View Full Version : Can I have your thoughts on Barn Sitting?

Jan. 19, 2009, 11:55 AM
My DD is a very mature almost 15. She'll be starting college next year and is just a good egg all the way around. And no, I'm not just saying that because she is my kid :lol:


She also has Apserger's. Lot's of social activity can be overwelming to her so she tends to choose activities that aren't akin to a sold out concert if you know what I mean. Barn work just suits her heart and soul perfectly, so she was asking about maybe starting to do some barn sitting. With my help of course since she is so young. She does and excellent job and is just wonderful with horses.

I'm all for it and would happily help her. But tell me your thoughts. She has over a year of solid horse care under belt, including some sitting experiences. She has some nice references from horse owners too. She knows first aid for humans and companion animals and knows and understands how to spot an equine emergency.

Would you hire a 15 year old who would be supervised by her mother (I would be there and would lend a hand of course, she can't drive yet so I might as well help as long as I am there) to feed, do stall maintenance and turnout? And what would you be willing to pay?

Many thanks!!!!!!!!!

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:18 PM
Why not? So long as she's good at taking direction, and correction.

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:21 PM
Give it a go! If she's good at it and you let people know that she wants to do it, I'm sure that just word of mouth will get her more business than she can handle! Good Luck!

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:24 PM
I would love someone like that in my area, someone who is actually passionate about what they are doing, loves horses and is a good all around kid.:)

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:26 PM
Thank you for your thoughts on it. I just wondered if her age would be a concern. I know kids babysit humans who are younger than she is, but...well...horses are different! :lol:

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:47 PM
One year of horsecare wouldn't be good enough for me, but I am anal about my horses. I would also think I was hiring the mother and not the daughter. I did horsesit when I was 15, but I have owned horses on property since I was 6, I had my C2 and knew these people through Pony Club. They knew I could call anyone if there was a BIG emergency I couldn't handle.

The thing with hiring someone that young is not necessarily the horses, but the farm. Can she repair a fence? Fix a water pipe problem? Catch a horse that's running down a highway? These things happen...

When I horsesit depending on how many horses, I charge anywhere from $75-$150 a day. I would never hire a kid though, just my opinion.

Jan. 19, 2009, 12:59 PM
I think there are lots of different levels of horse sitter responsibility. I have three horses and have hired the 14 year old girl down the street to take care of my horses when I was out of town. She's had horses and competed in 4-H and junior rodeos since she was 7. She recognizes problems and knows who to call, but her duties are pretty minimal...throw hay, feed grain, check water. My horses can come and go as they please between the barn and their turnout, so she doesn't have to really handle them. I have other people who do the stalls each day.

For me it's more that she knows when there's something "off" with one of the horses, and has knowledgeable, horsey parents who are just three houses away to provide backup. We use the same vets, and I always let them know when I'm leaving, just in case my horse sitter has to call. So far, that hasn't happened.

I pay her $25 per day, by the way. If she was doing stalls or taking care of other pets, too, I'd expect to pay her more.

Jan. 19, 2009, 01:16 PM
I'd want to know Mom's level of horsecare knowledge since - as OP have said - there are farm emergencies a 15yo might not be capable of handling alone.

I'm not saying Mom has to have years of knowledge - one of my best horsesitters is my across-the-road neighbor who has never owned horses but is a great listener and has picked up enough from watching/helping me out that I feel comfortable leaving my horses in her care.

I'd want your daughter to perhaps spend a weekend with me caring for the horses so I could show her how I like things done and assess her skills for my own sake. But then, I do this with anyone I am "interviewing" for the position of horsesitter.

Another thought:
I always let me vet's office know who may be calling them in an emergency if I'm going to be away. Will your vet accept a call authorizing treatment from a minor? This could be a liability issue for the vet.

Also: I pay $10 per visit for my 2 horses and pay for 2 visits a day to feed and check up on them

Bayou Roux
Jan. 19, 2009, 01:21 PM
While I wish you and your daughter luck, I have to be honest with you and tell you that we aren’t even going to even ask anyone under 18 to throw evening hay if we’re not around, much less pay for farm-sitting services.

