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Q for those with horses at home but work full time

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  • Q for those with horses at home but work full time

    Hubby and I are looking for a house with enough land to bring my horse home (and board another so he has a buddy) and I'm starting to get all worried about everything that could go wrong. We both work full time, though he's home for summers because he's a teacher, so the horses would be alone for most of the day 3/4 of the year. How do those of you with horses at home but who work other jobs cope? What safety measures do you have in place? What are some things we should be considering and planning for? The 3 biggest fears I have are a horse getting loose, getting hurt (more than just a scrape), and getting stolen. Please help this worried first time "mommy"

  • #2
    Some of these answers will depend on if you have "horsey" neighbors (or any neighbors!). And also, the owner of the horse that you eventually board. Horse neighbors tend to look out for each other's horses. They know how to round up loose ones and they will question a strange trailer that pulls in to your property. Perhaps the perfect boarder would be someone who works second shift and thus checks on the horses during the day for a reduction in board?
    My husband and I have always worked different shifts so one of us is usually around. But, I also have several good horse neighbors that will help us (and we them!) as needed. The other important thing is well maintained fenceing. Cannot say enough about this! Quality, safe fence makes for safe animals. Both from injurys inflicted by the horse getting hurt in the fence itself and from getting hurt from being out on a roadway. A large loafing shed or access to a large loafing area in the barn plus plentful water and plentful hay and your horses will be happy, happy, happy while you are at work.
    Enjoy your new home!


    • #3
      We work full time and I honestly don't worry much about the horses. I did more when we had tape fencing, but now with the four board I not too concerned.

      I do night turnout in the summer, and so even when we're at home, they're being left alone the entire night, so I guess. I'm not too terribly worried about being left alone during the day.

      The problem I run into is that my horse is a hog and eats all his hay fast. Even if I put a bale out, he can polish it off in 2 hrs. So I've had to hang small hole haynets to make it last all day.

      Even when you board, there are surely times when the horses aren't checked on all day.


      • #4
        I recommend 4 board fencing for your perimeter fencing. If one board comes down, they are still confined. A good run in shed or access to their stalls keeps everyone less likely to ger hot, irritable, and bitten by bugs. Contented horses are less likely to break the fence and escape. Put out plenty of hay every day. Have two sources of water in case something happens to one water trough while you are at work. Have good stall lighting so you can look them over when you feed, even if it is at 9pm and 5am.

        If you are really worried you can put a webcam in the barn or run in and monitor them from work! You will probably find they do well.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the tips. We are planning on installing Ramm flex fence (probably 4 rails to ease my mind) and I am also considering driveway gates, so that between the fence and gates the whole road frontage will be covered. The lot we are currently looking at is wooded on 3 sides. No horsey neighbors, unfortunately, but I do like the idea of a web cam. I am hoping to make the stalls in/outs with attached runs, and then a couple separate grass turnouts. I will look into a run-in shed for one of those turnouts. So many things to think and worry about! (I'm a natural worrier haha).


          • #6
            How far away from the farm do you work and do you have any flexiblitly to leave is there is a serious emergency?

            I know that people with children are allowed to leave work if their kid has so much as a sniffle, so while I try to limit my 'emergencies' I am allowed to leave if there is something really horrible going on. And this happens a whole lot less than sick kids.

            Also, have to agree with the posters who said they are alone all night while you sleep.

            Sure, it would be better if I were around all the time, but the fact is they do not get in trouble all that often, so being at work when it happens vs. being home on a weekend or asleep at night is less of a worry.

            Good fencing is critical.


            • #7
              My house is 1/4 mile from my barns and paddocks so the horses are essentially left alone most of the time. What I've done is use no climb fencing with a board on top, have a gate across the driveway, and more internal gates so in some cases even if they get out of their paddock they still have two other gates/fences to get through before they hit the road. A contractor once told me that my place was "horsey Alcatraz".

              As for injuries, my fields are big, and the herds are compatible, so that helps.

              I also have automatic waterers, and run-in sheds, and in winter there's always hay in front of them, so if I'm delayed or something there is always water, hay (or grass) and shelter for them.

              Knocking wood furiously I have not had a problem.
              Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


              • #8
                We are in the middle of the city. Three schools close by. We ended up under advise of our insurance carrier double fencing the perimeter... chain locked outside perimeter gates

                If you have a gym membership; cancel it. I get up at 4:45AM to take care of the eight head in the mornings... five days a week..6am on weekends... We put every one away at night either in paddocks or stalls...so those are cleaned in the morning so that they are ready in the evening

                The constant attention required.... farrier, getting feed, hay, bedding, fixing what the evil TB filly torn up and all that stuff pretty much take up any spare time one thought they might have


                • #9
                  Gold, it sounds as if you have it well figured out. Driveway gates are great. You may end up just closing them when you are gone, but they are good insurance against having horses in the road.

                  Now, make sure you stick with your plan for only 2 horses. Two horses is much easier than a larger number. When I have 2 horses, no one breaks fences or makes trouble. When I have 5, chaos reigns.


