Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all of the options available regarding what exactly to feed your horse? Today’s choices and varieties of commercial feeds can make choosing your horse’s diet pretty overwhelming.
There used to be hardly any options when it came to deciding what horses should be eating. If a horse was able to maintain their weight on hay and grass alone, then that is what that horse ate. If, however, a horse could not maintain a healthy weight on horse and grass, one of the only choices available was to add oats to their diet. Now, with all the different feed companies, there are many more options for feeding horses that may need more than just grass and hay.
The first thing to keep in mind regarding horse feed is that there is no right way to feed a horse. Horses are like people in the fact that each horse has different needs in terms of energy sources and calories. But unlike people, horses are herbivores and have a unique digestive tract that is very different than ours. Their long digestive system requires specific dietary needs- a high fiber diet consumed in many small amounts throughout the day. In addition, feeding your horse depends on a the horse’s age, activity level, your budget and any medical issues the horse may have. It is recommended that a horse’s diet contain no less than 1% of body weight of roughage (hay, pasture, etc). For example, a 1,100 pound horse requires at least 11 pounds of roughage.
When we think of a horse’s natural diet, we know it should consist of pasture grass and tender plants. Pasture, when well maintained, contains almost all of the nutrition that a horse needs in order to maintain a healthy weight. Pasture also contains silica, which is essential for a horse’s dental health. Unfortunately many people don’t have the ability to let our horses graze on good pasture all year round, so when grass isn’t available, alfalfa hay is the next best option. The color of hay is an important indicator of its quality and nutrient content – good hay is bright green.
If pasture and hay aren’t always available, concentrates are where we turn next. Commercially prepared foods such as small cereal grains such like oats, barley and corn continue to be commercially available, but now many feed companies produce various specialty-feed options that are all nutritionally balanced for different types of horses. These food options are convenient, but keep in mind that they spoil more quickly than a natural whole food grain. It has been found that cereal grains don’t contain a balanced nutrient profile, so they should be paired with additional fortification for the health and longevity of a performance horse. This could be beet pulp, oil or another fat supplement. Additionally, cereal grains are high in starch, and many horses’ digestive systems simply don’t cope well with large starchy meals.
In terms of amount of feed, we have found this chart from Pennsylvania State University to be extremely helpful in deciding the correct amount to feed your particular horse.
|Light (1-2 hrs./day)
||1-3 lbs (1-1.5 lbs grain/hr. of work)
|Medium (2-4 hrs. /day)
||3-8 lbs (1.5-2 lbs. grain/hr. of work)
|Heavy (4 or more hrs/day)
||5-10 lbs (1.5-2.5 lbs. grain/hr. of work)
Most people like to give their horses treats, such as apples, carrots, handfuls of grain, sugar cubes or candies. Treats are fine, but they do need to be considered as part of the overall feeding plan and kept to a minimum, especially if your horse needs to watch its weight. Also be careful of feeding your horse meat and sugar, as they may cause discomfort to your horse’s stomach.
No matter what you decide is the best feed for your horse, it is important to not overfeed or underfeed your horse. Overfeeding can lead to obesity or digestive issues such as colic, while underfeeding can be detrimental, especially for senior horses or horses with high activity levels. It is also important to remember to provide lots of clean water to your horse, especially to those who eat primarily hay.
If you were to ask 100 people- from veterinarians to trainers- about the best treatment for deworming horses, you will most likely receive a plethora of differing responses.
How to deworm horses is a topic that has had many opposing recommendations over the years. Before we get into deworming horses, let’s first discuss the issue of worms. Horses are grazing animals; parasites- such as tapeworm, roundworm and strongyles- are part of a normal population of organisms that live in the intestines of all grazing animals.
Many years ago, before horses became domesticated, horses and parasites got along just fine. Horses developed an immune response in their intestinal lining to help keep the parasites under control, and there were hardly any parasite issues. However, when people came along and began to put horses in fenced-in pastures or small areas, there was nowhere for the horses or worms to go and so the worms all piled up in the small areas and became a much bigger problem to horses.
When these problems started to occur, deworming medications became more and more popular and many vets recommended that horses be given medications every two months, with different dewormer medications offered to make sure the horse was protected against all types of potentially damaging internal parasites.
