Wal-Mart: It’s not just for people anymore

You can get all the supplies you need to spring-clean your horse at the local Wal-Mart Super Center, and it might even save you some time and money. Amanda Smith shows us how.

From Amanda:

As horse owners, we’re usually looking to save a buck wherever we can. We scour the internet for the best deals on tack, supplements and other gear from our favorite equine vendors, and we know where we can get the best deal on certain items from local tack shops, too.

But if you’re like me, you go into every store on the planet thinking “I wonder if I can find something here I can use in place of____?”  Fill in the blank with a horse/stable item.

Enter the local Wal-Mart Super Center. While it may not be the Ocala Walgreens that Hannah Sue Burnett found it is a treasure trove, and can likely save you money.

I found a few different Wal-Mart Brand (“Equate”) products to test out, as well as other items found in various departments at my Wally World. I’m not declaring Wal-Mart as the be all and end all solution for how to save money on horses, and certainly there are bound to be horse-centric items at the tack shop that do a better job for a little (or a lot) more money. But I am in Wal-Mart often enough for things like paper towels and cereal that getting some basic items for my horse saves me some time and some money. I’m just offering my insight and opinion on what you can find–and what is worth buying–at Wal-Mart on your next visit.

This month I bring you Bath Time Death Match, Wal-Mart brands v/s horsey brands.

Shampoo– Horse Shampoo v/s Equate Baby Shampoo

To be fair, I have never actually used a horse-specific shampoo, except for a bluing type for white markings, so I really have nothing to compare this to. That said, the baby shampoo worked just fine, and since it’s a baby formula, I’m going to guess its gentle enough that I don’t have to worry too much about it getting in Alfie’s eyes (which can happen if your fidgety horse only wants to play with the hose, sponge, etc and keeps moving about).

WINNER: Equate brand shampoo.  Its just so darn cheap, and if you are just looking to get the dirt out, better to do a “pre wash” with the cheap stuff before using the more pricey “coat enhancing” products from the tack shop. But I can’t imagine “horse shampoo” that costs more will do a better job of basic cleaning.

Spray Nozzles– Wal-Mart Garden Center Brand v/s just about anything

Spray nozzles get beat up and broken more quickly at a barn than at any other place I can think of. We’re just so abusive to them!  Something inexpensive that will last more than a month or two is pretty outstanding.

Being spring planting season, the Garden Section of Wal-Mart is just brimming with hoses and sprinklers and sprayers. I picked up and examined a few, and reluctantly put down the “fire hose” type sprayer thinking that might be a bit too much power, even for Alfie who plays in the ever-present mud puddle in the pasture. I settled on the metal 7-pattern nozzle.

It was heavy, but in a substantial and durable kind of way. The spray selector turned easily, and there is a “trigger keeper”  to make life a little easier (no idea what its actually called… but you know the little metal bit that flips down towards the trigger and holds it so there’s a continuous spray… that’s what I’m talking about).  The pattern options are pretty nice, too. It has the standard “shower” and “full” options, but also a “bucket-fill” which I’ve never seen before and Alfie’s favorite, “mist”.

WINNER– Honestly, I can’t say there’s a winner in this category, as I’ve never bought one of those “ultimate nozzles” a lot of tack shops sell, so I don’t know if the 7-pattern nozzle I bought would have a comparable life span. I’d like to think it would, since it seems to be constructed well and I feel its nicer than most sprayers I’ve used at a barn (and its nicer than the current nozzle I have on my garden hose… so I might get another!).  But for about 8 bucks, I think it’s a pretty good investment.

Detangler– Equate Detangler v/s  The Vetrolin I’ve already got

I currently have a bottle of Vetrolin gel detangler and it works beautifully. I’ve had it for at least two years, and not even half way through it. That’s either a testament to how effective the product is, or how infrequently I detangle my horse’s tail. I’ll let you judge.  But yesterday I used the Equate brand I bought to see if it measures up.

