Before you get involved with your riding, training or show schedule this summer, why not tackle a project you've been meaning to do for ages--a thorough cleaning and organizing of your tack room. You know the place--that hold-all for miscellaneous gear, old magazines, piles of saddle pads, bits, brushes, baling twine, empty boxes, things you think you might use but never do--all under a film of dust.
A tack room makeover will improve the look and functionality of one of the most trafficked areas in your barn. It's a great opportunity to sort through all your accumulated tack and gear, check it for safety, clean it and donate items not needed to a local pony club, 4-H group or therapeutic riding program.
Your barn improvement project can be as simple as selecting and hanging some matching saddle and bridle racks in your barn colors or as complex as converting an empty stall into a tack room.
A tack room makeover usually can be accomplished in a day or a weekend. If you are converting a stall for a tack room and plan to lay a floor, or if you are doing any major construction, then plan for multiple weekends and consider professional help.
One Month Ahead
Planning: critical to ensuring a smooth, successful makeover
1. Assess: Spend some time in your tack room to assess what's working and what's not. Is it easy to reach the items you use most often? Are the saddle racks tight to the wall or are they hanging from a nail? Is it safe and secure? Is it light enough? How will you clean tack? Will off-season or long-term storage for blankets or unused tack be in the tack room or off-site? Is it visually pleasing to you? Talk to your friends about what works for them. Make notes.
2. Budget: How much do you have to spend? You can create an attractive and functional tack room inexpensively, or you can splurge and purchase some of the lovely fixtures and furniture available today. Your tack room improvement can be as simple or as lavish as you wish and can afford.
3. Design: Measure your space, noting windows, doors, pipes, power source, etc. Draw a layout of the room and pencil in where you think things should go. Think ahead: in an emergency, you'll want to be able to find what you need in a hurry--flashlight, lead, halter, Banamine, etc.
4. Shop: This is the fun part. Go through your horse catalogs and spend some time visiting online tack shops to get ideas and see what's available. There are always new products coming into the market and lots of great colors. See what works with your plan and budget. You may need to make adjustments. Order products.
5. Lists, lists and more lists: Make a list of what needs to get done and in what order--if you plan to paint, be sure to allow sufficient time for the paint to dry. Make a list of the tools you'll need. Is there power in the barn for power tools; do you need extension cords to run power from the house? Make a shopping list of what you'll need from local stores. Be sure to include hooks, screws, bolts, washers and nails if they are not supplied with the new products. Do you need wall paint, primer, paint to refurbish your existing fittings, paint brushes, rollers?
Don't forget cleaning supplies, and definitely don't forget lunch, snacks and beverages for you and your crew. (A mid-afternoon break for chocolate-chip cookies is a great pick-me-up for a tiring crew!) If you want to whistle while you work, line up your favorite CDs and player.
Plan where you will keep all the gear removed from the tack room while you are working on the space as well as an area to stage the new products. Think about where your horses will go during the commotion, rain or shine.
Think about what other types of projects you will undertake, such as framing photos, sewing curtains, redoing your emergency contact information, etc. and make a list of what is needed.
Two Weeks Ahead
1. Line up a few friends or family as your crew. It's easier, much faster and a lot more fun if you have some help.
2. Open the packages of new products when they arrive to make sure everything that is supposed to be included is there, and nothing is backordered. Check to see which items come with fittings. For those that don't, add the hardware needed to your shopping list. You may want to bring the saddle rack or other items to the store to measure what screws fit best.
3. Need additional items for your makeover? Order them now or pick them up at your local tack shop. (You may have to pay an expedited shipping fee to ensure on-time delivery.)
4. Check your tool list and see what tools you have already and what you will need to borrow or buy.
Two Days to One Week Ahead
1. Local supplies: check your lists and pick up supplies from local, home improvement or large box stores.
2. Confirm your crew.
3. Pick up borrowed tools.
Makeover Day/Weekend: This is It!
1. Greet your crew and lay out the project. Explain the tasks that need to be accomplished and the timing. Assign tasks if possible.
2. Empty the tack room.
3. Clean the space thoroughly.
4. Follow your plan!
Final touch: Make your tack room uniquely yours by adding framed photos, a hand-painted farm sign or a show poster. Large or small, tack rooms are usually much more than that--they are a gathering place, a social and communications center, an office, a hang-out for barn cats, often the only warm spot in the barn in the winter. And, equipped with a comfy chair, a tack room is the perfect spot for a post-ride read--about horses of course.
For more on sprucing up your barn and tack room, check out the summer 2007 and 2008 issues of Everything For Horse & Rider. To order, call 301-977-3900 ext. 0.