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10 Things Your Barn Worker Wants You to Know

Here's how to help out the people who care for your boarded horse.

By Patrice Bucciarelli | June 17, 2014

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Horse in BarnBarn workers are paid to keep stalls clean and horses fed and turned out. Yet without much fanfare, boarding barn workers often do much more. Even so, owners sometimes ignore their own roles in helping barn staff help their horses.

Suzette Waldron, one of five staffers who care for 25 horses at the Parrish Equestrian Center in Florida, believes that looking out for a horse's best interest is a cooperative job.

So here's what Waldron wants owners to know:

  1. Your horse needs you. Owners whose horses are boarded on a full care plan often pay barn staff to perform a range of tasks from bathing and grooming to fetching a horse from its pasture before a ride. As a result, barn workers sometimes spend more time with a a horse than its owner does. That's why Waldron says it is critical for owners to spend as much time with their equines as possible.

    "You shouldn't just ride your horse and put him back in his stall or pasture, without entering his world,” Waldron says. "Even if you just get in the stall an talk to him or go into the pasture and watch him graze; it's all quality time to the horse.”

  2. Assume we're trustworthy. Generally, barn workers take their jobs seriously, and most have at least a working knowledge of horses and their care. As a result, owners should count on barn staff to make day-to-day decisions about certain situations such as foul weather turn outs or the use of routine items such as fly spray.

    "Everything I do is for the care of the horse,” Waldron says. "It's always helpful when owners trust me to make the right decisions about simple things.”

  3. Communicate through the proper channels. Owners frequently have special instructions about feeding, the use of supplements, and veterinary and farrier care. Those instructions be discussed with the barn owners who will pass owners' directives down to the barn staff. Going through channels is crucial to ensure that the message is heard by all, Waldron says. She also recommends putting special instructions in writing.

    "The more back-up information we have, the better it is for the horses,” Waldron says.

  4. Replenish materials when we ask. Even under full care plans, owners may be expected to provide feed supplements, fly spray and other consumable items. Barn staffers often let owners know when those items should be replenished. Horses miss out when their owners don't replace consumables in a timely manner

    "It's even better if they replenish those items before we have to ask for them, ” Waldron says.

  5. Listen to what we say. Barn workers are often the first ones to notice changes in a horse's movement or routine behavior. So it's important that owners listen to barn workers when they notice small changes in a horse acts or moves.

    "We spend a lot of time with your horse and we know what's usual and what's not,” Waldon says. "Whether or not you act on what we say is up to you, but please listen to us.”

  6. Barn StaffTake our advice. Barn workers may suggest changing the location of a horse's paddock or exchanging one pasture buddy for another. Waldron says the changes are always made to benefit the horse, and owners should should take the advice of barn staff in matters such as these.

    "Owners should always ask us if they have questions,” Waldron says.

  7. Don't assume we are not knowledgeable. According to Waldron, some owners assume that barn workers have little or no horse care knowledge. Generally, that is far from the case, she says. Instead owners should keep in mind that most barn workers are experienced horse handlers, who can assist veterinarians, farriers and equine dentists when owners are not present.

    "People don't take these jobs [if] they hate horses or don't know horses,” Waldron says.

  8. Don't jump to judgment. Boarding barns are sometimes rife with owner gossip, and frequently the tales revolve around horse care. Waldron recommends that owners judge their horse's care objectively.

    "Judge your horse's care by the way the horse looks and acts, and not what you hear from others, ” Waldron says.

  9. Ask for help when you need it. Whether they're fitting new equipment or trying out a new grooming tool, owners need an extra pair of hands from time to time. Barn workers are generally happy to help whenever owners ask, Waldron says.

    "Basically we're here to take care of the horses, but we are here to take care of owners, too,” Waldron says.

  10. Say Thank You. Most barn staffers do their jobs because they love horses. Still, acknowledgment from owners goes a long way.

    "Barn staff is generally doing the lowest jobs there are,” Waldron says, "Just just saying 'Thanks' means a horse owner has noticed the staff's hard work.”

Liked this article? Here's more on getting the most out of boarding your horse.
Find Ideal Living Arrangements for Your Horse
10 Ways to Be a Better Boarder

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Reader Comments

Helen    Muscatine, IA

11/17/2014 11:04:38 AM

Your horse knows your barn workers better than he/she know their owner. Your barn worker feels real affection for your horse and puts massive effort into your horses health and comfort. When you don't come out all winter because you are cold or busy, your horse looks to your barn worker for their every need including affection. Please remember that when you horse is difficult to catch or won't behave for you, he may not recognize you. They see us every day throughout the day - not just a hour here and there.

I am always stunned by the owner that assumes the horse feels about them like they feel about beloved Aunt Sally they see once a year at the holidays. Horses do not feel the same way humans do. They see us as their humans by and large. You are just the person that shows up with carrots twice a week. Or works the snot out of them once a month and leaves them hot and dirty in the stall for the barn worker to deal with.

Lastly, sometimes things go wrong. When you are not here every day, you do not know that the tractor has been in the shop for 3 weeks, the broom snapped a hour before you got here and that your horse JUST drained their water bucket. We do the best we can with what we have, If something is wrong, it probably won't be "wrong" next time you come out.

lisa    cheshire, OR

11/3/2014 7:29:56 PM

Bless you for speaking out...the horses cannot.

Barn Worker    Boston, MA

11/2/2014 3:18:08 PM

As a barn worker, the first and last ones on this list are definitely my favorites. I am a "barn worker" and love each and every one of the 20 horses we have at our barn. And I mean that, truly. I love them all and really, truly, do care about their health and happiness. Even when I'm not working, I worry about them. I put in the extra effort in absolutely EVERY aspect of barn work. Most of what I do goes unnoticed, which is fine with me because I do what I do for the love of your horse(s), but a simple "thank you" goes a REALLY long way with me... so don't forget to spend time with your horse(s) and thank us barn workers for caring for your "children" when you can't be there... we do a lot more than you think we do. :)

Ellen    salinas, CA

6/20/2014 12:16:09 PM

Is this the real world you write of? The only person who has taken care and looked out for my horse is ME!
My horse can be sick or colicing, and NO ONE notices.

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