Let’s Discuss: Helping the Helpers

Most (but of course not all) of us keep our horses at boarding facilities. So unless you work at a co-op barn, or own your own place, you’ve learned the value of a good barn manager.


I’ve learned over the years that a barn manager can make all the difference in the world, that a so-so facility can be the best option with a good person in charge, and likewise a great place with a poor manager is reason for instantaneous departure.

These good barn managers are worth their weight in gold in my eyes. And the qualities that make them so valuable?

First and foremost, they put the horses first. They are observant, and take the time to notice if something is out of sorts with a horse, whether that be suspicious rolling or a lost shoe. And they communicate- keeping the owner or leaser in the loop and collaborating on details such as nutrition and turnout. They do the absolute best with what they have to create a safe place for the horses, even though that may mean taking on tedious projects and longer hours in return. And all this, often with no extra reward or compensation. Pretty much, they are gator-driving, muck shoveling angels.


[PC: Robyn Van Dyke Photography]

To show appreciation for the hard work that these guys (or gals) put in, I like to try to make things easier for them wherever possible. If smartpaks make life easier, I’ll order smartpaks. I’ll make horse cookies to stuff medication in, so he doesn’t have to wonder if the horse got his meds. I’ll pick out the stall whenever I have time, refill the water, and change blankets when need be. And when helping out isn’t possible, I’ll bring beer as a token of appreciation.

I know I’m not alone, as I see many of my fellow boarders put in these little “favors” to help a good manager out. After all, we all know how lost we would be without them.

What do you do to help barn management? If you own a facility yourself, what do/could your boarders do to help you?

14 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Helping the Helpers

  1. We had a snowtastrophe here, and my barn manager shoveled her way up to my horse’s turnout field through 3 feet of snow, checked on him, updated me a ton, and kept all the other 60 some horses from killing themselves while stuck in the barn without turnout (because it took her and her team time to shovel out all the paddocks).

    That’s so awesome. I appreciate that so much. So, I bought her a bottle of whiskey. I figure she needs it to get feeling to come back into her fingertips at this point…

  2. I always try to do the little things when possible, as you’ve said. I also try to say “thank you” whenever I can, even if it’s just for doing their regular day-to-day, run-of-the-mill job. Sometimes I think a little gratitude and appreciation go a long way!

  3. Our barn has been self-care up until this fall when the owner offered to do stalls and blanketing for a small fee. I jumped on it. But we still help out. We have to do our own grain (unless I want to make up baggies, which is really just as much work as doing our own grain) and meds. We also still do our own stalls on Saturdays. I still blanket Nilla whenever I’m there in the evening. We also pitch in and do some of the feedings for the whole barn when the owner goes on vacation. It’s a small barn, everyone (well except for one person I don’t talk to) pitches in and helps out. We still have to make our own repairs to the stalls (I’ve learned how to dig and cement face post holes) and we have to build our own jumps and buy our own poles. But I love my barn so it’s worth it.

  4. Our barn is self-care, with the option to pay a few folks for cleaning/feeding as needed. I have a lovely lady who cleans and gives supplements for me on my late nights. The supplements are in DIY smartpak-like containers (dump a container, add a scoop of Cosequin, add a dash of Aloe juice). I always clean/feed if I’m unexpectedly there on my usual off-day, and any major sweeping/graveling/shaving cleanup is all on me. She keeps an eye on things during the day and can often fill in gaps in my knowledge: oh yes, my mare WAS getting beat up by her former neighbor on a regular basis! Sigh. But at least then I knew. Totally worth it to have a few extra sets of eyes on the pony.

  5. When I was boarding I would always feed my own horse and blanket him for the night if I was there in the afternoon to ride. Or if I was finishing up when they were bringing horses in to feed I’d help grab horses and give them their grain. I also think just cleaning up after yourself or cleaning someone else’s mess if they’ve forgotten it is really helpful too ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. i like to help out my barn managers by… actually also working there haha. almost every farm i’ve ridden at seriously, i’ve also been a paid staff member. never the official ‘barn manager,’ but essentially the de facto ‘manager on duty’ so the actual BM can get a break.

  7. We don’t have a barn manager, just trainers and the guys who clean/feed/maintain the property.

    Our guys are SO hard working and I feel have way more work then 2 guys should have…. I always pick Henry’s stall out bc I like leaving it clean and it helps them.

    We are on our own for filling waters, blankets and turn out.

    I can’t wait to have my own property so that I’m not paying crazy prices for managing my own horse!!

  8. Anything and everything! I always make sure to offer to help before I leave. The team is short staffed at the moment so the best thing I can do is turn horses out or put them on the walker- there’s a nice hill down to the paddocks and eurosizer so I count it as exercise!

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