An Ode to Our Barn Hands

An Ode to our Barn Hands

Not enough attention gets paid to the person/people taking care of our horses! Whether you call them barn hands, barn manager, facility manager, barn owner, or something else. They are IMPORTANT PEOPLE!

Rain, snow, miserable heat, sickness, health or any other occasion cannot deter them from their job. Without them, our horses go without water, food, clean stalls, blankets, groomed arenas and many of the other things that MANY take for granted.

Unfortunately at a past boarding situation one of the barn hands where I boarded left, leaving one remaining. Because of this he had been working 7 days a week doing all duties for a large training facility by himself. On top of it we had a HUGE snow storm which he had to do normal duties in the snow AND plowing on top of it. Luckily our barn is heated so it is not as miserable as some but still doing turnout, feeding and watering in the snow is not the most fun thing ever; no matter if you get to go back into a warm barn or not.

I helped him one afternoon with picking stalls and the dinner feeding. Only to realize how well organized he had everything and how efficient and WONDERFUL he really was with the horses (I already knew he was great, but wow he really did care and go above and beyond!!).

A few things that make it more difficult for your barn hand to do their job efficiently jumped out at me though. One of them being grain baggies. Even if you have a dedicated container for your grain, make sure the baggie says the horse’s name and if it is AM or PM accurately. Bags are cheap; if you need to redo them, DO IT for the sake of the person helping give your horse wonderful care. I had the advantage of knowing all the horses in my barn, so when some of the baggies didn’t have names or accurate names, I placed them in order of stall order and remembered what the baggie looked like VS the feed tub name and fed that way. A new person doing the job will not have that advantage. They will end up with a handful of baggies without any names and NO IDEA who to give them to.

Another item I noticed is there aren’t that great of instructions (or any) regarding what blankets or leg protection should be used and when. Write out easy to understand instructions, get it laminated and hang it on your stall. While your regular barn hand might memorize this info after doing it for a while, giving concise instructions will help verify for them they are doing it right, take the worry away from you, and let anyone new or that might be filling in know exactly what is needed; as they are learning things for ALL the horses in the barn and that is a lot to take in and get right without a little reminder.

Examples, this may vary based on your particular boarding situation:

  • Blanketing
    • No blanket if temperature is over 50 degrees
    • Red light-weight blanket if temperature is between 30-49 degrees
    • Blue plaid medium-weight blanket if temperature is between 10-29 degrees
    • Purple heavy-weight blanket with Hood if temperature is under 10 degrees.
  • Leg Protection
    • Please use the black boots for turnout on all 4 legs
    • Please use the orange boots on the hind legs for when in the stall
  • Other instructions
    • Please make sure the bucket in the stall has water in it as my horse likes to dunk it’s hay

And my last thought: Don’t do things to create extra work for your barn hand!!! If they are bringing in horses from turnout, don’t put your horse back outside. Sweep up after yourself. Overall just be considerate. They work really hard so you don’t have to, show them that you appreciate it.

 OK I lied, one more though: giving a thank you card with a tip or gift on occasion definitely won’t hurt the situation!

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