat their tea.

Some yards leave feed buckets outside stables, covered with plastic covers. Which has the risk of attracting vermin, and being eaten by horses not tied up securely. Plus on windy days the covers blow across the yard. Other yards leave feeds in boxes outside stables, which can be time consuming opening any locks and lids.

I’ve spent a long time pondering the most effective way of implementing a “first one feeds” system and recently came across the best solution yet.

On the yard is a metal dustbin with a securely fastened lid, which is vermin and naughty pony proof. If the yard is bigger, then there is one bin per row of stables. Each horse is given a breakfast bucket, which is of a generous size to accommodate the larger feeds of the thoroughbreds, has two handles, and most importantly they are stackable. The yard provides these buckets so they can ensure that they are the correct dimensions. Each horse’s name is written on in very big, thick, black letters so the buckets can be easily identified in the half lit, early hours.

When livery owners make up feeds they fully prepare breakfast (damp or soak the feed) and put them into the bins, one on top of the other. Then when the first person arrives on the yard they go to the bin and take out the stack of buckets and then walk along the row feeding each horse. A super speedy way of satisfying hungry horses early in the morning without waking the neighbours, or on a Saturday morning when recovering from a heavy Friday night.

The only way that this system could be improved, in my opinion, is by the buckets being stacked in order; so you give the top bucket to the first horse, second to the next, and so on. However, with everyone coming at different times during the day, there would be a lot of lifting buckets in and out of the bin, and there being a high risk of a mistake being made when restacking, you’d need to check the names on the buckets as well, just in case.

What other systems do DIY yards employ to make feeding breakfasts a painless task? I’d be interested to know of a better system than this.

Yard Storage

Is spring finally here? Until tomorrow it seems anyway. The last couple of days have been sunny and warm. The mud in the field has dried so that it’s like being in quicksand and you have to pull your foot up slowly, toes curled up, so that your welly is sucked out of the mud and you aren’t left with a soggy sock.

Anyway, yesterday one of the liveries was having a spring clean. All her rugs were out as she was putting lightweight rugs onto her horses and taking the thicker ones to be repaired and cleaned.

This prompted me that I’ve had a blog subject on my to-do list but never gotten around to doing it. And that is, storage of all your horsey gaff.

Most people don’t have a large garage or garden shed (a vacant one at least) in which to store their numerous rugs, spare boots, travelling equipment, body protectors etc, so they need some space at least at the yard. What options are available?

Most yards allow you to have a small storage box outside your stable, which is useful for everyday bits and bobs – grooming kits, riding hat, boots and whip for example. One stable Otis had had a corner cupboard which was incredibly useful and didn’t impinge on stable space either.

Then it’s a matter of storing rugs, feed, bedding, and the other less frequently used but still essential equine equipment. One yard I go to has a row of garden sheds. Each livery owner has their own shed. Obviously this takes up a lot of room, so would only be an option for bigger yards. However, in terms of security, it’s nice to know that your gear is under lock and key so won’t go walkabouts. I have to say it’s luxurious to have this much storage space.

Another yard I visit is an old farm which has been converted into a DIY livery yard. One building is used for storage. I think it must’ve housed pigs but it’s got a central walkway and low walled stone pens on each side, which is perfect for putting storage boxes in. Two or three liveries share each pen, which means each person’s stuff is kept fairly separate yet it’s all easily accessible. The only downside is that unless you can lock your storage box, things could be borrowed. But I like to think livery owners have all the paraphernalia they need so don’t need to borrow from others.

I’ve also seen large metal lorry containers put to good use. One yard has it as their tack room, and another has divided a container into lockers. Each wooden cupboard has two shelves and a door. I think this is a really good space saving solution, but it’s only really for essential every day items. With hindsight, with which everything can be improved, I think I would have larger lockers. Liveries can individually provide locks for their cupboard, but the container itself is pretty secure.

On a similar vein, I’ve seen part of a barn divided up like stalls, with wooden partitions, and each livery has their own area. This is more spacious than the container lockers but the security isn’t as good.

It’s hard to find the right balance of space and security for liveries, without becoming the equine equivalent of the Big Yellow Self Storage Company, especially when some people have far more rugs or tack than others. And for some people it is their only storage for horsey things because either they don’t have space in the garage, or their partner doesn’t want equestrian things taking over house space. I’m lucky in that my husband doesn’t really go into the garage … so he has no idea how much equine stuff is there. Not that he’d mind, of course.

I want to know, what storage solutions other yards have and how you, my readers rate each experience you’ve had.

Matt’s Diary

Foreword

My Mum’s horse has come for boot camp whilst Otis is off work. We bought him as a youngster and I backed and rode him for seven years and then Mum took over the ride, predominantly hacking and light schooling with him. My aim is to compete at the riding club area dressage qualifier at the end of October. Matt is a 15 year old, 14.2hh Welsh Section D. For a bit of fun, I thought I would share his first week with you.

