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Five Barn Products Worth the Extra Money

A lifelong horsewoman, Marcy has worked on breeding farms and has personally bred and raised generations of Arabian and Quarter Horses.

Buck, one of my most reliable product testers.

Buck, one of my most reliable product testers.

Barn products galore! Who can't help but be caught up in the excitement of trying new, brightly-colored goodies in the stable? Well, I can! I not only don't have the extra dollars to spend, but I absolutely hate it when I do buy one of those "new, improved, wonderful!" products only to find it doesn't work as promised, and it will collect dust in the shed until I finally give it away to the first person who says, "Hey! I've seen those advertised, and I want to try one!"

So to make your own path a little bit easier, here are five great products I can wholeheartedly recommend. These are noteworthy for being labor-saving, time-saving, potentially money-saving, or just more comfortable for your horse (and you can't put a price tag on that). If I've found a downside to them, I've noted it here.

As a bonus, to save a few extra dollars to spend on these worthy items, check out the cost-saving tips in the link above.

#1: The Basket-Type Apple Picker / Manure Fork

My mother's not a horsewoman, but she's a smart and generous woman nonetheless. However, when she initially offered to buy me one of those then-new basket-type manure forks, I declined. I assumed they weren't any better than the old-style flat picker I'd used for decades.

In my stubbornness, I managed to avoid the basket forks for a few years more. I don't know what made me break down and try one, but once I did, I quickly realized I'd never use another flat fork again. I can't emphasize how much of a difference in the basket-style forks -- oh, the time and labor saved! They save on shavings, as well, as it's much easier to sift with the basket sides.

I occasionally have cause to use (and curse) the old-style flat forks, whether I'm at someone else's barn or using the small travel-size fork that stays in my trailer. It reminds me once again of what an improvement the basket forks are, and what a stubborn creature I am.

Some brands of these forks come with a one-year warranty. I usually get about three years out of mine before the sun, heat, and stress get the better of my forks. After that first tine breaks, they get rotated to the shaving pit, where they still serve well in scooping bedding. Replacement heads are also available for most brands.

My favorite? The Miller Dura Pitch II Fork.

Note: Don't confuse the Dura Pitch II with the Dura Fork. The Dura Pitch has the deep basket that makes the difference!

#2: The Little Giant Better Bucket

You've probably already realized I don't rush out and buy every new gizmo that I see. No, I'm reluctant to throw that hay money out the window on untested products. I'm a fiscal conservative, in my own home as well as in my political leanings. This bucket, though, appealed to me immediately.

I don't have steel feeders in every stall and turnout. I use buckets in a few locations. I've often noticed the horses' frustration with traditional flat-sided buckets as they cram their snouts in, clearly uncomfortable, as they reach for the last bit of grain. One of my geldings gets so impatient that he spins his bucket around and around, and one of the fillies paws constantly when eating from the bucket.

It never occurred to me, though, that a simple design change could make such a difference. Thank heavens it occurred to the good people at Little Giant: They noticed! They made a bucket called "the Better Bucket," and they're right: It is better. The front of the bucket is sloped outward to easily accommodate a horse's muzzle. That simple improvement is all it took to make a bucket that's comfortable and less frustrating to the hungry horse. No more bucket spinning by Buck the gelding!

Better yet, the Better Bucket is available in two sizes. I leave those "personal-sized" mineral blocks in each bucket, and even the smaller size leaves ample room for the horses to get around the mineral block while eating their grain.

These buckets are priced reasonably. I like them well enough I'm spending the extra $$ to replace all the existing flat-sided and corner buckets I still have in the barn.

#3: Elasticized Ropes for the Trailer and Hitching Post

I was skeptical. I didn't like the thought of an elastic rope snapping back, bungee-like, should a horse break the tie or the snap. Little did I know that the horses are so far less likely to set back with an elasticized rope that the odds of them snapping it are much less than with a traditional rope!

