Friday, May. 24, 2024

Some Suggestions From The Farm Sitter

Now that winter is approaching and your competition season is slowingdown, are you dreaming of a vacation? Your vacation is myentry fees. I am the person who you call to take care of your beloved family, or at least the four-legged members, while you relax on the beach with that frozen umbrella drink.

I am your farm-sitter. (Marit Hughes is pictured at left)
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Now that winter is approaching and your competition season is slowingdown, are you dreaming of a vacation? Your vacation is myentry fees. I am the person who you call to take care of your beloved family, or at least the four-legged members, while you relax on the beach with that frozen umbrella drink.

I am your farm-sitter. (Marit Hughes is pictured at left)

If you just want someone to throw some hay at your horses and fill the water trough, don’t call me, call the teenager at the barn down the street. If you want an adult who will take responsibility for your horses and house while you comb the beach, then I am your gal.

Over the past 10 years of farm sitting I have had many clients, some relaxed, some anal-retentive, and some whom I had to hound for payment. In order to make sure that you are able to enjoy your time watching the waves roll in from under your beach umbrella, I offer the following advice:

First, I cannot read minds nor retain all of the information you told me two weeks ago. Leave a chart with horses’ names, noticeable markings and special needs, plus feeding instructions, in the barn.

The horse feed chart does me no good in the house unless you have a Miniature Horse that thinks it is a dog. Yes, I can carry the instructions down to the barn with me. But if the dog care instructions are on the same piece of paper, I end up with a damp, dirty piece of paper that is going to blow out of my pocket between house and barn, and then Fido goes hungry.

Well, I wouldn’t let him go hungry, but he may not get exactly 7⁄8ths of a cup of his kibble with one tablespoon of heated gravy served on a china plate.

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As for what to include in the animal care instructions, remember that I meet new animals nearly every week. I visited your farm once three weeks ago for 30 minutes, and I won’t necessarily remember which name goes with which horse and which stall to put them in. So leave a cheat sheet that includes name, color, gender and a stall diagram. This will allow me to make sure that Snowball gets his Thyro-L and not his girlfriend’s carrots.

If the descriptions you are using include things like “the bay in the blue blanket” when you have four bays, they had better be wearing blankets when I show up. If they are naked, how am I supposed to know that the Bay in Blue is the one in the first stall who needs to have his stall door closed at all times because he busts through gates? Do you want the concierge to find you beach side when I call to say that Dobbin broke the stall guard, got into the grain and now the veterinarian is en route?

Keep It Simple

My request to have things in writing does not mean I need entire life histories of each animal on the property. As much as I like horses, I do not need the sob story of every horse on the property and how you rescued him from the killers. However, I do want to know if one of the farm residents has any bizarre hiding places or habit.

I once spent a good hour looking for a 17-year-old cat that I was convinced had died in some corner of the house before I finally called the owners who said, “Oh did you check the space between the fridge and the microwave where we pile the kitchen towels?” I can honestly say that it never occurred to me to look for a cat buried under towels on the kitchen counter, but I had checked every closet and behind every couch. 

If your horse gets a fat leg every time it is in over night, then please let me know before I spend an hour in the morning cold hosing and wrapping when he really just needed to get moving. If it is serious looking, I might call the vet and you would have to pay that emergency call fee. And after all of the money you spent having that cabana boy bring you another coconut drink, can you really afford an avoidable vet bill?

Speaking of veterinarians, please tell your vet that I am there and taking care of your horses. I would hate to have to call in something and then have the vet say that I am not authorized to have him out.

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In return, I promise not to call the vet for every little bump or bruise. Honestly, if something comes up that can wait, I am happy to have you coordinate with the vet over the phone when you get back to your hotel to nurse your sunburn.

If you have a rig, leave me the keys. It does no good for there to be a truck and trailer in case of emergency if I can not access it.

As much as I want a truck and trailer of my own, I promise not to use your rig to take my horse to the local show. Failure to leave such keys is just inviting Murphy to tie your horse’s guts in knots. If you do not have a rig, please provide me with the contact information of someone who will haul your horse on zero notice.

A Little Consideration

And now that you have taken the time to write out what the animals eat, leave something for your farm-sitter to dine upon while you are enjoying that all-inclusive buffet. It doesn’t have to be gourmet spread, but the first night I am at your house I have enough to worry about trying to find where you left the feed scoop than wondering where the nearest grocery store is, assuming that there is one less than 10 miles away. Leave some stuff for sandwiches or a frozen pizza or something!

If you want to make sure that your favorite farm-sitter will give you preference when she has multiple requests for the same weekend, ask her what food she wants in the house and stock the fridge.

One final word before you book your tickets to the tropics. Trust me when I say to book your farm-sitter before you make your reservations. And once you’ve found a farm-sitter who you trust, do everything you can to stay on her favorite clients list. That way, you can enjoy your vacation knowing that your farm is well cared for, and you can dedicate your time and energies to ridding yourself of that farmer’s tan.

Marit Hughes

Marit Hughes has been riding and farm sitting in the Middleburg, Va., area for several years. Her clients have included anywhere from two to 10 horses and the various other animals that are part of every farm.

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