The trends in horse care have changed considerably over the past few decades. For many, a shift has been made from the backyard barn to the bigger boarding facilities. With economic dips forcing job constraints on precious horsey time, more people are inclined to pay a facility to give their horse the day-to-day care they once provided themselves.
On a daily basis I am fortunate enough to travel to many such facilities. Enough praise cannot be heaped on the generous souls who commit their life to caring for horses. It is a twenty-four hour a day job and is often underappreciated.
When I hear a fussy boarder complain about trivial matters I ask them the amount of board they pay per month. I then divide that number by thirty, and figure a per day price for their horse board. In our area it usually runs fifteen to twenty dollars per day. I then ask them if they would mind providing feed (x 2), hay(x 2), shavings, shelter, electricity, water, arena footing, fencing, paint, insurance, stall cleaning, blanket changing, lead in lead out, fertilizing, grass cutting, jump repairing, jump painting, arena dragging (you get the drift) for fifteen dollars a day. I haven’t had any takers yet.
Many years ago I taught at a boarding facility that was beautifully maintained by the owner. Once when asked if she could help do the final stall pick at the end of the day a surly little girl stated “that’s what we pay for”. I thought the barn owner was brilliant, as she replied “No, honey, you pay me to take care of your horse when you’re not here!”
I have told that story to many of my young riders, as I want to foster in them a sense of community in the barn. A few people can keep up the day-to-day activities at a barn, but if you expect excellence, becoming involved is essential (and can be fun!). The barn should not be considered a country club and helping out creates a sense of pride and cohesiveness in a facility. Organized workdays can be fun if everyone brings food, drinks and music is provided!
If you are at the barn in the winter, and you can throw a blanket on a horse, (any horse, it doesn’t have to be yours) it is good exercise for you, and the barn help will appreciate even one less horse to blanket, so they can get home and warm up. Sweeping the aisle, raking ithe yard, picking up debris, painting fences and mowing grass are all activities that greatly raise the barn morale and keep the facility neat. If you are at a jumping facility, organizing a jump painting party is a nice way to make the place more respectable for everyone.
So grab a rake, a broom or a paintbrush. Call the boarders on the list by the barn phone and pick out a date for a work-day. Take the time out to pitch in at your horse’s apartment complex. The people who care for him while you’re not there will definitely appreciate it!