A driver’s license and free access to a working car are essential. I remember last winter a kid posting here about being stuck in the position of farm-sitting with a winter storm on the way. Her parents would not take her out to the farm and would not let her drive herself, due to the storm. Poor kid was really stuck and terribly concerned that it was her responsibility to take care of those horses, providing extra hay & access to water with the storm coming on, but she wasn’t an adult and wasn’t free to do what needed doing. So, any farm sitter at our place has to be independent and able to make autonomous decisions about her time and her ability to travel and commit to being there. A supervised 15 year old isn’t there yet.

And the liability issues surrounding a minor on the farm are just too great for us to even consider trying it out. Should something go wrong, with her or the horses, we'd have a lot of answering to do to her parents' insurance company, and to our boarders. Did we check her working papers? Do we have a contract (for her services) or a release (from our liability)? Does our liability release cover doing farm work? (No, ours doesn't.) Blah-blah-blah.

And, if the answer to all these questions is well, her mom will be here to supervise, then who are we really hiring, and if not the kid, why are we taking on the kid? Muddies the waters...

Not saying any of this to be mean or snarky, just to offer a bit of explanation as to why some operations might not be interested in the service.

Best of luck to your daughter.

Jan. 19, 2009, 03:08 PM
How about finding her a barn she can work/working student for a year or so till she can drive then she will know more and I think more people would be willing to have her work for them.

Jan. 19, 2009, 03:52 PM
I would be geeked to have a hardworking 15YO as an option for a weekend here or there.

Now...I would want to have that person come and do chores with me a few times, then let them do chores a few times while I was around but not helping. And I would want them to be supervised. I would not feel comfortable turning things over to them if I were going to be totally unreachable...I would want to have someone who I could trust to make ANY judgment call for that.

But I've met a lot of adults or young adults who had plenty of experience and still did a crap job and had others with less experience who were so diligent and responsible that I've come to realize...it just depends.

If you were doing chores for me...it would consist of taking care of 2 horses twice per day. Feeding, cleaning stalls, checking water and checking the horses over for injuries.

I would happily pay 25/day for that which would be roughly an hour of work and some commute time.

Jan. 19, 2009, 04:06 PM
It's not age, but the level of knowledge of horses and their illnesses that counts. A 15 yr old who can recognize colic signs and stop a colicky horse from rolling and administer Banamine properly is going to get my vote before an adult who cannot recognize the signs and respond. So a teenager who has been around horses for years and has read all the literature on horse care and illnesses would be fine.

I was at one barn where the BO had an airhead woman in her 40s take care of the barn in her absence and that woman, who had had horses at that barn for several years, feed the horses more grain than scheduled because she wanted to "save" the hay, even though we'd just had a load of hay delivered.

MY BO pays $85 a day for the care and feeding of 11 horses, including stall cleaning, and the care of 60 show bunnies, the barn cats, house cats and 3 dogs.

Jan. 19, 2009, 04:29 PM
I started farmsitting just after I turned 16. I think some people will be delighted to have your DD farmsit and others won't be interested. Hopefully as her experience grows more people will be interested! Good luck!!

Jan. 19, 2009, 04:42 PM
I farmsat for a woman when I was around 15. In return, I got to ride her horses. As long as she can take clear direction, she should be fine. As a note to you, keep your phone on at all times! :lol:;)

Jan. 19, 2009, 04:52 PM
My farmsitting needs are very general: hay, water, make sure all the horses are still on the property with all their limbs. I am set up so that the horsesitter does not need to handle the horses or enter any enclosures.

I have no problem hiring a responsible teen to do that, other than that my last one had the gall to go off to college. ;)

Jan. 19, 2009, 04:57 PM
Why not give it a try? I barn-sat at that age unsupervised (my parents are not horsey in the slightest). As Saddleup said, "there are lots of different levels of horse sitter responsibility." A backyard barn owner that has a few horses is more likely to hire than a show stable with 10+ horses. Simply feeding and mucking shouldn't be a biggie, a place that would require medical care (like injections) or facility maintenance would be a completely different situation.

Jan. 19, 2009, 05:07 PM
I appreciate everyone's candor, this is exactly what I was hoping to hear.