The four most common types of internal parasites that they were protecting against are:
- Strongyles (blood or red worms)
- Ascarids (roundworms)
- Tapeworms, and
- Bots (flies)
We now know that each species of parasite affects a horse in its own way. The “traditional” approach to deworming, whereby all horses are treated every 2 months or so, was designed in the 1960’s. This program was designed to specifically target a parasite called Strongylus vulgaris, a type of parasite called a large strongyle, which at the time caused horses significant problems. Thankfully, the program pretty much worked; Strongylus vulgaris is now a rare parasite and is practically irrelevant in managed horses.
However, as a result of horses getting so many medications to deworm and protect them, there is now a worm population that is becoming increasingly resistant to all of the useful deworming agents. Therefore, the old rules about deworming have changed due to this drug resistance, and the every two month treatment is outdated. The goal previously was to rid your horse of all parasites- but we now know that that is impossible, and so the current thinking is to simply limit parasite infections, rather than rid of them completely, so that horses remain healthy.
It is now common knowledge that horses under the age of 3 are more susceptible to parasite infections than older horses, and should therefore be treated more often than older horses. Older horses, on the other hand, should be treated as individuals and not all on the same routine. The current recommendation is that they receive only one or two treatments per year, depending on the climate where the horse lives and whether the horse lives with other horses. If a horse lives alone or in a stable, the frequency of treatments would be less than for a horse who lives with other horses.
A quick internet search will show many cost effective dewormer pastes, gels and pellets. Depending on your horse’s age and living conditions, you can work with your vet on the best dewormer program to keep your horse safe. Along with the medical treatment, it is also essential to conduct fecal exams to test your deworming program’s effectiveness, and to consistently clean up manure to control the horse’s environment.
You can track deworming, fecal counts, and other health events and procedures, in Stable Secretary.
Dear Stable Secretary user,
Welcome to the first edition of the Stable Secretary Newsletter. Our newsletters will notify you of software updates, share tutorials, and point out other resources to help you manage your barn easily and effectively. Enjoy!
Referral Program: Refer someone to Stable Secretary and get money back!
Receive a $25 credit if a new user enters your name in the Referral space when they purchase a new subscription! (Please visit the Referral Page for more details.)
New Products and Features:
- Check out our other products and plans. You may be eligible for savings!
- Give your employees (and owners, if you want) access to your Stable Secretary account. You can control what they can see and do, and it will ease communication and record keeping.
- Keep track of your Competitions and Results in Stable Secretary! Now, you can track your horses’ and riders’ results at competitions. Feedback is welcome!
- Invite your Service Providers to login to your Stable Secretary account. Give your vet, farrier, and others the ability to view your horses’ health records.
- Coming soon – a Breeding section to track all your breeding records.
Winter circuit survival tips:
It’s that time of year again! Whether you are at WEF, Thermal, Ocala, or any other winter circuit, you are experiencing some form of the madness. Multiple weeks of showing back to back is fantastic, but it is also exhausting. As we are about half-way through the season, we here at Stable Secretary thought it would be an ideal time to compile a list of winter circuit “survival tips” from some of our top show barns across the U.S.
- Pace yourself and your horses for longevity. Don’t show or jump too much just because it’s convenient. You are the advocate for your horses and you need to keep their best interest in the forefront of your mind. Come up with a schedule and stick to it. Different horses have different needs but a good general plan is 2 weeks on, 1 week off. Also try to vary your routine a bit; showing every day is monotonous for both horses and riders. Take advantage of other opportunities on days off from showing. Go for a trail ride or try to find a new place to hack. Use a walker or treadmill if you have one available to help keep your horses in peak fitness.
- Involve a team of your vet, farrier, and body work person. It is a good idea to get a baseline vet check before circuit begins so you know your horse’s condition and comfort level before kicking it into high gear. Then have your vet come back mid-circuit to assess how your horse is holding up to the high demands of multi-week showing. This will help you stay ahead of potential problems, and correct them right away if they do appear. Of course if you notice any potential problems at any time during circuit, don’t hesitate to call your vet right away. Know your horses and trust your instincts; if something doesn’t feel right, it can never hurt to take a closer look.
