Have you ever wondered what it takes to successfully work at a horse barn? Over the past 6 months working under the manager, Debbie Petersen, at Black Diamond Stables, I have learned just how many hats one has to wear to get the job done. I am hoping this blog creates some awareness within the industry as to how much we really owe the individuals that take such great care of boarded horses in order for the owners and boarders to enjoy their horses.
1. First and foremost, we do the work that most owners simply don’t have the desire or resources to do. The stall cleaning, changing dirty water, scrubbing buckets, fence building, hay stacking, and the many other jobs that a few may see as ‘not so fun’ are what pay our bills. What may seem as a dreaded task to many, is a simple normal routine for us that we do on a regular basis, like clockwork subconsciously it seems.
2. We are handymen, or in this case handywomen. Sure, we have real man power from time to time….but in our part of the country where cattle are dominating, it is almost easier to accomplish our own projects as we understand how to do so in a manner that is horse friendly. From fixing vinyl fence from pesky horses playing through the fence, managing electric fence, and changing out damaged hardware, you bet we are friendly with a drill and know the guys at the local hardware store by name.
3. We solve problems and think out of the box on a daily basis. Almost everyday we are posed with a challenge, something so simple as to where we might be able to put horses poses a very challenging dilemma for us this is often unforeseen. New horse in the barn? Sure! Just let me see where we can fit your little mare in….well these horses don’t get along, this owner requested them here, and the list goes on….
4. Organization is our middle name. From making space in a cramped tack room, managing records on 40+ horses, planning out chores for time management, and overseeing a small crew of employees, we are familiar with making sacrifices, finding deals, and utilizing resources.
5. We have horses as our therapy and are therapists ourselves. We work with horses because we don’t always handle people as well as we should. In return, our boarders have horses for the very same reason. We are your support system. We cry with you, laugh with you, share the same frustrations, and even the same goals. We know when you come to the barn to get away from the real world or the stresses from home, or we travel the same journey with you when a horse is hurt and lame. As a team, we provide the very best for your horse. Even though we are paid to take care of your four legged friend, we ultimately end up caring for you as well.
6. We are vets. Just kidding. Importantly, we are not and you need to know that. We will do our best to help you care for your horse and offer you amateur insight, but in most matters it is important to seek the professional advice from a vet. After all, they are the ones that paid the big bucks to go to school. Going hand in hand, we are not farriers either. But we do have an arsenal of basic horse first aid to help you and are familiar with several vets and farriers that will help you more than we can.
7. We could be meteorologists. We know when there is a chance of rain, how significant of a chance, the highs and the lows for the days, etc. This is intriguingly important as to know when to leave horses out long enough to get turn out, but to bring them in before we get rained on, know how many layers to wear to the barn that day, or know if it will be nice out enough to anticipate arena traffic.
8. Groundskeeper could be our maiden name. Coordinating mowing, weed eating, watering and dragging the arena, and pasture maintenance is no small feat. After all, the place wouldn’t look as good as it did without all the elbow grease behind it. Not only for curb appeal, but also for weed management, equine health, and safety.
9. We are thrifty shoppers. Running a barn is no small financial endeavor. We know how to prioritize needs or projects, have a run down of what items cost, know what sales are going on and when, and know where brands of feed are cheapest. We take special care of the pennies that you pay us so that we can continue to earn your pennies, your respect, happiness and friendship. We are here for you.
10. We are most importantly babysitters. Your horses are under our care to be fed, taken care of, loved, and well managed. We know your horses inside and out and can recognize when they may not be feeling well, when they are frisky and when to watch our toes, and when they are sick or hurt and require monitoring for an efficient recovery. But going along with this, we also watch out for you. You may have seeked out a boarding barn for arena access, to know that you will have someone close by in case something were to happen, or to be in an organized environment to learn more if you are a new horse owner. A boarding barn is the perfect place to accomplish all of these needs.
This is a collaboration of ten important roles that barn managers are familiar with. There are many more out there and each and every one are significant. After shadowing a barn manager for the past 6 months, I have truly learned and experienced what running a full fledged facility is really like. I hope that I can do half as good of a job as she has.
Part of this blog was created as an assignment to myself. I would have loved to have a job working with horses all day, everyday. But with the real world and ‘growing up’ on the doorstep I have had to really think about what I want in life and if working in a horse barn was another phase that most horse crazy girls grow out of, or if I could justify holding a position of the like with a four year college degree. As you can see, I have justified the job as more than just shoveling poop, and for that I am grateful.