Keep Your Tack Room Organized – Tips from a Seasoned Professional

I’ve been in and out of a lot of barns thanks to my 20+ year riding career and my awesome job on the Barn Team at SmartPak. When I met Karla for the first time, I was in awe and I knew I had to share what I saw.

Karla Galasso has been with Holly Hill Farm for as long as she can remember. She has ridden at Holly Hill, a professionally-run Hunter/Jumper Barn all her life, but has been the Barn Manager (as well as Instructor and Rider) for about 20 years. She has made high-quality horse health care and barn organization her passion. Karla is based out of the Marstons Mills location which boards between 30-40 show and lesson horses and ponies on a full-time basis. She helps oversee a second facility in Harvard, MA along with Barn Manager Wendy Palmer, with over 40 horses boarded there. Holly Hill is a competition-oriented show stable geared to the serious hunter/jumper rider seeking improvement in show skills and horsemanship. Holly Hill attends local shows as well as the large A rated shows throughout the show season. During the winter months, Holly Hill participates at the Winter Equestrian Festival held in Wellington Florida.

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I spent an afternoon with Karla chatting about how she stays organized with all the comings-and-goings we know that happen at a busy show barn. Along with managing the day-to-day barn team, Karla also manages all the feedings, mucking, turnout, grooming, riding, training and lesson scheduling, along with all veterinarian, farrier, chiropractor and massage therapist appointments. Karla also orders all the supplies needed at both locations, including managing SmartPaks for every horse at Holly Hill. Let’s just say she has to be organized or it would all fall apart!

The Tack Room is not large, but it is very well laid out. Everything is labeled and organized according to the horse name and owner. As a new horse owner comes to the barn, they are assigned a cubby in the tack room which gets a proper label with their last name clearly visible. Cubbies are used to store grooming stuff, cottons, wraps, saddle pads, treats, helmets, gloves, hair nets, and any other personal items. Watch out if your cubby isn’t neat…Karla will track you down! Their saddles, schooling and show bridles, and shipping halters go above their cubby so everyone’s “stuff” is kept altogether. Check out the steel bar they have above the cubbies to hold all the saddles.

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Karla typically orders all tack, equipment and horse clothes for the clients and you guessed it, labels everything with embroidery, engraving or brass tags. They also keep an area for back up needs such as anti-sweat sheets, polo wraps, boots, etc. They also have a large stash of saddle pads, half pads, bounce pads and everything in between. (Yup – that’s Karla over there!) Notice the draw reins hung by size – ponies on the left to large horse sizes on the far right.

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Tupperware-type drawers and more labels help keep Equi-Fit wraps, cottons, and other necessary barn supplies handy but out of the way, with all storage areas organized around a horseshoe shaped traffic area to maximize the use of the room.

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Their saddle horse fits up to 3 saddles for a cleaning station, and they manage to fit all their tack cleaning supplies underneath including toothbrushes and ammonia to clean dirty bits or reins. One of Karla’s favorite products is Belvoir Tack Cleaner Spray (but if you look closely enough you’ll see a large can of Pledge in there too!)

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Karla and her team came up with a few clever tricks to hang lesson helmets (on a large tack cleaning hook!), using large lingerie bags for girths to prevent damage to the washer and dryer and an umbrella holder for lunge whips, dressage whips, and crops.

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Their laundry station is organized with bins for different colors – light, dark and mixed with a rack above to keep wraps neat and folded (yes, she is a Dunkin fan as well). There is one commercial washer and one dryer for barn supplies only.

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The meds and client-owned supplies are kept up high in locked cabinets for safety and security with everything clearly marked. This cabinet is organized by pharmaceutical name, all labeled with clients’ names with a sharpie. Karla goes through the cabinet once a month to monitor expiration dates.

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Okay so as amazing as these cabinets look…there is no way they can hold all the supplies needed on a daily basis for 40+ horses. So I was able to get a sneak peak at the “overstock area” in a storage shed nearby.

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Back in the tack room, there’s even a designated spot in the refrigerator for treats. Karla swears the Guinness is for non-sweating horses not treats for humans! They have a small separate freezer nearby that holds 10 lb. bags of ice and a few pairs of ice boots to aid with injuries.