When I'm starting young horses to tie, I find them much happier with the elastic rope. They learn to give to pressure, and that impacts so much else that they do later in their training process. They don't panic when they feel that pressure on their head if they do set back. They quickly learn to move forward again and alleviate the pressure on their own.

I use elasticized trailer ties in the trailer as well as in the barn. I don't care for them as working lead ropes (for leading the horse) but they're indispensable for hard-tying. I suggest the types with the safety snap (quick release) on one end and the bull snap on the other.

Suggestion: Use the bull snap end to tie to the trailer or hitch post, and the quick release to attach to the halter. If you have to release a horse that is setting back, you don't want that elastic rope whipping back and striking you or your horse after you detach it during an emergency, which it will do if it's left attached to your horse rather than to the fixture they've been tied to!

The drawbacks to the elasticized trailer tie? Longevity. They quickly dry rot when exposed to the sun. That's a problem here in Arizona; if you're in Seattle, it may not be a factor. For that reason, I don't leave them on the outside of the trailer (or I'd be replacing them every month).

Elasticized tie and lead ropes are available in quite a variety, now. Some have loops on the end for conveniently tying to pipes or boards; others have snaps on each end; and they are available in various lengths (trailer, standard lead rope, and cross-tie) and thicknesses. I've even made my own using bulk bungee rope -- but honestly, for the trouble it is to make them, it's worth the money to simply buy pre-made ties.

Note: Some of the trailer-tie sizes have quite small emergency snaps, designed for those narrow tie hooks affixed inside your trailer. However, if you are using them in the barn on standard-sized tie rings, the small snaps may not fit.

If you switch to the elasticized, you will save on the various "no set-back" gadgets that cost a whole lot more and having used both, I much prefer the elasticized option.

A good utility cart:  worth its weight in hay.

A good utility cart: worth its weight in hay.

#4: A Heavy-Duty Garden Utility Cart

Oh, how I resisted. I admired the bright green cart every time I saw it, waiting outside the feed store, calling to me softly. It might be useful, I thought, but that price tag! On a whim one day, knowing I had a few bales of hay to unload and feeling a little bit richer than I had a right to, I asked the guys to go ahead and load it up for me.

I ordinarily get a case of buyer's remorse anytime I indulge in discretionary spending. The hay cart? No regrets. It has been far more useful than I expected. One full-size (three-strand) bale of bermuda hay fits neatly into it, and it has saved me countless footsteps in running back and forth to the haystack. Now I lift one bale into the cart and pull it to the barn.

It saves time, effort, and—surprisingly—feed money. Bermudagrass hay is notorious for falling apart when you lift the flakes; now, I no longer have a path of scattered hay. Instead, it stays in the cart, where it is easily scooped up to be fed.

If you feed baled hay, spend a few dollars more to not only buy the cart, but to get one that is sturdy, can hold plenty of weight, and has drop-down sides to ease in loading and in versatility for bulkier objects. You can use it to tote your saddles, bags of grain, buckets, and just about anything else we horse owners require.

The better carts have an adaptable handle so you can convert them from hand-pull to tractor or quad-pull. With the fat tires and movable front axle, they're easy to pull and easy to steer. I can't imagine not having one now. Unlike the dump-style cart I use for shavings, the hay cart is far easier to haul hay around the barn; it's easier getting the bale inside, and easier to pull than it is to push the wheel-barrow type when you've got 120 pounds of feed inside.

Do yourself (and your back) a favor, and put this cart on your list.

#5: Feed-Through Fly Control

Here's yet another product I was initially skeptical about. I didn't like the concept of another chemical going into my horses' precious bodies, and I certainly hesitated at the cost of this pricey supplement. I figured flies would come in from elsewhere anyhow, and besides, I picked up manure twice a day, so I didn't think flies were breeding on my premises. Guess what? All that has changed since my very first season using these products.

