The Least Desirable Job in Horses

On the plane back to home, I was dreaming up interesting topics to ponder on this blogspace.

As a kid, I would have happily lived at the barn for free. Of course, this was before the acknowledgment that all my food, clothing, and time costs money. I still might live at the barn, but I would also need to be able to afford toilet paper, pringles… the necessities.

This train of thought, what I would and would not be willing to do as an adult, pushed me into thinking, is there any paying job related to horses I had no interest in due to the nature of the work?

I am a flexible and amiable person enough to see merit in most horse-related jobs. Farriers have a deep importance, vets are a trusted resource, massage therapists encounter dedicated horse owners, barn managers care deeply for their herd, show officials create these fabulous events….

The one I was actually stumped on was a trainer.

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The brilliant Charlotte Dujardin; Photo by Allie Conrad.

To me, nothing sounds better than riding horses and getting to teach interested students. That aspect of the job creates community, and positions you to watch progression. Notwithstanding difficult clients (of which, there are a number in this industry), I could jive with this part of the job.

What I think would be hard is selling horses for profit. It carries a lot of risk – financial and reputational. The people you are selling to are often your competitors (fellow trainers). It’s a people business, but also one that feeds on gossip.

I think the stress of pushing horses out the door would get to me, as I am a softie that builds connections with each of these animals.

I will be the first to recognize many trainers look out for their sale horses welfare in such a way that commands deep admiration. But, to do this requires extra effort and honesty. And you have to be, at times, willing and capable of taking a loss.

What do you think is the least desirable job in the horse industry?

What Makes a Good Barn Manager?

Though my job does not involve horses, it is pretty heavy on management. Organizing people, activities, thinking future, and making sure everyone is happy. Managing a barn is a quasi-dream of mine, but I fully recognize it is a challenging undertaking.

There are many types of “barn managers”. At my new barn, each trainer that leases space at this facility runs their own barn and then there is overall facility maintenance, which is probably nice for the type of trainer that wants to focus on their clients and horses.

Other barns I have ridden out of had one true barn manager, in charge of ordering hay, fixing fences, putting blankets on Dobbin, and billing boarders. She/he is a jack of all trades (and master of MANY).

Spend enough time in the horse industry, you see a share of good and bad barn managers. I’ve been blessed that, to the large majority, I’ve met mostly good ones.

Though in my recent experiences, I have elected not to ride at a place because the barn manager rubbed me the wrong way. It is probably an underrated and thankless role at times, one that rarely gets praise when everything is running smoothly and gets a lot of flack when things go wrong.

But their responsibilities are so important to the success of the business, environment, and health of horses and humans alike.

In my estimation, a good manager is made of many parts.

  • Sense of humor
    • Required. Horse people are crazy, and there are times when you have to laugh of the day.
  • Compassion
    • These animals need our eyes looking after them, and who better to watch over and care for them then someone who sees them on a daily basis? If you think about it, your barn manager sees your horse more than you do and will be the first many times to know something is wrong.
  • Detail-Oriented
    • Especially given the size of some facilities, it helps to remember all the intricacies of each member.
  • Authoritative
    • There is a fine line between too harsh and being a push-over. This is a challenging road to walk, especially if there is a staff of people to oversee and rogue boarders to deal with. Barns need rules for the safety of all, and someone needs to enforce them equally.
  • Energetic
    • Barns tend to deteriorate at a shocking rate, and horses get themselves into trouble. Someone needs to not give up on fixing things and putting it all back together.

My favorite barn manager also happened to be a life role model. A mix of people-person, thoughtful, and flexible. I say here, here to all our wonderful barn managers out there.

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What are your favorite qualities in a barn manager?

5 Things I Need in a Barn

I am in the midst of the longest period without riding in the last 6 years. It’s weird – a part of me is deeply sad but I’d be lying by omission if I did not say that another part of me is relieved. Trying to ride while also figuring out how to move would have brought new meaning to insanity.

I have been attending horse-related events (see Polo match) and checking the horse blogs that I follow on the daily. Not to mention scouring Instagram for Pony Finals related posts and pictures and videos from my old barnmates.

I am ready to find a new social circle of confidantes to whom I can outpour all of my thoughts and theories. While I am sure my “normal” friends would not mind hearing this type of conversation, I try not to burden anyone with my theories on Kent Farrington’s success or how much I love Beezie Madden.

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Photo credit to Phelps Sports. Also, Kent is from my hometown so clearly we were both destined for greatness (HA).

In the meantime, I get to lurk places in my new city.

As I get to gather intelligence about a new barn, I am narrowing down my results. What better way than to organize a wish list?

My Barn Requirements

  1. Horses are happy, well-fed, and do not have any appearances of environment-induced stress.
    • Every horse is different and can react differently to a given setting. Outliers should not be considered the average. But there should be few outliers.
    • Anecdotally, I’ve always found horses who get regular turnout with friends seem the least anxious and have fewer health and soundness related issues.
  2. A knowledgeable person (or people) who is (are) regularly onsite.
    • Horses can get into things and oftentimes need our assistance.
  3. A welcoming and supportive community of horse-lovers.
    • Notice, I do not include competitors. I do not care if you regularly attend shows, but I do care if you create conflict for entertainment. Those who thrive on mean-spirited gossip can be toxic.
    • If someone is being dangerous to themselves, their horse, or others, I try to maturely and calmly communicate with that Luckily, I have not had to do that to a fellow adult, but I have talked to children before.
  4. Stables that are functional and not falling apart.
    1. I have had good fortune of riding out of mind-boggling facilities, ones that likely cost as much to build as I will earn in my lifetime. Crazy as it may seem, I almost dislike riding at these facilities. To me, it’s so far removed from where I began in the sport, and it becomes more about opulence than the animal.
    2. That said, it is equally uncomfortable to be somewhere where I worry of structural failure.
    3. An indoor, outdoor, decent footing, comfortably-sized turnouts and stalls. That’s all I need. Leave the kitchen facilities, air conditioning, euro-walker, and free wifi for someone who will appreciate them.
  5. Access to good-value lessons.
    • There is so much to learn, and I prefer someone on the ground for safety if I am jumping. I do not hesitate to pay handsomely if I feel as though the education received is equivalent. But I would also need a person that respects my budget – the higher the cost of lessons, the fewer I am able to take.
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I am cool with just touring Heritage Farm one day though… Photo Credit to James Courdes.

What a nice number five is. I did not set out to create five, but I think that’s all of my necessities. Although surely I am forgetting something.

Nice to haves include proximity to other life activities (ha, I’ve never gotten this as an urbanite), wash stalls, horse-involved facility owner, and smaller in size.