- Debbie Stephens suggests creating a “show book.” Either create a binder for every show that you go to, or be sure to scan important documents and upload them to Stable Secretary. Include a photocopy of your entries, as well as the mailing receipt (Debbie recommends using FedEx or a similar service that offers tracking). Or, if you submit your entries online, be sure to print or save the confirmation page . Lost entries are something you should be prepared for. Also, keep a copy of the prizelist so that you always know where it is for easy reference. Then upload and/or assemble all documents that you will need for your trip, travel confirmations, hotel reservations, horse health paperwork, coggins, etc. It can be very easy to lose track of these documents, especially when you are busy showing over such a long period of time. It helps to have everything in one accessible place.
- One of the toughest parts about the winter circuit is that many farms have horses stabled on the showgrounds as well as at a farm nearby. When you are competing in one location for so long, it can be fantastic to have a home base where your horses can relax, enjoy being turned out, and take a break from the hectic horse show life. However, Havens Schatt reminds us how crucial communication between all members of your team is during this time. When you have horses in multiple locations, frequently traveling back and forth with their tack and supplies, it is easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. It is important that your team works together and communicates well. Looking for things, or trying to figure out what has or has not been done, wastes valuable time that is far too precious during this busy time of year.
- “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Remember to thank your valuable team members! Trainers, assistants, barn managers, and grooms keep the show running. Make an effort to say thank you and you’re welcome, even when things start to get tough and everyone is tired at the end of the circuit. A little bit of appreciation goes a long way.
- Take care of yourself. The winter circuit is hard on people too! Make sure you are eating properly, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. It is far too easy to burn yourself out before circuit is over by ignoring your basic needs. Many people spend so much time making sure their horses can perform at their best, but forget to do the same for themselves. You owe it to your horses to keep yourself in top condition as well.
- Use Stable Secretary to keep all of your horses’ records with you while traveling. It can be invaluable to have this information available when the unexpected happens (as it often does with horses). But when all of your horses’ records are available from any phone, tablet, or computer, it makes a difficult situation much more manageable!
- Pace yourself and remember to have fun! After all, we ride and show because we love it, so when circuit gets crazy, it’s important to remember to take a step back and remind yourself to enjoy it.
Straight from the Experts: Sage Clarke
We had the opportunity to speak to West Coast farrier, Sage Clarke, about his career and all of the knowledge he has acquired along the way. As a 5th generation horseman, Sage started as an assistant at the young age of 12. By the time he was 16, Sage was very serious about his work and started to take the necessary steps to bring him the success he has today of working on top hunter/jumper performance horses. Because of his skill level, Sage has been asked to travel all over the world to work on some of these top athletes. Sage was kind enough to answer some questions for us:
Stable Secretary– Do you have any mentors or teachers? What was so important about them?
SC– I have several mentors, but a few of the main mentors are my uncle, Allen Clarke, and fellow farrier, Tom Reed. Allen taught me about thinking outside the box and how to always see the good and bad side of things. Tom taught me how to be safe and how to run a good business. He taught me how to treat it like a real business, not just ‘shoeing horses’. He emphasized the importance of book keeping, customer service, and dealing with vets.
Stable Secretary– Now for some basics, how long do you recommend between farrier visits?
SC – It varies depending on the situation, but generally I would say for show horses, 5 weeks is a good average amount of time.
Pleasure horses can be a bit different and really depends on the farrier. The longer amount of time that passes, you will lose your angles, but If you can get correct angles from the start, it will make the job last longer. Remember, horses always look good for the first couple of weeks
Stable Secretary – How do the seasons affect horses’ hooves?
SC – Quite a bit. It really depends on what area of the country you are in and the amount of moisture that you get. The moisture really affects the growth rate.
Generally, they glow slower in the winter months. During this time you need to be more pro active about thrush and also risk of abscesses also increases.
Stable Secretary– Do you have any major tips that you give horse owners for their horses to have healthy feet?
SC – Pay your horse shoer on time. I’m serious! How you show your appreciation to your farrier is by paying them, and ultimately, they are the ones that can keep your horses feet healthy.
Stable Secretary – Are there any dietary tips that you have regarding hoof health?
SC – Best results I have seen are by giving horse biotin based products.
