Sunday, April 12, 2009

Top 10 Ways to Help the Help not Hate Your Horse

And this time I mean it when I say I'll be better!

For the past few months, I've been working as a poop-shoveler at my barn. (I am up to 4 jobs.) It started as a favor as my BO needed someone, and then the money was nice and it got my butt to the barn at a reasonable hour (and not lazing around in bed), so I had more of my Saturday to ride.

Of the 70 horses there, for the winter 10 were stalled, and an additional 8 were pulled from pasture board and grained/supplemented/medicated as needed. Two people work 2-3 hrs in the morning.
Now it's warm and no horses are stalled so there's just 18 to be fed.

I have another list for owners: it's my Top 10 Ways to Help the Help not Hate Your Horse.

10) Give your horse a reasonably unique name. We have two Mollys. We have a Coda and a Dakota. There's Buck, Buck, and Buck. Only one of those is a buckskin. Brody and Brady, Ace and Ace. Don't do this. Generally there is little confusion, but the offhand "Oh, can you grab Molly while I prep this?" can result in either the geriatric mare or the yearling. The worst part is that the owner of the yearling changed her name from the very singular "Kiara" to "Molly" fully aware of the other mare's presence. Now I have to learn the horses' last names?!

9) Bag/prep your feed. For our supplemented horses it's all premixed and rationed in ziplocks. If you're paying the extra cash for the service, you might as well buy some supplements and give it. Our barn supplies the base grain, so make the extra effort and get your money's worth. Don't tell me I scoop too large, to small, or make me remember 18 recipes for breakfast. Likewise if you have multiple horses with different breakfasts, when you reuse bags don't have false names on them or I question my sanity.

8) Blankets: clean them, at least the clasps, occasionally. Yes, we get covered in poo by the end of chores but mining through turdsicles to get to a clasp is unpleasant at best. I HAVE had to use a hammer in the past. Also, teach your horse to be blanketed calmly. Label your blanket, and do not move it randomly. Size your horse properly. Otherwise the horse's current state of blanketdom may be considered "good enough" (within reason)

7) If your horse is not where I expect it to be, I may ask you a question. If you are riding said horse, and I tell you that he hasn't had breakfast and ask if you'd like to feed him before returning him to his pasture, do not look at me like I have multiple heads. I have no idea when you're planning on finishing, and don't want to keep checking every 5 mins waiting for his return to pasture.

6) On the same token if you're taking off with said horse, let someone know, BEFORE I go check the wooded area in the back of the pasture past the swampy spot with 3 other grain-faces wuffling in my ears wanting their turn!

5) Also if you know your horse is grained in the mornings and you see I'm graining horses, don't just feed your already-fed horse! I dont mind you disrupting my pattern, just let me know the game plan.

4) Make your horse happy. If your horse hates being stalled maybe just buy a super awesome blanket and leave him outside. If he hates his supplement and I have to mix it with molasses and cover it with a little grain to trick him, don't buy that kind next time (when there's equal alternatives).

3) Have your horse well halter-broke. He can go ahead and pretend he's never seen snow before, but not at the expense of trying to bowl me over. He shouldn't race me to his food. He should walk over a puddle, away from his friends, etc. Yes, I'll correct him, but at the same time this is not my job to turn this into a lesson opportunity.

2) If I use a whip, rope, stick etc, to shoo your precious poopykins, that is to be safe. My position makes them all view me as some sort of fantastic grain-pinata, and I need defense. I might have other chores in the pasture and not really want to be in the middle of a team huddle so that PITA alpha mare can come up behind and shock one or more of them into trampling me. So even having the sweetest cutest babies all ears at me is not enticing.

Same snotty mares are not allowed to crowd the gate waiting to take a nip at the horse I'm trying to get back in there before she's released. I had an incident where bitch mare would not let me return geriatric Molly to the pasture, so I got her back out and snuck her in the back gate to go find her friends. I had her in but couldn't turn my back or let go to latch the gate and couldn't let go of the gate to free her while Miss Bitch went chomp chomp chomp on the other side of her, out of my reach.

1) Gate manners. Teach them. This goes along with halter breaking. I turn around after going through a gate to latch it. I should not have to wrangle to not free the others.