Frugal Farm Fix-Ups

Ask any horse lover what she?d do if she won the lottery, and chances are good that ?build my dream barn? would be among the answers. Having everything just perfect?bliss!

But when it comes to real life, most of us have horsekeeping set-up–and horsekeeping budgets–that fall short of the blissful ideal. The dreams are fun, but what we really need are doable solutions to everyday issues. All the better if they?re solutions that don’t add up to more than the annual feed bill.

Here are 12 such frugal fixes that caught our eye at barns we?ve visited.

The issue: Your tack room?s just about run out of wall space, and you still have more stuff to keep sorted and stowed. Double the issue if you’re someone who shares a tack room.

Frugal fix: Push two or more vertical-scale storage units together, back to back, in the center of the room, to create a storage tower in otherwise dead space. The units shown here are from the garage/basement storage section of a big-box home improvement store. This idea?s great for your stuff/my stuff organization. Bonus: By using units that are exactly the same height, you get great flat-space atop the tower, in addition to storage on its shelves.

The issue: Your riding/training area, which you had crowned and slightly sloped for the sake of good drainage, loses its footing–not cheap to replace!–as horses travel along the sides.

Frugal fix: Keep your footing corralled by edging the sides with recycled solid materials, such as railroad ties. If you can’t scrounge or afford enough materials to do the full circumference at once, edge sections as you can. Every cubic foot of footing you can save is one you won?t have to have trucked back in.

The issue: You never seem to have certain little things–pen and paper, business cards, cell phone, etc.–on hand when you need them at the barn. That’s because you can’t keep track of where you left them!

Frugal fix: Get your hands on a magnetic wall organizer designed for use against metal surfaces, like office cubicles, student refrigerators–or metal surfaces around the barn.

Alternative: No magnetic-draw surface? Stick with the wall-basket concept, but find a unit that affixes to wood with screws.

The issue: You need a way to keep everyday barn tools better organized so you’re not tripping over those propped up against a wall or doorway.

Frugal fix: Check out over-the-door (or stall wall, in this case) hanging organizer-hook units, available from stable suppliers or home centers. With no-tools installation, they allow you to get tools instantly up and out of the way.

The issue: The horsesitter?s coming, and you want to make it easy for her to deliver the right meals (and portions) to the right horses.

Frugal fix: Use a large plastic laundry basket (perhaps repurposed f rom the house) to hold each horse’s meal. The basket will make it easy to carry premeasured feedstuffs to stall or paddock; label baskets by horse name if there are more than one to feed. Bonus: The basket?s easy to hose off before being returned to laundry-room use.

The issue: You use lead ropes as crossties, but your nimble-lipped horses are forever chewing through them as they?re hooked to the snaps.

Frugal fix: Make a set of chew guards. Saw a 4-foot length of 1-inch PVC pipe (or whatever diameter best fits the crosstie ropes you use) in half to make a pair of 2-foot pieces. Slide each piece down a tie rope to the snap; tie a knot to hold the new chew guard in place, as shown.

The issue: Dust accumulates in your tack room, where it’s drawn like a magnet to every piece of tack you?ve hung there.

Frugal fix: Make a see-through dust cover from a clear vinyl shower-curtain liner. Here, the barn owner cut a liner–one ready to be retired from use in the house–in half the long way. Then, she simply used a staple gun to affix each length to the wall, above her bridle hooks. She can see what she wants to grab, and now gets to spend more time riding than cleaning her gear of all that dust.

The issue: You have a washrack area (lucky you!), but the drain?s forever clogging up with manure, horse hair, and other debris.

Frugal fix: Screen the crud. Cut a piece of plastic-mesh window screening, recycled or from a new roll, an inch or two larger than the drain cover. Place the screen under the drain cover; lift to clean.

The issue: Your stalls lose bedding through the door openings. Bedding?s a horsekeeping staple spiraling upward in cost, and one you can’t afford to waste.

Frugal fix: Install a door-wide length of 2-by-4 lumber as a hold-back lip for your bedding. This barn?s owner had boardholding metal channels fabricated and welded to the stall framework (a relatively easy welding project). The piece of board lifts out at stall-cleaning time, for ease of wheelbarrow passage, then easily slides back in .

The issue: You?d really, really like it if barn tools were easy to find and trash got disposed of properly. (Hear that, boarders and guests?)

Frugal fix: Designate a permanent, obvious place for tool storage and debris receptacles. And spend nothing at all but a little time.

The issue: You know you could do a lot to thwart mud by installing gutters on your horsehousing structures. But you also know (or will soon find out) that gutter drains are no match for destructive horses.

Frugal fix: Here’s one of those times when “frugal” is a relative term. Instead of blowing her gutter budget on what might have become play toys for bored horses, this smart barn owner had her gutter drains fabricated of horse-impervious sheet metal. ?Do it right, do it once,? is her mantra.

The issue: You operate a boarding or training barn, with lots of horses. And your horsebathing area is plagued by trailing hoses that get caught between your bathees? legs. It’s halfway dangerous, and ruins hoses besides.

Frugal fix: Install an overhead carwash boom (locate vendors via Google). It?ll pay for itself in safety, convenience, and hosereplacement costs.

?I love the part of my work that involves visiting other people?s barns and spotting neat ideas,? says Lifestyle Editor Juli Thorson. ?I do it in my free time, too.?

Got a clever frugal fix-up of your own to pass on? Share the details on the H&R Forum at

This article originally appeared in Horse & Rider magazine.

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