When you manage a barn and care for horses, you have to “expect the unexpected”. You never know when you might have to wait for a farrier, vet, client, or shipper; stay late to monitor a sick horse; or take some time to chat with a staff member or client. Anything’s possible. Having good systems in place means that you’ll get your tasks done efficiently without sacrificing quality, even when your day has unexpected interruptions.
Barn chores happen every day, multiple times a day. Save time and frustration by working out a good system to do them well – stalls, sweep, water, dust! Instilling habits in your barn management routine makes you a better horseman, lets the day run smoothly, and keeps your workspace looking good!
Prepare feed in advance. If you can, invest in two 8 quart stackable buckets for each horse. Label each one with a horse’s name followed by AM or PM. Some people use yellow buckets for AM grain, and blue buckets for PM grain to make the time of day clear and prevent any confusion during feeding time, which is especially important when medication is involved. With 2 buckets per horse, you (or your staff) can make your horses’ AM and PM meals at the same time – opening all of the grain bins, supplement tins, and medication bottles only once per day saves time. Carve out a chunk of time early in the morning to make all of the meals, because fewer distractions make it less likely that you’ll overlook a medication or supplement. It’s also best to complete this chore in the morning so that if you have to soak any feeds like bran, beet pulp, or hay cubes, they have time to absorb all the water.
When making grain, you might have to refer to a feed list. You can use barn management software like Stable Secretary to make it easy to update and for everyone to access. Stable Secretary is especially convenient because it has a mobile app so your horse information can travel with you everywhere you go! Note that it’s good to keep careful medications records, both for complete health record keeping and for invoicing purposes.
Be smart about chores. “Barn chores” constitute basic horse care throughout the day: feeding, cleaning stalls, cleaning and refilling water buckets, and cleaning up the barn. Figure out a good system to do them effectively and efficiently.
Observing your horses is essential. Start the day by walking down the barn aisle and watching the horses as they wake up – make sure they look alert and healthy.
Give your horses some hay first to get their digestive juices flowing before you hit their stomachs with grain. As you feed hay, do another quick visual check of each horse and its stall – does each horse react normally to getting hay? does the stall look normal? is there normal manure in the stall? did they drink a normal amount of water? Then give grain (which you’ve hopefully prepared in advance). Check for anything left in a feed tub from the night before because sometimes horses leave medications or food that can spoil or attract bugs.
Muck the stalls in an orderly way. You’ll need at least a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, and a broom. Check that each stall seems normal for its equine resident with regard to manure and urine, and messiness or tidiness. Clean up after each stall –sweep off shavings and dust from ledges, and pick up any mess around your wheelbarrow.
Scrub, dump, and refill the water buckets. As you go, check to make sure each horse has consumed a normal amount of water overnight. Never leave a horse without water for an extended period of time – once you’ve scrubbed and dumped the bucket, it should be refilled with clean water ASAP.
Thoroughly clean up the aisle with whatever tool works best for you, whether it’s a broom, blower, or rake, to get rid of any dirt, manure, dust, or shavings that your chores stirred up. Go the extra mile every day and clean off ledges, blanket boxes, and shelves while you’re at it – it will save you time and preserve your equipment for the long run.
Certainly there are many ways to approach these basic chores… Please leave a comment with your tips and tricks for doing chores efficiently and well!
There is always something to do in a barn. Whether you’re the trainer, the barn manager, the groom, or the rider, you can always keep working… Between keeping the barn and horses clean, maintaining your property, calling clients, vendors, vets and farriers, organizing day sheets and vet records and receipts – the list is literally endless. Continually working long-hours takes its toll on you physically and emotionally and also affects your coworkers, your horses, and other important relationships. It seems like the horse industry is often tough on its people – it can feel like being successful requires you to sacrifice your entire life… Stress and burnout causes a high turnover rate for barn staff – you may feel like you’re never able to get any time to yourself because you’re always at the barn, or with people from the barn!
||Is this what you look like at the end of every day? Check out our 3 suggested ways to save time and resources at the barn without sacrificing horse care!
1. Be Efficient: Use a System for Everyday Tasks
In my mind, a good system represents an efficient way to do something without sacrificing quality. Systems are especially effective when you incorporate reminders, tools, and delegation of tasks. You can have a system for almost everything at the barn: daily chores; keeping track of the shoeing schedule; handling turnout; keeping records of lessons and other services you provide, or of medical or therapeutic appointments for your horses? A good system can save you time and resources without sacrificing quality.
Having a system can benefit even the simplest chores. For example, I sweep before I water if I’m using a hose in a barn aisle. This prevents the hose from getting dirty and needing to be cleaned before rolling it up, so it saves me time and energy. Also, if I have to change the course in the ring, I design the course, drag the ring, organize helpers, and use the truck to get the job done well and quickly. To save time, money, and stress in managing my equine business, I use barn management software called Stable Secretary (http://stablesecretary.com) to keep track of all the health records, service records, and client and invoicing info for my stable. The Stable Secretary mobile app makes it convenient and easy for me to record events and get reminders on my smart phone throughout the day so that I don’t have to try to remember what happened at the end of the day, week, or month. Look at the Customer Testimonials at Stable Secretary to see how it helps others!
2. Make a Schedule: Create Routines for Repeated Tasks
Incorporate these systems into a routine. Include daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual tasks. Find a logical time/day/week/season for every task, and stick to your schedule. Set up reminders for these tasks with alerts from barn management software like Stable Secretary to remind you of upcoming health appointments for your horses or Coggins, passport, and FEI renewal dates, and other important equine logistics. Scheduling tasks enables you to relax a bit because you know that things will get done… Barn management software like Stable Secretary relieves you from trying to manage all of that stuff in your head, and from keeping track of a lot of messy (and sometimes unreliable) post-it notes!
3. Delegate: Ask for Help, and Pick Helpers Wisely
Choose the best person to handle each task in your system or routine. For example, if one of your employees used to work at the Gap and loves to be neat and organized, then maybe he/she should be in charge of folding the laundry and making sure the aisle and tack room are tidy! Or, if one of your employees is a body builder, then maybe he/she should move the heavy jumps in the ring! Also, remember that you are only human and that it’s okay to receive help and ask questions! Ask your staff, peers, and coworkers when you need advice or help with different aspects of your job. Whether it’s finding or using new barn management software, fixing a difficult lead change, dealing with a spooky horse or a difficult vendor/client, or figuring out a good system for daily chores, utilize ALL of your resources ALL of the time!
What systems do you have? How do you save time without sacrificing quality? Please leave a comment and share what works for you!