The improvement in fly control was dramatic and quick. I'd estimate that I had 75% fewer flies in my barn area after using the product than before. Occasionally, during the tighter financial months, I'd lapse on the feed-through, and I immediately regretted it. It especially pleased me when horse-owning friends visited and asked why I had so few flies—it's reassuring to have one's own observations validated by visitors.

I have had visitors proudly announce that they use fly predators. They're big believers in those little critters, and they adopt a supercilious tone of condescension when they find out I do not use them. My reasoning is this: I have limited dollars to spend. If I had an unlimited budget, I'd try the predators in addition to the feed-through control. However, since I have to limit myself to one option, I choose the feed-through as I'd rather prevent the larvae from developing in the first place than hope the little predators are able to locate and successfully eat every larva that does hatch. As Barney Fife would have said, "Nip it in the bud!"

The products are expensive. They're still worth every penny. You may find yourself saving a little here and there on fly spray, but probably not enough to make up for the extra expense; however, when you notice the dramatic decrease in biting flies on your beloved ponies, you'll be inclined to agree that it's a worthwhile expense.

Do note that every horse on the premises must be on the feed-through products for them to be fully effective. There are a few different brands I've used, and my preference is Solitude. It is more expensive than Simplifly but the same amount is fed to each horse, rather than having to estimate by weight.

Note: Simplifly is not approved for mares in foal or breeding stallions, whereas Solitude is. However, I mistakenly fed both my stallion and one mare in foal the product throughout the first summer of her pregnancy, and have seen no detrimental effect.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Marcy J. Miller


Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on December 02, 2013:

Thank you so much for your kind words, Baby Diaper. I really appreciate it!

Best wishes -- MJ

BAby Diaper on December 02, 2013:

I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me, 

and I am completely satisfied with your website. 

All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in.

turn you are sharing with each one!….

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 11, 2013:

Thanks! I will look into it! :)

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 11, 2013:

Suzanne, I had a suspicion you were well versed in DE use. By the way, I took a good look at the garden cart and it looks as if it would be pretty easy to convert to a donkey cart. It has a simple lag bolt on the handle -- just remove that and it wouldn't be too hard to replace it with a DIY rig to hold traces. Now, if I only had my burro already, I'd be working it out fully! Someday ...

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 11, 2013:

I use food grade diatomaceous earth as a dewormer for all my animals 2 weeks out of every month. I have not found it to be effective against fleas on my dogs (as some say it is). I am pretty pleased with the Farnum spot on for Ray. Since his back is brown, it would look odd with diatomaceous sprinkled over it! :D

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 10, 2013:

Awww thanks, Insightful Tiger. I'm glad to somehow be a part of your dreams of horses. Having horses in your life always starts with those dreams ... you just never know what can happen!

Insightful Tiger on May 10, 2013:

I don't have horses, but I enjoyed reading about the cool tools I could use if I had horses. One can dream. Great hub!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 07, 2013:

Suzanne, have you ever used the diatomaceous earth on Ray's back? It's inexpensive, safe (don't inhale it while spreading it) and can be spread throughout the barn as well. Although you can buy food-grade, I've used standard-grade (far cheaper) as a topical "sprinkle" to keep those flies down. You can get it at pool supply stores or hardware shops. (You're probably pretty familiar with it -- but heck, maybe another reader might not be!)

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 07, 2013:

Yes, many animals have bad reactions to spot on fly and flea products. I am lucky that Ray does not. He has terrible fly problems without treatment. The flies just form a solid mass on his back. The Farnum product has worked well for him. :)

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 07, 2013:

Thanks, Suzanne! I love my garden cart. I will take a look at it and see if there's a way to rig it as a donkey cart. I have a feeling it would be possible to do so as it does have an adaptor for towing behind a tractor. It would just mean coming up with shafts -- which shouldn't be too hard to do. With your DIY skills I bet you'd have something put together in no time at all!

