For those of us who are lucky enough to board at a great facility, it’s easy to take for granted all the things that go into our horses’ care.
I have always been adamant that I want enough property to have my horses in my backyard. Truthfully, I want enough property to have my horses, a barn, lush pastures and an arena in my backyard (but doesn’t everyone)? Until such a time as that is possible, I board my horse.
There are plenty of downsides to boarding, not the least of which is the drive to and from the barn and the inability to have complete control over the care of my horse. However, there is a lot I take for granted by having my horse at a facility where I pay someone else to take care of most of her daily care.
Under normal circumstances, I am well aware of how lucky I am to be at a boarding barn with a knowledgeable manager and plenty of pasture on which my horse can graze. However, the barn manager has been out of commission recently, which means a small group of us boarders have stepped up to help out with the daily responsibilities.
Although I enjoy the regular interaction with the horses and having a more active role in my horse’s care, the added responsibility really drives home how much is done for my horse (by someone other than me) on a regular basis.
Here are 5 things I’ve realized I take for granted by boarding my horse:
1. The horses have the food and supplements they need. Whether it’s making sure that there are round bales in the field, enough grain in the bins or that every horse is getting its supplements, keeping track of each herd’s and horse’s needs requires planning and attention to detail. As a boarder, concerns about hay being put out or grain running out don’t really cross my mind. But for the people running the barn, these are daily considerations.
The need to know which horses can only have first cut and which need second cut. They need to know which horse is low on its hoof supplement and which one has three days left in its course of antibiotics. They need to know when to order grain and how much. They have to keep track of all the minutia that go into feeding the horses so that we don’t have to.
2. The horses have fresh, clean water. This seems obvious and relatively easy, but you don’t realize the effort that actually goes into getting said water to the horses until you’re responsible for it on a regular basis. I don’t board at one of those highfalutin barns that has automatic waterers in each stall or even one that has spigots next to each pasture (if only!). No, my barn requires connecting and schlepping hoses from the water room out to the pasture.
In the warmer months, this is a pain, but when it’s cold, it’s downright miserable. First you have to make sure the hoses are properly stored so that they aren’t frozen and you can actually get water out to the pasture. Second, you have to scrub the troughs despite the frigid water. And, third, schlepping a cold, wet hose BACK to the water room and then recoiling it takes more leaves me huffing and puffing and thinking it’s time to hit the gym.
When the horses aren’t in the pasture, that means hauling five gallon buckets to stalls or, again, a cold wet hose from stall to stall. None of this is fun.
3. The knowledge that the horses are safe and well. When my barn manager is at full capacity, I never worry that my horse will have an injury or an illness that will go unnoticed. If something just isn’t right, the barn manager catches it. If something definitely isn’t right and a vet needs to be called, my barn manager catches it. The other boarders and I are all fairly knowledgable and capable of recognizing problems that arise with the horses, but that added layer of security is missing.
Further, when it’s my shift to work the barn, it’s on me to look over the horses and make sure everyone is safe and well. Although I don’t mind doing it, I fret that I will miss something or that a horse will get sick on my watch. Horses are horses and accidents happen. We all know this, but it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it happening when the horses are my responsibility.
4. The horses get along. This goes hand-in-hand with knowing the horses are safe and well. Usually, our herds are low drama. The barn manager has spent time observing horses and moving them around so that the herds are cohesive and the arrangements are beneficial to each of the horses. This system is already in place, so there isn’t much of an issue. But there’s nothing like the sound of squealing or snorting to make you run from the barn to the field to make sure that the delicate balance the keeps the horses getting along is still in place.
5. The horses will be contained. At our barn, we don’t stall our horses very often — only when the whether, an injury or an illness requires it. Thus, having serviceable pasture fences is imperative. As a boarder, my responsibility for the fence has typically been reporting if there appears to be an issue. I completely take for granted the fact that the fence is working and the horses will stay where they belong.
Let me tell you, all it takes is one decent windstorm to let you know how vast that assumption is. A day spent walking fence lines, removing branches, replacing insulators and mending fences is enough to make me eternally grateful for everything my barn manager does.
To be clear, taking part in the responsibility of these things is no problem. I am happy to help out and, like I said at the outset of this piece, I enjoy being a part of my horse’s daily care. However, doing so only reminds me of how grateful I am for the excellent care my horse receives on a regular basis.
These are only five things I realized I take for granted — there are so many other small details that we miss when we’re not the ones in charge of the barn. So, to all the barn owners, barn managers, stable hands, grooms and everyone else involved in the care of our horses, thank you for all the work you put in. Thank you for doing your job so well that we are able to take for granted the care our horses receive.