Saturday 

I knew something wasn’t right. Auntie B always brings me in with her horse Chelsea for dinner. But she didn’t today. I had to wait hours in the field until eventually Old Mum and Young Mum came to see me. Young Mum abandoned me six years ago, so I never know whether to be pleased to see her. But I was hungry so I whinnied. Old Mum hasn’t been to see me much since she’s been poorly so I gave her a whinny too. It was nice to see her.

On the yard I realised something was up. The trailer was out in the middle and within minutes my boots and bandages were whipped on. “Hang on!” I thought, “where’s my dinner?” I always have dinner before a sponsored ride.

So naturally it took me a couple of tries to go into the trailer. There was a lot of stuff in there. No room for Chelsea, who usually comes with me on sponsored rides.


Before I knew it, we were off! What a journey. I can’t fault the driver, but it was so long!

When we eventually got to the destination I walked off the ramp to find myself on a strange yard. Perhaps now I’d get my dinner? I followed Young Mum into a big barn and there was this loud neigh. And then I saw him! It may have been six years, but Otis still has that innocent, butter wouldn’t melt expression. I said hello back and gave a cursory sniff as I was tied outside his stable. While I waited for dinner I looked around. Otis craned his neck as far as possible to carry on licking me – he’s still as annoying as ever!

We both had some dinner and I was rugged up – my first rug of the winter. It must be colder here. Young Mum led me to a field with so much grass! I tucked in straight away, I could say hello to my neighbours later!


Sunday

I was still asleep when Young Mum came to get me this morning – doesn’t she realise how many hours of beauty sleep it takes to maintain my good looks?!

She brushed me and lots of people came to say hello. I tried to make a good impression, and when a gorgeous mare walked in, I lifted my tail and arched my neck – that will get her attention! 


It turns out I was going on a hack with this lady (and some of her friends) so I made sure I was on my best behaviour, not even spooking at the river we had to walk through. Even when the water splashed my belly!

It was breakfast time after the hack, and to my delight, there is also a dinner time! It was a bit strange eating in the field while Young Mum did some funny things with a wheelbarrow… 

Monday

Another early start – I really must tell Young Mum that I am not a morning horse. Today we went in the arena and I tried to remember everything she had taught me, but it’s been a long time. She even let me jump at the end! 

To my surprise, and horror because I’m still acclimatising to this heavy workload, I was brought in in the afternoon too! Thankfully, I only needed to have my mane and tail trimmed. After a bit I gave in to Otis’s nudging and let him scratch my neck. 


Tuesday 

I didn’t have to work this morning, just had breakfast in the field while Young Mum did her funny wheelbarrow thing. She told me off for standing at the far end and killing the grass. Doesn’t she know I’m making a dust bowl to roll in? I’m going to need it with all this exercise I’m doing!

Anyway, I carried on my day in blissful ignorance. And then in the afternoon I was caught and lunged. In some strange contraption Otis called a Pessoa, which hit me up the bum with every stride. Trotting was ok and I found it easier when I stretched my neck out. But canter was horrid! So I kept bucking! Young Mum still made me canter though!

After she told me I needed a new cavesson because mine was rubbish – how rude!

Wednesday 

Now this truly was a day off. It passed pleasantly enough with the exception of Young Mum fencing off my dust bowl.

I realise now that dinner is always served near the gate, so to get in her good books I whinny and walk over to her.

Thursday

My toughest day yet. Young Mum had a dressage lesson. On me! At seven thirty IN THE MORNING! I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes when we went to the arena.

My brain hurt after the lesson, we did trotting “long and low” and stretching in trot, shoulder in, and transitions. My canter was very good apparently so I didn’t do very much. 

Friday

Another early start! This time it was for a hair cut. But I was preparing for the wet Welsh winter! Apparently I need it off for our sponsored ride on Sunday – finally, some fun! 

I’m getting the hang of life here now, I know when dinner’s due to wait by the gate, and I no longer get scared by the silly creatures that jump on everything. Otis told me they are called goats. Apparently they sometimes share the fields with us! All I can say is they’d better not eat my grass! 

Idiosyncrasies 

People of the horse world are renowned for being a little strange, so let’s get Christmas off to a good start by talking about our little quirks and hang ups. What do you guys do religiously, however small, in your daily stable routine? The weirder the better!

I’ll start us off. 

An instructor I knew always insisted lead ropes were clipped so the clip was away from the chin. Something I still think of when clipping them on now!

Personally I alway hang bridles in a figure of eight and I hate seeing martingales and reins looped everywhere in a tack room. As you can imagine, Micklem bridles cause me no end of problems as I have to sacrifice the “8” shape.

I also have a thing about doing up flash straps after untacking so I don’t lose the strap, it worse still, the running keeper. Which brings me on to a common hang up – bridle straps not being in through their running keepers. I know that’s quite a common thing to niggle over.

So who’s got any idiosyncrasies to share? 

Does anyone alway adjust the saddle before mounting, even if it’s in the correct place? You just undo your girth, pick it up and put it back down again. One friend always puts her saddle on before her bridle.

