1. “Feeding can wait.” Horses require consistency in their feeding schedules. If they are fed too late or too early, the resulting irritation can cause colic and a host of other problems. When you’re managing a stable, make sure feeding schedules are a top priority.
Little Tip: Ask for an alternate feeder volunteer. It might be an employee, a client, or a friend who can rush to the barn if the person responsible for feeding is somehow delayed. This way, horses are always fed on time.
2. “Just get the poop.” One of the most common stable management problems I encounter is barn staff members who don’t know how to properly clean a stall. Either they weren’t taught correctly or they aren’t properly supervised. In either case, the stable manager has dropped the ball.
Little Tip: Take the time to teach each new employee the proper way to clean a stall, including both urine and feces. Make sure employees know that thorough stall cleaning is extremely important to you, and that slacking off can lead to serious consequences.
3. “Just stick him in any stall/paddock.” Horses are stalled or turned out in certain areas for a reason. For example, if two horses don’t get along, they need to be kept in separate paddocks or stalls for safety reasons. Putting horses in stalls or paddocks different from the ones to which they’ve been assigned can cause confusion and even spread disease.
Little Tip: Make sure horses are always put in the stalls, paddocks, or pastures they are used to. This creates a sense of continuity and avoids potential accidents. Make changes only after careful thought.
4. “Your horse needs supplements?” It is the stable manager’s job to know everything she can about the horses for whom she cares. This means learning about feeding schedules, supplement needs, behavioral tendencies, and other issues. Failing to ask about these things can result in injuries, illnesses, and more.
Little Tip: Have your boarders fill out an equine evaluation so you’ll have all the important information. This way, if you discover you don’t know something, it’s because the owner failed to tell you, not because you were negligent.
5. “I figured he didn’t need a vet.” This goes for the farrier, too. It is the job of a stable manager to call appropriate professionals if a problem arises at the barn. This should be part of your boarding contract, which should also require the owner of the horse to foot the bill. Better safe than sorry.
Little Tip: Err on the side of the caution and call the vet or farrier if something goes wrong with a horse. Whether it’s a thrown shoe or a case of colic, it’s better to get the opinion of a pro than to make a (wrong) judgment call.
6. “I let someone else ride your horse. You don’t mind, do you?” It is never appropriate for a stable manager or other horse business employee to allow someone to ride a boarder’s horse. I’ve seen it happen before, and lawsuits are often the unintended result.
Little Tip: If you want to use a boarder’s horse for lessons or some other person, get permission in writing. Not only is doing otherwise bad manners, but it is also a liability nightmare.
7. “Nobody steals around here.” You can’t know this for a fact, which is why barn security should take center stage. A stable manager is responsible for keeping clients’ horses and equipment safe, to the best of his or her ability. This doesn’t mean you can stop every loss, but you should take steps to prevent it.
Little Tip: Start a barn security program at your facility. Get better locks for the tack room, install a controlled-access gate, or ask the neighborhood constable to send a patrol car by a couple times each night. All of these small efforts will pay off big time in the long run.