Tack and equipment storage solutions keep things tidy and safe around the barn.
By Natalie DeFee Mendik, MA
DIY, custom-made, or out-of-a-box: Barn storage and organization options are endless. If you’re the type that’s not afraid to tackle a project, one look at Pinterest will send you running to your local hardware store. If you’d rather not create a system yourself, a multitude of ready-made equipment storage options are out there. Or, if you really want to go big, a designer can elevate your tack room to showcase status.
“Start by determining your needs both in terms of the type and amount of tack you need to store,” says Matt Johnson, owner of Oregon-based Equine Facility Design, which specializes in planning, design, and project management of equine facility construction. “Then, utilize the wall space for maximum organization. There are many ways to do this, often combining cabinetry, shelving, racks, cubbies, and lockers.
“The design that works best for your barn will also depend on whether this is a private facility for your own personal space or whether it’s a public business that needs to accommodate boarders,” he adds.
For instance, tack lockers might be the best option for keeping things organized at a boarding barn with many clients. With each horse allocated a closing cupboard large enough for his gear, owners have their own private spaces while being limited from spreading out. Locker options range from custom-built to ready-made units available from manufacturers to even sectional kitchen cupboards turned into barn storage space.
Tack rooms with fewer users can accommodate trunks for each horse. You can arrange saddle racks above trunks, in stacked tiers, or on swiveling stands. (While checking out DIY fantasies, you might even come across tack rooms with swiveling walls that reveal saddle racks!) Here comes the question of whether functionality is the goal or if tack room aesthetic is also central to design. If you’re looking for both, hanging clean, neatly figure-eighted bridles on rows of wooden tack hooks could be one approach.
Consider Function, Convenience
Also think about what function your tack room space will have: Just tack storage? Tack and seasonal items? Tack cleaning? Changing clothes? Your needs will dictate amenities: shelving units for clean saddle pads and grooming supplies, tack-cleaning hooks near a sink, or a bench near clothing hooks. And be smart about how you use the space: that bench can also serve as storage and placed beneath a window to leave no dead space. Designate areas within your tack room for different types of items, making use of shelves, baskets, and bins. Labels clarify what goes where.
And keep in mind that a tidy tack room isn’t truly functional if retrieving what you need is a struggle.
“Think about the areas and equipment that you’ll use most often and design the room so that those areas are easily accessible,” says Johnson. “Frequently used saddles, bridles, and longeing equipment should all be stored prominently, while less-frequently used equipment like spare boots, bridles, and other gear can be stored in areas that are less convenient to access, like cubbies or shelves close to the floor or ceiling that require a little extra effort to get to.”
So, fold blankets in daily use and hang them neatly on blanket bars on each stall door. Hang wet blankets by their chest straps to dry on hooks up high in an empty spot in the barn; racks are also available for this purpose. Store out-of-season blankets on shelves (clean and in bins or storage bags) in the tack room.
Beyond the Tack Room: Equipment and Feed Storage
Plan for equipment solutions, as well. “Small equipment storage is always an important element, especially since having this storage can preserve the life of your machinery,” says Johnson. “Think about whether you want any tack storage at the stalls and how you’ll integrate that into the barn’s design. Will you have show trunks, and where will they go? If you plan to store them in the aisle, you’ll need to design the barn so that the aisle is wide enough to safely accommodate them. If you’re working with a barn that’s already built and that has a narrower aisle, a better solution may be to create a separate room just for trunk storage or add them into your tack room.”
Throughout the barn, store frequently used tools in easily accessible designated spots: manure forks, shovel, and broom hung neatly on hooks away from horse traffic; bathing items such as sweat-scrapers in an organizer in the wash rack; and a collapsible saddle rack, along with muck bucket, shovel, and broom, by grooming areas. Make use of white boards for important information; keep these up to date, erasing old messages so everyone’s in the habit of checking in for new information.
Devise a rodent-proof storage system for the feed room, which can be as simple as trash cans with locking lids or as deluxe as built-in lined bins. Also create a system for storing supplements, such as Tupperware boxes. Create a chart detailing what each horse gets at each feeding. Label feed bins, buckets, feed scoops, and supplements to avoid confusion.
“You should also think about how you prefer to feed. Some barns use a feed cart or wagon, others mix in buckets and carry or cart those around,” Johnson says. “Designing the room to accommodate your feed methods will make everything easier. Think about whether you’ll also need to store some hay in the space or whether that will be located in a different area,” even in another building. The latter option is a good one for preventing barn fires or minimizing their spread.
Consider future needs as much as possible when designing a space. “Think about the facilities that will make your job easier and efficient,” says Johnson. “Do you need a sink, laundry, fridge, or veterinary supply storage? Do you need locking cabinets to store medications in? Do you have a way to keep ice accessible? If you’re planning a new barn, it’s always best to design with these large elements in mind. If you know you’re going to need these large electrical appliances, an electrician can wire the room to have the appropriate outlets in the right places. Even if you don’t buy a washing machine or dryer right away, having the wiring in place means you can more easily bring this equipment in in the future. Most storage organization projects can be done with a DIY approach, but anything involving plumbing, electrical, structural changes, etc. or other major renovations should be done by a licensed general contractor or subcontractor.”
Keeping the stable clean and tidy is a task that’s much easier once there’s less clutter in the way. Enlist everyone involved in barn activities to pitch in and keep things neat. An organized stable can be a safe and efficient haven.