Barn Aisle Chats is a new series where we’ll meet equestrians from all walks of life and disciplines. Today, we chat with Harley of The Horse Sitter.
Like most modern meet-cutes, this one started with an Internet search. I’ve owned horses for over three decades and finding a horse sitter is always a daunting task. Sure, I’ve tried friends and family and neighbor kids, but very few of those can spot colic or actually want to volunteer to feed my horses on a rainy, cold Monday, which led me to look for professional sitters. That’s when I met Harley, founder and owner of The Horse Sitter.
Harley came to my house on a Sunday afternoon and after a quick tour of my barn and being thoroughly sniffed by my hooligan dog pack, sat down for an interview. My overweight farm cat, Belli, took up residence on the table between us looking for belly rubs — hence his name — as we talked about life and horses. Here are a few highlights.
Harley’s always been obsessed with animals.
“Since I could talk, when someone asked me what I wanted to be in life, the answer was always a vet,” she says.
She learned to ride when she was in middle school, but then life happened and it wasn’t until years later when she co-owned a Thoroughbred breeding farm that she gained true horse experience.
“We bred, bought, sold, sale prepped, broke and trained,” she states. “My main experience came with mares and foals. We birthed them and raised them until nine months old when they went to sale in various states. At times we kept some back and started them in training. It was a wonderful experience.”
One of her favorite memories is breezing on the track.
“It’s so much fun. It’s the greatest feeling at about six in the morning when it’s still foggy outside and you’re in the flat tack gear and you’re just hauling down the racetrack. It’s fantastic. There’s no better feeling.”
After eight years, Harley and her co-owners began to go their separate ways, so she returned to Texas to work as an estate manager. Not able to stay completely away from the horse world, she started her own business as a professional horse sitter.
“The Louisiana farm was 365 days a year and 40 hours a day and that’s where I got the idea of ‘I cant ever go anywhere, because I have horses at home! What am I gonna do?’ So I started horse sitting just for friends at first and then started the business and it just took off.”
“I’m a little overprotective of my own horses,” she adds. “So I wanted to provide a responsible, knowledgeable, reliable, on-time service and keep horses in their own environment … in their own routine.”
Harley still owns one of the horses born at the Louisiana ranch and adopted another from Remember Me Rescue in Dallas, Texas.
“They’re eight and 10,” she says with a smile. “Lucky and Monkey.”
She says the best thing about her job is the variety of horses and people she meets.
“Dressage horses, Jumpers, Fox Trotters, show horses, ropers … so many types and disciplines that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to. It’s such a great way to get acquainted with all kinds of breeds.”
The worst thing about her job is her constant battle with the sun.
“I’m always in a race with it!” she laughs. “I’m trying to hurry it to get up and begging it not to go down. Daylight Savings Time is a killer.”
And what has she learned?
“Patience. All horses are different and I don’t know them and they don’t know me. They are very intuitive and trust is given, not expected. They need time on the first day, but also … I’m not there to train horses. I’m there to make sure they are getting the best care they can while you are gone. So please tell your horse sitter everything they need to know … even their bad habits!”
Harley’s Fast Five Questions:
Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee. The more the merrier.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise, for sure.
Summer or winter? Summer
Cats or dogs? Cats! Mine sleeps curled on my bed every night.
Black Stallion or Black Beauty? Black Stallion
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @uechironan.