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Looking for farm sitter - interview questions?

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  • Looking for farm sitter - interview questions?

    I'm in the process of looking for a new farm sitter, as the neighbors who have been taking care of this for us can no longer do so.

    Responsibilities would include:
    • feeding 2-3 horses and 2 mini donks once per day
    • checking water tubs
    • one of the horses gets a powdered medication in her feed
    • no stall cleaning or turning in/out, horses are out 24/7 with shelter
    • feeding, watering, and letting out 4 large dogs - feeding AM and PM, letting out AM, afternoon, PM, and right before bed
    What types of questions would you ask if you decide to meet an applicant? I posted an ad a few days ago, and have had 7 responses. Three were deleted immediately There are two that I would definitely like to meet in person, based on what they told me about themselves in their emails and that I've been able to verify the details shared.

    I have plenty of questions that I would ask, but more specifically I'm wondering about the mistakes anyone here has made in the past. What did you WISH you had asked, looking back?

    I'm extremely unhappy and apprehensive about having a stranger come here to care for my horses and dogs, and I want to make sure I do the best I can while interviewing these folks. There aren't any local kids we know who are old enough for the responsiblility, and we have no family in the area.

    Thanks for any ideas!

  • #2
    You're in PA, right? Down around Evansburg Park? I know a woman who just quit her day job and started doing farm/pet sitting full time because a lot of people were asking her to do it. She will house sit, too. She used to work for me (feeding, turnout, stalls, etc) and is really good and very responsible. She lives in Bucks County so I'm not entirely sure how far she'll travel. Let me know if you're interested and I can pm you her email address.


    • #3
      I used to use pet sitters and I have had some really great ones and not so good. Here are the questions I would ask:
      1. References: ask for 2 or 3 and check them.
      2. Ask for a resume of her experience caring for horses;
      A. experience with emergencies
      B. willingness to stay if there is one
      3. Ability to spot a colic, lameness or horse or donkey that just doesn't look 'right'.
      4. Is she reliable and does she have any job/responsibilities that will make it difficult for her to show up on time to keep the horses' schedule.
      5. Is she bonded/insured?
      6. Does she have health insurance...make sure she signs a hold harmless to be on your property handling the animals.
      7. Make sure you make it clear that she is not to bring friends, ride the horses, or any other thing that you think might happen. I once had a farm sitter use my truck. He was sure surprised when I came home early and my truck was gone! I was, too.
      Good luck. There are some great horse sitters out there so if youfind one, make sure you pay well.


      • #4

        I think I have you confused with another COTHer whose screen name starts with ASB. Sorry about that. However, should you move to SE PA I have a good farm sitter for you!


        • #5
          We have a 5-6 page word doc on the computer which we update each time we are away(about 2-3 weekends per year that spells everything out, including all the telephone numbers of the emergency back up help.

          We also use a grid sheet of the horse's typical day so we can fill in each step if more than one responsible people are involved:
          Am feed: Fred
          Turn out: Fred
          Stalls: Fred
          Midday check: Mary
          Turn In: Mary
          PM Feed: Mary
          Night Check:Mary

          Then we fill in one of these for each day we are away on one sheet, print one for ourselves, then copies for all the responsible parties.
          Still doesn't guarantee that the new sitter will pay any attention(we had one like that once). We try to stay away from stranger for hire farm sitters unless they have a reference from someone we know. Make sure you get someone who is not a dog/cat sitter trying to expand their business with horse "sitting".


          • #6
            pay to have them take care of your house of critters for 2 days while you are still in town. i find this useful in seeing how competent they really are.
            chaque pas est fait ensemble


            • #7
              I think you might find a more competent, reliable person if you go by referrals from friends, vet, feed store, etc. instead of advertising.

              That being said, get lots of recommendations and check them!


              • #8
                I have a pet sitting business ,(Farm and home personal pet sitters) not to far from you I have horses of my own and I have clients that have horses you can call me to set up an interveiw at 215-858-9542 Most pet sitters are insured for care custody and control and in dealing with horses it is important they a have there own trailer and have a truck , no one should be doing anything with your horses unless authorized .


                • #9
                  fefedog-that was the best thing I have ever heard! Have their own truck and trailer! That in itself will seperate the real deal from the cat/dog, neighborhood kid people!!!


                  • #10
                    As someone who does farm sit in a pinch, please remember to post your vet/farrier/emergency numbers in a very visible location in the barn, please! It makes it much less nerve wracking when it looks like someones got everything already spelled out for you . I've never hired a farmsitter since my mom or my best friend takes care of my horses if I can't, so I can't help you there. But I do love people who write everything out and post it in one or two easy to find locations in the barn so everything is within sight.
                    "I think animal testing is a terrible idea, they get all nervous and give silly answers."
                    -fry & laurie


                    • Original Poster

                      Central Iowa, not SE PA. You have me confused with someone else. But I am from Delaware County in SE PA

                      Thanks for the ideas. I am/was looking for one on short notice. Neighbors crapped out two weeks before the biggest trip of the year, and now we're 9 days from leaving. I think I will be kenneling the dogs and taking the horses over to my dressage trainer's place. Not enough time to find someone competent, so we'll have to do this one the hard way.

                      Thanks for the suggestions, though!