I used to feed the garlic and brewers yeast supplement to the horses as part of their fly control program but somehow got away from doing that. I don't even know why but it was probably a financial decision at the time, and for some reason I never picked it back up! I've used the spot-on every so often but have had some horses that had pretty severe reactions to it (facial swelling and hives), and others where it didn't even dent the flies biting their legs. It's interesting how some of the horses (such as Buck in the photo above) attract far more biting flies to their legs than others. One of my sorrel mares barely gets any on her legs -- and the palomino and buckskin are made miserable by constant attacks. If the terrorist (two year old filly) wasn't so darned good at removing masks and fly boots, I'd have leg protectors on those two -- but it would be in vain. Here, we have such an abundance of aggressive Africanized bees, I am really cautious about using any herbals as part of my fly control program as they can attract bees.

Thank you for visiting and commenting!

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 07, 2013:

I really like that heavy duty garden cart. I wish it had an alternate fitting so that it could be used as a donkey cart since I want to put my donkey to work helping me haul manure!

I use the Farnum spot on fly product and like it very well. I am also thinking about introducing the garlic supplement that is available as a fly repellent and immune system booster.

Interesting HUB! Voted up and useful! :)

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 05, 2013:

Oh, thank you Jason! You've got great taste in horses :-). Buck is, without a doubt, the kindest, most trustworthy, gentlest soul of a horse I've known. Right now he is thrilled to have a new week-old filly to protect -- he helps raise all the babies here! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

Jason Licerio from Philippines on May 04, 2013:

I love Buck already!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Thank you, Patty! (If you had horses, they'd thank you too.) I must say, of all the products, Buck loves his big Better Bucket most of all ... when it's time for his grain, he puts his nose in his empty bucket and then looks up at me as if to say, "Here's where it goes!"

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 04, 2013:

I really enjoyed this article and if I had a horse, I'd try these products. Rated Up all the way. Congratulations on HOTD! And "Hello" to Buck!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Thanks, DzyMsLizzy! I appreciate that!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on May 04, 2013:

P.S. Congrats on HOTD!!! Well done!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Thank you, RTalloni! I'm so pleased. I appreciate your visit and comment!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Awww, DzyMsLizzy, thank you. I wish you also had the pleasure of horse ownership. They're so rewarding (and addictive). I hope you do have friends who share their horses with you. I love introducing my herd to people who don't get around horses much ... I not only love showing them off with all their funny little ways, but I love seeing how people respond to the big gentle beauties. Thanks for visiting and sharing!

RTalloni on May 04, 2013:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for an informative post that should benefit many horse owners. Thanks for sharing what you've learned.

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Thanks, Smallbizloandepot! I really appreciate your visit and comment.

smallbizloandepot from Atlanta, GA on May 04, 2013:

this is so interesting, thanks for taking the time to write this, very informative info.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on May 04, 2013:

I love horses; they are so beautiful and regal. Sadly, t owning a horse has never been in my budget. I enjoy them only vicariously through photos and other peoples' horses.

However, I've voted this up, useful, interesting, and shared it with a horse-owning friend of mine.

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Sarifearnbd, thanks so much for your kind comment.

Pinto2011, I appreciate your thoughtful words.

Anocre8ion, I sincerely hope you find the products as useful and cost-effective as I did. Thank you for commenting!

Vertualit, I was so happily surprised to see my hub featured as the HOTD. Thank you for saying hello!

Abdus Salam from Bangladesh on May 04, 2013:

hey congratulations!! your hub is hub of the day....

Amy from Texas on May 04, 2013:

Thank you for sharing. I think I will give some of these products a try, just to make my life on my little farm easier.

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 04, 2013:

You have made a very comprehensive guide which is going to help in real terms along with the availability of the products side by side.

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on May 04, 2013:

Thank you, Suzie! What a surprise to sign on and see HOTD -- wow, I am just tickled. Horses are always an expensive proposition and it's terribly discouraging when you spend on something that doesn't deliver the value it has promised. Thanks again for your kind words!