I like that the Equate detangler is 13 cents an ounce, and also like the twist & click-to-close spray top so if its floating around in your grooming bag it won’t dispense detangler all over our stuff.  Does it get the job done? Yes, it does, but not before your finger gets tired of pumping that spray top.  The mist the Equate detangler produces is very fine, so coverage isn’t as thorough as I’d have liked. This also makes it nearly impossible to use if there’s a breeze… it just kind of floats away! I have to say, despite the fine mist, I didn’t have to use as much as I expected on Alfie’s tail.  Since this product is formulated for babies and little kids with relatively fine hair, and not beasty pony tails, that was a nice surprise. It was also nice that my hands didn’t feel greasy after I brushed out the tail, which I find happens with a lot of equine detanglers I’ve used before.

WINNER– I’m going to have to go with the Vetrolin, especially if you’re in a hurry. Distributing the Vetrolin through the tail goes much faster than the Equate Detangler, and seemed much more even. I do have to rinse my hands off before I grab my brush and get to work on the tail, but its worth it.

Brushes–  Con-air  in the Hair Care Aisle v/s Horse brands (Oster, Tail Tamer, etc.)

Here’s an Amanda Fun Fact: The only human hair brush I own is for my horse. Its true. I have ridiculously curly and thick hair, so all I can do is comb it out after I wash it.  Unless I’m going to a ’70s disco party where a massive ‘fro would be awesome.

Anyhow… the “human” brush I DO have is this Conair paddle-type brush. To me, there isn’t much difference between it and the five similar brushes in the most recent tack catalog I just got this week… except for the price.  Now, I *did* accidentally break the handle off mine, but It works fine without it, and that’s all I ask. I like it better without the handle, personally, especially for brushing out the mane as the brush head fits nicely in my palm. I’ve used my sister’s Oster brush before, and to me there was no difference between that and my cheapy human grade brush.

WINNER– Like totally hot pink glittery Conair brush!

Towels-  “The Absorber” from the car care section, v/s your old bath towels

I think most of us probably have a bunch of old bath towels in the barn… the ones you had in college, that became “dog towels” after they started to fray a little and didn’t match the décor in your first post-graduation, fancy apartment.  And now the dogs don’t even like those towels, so they’re at the barn.  They’re still absorbent, and that’s great, but they do get heavy and soggy, right? Yeah. Ew.

But try this little lovely. It was just called simply “The Absorber” and comes in a plastic tube (which I tossed… but I think you’re supposed to keep for storage purposes. OOPS!). Its basically a synthetic shammy, and probably not unlike the ShamWow. After I ran Alfie over with the “squeegee” I rubbed him down with The Absorber. Even though The Absorber is small (about 18” x 24”) it soaked up a good amount of water, which sped up drying time noticeably.  I also never had to wring it out, and it dried quickly once I was finished. There are similar “fast dry” towels on various equine retailer’s websites;  they’re a few dollars more, but my guess is they work about the same

WINNER– The Absorber. But I’d totally buy a ShamWow if I find one!

Here’s the budget breakdown… prices listed for “human” items were from my local Wal-Mart, so those may vary depending on where you live. Prices for the horse care items were pulled from the most recent tack catalog I received in the mail or one of a few tack websites. I didn’t do an extensive amount of on-line research (I have mountains of laundry to do!), so again the prices may vary depending on where you look or where you shop in person. But I feel like the sources I used were valid for the comparison shopping since those retailers are popular and well-recognized.

Go Shopping…. And SAVE!!!

Wal-Mart Products

Tack Shop/Equine Retailer Products

Equate Baby Shampoo – 28oz, $2.98 Cowboy Magic – 16oz (1pt) – $6.99

Mane & Tail – Quart (2pt)- $6.99

Equate Detangler – 10oz, $1.34 Vetrolin Detangler Gel Concentrate – 12 oz, $12.99
Conair hair brush – $4.58 Tail Tamer Paddle Brush, $9.99

Oster Mane & Tail Brush – $10.99

Super Absorber Towel – $9.00 Fast-Dry towel – $12.95 for 16” x 28” towel

(Your smelly old bath towels – Free!)

7 pattern metal nozzle – $7.97 “Ultimate Hose Nozzle” – $18.99


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