Make the most of your trailer and barn tack rooms’ compact spaces with these tack room hacks.
Whether you’ve got one horse or 20, you no doubt have accumulated an assortment of gear. Tack, wraps, grooming supplies—all necessary to care for and ride your horses. But most tack rooms have limited space—particularly a trailer tack room. How do you make sure you can find everything easily when you’re digging through compact quarters? We talked to some organizational queens about the tack room hacks they use to put everything in its place.
Everything In Its Place
Lorinda Van Newkirk is a Texas barrel racer and is known for having an organized tack room. She recently redid her tack room at her barn in Weatherford. She calls her bits and bridles her ‘treasures’ and collects them like her parents did all their lives. She says an orderly space reflects the care one takes of their equipment.
“It’s important to me to know where every bridle is, and that it has its own place, along with everything else in my tack room,” Van Newkirk said. “Whether it’s meds or grooming stuff, I just feel like everything needs to have its place out there.”
Every bridle has its own cedar stay on the wall, its own space, curb strap and reins.
“If it’s a certain bridle that we’re changing the reins on all the time, that goes in a different section,” Van Newkirk said.
Saddles live in the tack room on saddle racks. Van Newkirk has installed a pad holder outside the tack room.
“That way pads have a place to air out, and they’re not inside my tack room,” Van Newkirk said.
Store Only What You Need
In a small area, being selective about how many items you have helps keep things organized.
“You have to be realistic about your space and how many things you can have in that space,” Van Newkirk said. “A lot of people get jammed up on getting their things organized because they either have a small space and too much stuff, or vice versa.”
Van Newkirk has a small tack room, so she makes sure not to overstock on items and only keep enough of each on hand to be prepared. She also refills smaller containers of fluids or meds in her trailer.
“You don’t want to overfill your tack room. Make sure everything you have in there is really what you need,” Van Newkirk said. “Do you really need 16 pairs of polo wraps in your trailer? You probably only need eight, depending on how many horses you have.”
Toolboxes Upon Toolboxes
From your tack room at home, to your trailer, to a tack stall at a show, you’re hemmed in by spacing limitations. That’s why Van Newkirk uses industrial tool-boxes with numerous drawers to keep things organized, as well as mini toolboxes and rolling toolboxes for various gear and small items.
“I have a small toolbox where I put all my meds and wraps, and that goes into the trailer, whereas in my barn, I have a big rolling toolbox that has more items and I can move it if I need to,” Van Newkirk said. “It’s the same with my grooming products. I have a big bottle of something and then each trailer will have a fly spray that I refill.”
In addition to having a small toolbox for first aid gear, Van Newkirk keeps a stocked toolbox with trailer and truck repair items.
Appliances Can Help
Many medications need to be kept refrigerated. That’s why Van Newkirk has a refrigerator in her barn, reducing trips to her house on-site. But she uses the fridge to store other items, too.
“I keep all my meds and syringes and sanitary items in that fridge instead of a cabinet because it’s clean and basically sealed off,” Van Newkirk said.
Ready to Go
When Van Newkirk is getting ready to go to a show, she basically grabs her makeup bag and heads to the trailer. She’s got a trailer with a tack room fully stocked, which makes travel easier.
“I literally have everything ready to go, with buckets, feed bags—everything is organized and has its place—then it’s not always so much work to be ready to go somewhere,” Van Newkirk said. “Or if you decide to go at the last minute, or for me, having my own business and being a mom, your kids override everything you do. So if you don’t have a system of how you do things, then you never have enough time to get it ready.”
Van Newkirk has different grooming supplies, sheets and boots for each horse. She cleans everything when she gets back from a race.
“I try to make sure to clean all my splint boots and get them back in the trailer, color-coded, so I’m ready for the next race,” Van Newkirk said. “That way I know if something needs to be thrown away or replaced.”
She stores her bell boots in a small grocery basket, and she’ll rinse the boots off right in the basket before returning it to the trailer.
An organized trailer is peace of mind for pro rodeo barrel racer Jamie Olsen.
“I definitely like it organized so I can find things easier that way,” Olsen said. “It’s a lot cleaner, a lot quicker. I have to take a lot of stuff with me because I often go to multiple rodeos. I’ll leave for the summer and will probably be gone for two months. So I have to pack for that time period.”
For her two rodeo horses in her four-horse living quarters trailer, Olsen will pack several pairs of splint boots, bell boots and sufficient vet supplies. She takes a couple saddle pads, at least two saddles, her two main headstalls and a couple extra headstalls with various bits.
“If I wasn’t organized, I wouldn’t know where anything is, because there are so many things I need to bring,” Olsen said.
Olsen has a traveling partner with her own two horses and gear, so keeping everything stowed and organized is key. Olsen uses all the compartments in her trailer, from putting big winter blankets in the hay pod, fly sheets, shipping boots and nebulizer in a side compartment, and bags of feed, supplements and electrolytes. She brings shoeing supplies in case her horse loses a shoe and tire changing supplies in case of a flat.
“My trailer has four saddle racks on the left, and several bridle hooks on the right,” Olsen said. “I try to put the bridles I use the most toward the front to be easily reached. And blankets hang on a bar that hangs off the door.”
The door also has a brush box for grooming supplies, as well as roping gloves. She stores support boots underneath the saddles.
Keeping It Clean
Once a year, Van Newkirk goes through all of her gear and equipment to make sure everything is in good working order.
“I go through all my tack and check the Chicago screws and clean everything,” Van Newkirk said. “That’s how I weed out anything I don’t really need, or if it’s not good anymore or broken. It’s OK to update your stuff. That helps keep things clean and organized, because when every- thing is dirty and old and gross, then you feel like there’s no point in it.”
Van Newkirk does not keep extra saddles but says it’s difficult for her to get rid of older saddles, particularly sentimental ones like trophy saddles.
“I only have eight saddle racks in my barn, and I don’t need more than eight saddles,” Van Newkirk said. “I try to be realistic about that.”
Olsen goes through her trailer and living quarters about once a month to remove items she’s no longer using or doesn’t need for her next trip. She also throws out old grain.
“That just helps create room and makes it easier to find things,” Olsen said. “If you have too many things in there, I feel like it’s harder to find everything and it just gets cluttered. I just make sure I have what I need but don’t have extra.”
Organizing your things one time is one thing, but how do you stay motivated to keep things looking nice? For Van Newkirk, having an organized space makes the tack room a relaxing place for her.
“We did the walls in wood, and I added a creative touch with some of my pictures and old champion plaques,” Van Newkirk said. “I put a cool Navajo rug down, which is a pain and you have to clean it, but it makes it feel nicer. It makes it have a purpose. Not just an old, dirty tack room.”