                      • #12
                        Yes, post important phone numbers, plus a neighbor and relative. Also, normal temps, heart rate and respiration. Weight too. We keep ours posted on a board in the aisle.


                        • #13
                          I was able to find an extremely responsible pet sitter through my barn. She is a college student who takes impeccable care of her own animals so I knew mine would be in good hands. Do you know any of the boarders/students at the dressage trainers place well enough to have one of them over to do it? I wish I knew someone in the area that I could recommend, but everyone has moved away. (Or is completely incompetent.)


                          • #14
                            My best advice - make sure they can read and FOLLOW written instructions. That has been my number one problem over the years and I've had some great people work for us, but just because they can read doesn't mean they understand it. I started doing a test period of a day or two with potential people, asking them to follow written instructions, just to make sure they could do what was needed.

                            References can be faked, and in fact, any info they give you can be learned book info - I wanted someone with hands-on experience. A trial period can be extremely revealing in just how much they know.
                            Susan N.

                            Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


                            • #15
                              When a petsitter comes for the first interview they should provide you with the nessary vet permission to treat form as well as a contract. you should provide all the nessary info including but not limited to description of each horse dog possibly at pic with a description of animal (his her) dislikes ,vices feeding regiment as well as pasture arangement,if they are not to be in with certain horses and so forth.


                              • #16
                                Regardless of who you hire, lock up all valuables and make note of how things were left when you went away.

                                Our pet sitter robbed us. She took some of my medications, (she has since been convicted of DUI with the same drugs) in a different case, and she (and her boyfriend she brought over) took other things as well. Her jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 4th. (we installed cameras so we could watch the horses and ended up catching a crook) She was sneaky about what she took. Nothing real 'valueable' but I have my suspecions if things would have disappeared one by one over time.

                                In my case, we hired ours several years ago. We thought all was well and she checked out at that time. Something obvously happened because she went bad. She got caught DUI drugs, possession, child endangerment, and a long list of things late last year. Then... (I didn't know this at the time) she was pulled over again THE WEEEK BEFORE pet sitting for us for drugs, dui, etc... , Then she pet sit for us and took things from our house.

                                You can't be careful enough and I'd try using those online sources to do background checks now. It wouldn't have helped in our case because nothing had gone to trial yet.

                                I can't wait for her trial. I want to see her handcuffed and led to prision.
                                Fresh, Frozen & ISO Warmblood Breedings FB Group


                                • #17
                                  Word of mouth really is best.

                                  I have been on the other side-- and had to deal with broken well pumps, snow storms and the like.

                                  What surprised me is the stuff farm owners hadn't thought of: Did they have emergency instructions and spending limits for all animals in writing? Not usually. Did they have a truck and trailer hooked up, or should I plan on using mine if need be? Did they think to tell me who their neighbors were and who was likely to be able to help with this or that fubar situation? Again, I usually asked this first.

                                  My best advice is to have that face-to-face meeting and give a tour of your farm and duties. Watch for what *they ask you.* The person who asks detailed questions about your animals, facility, and schedule is probably the one who will make sure that your place is taken care of the way you'd want.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat


                                  • #18
                                    I've hired pet sitters and do some farm/pet sitting myself. I start by asking other people who they use, and if they recommend them. I've also asked my vet, and have asked at the clinic if there's a tech or assistant that does stay-over pet sitting. I'm not crazy about having strangers in our house, either, and the one time I went with someone who was recommended by only one person, I wasn't real happy with her.

                                    Given that you need 4 dog trips per day, I"m assuming you'll have the person stay over. If not, you'll need someone who lives close enough to drive back and forth four times/day... I wouldn't take that job unless I could stay there. So, ask the person what their typical day's path of travel is. Even if you're near their home or workplace, can they make four trips per day?

                                    Let them know if your animals are on a rigid schedule, or if they're flexible, and how flexible. One place I house sit says they're just as likely to feed their horses at 4:30 am one day and 8:30 the next, depending on work schedules; another considers 15 minutes away from the target time to be "early" or "late." Ask the person how flexible THEIR life is, vs. how rigid -- are they going to be racing to pick up a kid at day care after throwing feed to your horses, or can they stick around to watch someone who doesn't look right? Can they go into work late if they have to wait for the vet? Can they swing by to give the dog a thunderstorm pill if they see on the radar that storms are headed your way?

                                    If the person is going to stay at your house, think about whether you're comfortable with having them STAY around your house for an entire week or weekend. We had one woman who didn't leave for 2-1/2 days... kinda weird... turns out afterward we learned she was in the middle of an ugly divorce and was avoiding home and hubby, but our house is a pretty boring place to be so we still don't know what she DID for 2-1/2 days... she didn't spend her time brushing the cats or walking the dogs, we could tell. When I house sit, I try to spend time with the house animals at the house so they get some attention, but I don't (usually, unless there's a snowstorm or the place is really remote) completely hole up.

                                    Ask if the person has ever owned horses and if they've ever had them at home.


                                    • #19
                                      barn sitter

                                      The only way I would consider a barn sitter is through someone I knew really well, ask your local vet, they sometimes have someone working with them who may need extra cash. Your time away will be ruined if you are uncomfortable due to worry


                                      • #20
                                        Pet sitter and farm owner here. I would go by word of mouth and not by ad responses
                                        "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                                        So you might as well have a good time"