Friday’s Five – Tips to save time at the barn without making sacrifices



Friday’s Five – Ways to save time at the barn without making any sacrifices

There is a place where time goes to die. In fact, there is a place where equestrians go not only to kill time but to bludgeon it mercilessly with empty promises of “just ten more minutes babe!” It’s a place where no one can hear time scream. That place is called the barn.

While we all relish those languid afternoons spent watching our beloved money pits graze in the sunshine, the reality for many of us is that more often than not, there aren’t enough hours in the day. We have to carve the time out from somewhere if we hope to get a ride in. On those days, it’s about quality over quantity when it comes to the minutes on the clock. Below is a list of suggestions on how to make the most of your time at the barn when you don’t have much of it.

1) Keep your ish together. Ok, we’re starting out on a tough one. But if you’re whittling away saddle time by digging through seven layers of moldy saddle pads at the bottom of your tack trunk just to find one wayward spur, it’s worth reevaluating your organizational skills (or lack thereof). Consider separate storage for items like boots, medical supplies, or saddle pads.

Take the time (you know, like on one of those fairy tale “lazy days” normal people speak of) to organize your equipment so that everyday items are easily accessible when you’re in a hurry. You can purchase storage drawers like the one below without breaking the bank or peruse tack lockers for sale so that minimizing “Where the %@^$ is it?!” time is a snap.


2) Prioritize your prep time. If your horse is well mannered, try grooming and tacking up in their stall to avoid leaving a mess in the common area that you’ll later have to clean up.

Speaking of grooming, stick to the basics. The benefits of regular currying and hoofpicking are paramount to your horse’s health (Hello shiny coat and happy feet!) But leave the shavings-in-the-tail battle for another day. And although we all dread the day we stain our own breeches in front of our personal boogey fence or clinician, horses don’t worry as much as we do about sporting last night’s manure stain (in fact, I have anecdotal horseshow evidence that suggests they wear it like a badge of honor).

While you run a stiff brush over areas where tack and boots will go, keep a sharp eye out for wounds, swelling, fungus or other abnormalities, but unless GHM himself is coming to visit, let the cosmetic stuff go. Your horse won’t mind.

3) Have a plan. When you walk into the arena, know what it is you want to accomplish with your horse. You’ll be far more productive if you have even a vague outline of an idea. Of course, ride what you feel – if your horse enters the arena breathing fire you may need to abort the super charged transitions you had planned and switch to a more dragon-friendly exercise.

If you had a jump school in mind but don’t have time to set a whole course (or continue picking up poles around the arena – not that your horse would knock them down, mind you), consider groundpole work to improve distances or your horse’s adjustability, or play with variations on a single fence or line of fences. There are plenty of ways to get a whole lot accomplished working a single fence or two.

Talk to your trainer after each lesson for homework ideas, and then practice them. You’ll maximize your saddle time as well as the progress you make in each lesson by staying focused between rides with your trainer. If you’re feeling uninspired, trot or canter sets and hill work are useful tools for building up for your horse’s fitness, provided you don’t try to force a complete couch potato through a prelim workout. And there’s always no stirrups work!

4) Skip the small talk. You don’t have to be antisocial, but if you are in a hurry, nothing detracts from your saddle time like chewing the fat in the barn aisle. If you want to chat, do it while you saddle up, or turn the chatter into something semi-productive by inviting them out on a hack. You can always catch up with barn pals over drinks or social media. After all, that’s what it’s for, aside from showing off your special shnookums (and your kids and family too, I suppose).

As a bonus: steering away from barn aisle gossip has the added benefit of skating right past any barn drama. After a long, hard day of [insert lame non-horsey activity here], horses are the best confidants anyway.

5) After the ride. Cooling horses out is as important as warming them up, but it can often be overlooked on busy days. In hotter weather, diluted liniment baths can help lower your horse’s body temperature more quickly. (Just make sure to steer clear of it before any FEI events!)

Your leather tack won’t break down if you fail to clean it with soap and oil every day; in fact, many leather experts say to cool it with all that stuff. Wipe the crusty stuff off with a damp rag or sponge and go. If you know you’ll want to switch your bit out for the next ride, go ahead and do it while your horse is enjoying some wind-down time in front of the fan or with a heating pad. Your future in-a-hurry self will high five you.



Things NOT worth cutting corners on to save time:

1) Warm up and cool down. Risk injury to your horse to save fifteen minutes? Just don’t.

2) Staying present in the moment. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”- every dad on the face of the earth.

3) Good horsemanship. Every rider worth their salt knows that if you act like you have five minutes, it’ll take hours; if you act like you have hours, it’ll take five minutes.

4) Leaving a mess behind. Your fellow riders will thank you by not shanking you in the tack room.

5) Safety. You know what really cuts through that rush hour traffic? Ambulance rides.

Wasting time at the barn is literally our favorite, so we know it’s yours too. But the reality is – sometimes we just don’t have time to kill. Most of us are hustling to make ends meet while managing not to neglect every other aspect of our lives as it is. When you throw in the swirling vortex of lost time that is the barn, that hustle can start to feel like a dead sprint.

Do you have any other time-savers you like to use for riding? Email them to us!

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