I probably should have titled this Horse sit rather than barn sit because no, I would not let her watch over a barn with more than one or two horses.

She can spot trouble brewing and is a rock in trauma situations. She volunteers nearly 5 full days a week at a TR/Hippotherapy facility, and we have a small farm here so she is well versed in handling a repair and keeping cool when there is an escapee, as well as working with special needs peeps and animals together. Basically horses are her full time job if you were to put it into hours each week! :cool: She has done both people and animal first aid certs. She is taking heavy coursework in animal science (we homeschool) and is going to start her Vet Tech degree next year and then work her way through her BS and then into Vet School (God willing!). I worked for a Vet for years as an assistant and am finishing up coursework for Tech licensure. So if she needed emergency help either myself or my DH would there in an emergency.

She is offered jobs occassionaly, more lately than ever. But I have held off letting her accept until I heard pros and cons from several others. She has expressed a good deal of interest lately and I don't want her to get her hopes up for steady offers.

Jan. 19, 2009, 05:26 PM
Well, all I can say is that I wish you lived here in MI and close to me because I KNOW I could keep your daughter busy between me and my friends if she did a good job.

And I would feel MUCH better with a kid whose mom was involved too and had half a clue and some desire to do a good job.

I would LOVE it.

Bayou Roux
Jan. 19, 2009, 06:08 PM
I probably should have titled this Horse sit rather than barn sit because no, I would not let her watch over a barn with more than one or two horses.

Ah, well then!

I'm going to update my feedback to say that, yeah, if I had my two at home in a backyard setup and wanted to get away for the weekend, I'd consider her. She'd have to come put in a couple of weekends with me so I could see her with the horses and teach her the routine, but I'd definitely give a kid a chance in a situation like that.

It's just the leaving of the whole farm, the whole livelihood, in someone else's hands that really requires an adult... and really even a semi-professional adult....

...which is why we haven't had a weekend away in several years...:lol:

Jan. 19, 2009, 06:39 PM
I rely on my barn-sitter enormously--when I'm gone, I'm GONE, sometimes out of the country, and so the horses are in her hands, utterly. Mine has proven herself to be one of those "above and beyond" types, and she's worth her weight in gold. If I were going to hire a teenager (and I have done so, on occasion, before I found my current sitter) I'd prefer they had their own transportation, and for a real youngster (15-16) I'd want references for sure. Not that I wouldn't for anyone else, but I can get a better sense of reliability if the potential sitter has a steady job, etc.

I don't think it's your job to get her hopes up or down for steady work--it's the nature of the business to not be 100% predictable or reliable. Let her have a go, support her as much as you can at first, and let her have a go. :)

Jan. 19, 2009, 06:45 PM
When I hire a new babysitter for my kids, I have them come over when I'm home, hang with the kids, etc. Then I take a trip to the store or something w/ new babysitter at home....if all goes well, maybe I'll go out for the evening w/ babysitter at home next time....

Same with horses. I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE a teenaged kid to come help with barn chores on weekends when I'm home. I'd pay $8-10/hour for good solid work with me....meaning poo picking pastures, mucking stalls, etc. If that worked out well, I'd definitely consider expanding job duties for when I may not be around.

When we are away we often have a house sitter (e.g. my parents) who are not horsey, so a person like your daughter could really be useful. It's not truly "barn sitting" since I have two adults on the property who can also be eyes and ears, but I'm not going to ask my mom to muck stalls. So a "small-time" horse sitter would be greatly appreciated at small barns like mine.

Jan. 19, 2009, 08:53 PM
Based on what you posted about her knowledge level and yours, I would use her services if I were in your area.

And I think that once she has one or two satisfied clients, word of mouth will take care of the rest.

That is the biggest issue for me, finding someone reliable to stay with the house/horses/dogs, or even to just to barn chores (when the rest of the non-horsey family is home to care for the house/dogs) and feed the horses. I have not had anything more than a 3 day vacation in years!

Jan. 19, 2009, 10:07 PM
For the backyard horse owner who wants to get away for the weekend, the biggest barrier is that the teen who can drive to get to your place is already driving to get to a 'real' job at McBurgers. So if the parents are guaranteeing transport, that's a real plus.