There are a lot of supplements out there that have extra stuff that they don’t really need, but biotin is really what is important for the feet. There are companies that you can in your horses’ blood and they will tell you if there are any other deficiencies that might be affecting the health of the hooves.
Stable Secretary – If you could give horse owners one piece of advice about their horses in general, what would it be?
SC -Be pro active about treating an ailment with a horse. Use the best veterinary and farrier services possible. By trying to save money in these areas is it likely to cost more time and money in the long run.
Stable Secretary – “Story Time”! What is the worst thing that you have seen regarding a horses’ farrier situation?
SC – When I was younger, I saw a photo of a hoof stand sticking out of a horse’s belly. This stuck with me forever and this is why I make sure to always keep sharp objects away from the horses that I am working on. Even if it is more convenient to keep these sharp tools close by, it is always better to keep the horses safe.
Stable Secretary – What is your best story of working on horses?
SC – Rich Fellers came up to me and asked me to shoe 4 horses for him. I walked to the barn and asked who he wanted me to start with and he said Flexible. I was incredibly excited. That horse is a legend!
Visit our Support Page for Tutorial Videos, FAQ, and more!
Did you know that our Support Page has videos and written instructions to help you use all of Stable Secretary’s features!
- Use the Mobile App all day every day. It’s so easy to add health and service records while they happen, so you don’t forget to do it later. (view video)
- Print or email our Reports before a Vet or Farrier appointment, or use them to see who needs a Coggins. (view video)
- Add health records to multiple horses at a time. It’s quick and easy to use the Add Health Record form online to enter multiple vaccinations, wormings, shoeings, and more. (view video) .
- Add team members to make communication easier in your Stable. (view video)
- Look at our Resources page to find proven and recommended vendors and service providers to help you with the needs of your Stable.
|I received a wide range of responses when I asked some Stable Secretary users how they deworm their horses. Many barns deworm all of their horses every 6 to 8 weeks, rotating between different dewormer medications each time. It is common for people on the show circuit give a Panacur Power Pak to horses that look a little questionable (not shiny enough, not fat enough, etc). Some users have their veterinarian test a fecal sample from each horse for worms every 3 months, and then they treat any infected horses with the targeted deworming medication. A few people add deworming powder medication to their horses’ daily feed to try to prevent worm infestations; others add garlic to the daily feed to control flies and worms. Everyone seems to do it differently – what is the right way?
Keep your horses healthy and shiny!
Even though I’ve worked in barns for many years, I didn’t feel like I really knew much about worms and proper deworming practices. I decided it was time for me to get some facts about this (gross) issue.
Through a little bit of (disgusting) research about worms and horses, I learned that:
|I asked several Stable Secretary users who are respected and successful barn managers and trainers to tell me what they think are the most important elements to keeping their horses sound. Their answers were remarkably consistent. Every person cited the importance of factors such as:
– good footing;
– a proper and consistent fitness program;
– good nutrition;
– a team of experienced people caring for each horse.
Amanda Steege, a top hunter/jumper trainer based in Bedminster NJ and Ocala FL, keeps her horses sound by providing them with good nutrition, consistent exercise, and a team of people to keep them healthy and going well. She says, “Horses are a lot like human athletes – if you put the best feed, supplements, and medications into them, the sounder and healthier they will be. Instituting a good consistent exercise program for your horse will make him strong and well-muscled, which will prevent injuries and also make it easier for him to do his job in the ring. Having a great team of specialists (farriers, vets, grooms, trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists, and others) makes it possible to notice weaknesses before they turn into injuries. I have had many experiences where my chiropractor or massage therapist has found a potential problem with a horse, and has notified me to back off a little on that horse’s work while they sort it out. Between their working on the issue, and my taking it easy on the horse’s activities, we have prevented weaknesses from turning into serious injuries.”
Debbie Stephens, a top hunter/jumper trainer from FL, emphasizes how crucial it is to have a top blacksmith, a top sports medicine vet, excellent fitness and nutrition plans, and the best footing to train on. She also remarks, “You need a lot of plain old common sense, too. The rule of thumb that I use with my horses is to always assume the worst scenario possible, and to have plans b, c, and d ready. I never settle for anything but the best care, footing, nutrition, and exercise for my horses.”
