It's early January, 25 degrees outside, a blustery wind is whipping through the farm and the barn cats are curled up on a monstrous pile of saddle pads in the tack room. Sadly, there's no indoor arena in sight, and the thought of dragging your feisty mare out to the frozen tundra for a little exercise seems less than pleasant. Maybe it's a good day to hunker down, fill up your coffee thermos (add a splash of Bailey's, if you're old enough, for liquid courage) and knock out a few barn chores you've been putting off.
Check out the list below for some ideas or send us your own:
1. Clean Tack
There's nothing more mind-numbingly satisfying than scrubbing and polishing up some dingy tack. Don't the best ideas come when we're in our own little worlds, spongeing off a sweaty bridle or mucking out a dirty stall? Enjoy some peace and quiet, get caught up on your favorite podcast and dig into your big ol' pile o' leather... you know it's probably overdue for a deep cleaning anyway. We're not talking a simple wipe-down--put in some elbow grease and get it so spotless, even George Morris would be proud. Plus, cleaning tack is a good way to do a safety inspection on all your equipment. Check for loose threads, cracked or ripped leather, rusted pieces and toss anything that needs to be trashed. Plan to get everything repaired now, rather than wait until your season is in full swing. And while you're at it...
See also: Polish Your Horse's Bit
2. Purge Your Tack Room
If you're like most horse people, you probably have an embarrassingly large quantity of tack and equipment, 75% of which you don't really use anymore. When your friends corner you for an intervention for your bit hoarding or saddle pad addiction, it might be time for a tack room cleanse. (But seriously, who can pass up those $10 saddle pad sales? #neverenough). Clean and store equipment and supplies you intend to keep (cheap Rubbermaid totes and drawers are helpful for this), trash anything that needs to be put out of its misery (I'm looking at you, moldy old shrunk-in-the-wash fleece cooler covered in mouse-chewed holes) and make a pile that needs to be repaired, sold or donated. If you can sell some of the equipment you don't use anymore, you'll now have room and money to buy more saddle pads. (It's a vicious cycle.)
See also: 8 Ways to Spruce Up Your Horse Barn
3. Organize Your Trailer
Since you're in an organizing mood, channeling your inner Marie Kondo, you might as well keep the momentum going and tackle your trailer's tack room. If you keep this area spotless and organized, then kudos to you, but if you're like the rest of us, it looks like your entire show wardrobe and tack trunk exploded after the last show of the season. Getting all your clothes and show equipment cleaned and ready for the year helps prevent last minute scrambling. If you have room, try adding in some totes/small trunks or drawers to keep things in their proper place. Over-the-door caddies for smaller items are a lifesaver, plus you can go through all your show supplies (detangler, fly spray, sticky spray, etc.) and replace anything that's running low. Knowing where everything is (ahem, elusive little stock pin) will give you much more peace of mind on show day. Don't forget about updating your first-aid kit as well.
See also: Horse Trailer Maintenance 101
"Don't mind me, just running home to grab my horse's Coggins!" Been there, done that.
4. Get Paperwork in Order
There's nothing worse than getting to a show and realizing your horse's Coggins have expired or you've neglected to bring some vital paperwork. Get a jump start on the year and make yourself a handy little checklist of everything you need to have in order. Coggins, membership numbers and proper vaccinations are all biggies. If you're planning to show in USEF-recognized shows this year, make sure you complete your Safe Sport requirements as well. It's a good idea to go through your discipline's rulebook so you're up to speed on everything and are aware of any new rule changes. Also, don't forget to make sure your truck and trailer's inspections are up to date and the registration and insurance are current.
See also: Horsemanship 101 - Plan Your Horse Show
5. Barn Safety Inspection
And, finally, take some time to do a thorough safety check of your barn. Knock down cobwebs, inspect the stalls for loose boards or jutting nails and make sure your electrical outlets and light fixtures are working properly. Check the batteries in your easy-to-find flashlight and ensure your fire extinguisher is in working order (and you know how to use it). Are emergency contact numbers posted in a safe place, and does everyone at the barn know where they are? Make sure you, and everyone else at your barn, are well-aware of an emergency plan, should disaster strike. Fire is a major risk during the winter--take the time to read up on preventative measures.
See also: Prevent Barn Fires