A magazine I enjoy reading regularly features a column on new uses for old things; I always enjoy reading about what new purposes people find for rubber bands, clothes hangers, and paper clips. It’s as if these writers are MacGyvers of household products. I, on the other hand, have only used rubber bands to secure large piles of Johnny’s mail that he leaves around the house, hangers for holding my clothes, and paper clips as stand-ins for my always-missing stapler.
That’s not the say I’m not full of tips and tricks- for the barn, at least. Years of Pony Club and living with frugal parents (and now supporting my horse habit with my own measly paychecks) gave me some interesting horse-related uses for distinctly non-horse related things. Without further ado, here are my very favorites:
At Pony Club rallies, horses are expected to be scrupulously clean. Ridiculously clean. So clean you could eat dinner off the bottom of their hooves. This included zero dandruff in the horse’s mane and tail. You can imagine that an animal which spends its life outside, exposed to the elements, rolling in dirt and mud, might have a dandruff problem. Normal shampoo is not enough, and dandruff shampoo is expensive. Use Listerine instead! (I imagine store-brand mouthwash works fine, too.) I find it’s more economical to pour it in a squirt bottle and apply to the base of the mane and tail rather than attempt to pour it directly from the bottle. Leave it in for a few minutes, rinse, and you have a dandruff-free horse that also smells minty fresh. (I couldn’t tell you if this works on people.)
2. Ivory soap
Sheath cleaning is just one of those things that my fellow gelding owners and I have to do. Sure, you can pay your vet to do it, but that definitely isn’t cheap. Specialty sheath cleaning products like Excalibur exist, but are also expensive, and in my expert opinion, ineffective. (Trust me on this- we have 13 geldings at work who all get their sheaths cleaned regularly.) Ivory soap is gentle, foams easily, and does a good job loosening smegma. A three-bar package of this soap costs about a dollar, and you cannot beat that.
3. Batting gloves
I’m that person at the barn who always, always rides in tall boots, breeches, gloves, and a helmet. Even when I’m on a trail ride. Even when I’m taking one of the senior citizen horses at work out for a walk. Even when it’s 115 degrees outside. (This habit stems from an unfortunate incident that spoiled my opinion of half-chaps for life.) I used to buy cheap riding gloves and blow through them every few weeks. A $5 pair of schooling gloves from Dover Saddlery isn’t great out of the package and sometimes, they even come with the holes already present! I never wanted to drop serious money on schooling gloves, because that seems silly, and because at the rate I wear them, I didn’t want to be spending $30 every other month. One day, I ran across fingerless bicycling gloves at Wal-Mart and bought a pair, thinking they’d probably do the job as well and look cool. (I was 15, what can I say?) The bicycling gloves were okay, but the palms were a bit too padded and the suede made it difficult to slip my reins. So I switched to batting gloves (mostly out of curiosity) and haven’t looked back. At $15 a pair, they aren’t the cheapest of the cheap, but they’ve totally changed my life. They last forever, feel exactly like a high-quality riding glove, and come in a plethora of colors for your cross-country needs. My favorite are these Mizuno Vintage Pros, which range from $13-20 a pair and come in 10 colors.
4. Mink oil
Perhaps this is a little bit of a cheat- it’s not exactly a non-horsey product. However, it seems like a lot of horse people are unaware of the existence of this super oil. Mink oil is made from the fat of minks and is frequently used in cosmetic products and leather care products. It’s the best softening and waterproofing product I’ve ever found. My high school BFF and fellow rider Jacqueline introduced me to it- what a good friend, right? I’ve used it on stiff, dried-out bridles and always, always incorporate it into my boot cleaning. It makes leather soft and supple again and makes my boots so shiny I can see myself in them. Best of all, you can find it anywhere you can find shoe care products (like Wal-Mart)!
5. Skirt/Kilt Pins
Gold skirt/kilt pins are nearly identical to plain stock pins. Sure, they aren’t as exciting as those stock pins the trendy hunt seat riders wear- all snaffle bits and horse heads- but they get the job done. They’re fairly easy to find at sewing stores (like JoAnn), craft stores (like Hobby Lobby), and sometimes even Wal-Mart. Best of all, you can snag a package of two pins for about $3, while a single plain stock pin from a tack store is about $7.
What non-horsey items have you repurposed for barn uses?