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!
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