Or what about always knotting something up in a certain way?

Or always removing your saddle cloth in the tack room? One client I know always has to put the excess of her stirrup leather through the keeper, even if it’s barely long enough.

What about when mucking out? Do you have a little quirk in your procedure? Do you always have to fill your bucket to the brim even if your horse never drinks more than half?

Let us know in the comments your quirks and procedures that you always do, or obsess about when looking after your horse!

The Greatest Job

This morning when I was halfway through mucking out the yard a livery commented to me,

“You`ll have to empty that now… You`ve got to admit it`s full.”

She was referring to the fact that I always have an overflowing wheelbarrow, and usually try to cram as much into it as possible.

It`s true, I admit, I like to be efficient with my trips to the muckheap. Even the farrier noticed last week.

Ever since I remember I`ve hated emptying wheelbarrows. When we started helping at the yard as ten or eleven year olds we were responsible for emptying the wheelbarrows. In groups we used to muck out the stalls – the older ones had the forks and stacked the wonky wheeled wheelbarrows high with wet straw and dung. We daren`t stop them too early in case they thought we were weak. Then we perilously wheeled the wobbly load through the long rooms of stalls, avoiding the cracks and pot holes, before getting enough speed to bump the barrow up the step, before taking a sharp right hand turn and passing through the stable (God forbid you made a mess in this linking stable) and then carefully through the narrow door and down the step out onto the yard. Once there it was a straightforward route to the muckheap, but you had to be careful of the divots and ridges in the concrete of the yard. At the muckheap you either had to push the barrow up the plank of wood, or gave a final wobble of the barrow and left the muck in a heap at the base of the muckheap, only to return later to fork it up.

As we moved up the ranks we were allowed to fork up the muckheap – initially on the top layer, crouched under the roof we were responsible for ensuring the preciseness and levelness of the top level. Slowly we were promoted down the layers and then eventually permitted to do the mucking out.

So I`m sure you can understand now, why I`m not a fan of emptying my wheelbarrows. And how I can stack them so high. And wheel them so carefully that not a blade of straw is shed.

By the way, this morning I mucked out another stable before emptying the “full” wheelbarrow.

Clipping Season

I got home this afternoon after a hard days work, and found myself stood on the door mat whilst my house proud boyfriend hoovered me. Granted, he had just spent the morning cleaning the house. But why did I have to be hoovered? Well this mornings rain combined with clipping four horses meant that I was a soggy hair ball!

It wasn’t pleasant, feeling itchy and having hair in the corner of your eyes, let alone down your bra and in your socks, but the humiliation heightened when he made me undress in the hall before carrying my hairy clothes at arms length straight to the washing machine! If this is the way life will be from now on, I’m arranging my clipping work so that I get home before him! And putting a curtain up across the front door because I don’t think that frosted glass is frosty enough!

As I was saying, I had indeed been clipping this afternoon – one hunter, three chasers, feathers scalped and manes hogged on all. This made me think, what clips do I actually like?

For starters, I like a hunter clip done in September or October on most horses, and then a smaller second clip in November because I detest clips on thick, hairy coats, which stand on end! Otis is already sporting his hunter clip. Llani, on the other hand, will need sedating, so I’m girding my loins to organise that.

Secondly, I am a fan of the blanket clip. Particularly on cobby horses who are hogged. The bald neck and mane look really smart but the blanket style stops them looking like wannabe hunters. It’s also a great clip in the riding school because you don’t have to worry about their backs getting cold in steady lessons.

I did three chasers today, and I have to say I didn’t like the effect. One mare is already quite long in the body and the diagonal line, stifle to poll, made her look even longer! She would have looked better with a blanket to disguise her long back. I do like the chaser effect on thoroughbreds though, who already look long and it can improve the perceived neck line. You always have to go up slightly on the shoulder so it’s a concave curve up the neck. Otherwise they look ewe-necked.

I never really see the point of a bib clip. It’s barely worth getting the clippers out, and in my opinion it doesn’t expose the sweatiness area of the body, namely the girth and sides on the neck. I’d much rather do a low chaser clip and take off a bit more of the belly. It makes it easier to brush the mud off too!

The trace clip is very much out of fashion at he moment. Unless if course you drive your horse, in which case it is ideal. I’m not sure I would be able to match the lines of the traces to the horse though!

The in thing at the moment is of course clipping hearts and stars onto the horse’s quarters. If I’m honest, I think it can go a bit insane, with motifs, words etc. I’ve occasionally done a heart or a star, or even the initial of the horse’s name. The trouble is now everyone asks if Alfie is having an “A” clipped out this year … “A” is a tricky letter to clip! I have to do it on both sides then rub out the worst one! So to make my life easier, I am now marketing myself as a “traditional clipper” so that I don’t get put into that awkward position of trying to clip Superman’s logo onto some little boy’s pony!

I shall keep you updated on my clipping season, and any odd requests I get!