Whether you board your horse or keep him in a stable at home, you’ll need some basic tools to keep him well cared for and healthy. These include barn and stable gear, feeding supplies, a first-aid kit, and tack.
The two most important barn supplies you’ll need are a halter and lead shank.
A halter fits around a horse’s muzzle and behind the ears and is used to both tie up and lead him. Halters come in various materials, including leather and nylon (the most popular), as well as rope. Both breakable and nonbreakable halters are available: Breakable halters are safer if a horse falls down while tied up, while an unbreakable version is best if the horse tends to pull backward when tied up. A breakable halter should always be used when a horse is turned loose in his stall or to pasture.
The lead shank attaches to the halter, and as the name suggests, is the line used to lead or tie a horse. Leads are available in cotton, leather, and nylon. A cotton line is your best option—nylon can burn your hands if your horse pulls suddenly, and leather isn’t as easy to tie.
If your horse lives at home, you will need a few more supplies than if he were boarded, including a broom, pitchfork, shovel, and wheelbarrow, all used for mucking and cleaning out his stall. You’ll also need a mounting block, bathing tools, and a vacuum.
A mounting block assists a rider in climbing up onto a horse, but it can also be an effective grooming tool. The block (or stepstool, or even a bale of hay) can help you reach your horse’s withers, back, and behind his ears. Whatever stepping tool you choose, ensure that it is secure and safe, with no sharp or unsteady parts.
Sweat Scraper, Sponges, Wash Bucket
When bathing your horse, you will need a sweat scraper, a long, curved metal or plastic tool that scrapes the water from his body to help cool him down and dry him. Use a sponge to wash his body; choose a large one that fits comfortably in your hand. Finally, purchase a wash bucket specifically used to hold your horse’s bathing water; keep it separate from his drinking water.
Use a horse vacuum to remove mud and dirt from your horse’s coat. Ask someone experienced with the tool to show you how to do this safely.
When feeding your horse, you’ll need a feed bin and tub, salt block, water bucket, and water trough.
Purchase a metal-lined feed bin in which to store grain. It should have a secure lid to keep out rodents.
Available at tack and feed stores, the feed tub should be placed at the same height as your horse’s water buckets.
Your horse must have access to a salt block, which replenishes the salt he loses through sweat. Place it either in his feed tub or in a holder attached to the wall at his shoulder height.
Provide your horse with two 18- to 20-quart (17- to 19-l) water buckets. Hang them at his chest height in a corner location that’s farthest from his feeding tub and closest to the water hose.
Made of heavy-duty metal or plastic, the water trough should hold between 10 and 12 gallons (38 and 45.5 l) of water for your horse to drink each day.
Both human and equine first-aid kits are essential additions to your barn and horse trailer. Your horse’s kit should contain the following: adhesive tape; Banamine (consult with your vet); bandages of various sizes; Betadine solution; clean bucket (for washing wounds); clean towels; equine thermometer; gauze pads; hydrogen peroxide; leg bandages; milk of magnesia; nonstick dressing; rubbing alcohol; scissors; sheet of cotton; stethoscope; triple-antibiotic ophthalmic ointment; Vetrap; and a watch that shows seconds.
If you plan to ride your horse, you’ll need tack, or saddlery, including a bridle and bit and a saddle and saddle pads.
Bridle and Bit
A bridle is the headgear that guides a horse, and it also contains the bit. Bridle types vary, depending on the event for which they’re being used and your level of experience; English, Western, and specialty types are available. The bit is a mouthpiece made of metal, rubber, or synthetic material. The purpose is to help direct the horse by applying pressure to the sensitive parts of his mouth. When selecting a bit, seek the help of your instructor.
Saddle and Saddle Pads
Saddles are traditionally made of leather, but those made of synthetic materials are also used. The latter are easier to clean and less expensive. Various types are available, depending on whether you’re looking for English or Western styles. English types include dressage, saddle seat, jumping, and all-purpose, while Western styles include roping, cutting, and reining.
A saddle pad fits underneath the saddle to cushion it and absorb sweat. Buy a couple so that you always have a backup should one get dirty.