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Although we all spend a lot of time with our favourite hobby, there are always things that we are all too happy to put off. Time to make a few New Year’s resolutions and get started on the weekend after New Year’s Eve if possible:

Update calendar entries for the year

Now it’s time to check all the dates for the upcoming year. When was actually the last tetanus vaccination – both for my horse and for me? Check which vaccinations are compulsory for your horse, especially if you want to participate in competitions.

Calendar page
Resolution number 1: Put regular appointments in the new calendar © Adobe Stock / Wellnhofer Designs

Also, check when the last fecal sample was tested for worms and make a note of the dates for spring and autumn to ensure it doesn’t get overlooked. The horse’s annual dentist appointment can also be noted immediately. You can mark off the trail riding weekend you are already planning with your friends, as well as other events, whether it’s a show or a horse fair. Planning in advance helps avoid stress caused by missed registration deadlines or travel bookings.

Renew or cancel memberships and insurance policies

Many clubs charge automatically, but here and there it is necessary to renew or cancel in good time. Even if the cancellation deadline is still far away, send it now to ensure you don’t miss the deadline later. Having animal owner’s liability insurance is essential, ensuring every horse owner is covered in the event of damage. Moreover, investing in accident insurance is wise, as riding remains a potentially dangerous sport, despite continuous improvements in safety equipment.

Check your stable’s medicine cabinet

Even though you always hope you won’t need it, everyone should have a first aid kit with the necessary equipment. Not only medicines but also bandages and dressing materials have expiration dates and should be replaced if necessary. The stable’s first-aid kit should include appropriate bandaging material and sterile dressings for human wound care, as well as a few clean bandaging pads, bandages, and adhesive tape for applying a (hoof) bandage to your horse if necessary.

Traumeel tablets or arnica globules are also helpful and can be administered immediately after injuries and accidents. Traumeel ointment is also handy for quickly soothing hematomas after kicks, whether on horses or humans. Include disinfectant spray, and don’t forget plasters for the owner. A first-aid kit, similar to the one you have for your car, includes all the necessary items to quickly treat the rider in case of an emergency.

Please also be mindful of expiry dates in this regard. Scissors can also be quite handy since, in many cases, they’re not readily available in the barn, and those provided in the first aid kit may not be very practical.

Clean up your car

Whenever you ride with a horse owner in their car, they apologize profusely for the chaotic condition, which is otherwise not the case (as all horse people’s cars tend to look like this…). Great, now is the time to clean out the car. Utilize the winter days, which are too short for riding, to clean everything out and thoroughly vacuum your car.

Before returning each item to its place, consider whether you truly need to carry it around all the time, or if it might be better off in the barn or at home in the basement—perhaps after a quick trip to the washing machine? Using a separate dirt mat for stable boots helps keep the car boot tidy.

Old duvet covers are ideal for transporting dirty horse rugs and saddle pads, preventing hair from flying all over the car.

Care for leather goods

Wet and cold winter weather can be particularly harsh on leather goods. © Adobe Stock / JacZia

Wet and cold winter weather can be particularly harsh on leather goods. It’s common for bridles and saddles that aren’t used daily to develop mold in the tack room. Moreover, many leather goods still bear the sweat and dirt from the previous season. Using warm water, leather soap, and the appropriate leather grease or oil can be helpful.

Consider storing unused leather items at home rather than in the poorly heated, damp tack room. This is also a good opportunity to mark the saddler’s appointment for the annual saddle fit check in your calendar (refer to point 1).

Sort out accessories

It’s incredible how much a horse owner can accumulate over the course of their life. There’s still the halter from the first beloved lease pony and the torn stirrup leathers from two years ago that ‘could still be used for something’. Now is the best time to organize both the tack room and the various piles at home. It’s best to have three boxes ready for this: one for the things you really need and use all the time.

Another for things that are broken or have been in a poor state for years and can now be disposed of, and a third box for things that can be sold at the next horse flea market or on eBay or perhaps donated to a charity. After all, does the horse truly need 10 halters, 15 coolers, and 30 saddle pads? If you’re honest with yourself, you use the same favorite things over and over again, while the chic pieces that you liked so much in the catalogue or at the shop are still lying around in their original packaging.

