Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
After eons of keeping horses on our own farm and experience through our training and clinic giving at barns big and small worldwide, I’ve seen my fair share of tack and feed rooms. Fantasy feed rooms with rows of feed bins, well-organized shelves stacked with every conceivable supplement and space to dance a Viennese waltz, tack rooms that sparkle with expensive tack and smell deliciously of well-kept leather and emote the feeling that you have found yourself in a tack shop not a tack room are fine and dandy. But a useful tack room does not need to be huge or fancy. Placement of fitted cabinets for saddle and bridle storage, wall cabinets that leave free the floor space for easy cleaning and offer extra storage, can combine to add sincere functionality to even the most modest of barns.
If you’ve ever owned a horse barn without a tack room, you’ll know the annoyance of being on the brink of being ready to ride and the realization that you have forgotten a girth or key piece of tack. The inclusion of secure storage for your expensive tack and equipment, the handiness of all in one spot for last minute needs when tacking up and training is a smart choice. If you haven’t orchestrated a tack room in your barn to date you always have the option of retrofitting an unused stall (yes, I’ve been told unused stalls do exist) for the purpose.
At Horizon Structures there are many options to choose from in the world of beautifully crafted Amish cabinetry. Double saddle and harness cabinets with a shelf provide a dust-free secure environment for your expensive tack. The addition of wall cabinets offers a spot to stash horse supplies well out of reach of a child’s reach and when you have a place for everything good horse barn organization is easy to achieve.
The inquisitive nature of horses and the inevitable presence of rodents and nosey dogs, cats and other critters make a feed room that can be closed off with a door a necessity in the barn. No horse owner wants to come home to find their equine has found its way to buffet food service or worry over the vet bill that may result from over indulgence by their equine partners.
The ability to keep grains rotated and fresh and safely out of animal reach, the neat organization of diet supplements and safe and secure storage of expensive equine medicines plus the quick proximity of emergency medical supplies can be a boon to the busy horse owner.
Don’t forget to include a fridge. A small fridge can be a valuable asset to keep medicines requiring refrigeration handy and also provide a great resource for liquid refreshments (yes, of course I mean water), snacks and nibbles and a place to store a bag or two of carrots.
When choosing a feed chest it is best to select one with at least two compartments. This will ensure that grain can be rotated, as once one bin is nearly empty it can be cleaned out and added to the other side while fresh supplies are stocked.
The more compartments obviously the more types of different grains can be offered. At Horizon Structures we offer both 2 and 3 compartment feed chests as these are the most popular, but as always customization in all things structures and horse barns is always possible so don’t be shy to ask.
Whatever space you have available it pays to plan ahead. The single most important factor is to add a durable floor to deter critters from digging under mats or through the earth to burglarize your supplies. If you are planning a new barn build, our modular barn build offers convenient pre-installed floors for tack and feed rooms in our designs as well as pre-installed cabinets, feed chests and saddle and harness cabinets.
When hanging bridles rather than screw multiple bridle hangers into the wall, the placement of a painted or stained wooden board with the hangers installed in an evenly spaced fashion can provide a pretty accent to your design. The bridle or halter hangers can be patterned evenly, one up and one lower down, to allow more room for the headpieces.
Remember all leather prefers airflow to keep it in peak condition and the addition of a humidifier in warmer climates can save much tack cleaning.
Don’t forget to include a white board or notice board of some sort that you can post feed rations and notes for other barn users and include a list of emergency numbers for fire/police/ambulance as well as veterinary contacts, your own emergency contact and evacuation plans.
Make sure it includes your street address, as visitors may not know it offhand and your home phone number. The emergency information should be posted somewhere conspicuous and always accessible with working WIFI (with available password if you have poor cell phone access) and/or phone line nearby.
The tack room in particular lends you and opportunity to personalize your space as much as you like. For my part I am just renovating our tack room space after 20 years and it is fun to add some personal touches. Here’s a few ideas that I am incorporating:
- All the stall plates of horses that we’ve owned over the years and have either passed over the rainbow bridge or have been sold are all retired and used to be mounted on my mudroom wall in the house. I am planning to put them on a big board, paint it a cheerful color and clean all the brass to shine and place it in the tack room.
- I am adding a splash of color on bridle boards, trim work to match our stable colors of blue, white and gray. The brass bridle hangers will show off beautifully against the dark blue and white.
- Photos! Who doesn’t like photos of themselves and their horses? I plan to include horses past and present. They make a great talking point and I love looking at them. Moments of reflection are good for the soul.
- We had a dinky little fridge that sat on a counter that served us well most of the time. However, when students visited and wanted to add their lunch boxes to keep them cool there was never enough room. So we invested in a small apartment size fridge that is super energy efficient and will take many 5 # bags of carrots, the odd bottle of wine, lots of water and vitamin water supplies for our active lifestyle and importantly, the emergency horse meds like epinephrine and penicillin.
- Saddle pads take up a lot of room. A neat color coded pile, (in our case mostly white because we do dressage but I do have all colors of the spectrum too), within easy reach in baskets or shelving under a bench on which to sit to pull on those dastardly tall boots will make life easier.
- The little stuff like spurs, polo wraps or boots, will be placed in handy pull out trays to make selection quick.
- Whip holders ~ in our case a horse piaffing adorns the whip holders for a little inspiration.
- Guest books are a fun addition to a commercial barn. The old kind made of paper with pen handy I mean not a tablet. Especially thrilling when a major name comes to visit and signs in! Plus a great way to collect emails plus feedback for your business if you include a comments option.
- Bridle hooks hung fastened securely to the ceiling and collapsible saddle rack for cleaning tack will be well-utilized.
Well you get the idea. Be creative. There are lots of ways to add flair to your tack and horse feed room. I even picked up a sign, “The Crab Is In,” for my office/tack room to let people know when I was up for company!
Locks on cabinets or tack room or feed room doors are always a good idea as it provides the option to keep areas or supplies off limits during busy times at the barn such as clinics or events when you are distracted with other matters or when you are absent. Professional trainers may wish to consider adding a second tack room to separate their own equipment from access by boarders or visitors.
Whether you are interested in retrofitting a space for tack and feed supplies or building a new barn check in with us for design tips and an array of options to customize your structure to suit your individual needs. Remember, functionality is more important than fancy when it comes to your horse barn and a well laid out and well-built structure will bring you many years of happy, productive use.
The expression goes, “ A place for everything and everything in its place”. When you have a proper storage solution for your horses’ needs, your barn will be much easier to keep clean and tidy and it will also be safer for all its users, human, equine and the family pets.