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Due to the large number of one-day horse shows they attend, they have a special tack box that travels in the horse trailers to every show filled with all the supplies they may need. After every show, she re-organizes and re-stocks supplies as needed.

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Rounding towards the entry door is the ever-impressive wall of girths. The girths are organized and labeled by size. Mostly these are used for training rides or lesson horses and ponies but are accessible to all. Karla’s favorite girth is the SmartPak Dri-Lex Fleece Girth since it pulls heat away from the body and is super easy to clean.

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Right by the entrance is a small desk, for notes, the lesson schedule and rider forms (and I’m sure her stash of labels is here somewhere!)

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Karla keeps everything organized on a large white board hanging just outside the tack room for clear communication and scheduling.

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Just a few final notes…there’s a fire extinguisher clearly visible in the tack room that is checked annually by the fire department, trash is taken out of the tack room at the end of every day and the tack room is alarmed and locked every night to protect the investment their clients and the Holly Hill Team have made in their tack and equipment.
We couldn’t leave without taking a peak at their feed room wondering how they keep 40 horses’ SmartPaks organized and the blue storage drawers told us all we needed to know. (note the labels on the shelves here too):

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We are so grateful to the Holly Hill Team and their wonderful clients for allowing us to peer into the day-to-day organization of such a successful show barn and great group of people. Thank you Karla and everyone at Holly Hill for sharing your tips and tricks!
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Susan Tuller

Susan as a rider: I've grown up riding hunter/jumpers since the age of 9, but have ridden a bit of dressage and polo as well. I find learning and practicing classic equitation to be continuously challenging but truly fulfilling. Proper flatwork has allowed me to progress in my jumping abilities on different horses. I feel so fortunate to truly enjoy flatting since it has grown the foundation of being able to ride just about any horse I'm fortunate enough to sit on. Susan as a SmartPaker: I can honestly say that work doesn't usually feel like work. I head up the Barn Team so I get to talk to Barn Professionals all over the country, and their clients, about customized supplement programs to make their horses look and feel better. I travel to trade shows where I get to meet our Barn Pros as well as our customers, new and existing customers, with the face-to-face interactions rounding out what I love about my "job." All about Excel: I have had my horse Excel for 14 years. He is a 16-3 hand bay Oldenburg gelding and is the light of my life. I grew up riding, but never had a "show" horse until I bought him. I had little idea what I was in for, but I have so enjoyed the ride. We started in the Schooling Hunters when he was 6, moved up to the Adult Amateurs and Adult Equitation. Excel then ribboned in the First Year Division at the Marshall and Sterling Finals at age 10 and from then we moved to the Lo Adult Jumpers competing from New England to New York and Ocala. We ended our career in the Hi Adult Jumpers and I couldn't have been more pleased. We stopped showing last year as he told me he was happy to continue jumping but at home. I enjoy riding in the Indoor ring, but not nearly as much as when we are able to ride in our outdoor ring or our big field, jumping, flatting and sometimes just during really long walks. He had taught me so much about setting and achieving my riding goals, hard work, and mostly about patience. I just love it when he hears my voice and nickers, even before I walk over to his stall. Brings a smile to my face every single time.

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3 comments on “Keep Your Tack Room Organized – Tips from a Seasoned Professional
  1. Tammy Downes says:

    I would love any suggestions for how to store standing wraps on stall door so they don’t fall on the ground and unwrap as they hit the ground since my horse loves to fidget with anything on his door including his blankets. I can walk away and come back to all his supplies on the ground and sometimes he pulls into his stall if the door isn’t kept shut. ARGH!

    • Sanjay says:

      We love this fvloar to fvloar our coffee beans in our personal injury law office. If we run out of butter cream, people can get hurt. So we don’t run out! Put a little on beans and toss like a salad, let absorb ten minutes and heaven awaits when you brew. My sister also uses this for her cup cake icing.

  2. Rebecca Parks says:

    Lots of wonderful orgnzing tools. Looking forward to organzing my barn better. I have a lovely tack room but alwyas need hints on how to improve the barn and tack areas.

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Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

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