Nanci Snyder, a top barn manager, also credits good shoeing, a good fitness program, and excellent footing to keeping her horses sound, besides the important factors of genetics and good luck! Nanci recommends, “Make the best decisions for your horse that your circumstances allow. For professionals, it’s about finding a balance between what is ideal for the horse, and what keeps the business thriving. It is important to create a program and manage your stable down to the smallest detail.”
Stable Secretary would like to extend a heartfelt Thank You to Jennifer Frank of Wyndsor Farm, Annie Dotoli of Tibri Horses, Amanda Steege of Ashmeadow Farm, Debbie Stephens of Centennial Farm Inc., and Nanci Snyder of Mullenders & Wylde, Inc. for sharing their wisdom with us and our readers. Hopefully, your words will help keep more horses sound!
Stable Secretary is barn management software that is designed to make it easier for barn managers and trainers to keep track of the health and service records for the horses in their stable. By keeping equine health records organized, and providing alerts for horse veterinarian and farrier appointments, it contributes to the quest of keeping horses healthy and sound.
For a lot of horses, it’s time to head South for the winter. Sometimes, a long trailer ride from cold weather to hot weather is hard on horses – they can become dehydrated, colicky, and can get shipping fever. I asked a few respected trainers and barn managers how to avoid health problems for their horses when they ship south. Their wise comments are below.
Barn manager from PA: I give them mash and electrolytes and oil.
Trainer from NJ: The night before they travel, we give the horses a mash with lots of mineral oil. The morning of the trailer ride, we give the horses a small meal with some type of stomach medicine like omeprozale powder or gastroguard. I always check the weather for the route, and blanket appropriately. I instruct the driver when to take sheets off.
Trainer from RI: We try not to clip right before. We give the horses a mash with oil for two feedings before. And then I cross my fingers.
Trainer from NY: We give the horses a mash the morning before and the morning of departure, with a little mineral oil. If they are furry, we clip before as it’s bad for them to arrive and be hot – best is to clip 3 weeks or a month prior, then again when they arrive. And we start them on Cavalor Resist C five days before they ship.
Barn manager from MA: We bodyclip at least 2 weeks before the trip (clip before you ship). And we make sure that their fall vaccinations are done well before, 2 to 3 weeks or so. Then we give them mash with mineral oil the night before and the night before that. The morning of the ride, they get half their normal grain with a Gastrogard. Then we figure out what they should wear to depart, and when and where their clothes should come off. We take all of their temperatures upon arrival, and for the next few days.
You have time now to let Stable Secretary manage all of your equine records, so that you can focus on your horses and what you do best.
|Working in the horse industry can be chaotic. Actually, that’s a huge understatement – being on the working side of the horseshow scene is much more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. This horsey lifestyle consumes most hours of every day, most days of every week, and most weeks of every year. You’re packing, unpacking, and repacking all the time. You’re hopping from hotel to restaurant to show – week after week. You’re dealing with the here-and-now while planning for the known and unknowns. Meanwhile, your biggest job is making sure that the horses in your barn are happy and healthy. You’re continually multitasking, and managing your business at home and on-the-go.
||November and December provide, for some, a bit of relief from this busy-busy-busy. After indoors, but before winter circuits start, you may find a few moments to pause. Take advantage of them! Do something for yourself. Whether you go to a spa, go out on the town, curl up by the fire, or exercise, do something that’s just for YOU. Check in with friends and family. Read a book or go to a movie. And consider giving your horses a change of pace, too – turnout and trail rides can keep them fit while giving them a mental and physical break.
Use this time to evaluate the way you run your barn and business. Make fundamental changes to your business like the way you do your equine record keeping. Get started with barn management software Stable Secretary now! With Stable Secretary, you will save tons of time by adding and viewing health records on a mobile app on your phone, or on the web app on a tablet or computer. You will also save time and money by adding and viewing service records on your phone, tablet, or computer. This centralized database of service records makes invoicing easy for your equine business, and you can track payments too! Stable Secretary eliminates the nuisance of mailing multiple day sheets, med sheets, and other expense sheets back and forth with a secretary to create invoices that are often still wrong!