A pony from the local riding school would certainly be happy to receive them. You could also consider organizing a horse flea market in spring with your stable mates and neighboring stables. Enter the date right away (refer to point 1).

Wash and sort blankets and saddle pads

Let’s be honest: do all the stored blankets fit your current horse? You probably have a few regrettable purchases in your horse wardrobe, or you’ve kept various rugs from your last horse that might fit a future horse at some point. Storing these blankets is a bit like keeping the clothes from your youth, hoping you might fit into them again one day. That may be true, but by then, they are so out of fashion that you’d rather buy something new.

It’s exactly the same with those horse rugs. Many riding schools, rescue stables, and sanctuaries are happy to receive discarded blankets of various sizes for their ‘oldies,’ even if they have perhaps already been mended a few times. Blankets in which moths or mice have already nested should be disposed of, while the rest should be properly washed and, if possible, stored with moth repellent (e.g., lavender sachets) between them.

Once again, critically assess which of the many blankets you genuinely use and which have been lying around unused for years. After all, you usually always use the same cooler rug… Also, critically sort through the saddle pads to determine which ones still fit the current saddle and are not already worn through in various places.

Clean and sort all grooming utensils

When you take a look inside various grooming boxes, you might discover a whole new universe with amazing inhabitants and ecosystems, as they haven’t been emptied and properly cleaned for quite some time. What was that strangely shaped brush for again, and why did you buy it anyways? And what do you actually need for the daily grooming of your horse? A curry comb and body brush, a soft brush for the face, and a dandy brush for the legs.

Box with brushes for grooming
The grooming kit should be regularly sorted out and cleaned. © Adobe Stock / Claudia Marx

Also a hoof pick and a mane & tail brush, and maybe a finishing brush or one dedicated to the hooves. Those are the essentials. Actually not that much, is it? Simply place plastic and rubber brushes in an old pillowcase and throw it in the washing machine; they will look much better afterward. But please, do not attempt the same procedure with the expensive goat hair brush with a wooden back!

Clean such brushes carefully, preferably with cold water and wool detergent through hand washing. Wipe out and re-sort the grooming box and there will be plenty of room for new purchases at the next horse fair.

Sort out your photos

Most horse owners have more photos of their four-legged friend on their smartphone than of their children and partner combined. Or is that just me? Great snapshots alongside important recordings of medical problems, videos of particularly successful exercises, and the picture of your horse looking so nice… all now lost in the mobile phone’s picture jungle thanks to the large memory.

Now is a good time to sort through all your photos and videos again, transfer them to the computer if necessary, or save them somewhere as a backup. You can also have your favorite photos printed out and framed to hang on the wall. This way, family members and colleagues can also enjoy your favorite pastime.

Clean out the tack room

Not only grooming boxes but also tack rooms are biotopes in their own right, where amazing things thrive—much to the dismay of many stable owners. You should use the momentum from the beginning of the year to thoroughly clean out the tack room together with the whole stable community.

Bridles, blankets, and other items come to light that have been hanging there for years and no longer belong to anyone—likely forgotten by someone during a stable move. Take it to the horse flea market or donate it to a good cause. The blanket holders and saddle lockers can also be reallocated from time to time, for example, optimally sorted according to the size of the horse owners, so that everyone can reach theirs. It’s truly annoying for shorter people when they end up with the saddle locker in the top row just because it was the only one still available. Perhaps a tall person will take the opportunity to swap their place in the bottom row?

Saddle racks, cereal bins, grooming boxes, buckets, etc. standing around are annoying dirt traps all year round. Time to get rid of them! If everyone looks at what they really need and takes the unnecessary items home from their storage cabinets, you can suddenly store a lot more in them and everything looks tidy again. In the end, everyone will feel more comfortable.

More about making (New Year’s) resolutions: 5 good feeding resolutions for the new year