As equestrians, we like to be in control of our horses’ care. But what do we do when a personal emergency prevents that? SmartPaker Jessica Davis offers these tips on getting your barn ready to have someone else take over when life keeps you away.
Originally published in the SmartPak blog. Written by SmartPaker Jessica Davis.
As riders, we are all prepared for the inevitable fall or injury from riding or working with our horses on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard to make it through a lifetime of barn chores and handling large animals on the ground or in the saddle without having bruises, bumps, or a story to tell about that time your horse stomped on your foot and wouldn’t move, or spooked at the same tree that’s near your ring that you’ve gone past 100 times, and left you on the ground by the tree. It comes with the territory, and safety has always been a major focus of mine throughout my career as a riding instructor, barn manager, and equestrian.
It is harder to be prepared for the unexpected ailments that come up outside of the barn, especially when it becomes life-threatening and tears you out of your everyday norm of work and barn life. This is something that I recently experienced after suffering from a major pulmonary embolism. My life changed in an instant and with no warning. I found myself in an ICU bed with tubes and monitors everywhere with a team of doctors and nurses constantly in and out of my room. It was surreal. The worst moment of the entire experience was talking with the ICU doctor and hearing that I would need to be much more careful around my horses due to the medication I needed to be on to help prevent more blood clots from forming, and that it would be months before I would be capable of doing my daily feeding and barn chores.
I board at a self-care barn, which means I am responsible for my own feeding and mucking. When I found out I was not going to be able to take care of doing these chores on my own, I had to act fast to round up help from friends and family to make sure my pony and the horses I help care for would be taken care of. I had the help of some essential barn supplies that made all our lives easier while I was not able to be at the barn and put my mind at ease while I was home recovering. I have put together a few tips and tricks that made handling my horses during an emergency much easier for the amazing folks that stepped in to make sure everyone was happy and healthy in my absence.
When I was not able to be feeding myself, the SureScoop was incredibly useful to have. This made it easy for my non-horsey family members to make sure the easy keepers were getting the right amount of their feed without having to guess. With multiple people feeding, it also made for better accuracy as everyone scoops feed a bit differently with unmarked scoops!
E-Z ON Bucket Covers with names and AM/PM embroidered on them made it clear which meal was which, and who each bucket belonged to.
Color-coded buckets can also be helpful in the absence of E-Z ON Bucket Covers — I like the Fortiflex Pails and have the embroidery on my bucket covers to match the pails to help differentiate between morning and evening feed.
Of course, the SmartPak system with individually premeasured, prepackaged, and labeled supplements for each horse made giving supplements a lot easier. I did not have to worry about the wrong amounts of supplements being scooped out of buckets or the wrong horse getting the wrong supplement! Each SmartPak drawer has the horse’s name clearly labeled, and a picture of each horse. Most of my family and friends had already met the horses before, but the pictures were a nice touch in case I had to call in last-minute backup help.
I also use a ration balancer (Gro-N-Win) and ordering this on AutoShip directly to the barn with free shipping on our Barn Saver Shipping Day made sure we didn’t run out of feed and no one had to go to the feed store for me.
Having important information like owner name and contact number, veterinarian and farrier contacts, and feed instructions available was also incredibly important in case there was an issue with one of the horses that needed to be quickly addressed. I was lucky not to have to help field an emergency vet or farrier situation during my recovery, but it’s so nice to not have to search for these numbers when you are dealing with an equine emergency!
My pony and her friends primarily live outside, but the paddocks do get mucked daily to help keep them clean and the flies down in the summer. I keep a Muck Bucket plus a handy Cart by the paddock with a pitchfork in it, so no one had to look around to find the right tools.
I am happy to say that I am in the process of recovering and have a lot of my strength back! I have been able to return to the barn and get back into the swing of mucking and feeding. I am not sure my mom misses helping to muck — she told me that after avoiding mucking for the 30 years I’ve been riding, she didn’t expect to be starting now! I’m glad to be taking care of the barn myself these days, but I couldn’t have had the recovery I did without some amazing helpers and the right tools to have had the barn prepared and ready in event of an emergency!
You can find this and more on the SmartPak blog. Go SmartPak and go riding!