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 04, 2013:

Hi MJennifer,

I am delighted to see you recognized for HOTD! Congrats!

If only I was in the market for these products but alas no horses but they certainly sound great additions to have. Not all"gadgets" and products are worth spending your hard earned bucks on but these certainly sound as if they are worth it. Great job! Voted up, useful, interesting!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on March 19, 2013:

Thank you, Jmillis. You are so right ... it's astonishing how the price of hay, grain, and veterinary care have skyrocketed. Even the plastic products we depend on around the barn, from feed tubs to mounting blocks, are outrageous. We have to make more difficult decisions than ever before. Three years ago I was able to pay $8.50 a bale for hay; this past summer, bales peaked at $22.00 for bermuda and $18.00 for alfalfa. It has been a trying time for horse owners and we've got to do more with less!

Jmillis2006 from North Carolina on March 19, 2013:

This is great advice choosing which products you spend our hard earned money on can be difficult, and most of us horse owners know its not getting any cheaper

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on March 17, 2013:

Jennifer, that sounds like a good decision -- random freak-outs under saddle are sure not a good thing for any lesson barn! Combined with the neck scar, do you wonder if he's ever been roped and dragged? It's amazing what is hidden in some of these horses' past, isn't it?

jenniferrpovey on March 17, 2013:

The one we have right now that won't cross tie is going back to the trader. He's got more issues than a lesson barn can deal with and he isn't suspicion is PTSD or some kind of vision problem. He'll single tie all day and has a scar on his neck, so I'm thinking something happened. (If it was just "won't cross-tie" we'd keep him, but he freaks out randomly under saddle).

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on March 17, 2013:

Nettlemere, I'm sorry to hear about your horses -- I hope they had long lives and didn't leave you far too early. It's hard enough losing old, longtime companions, but when I've lost them young, it's been devastating.

Jennifer, thanks for your comment! A great system is to spend some time on the ground using the elasticized tie and asking the horse to step forward into it, and then tying them as soon as they have the concept of "pressure / forward / release." I hope you'll soon find yourself on the owning end of the horse again!

Single Shot, thanks for your kind comment -- I appreciate it -- and it's great to "meet" you and find some other horse-people and horse-writers on Hubpages!

Single Shot on March 17, 2013:

I love your Hub! Being followed and will share!

jenniferrpovey on March 17, 2013:

I wish I could afford a horse right now, but I can't. I am really broke or I'd buy a set of the elasticized cross-ties for the barn I help at. We often end up with horses with "issues" and they might come in handy next time the issue is "won't cross tie." Hrm.

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on March 17, 2013:

That's a lovely offer - thank you. Since my two horses died I haven't been able to afford more, but I really miss them!

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on March 17, 2013:

Thank you, Nettlemere! The elasticized ropes haven't caught on as much as they should have, considering how effective they are -- maybe because there hasn't been a pop-star trainer endorsing them as part of their marketing. It seems people will pay outlandish prices for just about anything if they've got a famous "natural horseman" selling it at a clinic.

I'd assumed you were presently a horse owner, too -- sorry to hear that you don't have any now. Should you ever cross the pond, there are some waiting here for you to ride!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on March 17, 2013:

I was just the same as you when I had my horses - I hate unnecessary expenditure!

I'm intrigued by the elasticized ropes - I haven't seen them over here, but then again I don't look so much now that I'm horseless. I'd certainly give them a try though following your recommendation.

Marcy J. Miller (author) from Arizona on March 16, 2013:

Thanks so much, Bill! Congrats on the plans to move to the countryside -- that's exciting! My horses wouldn't know what to do with themselves if we had the lush green grass that you do in your region. Whenever I buy a horse from out of state, I wonder if the poor animal thinks he died and went to hell when he steps off the trailer.

Thank you for reading my hub "just because!"

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 16, 2013:

Well my friend, I'm not in the market but nice job on the hub! In about two years we are moving to the country and then I just might have to look at these products seriously. :)