Time-saving Tips for Horse Grooming & Yard Work

Less rush, more riding…

As the colder days and longer nights really set in, your yard workload is bound to increase – often resulting in less time spent riding than you’d like. So we’re sharing clever time-saving tricks to help you make the most out of any moments you do get in the saddle, all without cutting corners in your horse-care routine.

Save 10 minutes by…

…streamlining your yard in the same way that professional chefs set up their kitchens before dinner service, to prevent endless back-and-forth journeys as you gather your kit.

‘It may seem obvious, but setting aside some time to come up with a practical system that works for you can help you begin each hack or schooling session feeling in control and prepared – making it far more likely that you’ll get the most out of your riding,’ says dressage trainer and yard owner Alison Short.

‘I organise my tools and equipment according to which pieces I use most, placing them in those spots where I use them. I hang a headcollar and hoof pick outside the stable door, a knife near the hay bales for cutting twine, and a brush at the tap for bucket scrubbing. I’ve tidied my tack room, too, so that I have all the basics to hand and nothing unnecessary knocking about that might cause confusion. Then I become ruthless about putting things back in the spots I’ve chosen for them, so that the right item is only ever an arm’s reach away.’

Save 15 minutes by…

…getting super-organised with a smartphone app. Task manager apps, such as 30/30 (free for iOS and Android) let you set up a list of tasks and a length of time for each of them. All you then have to do is start the timer and, simply by glancing at it, the app will let you how much time you have left to complete a job and when to move on to the next task – helping you to keep your yard work on track, and ensuring you don’t waste any moments that could be spent in the saddle. Plus, you can manage your time efficiently throughout the week by creating different schedules for mornings, evenings and weekends.

Save 30 minutes by…

…preparing grab-and-go meals for your horse in advance. Measure concentrate feeds into airtight (and rodent-proof!) plastic boxes marked with each day of the week, so you can simply tip the contents into a bowl at feed-time before stirring in water or soaked beet, and save time by measuring out daily supplements and medicines into sealable plastic bags.

Another trick is to weigh out a week’s-worth of hay in one go, so that you only need to clear up one lot of mess and don’t have to deal with the fiddly work of filling haynets every day. Or, if you prefer to feed hay from the floor, portion slices with baler twine or store prepared rations in heavy-duty sacks to save time.

Save 45 mins by…

…multi-tasking – a sure-fire way to beat the clock. Andrea Oakes, a rider who helps to look after a yard while the owner is away, has found some great practical ways to do so:

‘I used to fill a clean plastic dustbin with water, which I then used for speedy bucket filling or hay soaking, but I found that I was wasting a lot of time waiting for the water to get all the way to the top. So my solution was to time how long it took, and now I simply clip a hosepipe to the side of the bin and set the alarm on my phone. It gives me an idea of exactly how much time I have to then take on another task, without worrying about wasting water.’

‘I’ve also found that a good time-saving trick is to give the horses their breakfast somewhere else in the yard, while I muck out. It helps to keep them safe from any stable dust and ammonia that’s kicked up, and also frees up space and time for me to get the job done properly.’

‘But my ultimate tip for cracking on with yard work without being disturbed, is wearing headphones. It’s a subtle way to signal to other riders that you’re focussed on your task.’

Save an hour by…

…investing in just a few good-quality grooming tools, instead of rummaging through a box of items that aren’t really up to the job.

A plastic ‘magic’ brush, a rubber grooming mitt and a dandy brush with long, stiff bristles will make light work of a muddy horse, without stripping him of the natural oils he needs to fend off winter weather. If he’s stabled, a quick flick-over with a body brush will do when you’re in a hurry – save the deep-down clean for the weekend.

Anna Mildner, groom for top eventer Izzy Taylor, recommends using mineral-based pig oil to coat horses’ lower legs before they go out in the field or on a muddy hack: ‘The oil creates a coating and acts as a barrier for the skin,’ she says. ‘When you hose the legs down afterwards, the mud simply slides off. I also keep tail hair up and out of the way in the field by loosely plaiting it.’

If your horse tends to have a longer coat, another time-saving trick is to clip a ‘bridle path’ through his mane, behind his ears, to prevent grappling with a wet forelock each time you tack up.