Sweep your Cares Away….

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!

13 thoughts on “Sweep your Cares Away….

    1. Sometimes a positive push in the right direction can get everyone mobilized! The most fun barn from my youth required all boarders to participate in a monthly “work day” (it was on an air force base and board was only $6 per month!) Sodas and beer were provided and the boarders brought food. We had a great cross country course by the time we left and all the fences stayed well maintained!

  1. I used to work at long term care facilities (for humans), and I often noticed that the residents that were well cared for were visited and assisted with daily living practices by family or friends. It would be a lonely life for horses or people to expect the staff to meet all of their needs. In other words, get involved, any way you can.

  2. VERY timely! Boarding barns are a microcosm of surrounding communities and tend to have a wide range of personalities. Some folks are the ‘whatever it takes’ kind, some just want to ride their horse, and others view the barn just as a place to park their horse. Sometimes the personalities blend well; sometimes not. Without getting on a soapbox, communication, civility, helpfulness, and respect for each and every member of the barn family is something to which we all should aspire. The barn is your horse’s home – take care of it and the relationships within as well or better than you take care of your own home. Getting down from my soapbox now…

  3. I think this is very true- the barn is just a small subset of any other community and will reflect upon the members involved. Please step up on the soapbox any time! I enjoy the feedback and commentary!

  4. I love this article. So true and timely. A lot of boarders don’t realize how much effort it takes to care for horses and how much more it takes to provide excellent care. Saying “that’s what I am paying for” is taking an easy way out. I enjoy being around horses and try to help out around the barn when I can. It really gives me a taste of how long things take. Cleaning the stall is one thing, cleaning the stall well is another. To clean 20 stalls in a reasonable time one has to become a speedy and efficient cleaner. Whatever you learn at the barn you can always transfer to your workplace or it will help you at the show where you have to take care of your horse for 2 days without the barn crew. A big eye-opening experience. Better get ready for it at the barn.

  5. You are right about the time spent! Another problem that exists, (I have been the barn help at many barns!) occurs when people chat to the person cleaning the barn and prevents them from working. It is well intentioned, but when the boarder leaves, all of the work is still there to be done!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s