Ditto what other posters have said about coming out once or twice beforehand to learn the routine. On top of that, make sure the horse owner leaves a written to-do list, phone numbers for the vet, the backup vet, any other vet they've ever heard of, and at least 1-2 farmer neighbors who can come help in case of horse-related but non horse-sitter-chore emergencies (like fence repair).

Jan. 20, 2009, 02:09 PM
We have had both good and bad experiences with both young and old horse sitters. When my mother passed away and my husband came east for the funeral we had a 14 year old and a 12 year old looking after about 60 horses including 2 studs and 8 mares and foals. These were extremely experienced, smart kids that grew up on horses. They quickly realized one foal was not herself (was very quiet and that wasn't normal for her) and called one of our emergency contacts and then the vet. Filly had a stick poke under her front "armpit" and ended up with blood poisoning. I dont' know if someone not used to horses would have figured it out.:):):):):)

Had another 18 year old that left horses in stalls without food and water for over a day and my yearling gelding managed to rip his face wide open on the bucket hook. Found it when we got home.:mad::mad::mad::mad::mad:

So, it really depends on the person. For us we always have them out to learn the chores, they have to have some good horse knowledge and we leave them our cell phone numbers and a list of people to contact if they have a problem. Several horse people, 2 vets and a person or two to contact for fence/waterer, etc. problems.

I would certainly look at having your daughter come especially if you are only looking at a small farm. Especially with your help and supervision.

Good luck,

Jan. 20, 2009, 02:36 PM
When I was 15 I was farm sitting. 34 horses, but only 9 were inside (the rest 24/7 turnout). For me at the time that was twice a day feed and water, walk the feilds to check the turnouts, and some other little things. It would be for no more than a day, just when the owner wanted a day off pretty much. She was still around.

I still farmsit for the same person, but now its for a week or more at a time. I move in to the apartment there and still do the same work.

If I were looking for a sitter I would want someone with a driver's licence. Someone who is responsible and has a good dose of common sense. You need to be able to identify when something isn't right and know when its out of your scope. Its not age, its knowledge and experience.

Your daughter might want to look into the boarding barns in the area to see if they are hiring weekend staff. The more experience she has the better, and the more people she knows the better references she has.

Jan. 20, 2009, 03:03 PM
To the original post, I'd have to know the child (?) and have a good sense that she was sufficiently knowledgeable and responsible. By your description, it sounds as though she might be.

My experiences with farmsitting have been positive with the exception of one aspect. A little background first: I am in my mid 30s, owned/ridden horses for 25 years, work in the horse industry. I farmsit for only one couple but the last couple times I committed it had become more and more frustrating because she won't pay me anything above $50. For that sum, I have to look after 10-15 horses, 2 donkeys, 4 dogs, and 4 cats. Some of the horses are usually in for part of the day (depending on the season), so there are stalls to clean. Sometimes there are foals (usually two to four) that must come in during the day for extended periods or at least long enough to eat. I have to walk the dogs around the farm, and I usually do this when I am checking the waterers. If season dictates, I might have to throw hay to the horses and donkeys. Of course, I have to stay in the house, collect mail, take out trash, clean litter boxes, etc. I would leave work and come let the dogs out at noon and throw hay if I had to. I did it all. Always with a smile and a cheerful heart.

To top it off, there is only ONE way to do things. The wife's way. Not a problem, as I understand meticulousness. Well, I did it for years (maybe seven or eight) and then I was stupid enough to do this: ask for a raise.

The wife does not work off the farm but the husband has a VERY lucrative job, and it's obvious from their lifestyle that a fee more in line with the work would not be a hardship. And their young horses sell for lots of money (racehorses, think hundreds of thousands). She refuses to entertain an increase. Period. End of statement. She has asked a young lady to start helping, and I think she considers me a useful "reserve," should the new farmsitter be unavailable. I guess, in some weird way, it hurts my feelings that she's moved on because I worked hard for her for years and quite frankly I am getting a little old to be farmsitting. Yet, I thought I would be rewarded for the dedication.

We're still friends, of course, and she can make me laugh out loud but she's so tight she squeaks.

The point of this, you ask. Don't allow yourself to be underpaid for a lot of work, no matter your age.