Take time while you can to recharge your batteries. Also, set up Stable Secretary for your equine business to manage all of your equine health and service records, so that you can focus on the most important part: the horses.
In the long run, taking good care of the equipment for your barn and horses will save you time and money.
The basics of daily HORSE care:
Start by investing in products that work well for you and your horse. Wash your re-usable products (like brushes and curry combs) regularly and store them in a dry, covered place. Keep track of your liquid inventory (like shampoos, fly sprays, ointments, and creams) so that you don’t run out.
|Then use these products to groom your horse regularly. While you are bathing and grooming your horse, pay close attention to its body. Is there any heat or swelling anywhere? Is the back more sensitive than usual? Are there any rashes, or is there any hair loss? Know your horses’ bodies as well as you know your own, and address any abnormalities promptly.
Daily Grooming and Inspection
The basics of daily EQUIPMENT care:
||Use products that effectively clean and condition your tack, horse boots, and other equipment. Clean your tack after every use, and check other equipment regularly.
Inspect while you clean. Is the stitching getting frayed on part of the bridle? Is the elastic on the girth starting to tear? Is a bandage getting too thin? Is the Velcro on a boot too weak? Pay close attention to these details and you will prevent accidents from happening, and also save yourself money in the long run.
Keep your other tools and equipment clean and dry. Clean your wheelbarrows and buckets regularly, and replace pitchforks and brooms as they become used-up and ineffective. Keep smaller hardware items like studs, snaps, screw-eyes, and other items clean, organized, and easily accessible. Invest in a shelving or drawer system to stay organized and to keep all of your tools and equipment sheltered.
Keep a health care SCHEDULE!
Some elements of horse care are predictable. You can plan for many routine health events like vaccinations, deworming, dental visits, and shoeing. Put your horses on a regular schedule for those appointments. You can also plan for therapeutic procedures like massage, chiropractor, acupuncture, icing, and performance enhancing procedures like joint injections.
It’s easy to keep track of equine health appointments and dates by using stable management software like Stable Secretary, which also provides you with alerts and reminders. It’s important to record these services and procedures so that you have a complete health history for each of your horses at your fingertips for whenever you need one.
Other basics? Leave a comment with other ideas to keep your horses and your equipment in GREAT condition!
5 Easy Rules for Maintaining Order in your Stable
Whether it’s for turnout, a hand walk, the treadmill, or a ride, your horses should get out of their stalls multiple times a day. Even though it’s good for the horses to get out of the stall often, it can be bad for your aisle – shavings, hay, hair, and dirt get tracked everywhere… Keep your horses healthy AND the barn clean by following some very simple rules:
Rule number 1: Leave the shavings in the stall!
Before you take a horse out of its stall, pick its feet, remove the shavings from its tail, and brush off its blanket. This saves a messy trail to the cross ties!
Rule number 2: Hang up blankets and other equipment properly.
Do not throw a horse blanket on the floor of the stall or leave a halter on the ground. First of all, equipment suffers from exposure to dirt/moisture/manure/urine. Second, you will waste time looking for your blanket or halter while it’s crumpled, dirty, and in the wrong place. Third, it just plain looks messy.
Rule number 3: Publish a schedule.
Especially when you have multiple horses, grooms, and riders, you should display an updated schedule or calendar. That way, your staff and clients know what to expect throughout the day and can organize themselves accordingly.
Rule number 4: Keep track of your activities and your horses’ activities.
You’ll try to remember what happened throughout the day, week, or month, but you’ll forget items unless you have a way to keep track of vet work, shoeing, and billable services. Use barn management software with a mobile app like Stable Secretary to conveniently track horse health and farrier appointments, equine services, and other equine business records. Keeping careful track of each horse every day is very helpful for health reasons, owner questions, and invoicing.
Rule number 5: Organize your barn logically.
Make it easy to access and clean the equipment you use frequently. If possible, arrange your feed room, tack room, laundry room, blanket storage, grooming areas, wash stalls, office, tack trunks, and first aid and medical supplies cabinets in a way that accommodates the work flow of the barn. Always put equipment back CLEAN and in their correct places – it saves time when things are consistently stored in logical places.
What are some other rules-of-thumb to keep your barn organized? Leave a comment to share what works for you in your stable!
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!