                  • #10
                    Mr. CC and I both teach, but with his union meetings, and my other horse that I compete at my trainers, 45 minutes away, my two horses are alone all day, too.

                    I have no-climb (wood fences are impractical in the PNW) with a top rail/hot wire around my whole farm. We have a long driveway, with double gates (one close to the house, one at the end by the very busy road). The road end one is always closed. I have a barn with stalls that lead out to a sacrifice paddock, which in turn leads to a larger field. There is an overhang on the barn. It is super easy to turn out, feed, clean and prep for the next feeding. I've got a routine, that with pelleted bedding, I can do two stalls and prep everything for the night in under 20 minutes most days.

                    I think you are worrying about nothing! Once they are home, you'll wonder why you got so worked up. Find their horsey routine, work with that, and it will be fine.
                    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                    • #11
                      I was paranoid before bringing my horse home. He lives alone in a 1/4 acre dirt paddock, in/out 24/7. He is happy as a clam. I invested in 5 foot high non-climb fencing with a top board and electric. I do have neighbors who are retired and around a lot, but (knock wood), I have never had a problem. He's been home for (I think) 4.5 years now.

                      You get used to it after a bit. Always has hay in front of him, so though the grass looks nice on the other side of the fence, it has never been worth breaking out.

                      I keep the gates on the road locked with bike locks.


                      • #12
                        Don't cancel your gym membership! I've had horses at home for 4 years and have managed to get to the gym regularly...
                        We have had a couple of close calls - once came home to find one horse in our front yard enjoying the grass - someone forgot to latch the chain and the gate blew open. One horse didn't even bother to come out and join the other. We are 1/4 mile from the road, but typically horses aren't looking to make a run for it, they like to stay close. Once we came home to a horse cast under the fence (four board). Our neighbor helped us get her out and she was fine.

                        I don't know about other boarding facilities, but the one I was boarding one of my horses at didn't have someone there 24/7, so things could happen there as well.

                        My husband is a horseman and that helps tremendously.

                        It's much better having them close - you will never want to go back to boarding.


                        • #13
                          Lots of good advice here.

                          Definitely have good perimeter fencing and gates with a plan to check it all regularly. It's super-convenient to have some kind of redundant system, where if someone leaves a door or gate unlatched the horses still can't get into the grain or leave the property.

                          Definitely figure out how to leave the property such that, if *something* happened and nobody stopped by for 24 hours, the horses would still be fine. Meaning access to weather-appropriate shelter, plenty of water, and hay or good pasture. That's as easy leaving the horses in a paddock with run-in or porch, stock tank full of water, and something like a hay feeder (or slow feeder) you can put at least a bale or so in. You never know if you'll be in a traffic accident or some freak weather condition that strands you away from home.

                          And, finally, have a support network. Ideally, have an experienced petsitter/horse person you can pay to do evening feed if you're going to be extremely late *and* have a very near neighbor (walking distance) who could do a basic check for injuries, throw hay, etc. in an emergency.


                          • #14
                            Having them at your home is not the problem and quite rewarding. You have been given all the right advice; shelter, water and plenty of hay, slow feeders, etc. The greater issue is having a pet sitter/helper. You will invariably want to take a vacation, may have family emergency, or whatever. When that happens you will want to have a plan.

                            Honestly, my husband and son are vacationing in Puerto Rico right now and I did not want to leave the horses (three of them) despite the fact that I have my mother to take care of mine. Flies are bad and there is just a little more to taking care of them this time of year than I want to place on my mom.

                            You have some time to work thru those issues but it is a huge consideration. Good Luck!


                            • #15
                              What everyone else said (perimeter fencing, etc.) and one more tip: set up your daily routine to be as easy as possible. Not only will this make things easy for you - but it will also make it easier to find someone to pinch hit for you when you want to go on vacation, take a business trip, get sick, etc.

                              I am always surprised at some of the routines horse owners will set up, simply because they don't mind doing all of this work. But then they complain that they can't find anyone to take care of the horses. Ideally, you should be set up so a non-horsey person could check / fill water, throw hay and replenish grain without ever having to open a stall or snap on a lead rope. If you get to that point, you're in good shape for daily living and leaving!

                              I am almost there, but I have an oldster who does require a lot of extra work ... including you have to bring him in to feed and give him at least 2 hours to eat. Nobody wants to stick around for 2 hours or come back in 2 hours to let the old guy out. I was lucky that my trainer is young and lives in a small apartment in the city. She and her hubby LOVE to come out and farm-sit. So I lucked out there!


                              • #16
                                A now a word from you friendly neighborhood horse sitter...

                                Make the layout of the chores as easy as possible for you so that you don't wind up hating your farm. I only have to work these places for a little while; you have to live there. Let the person best suited for identifying logistics see if the farm in question is really the one for you.

                                Some things you will end up hating:
                                The barn sits low on the property, the turnouts, water tanks, sheds for horses are at the top of the hill. Can you run a water line up the hill that won't freeze in the winter, or are you hauling buckets of water up the hill in the rain, snow, sleet and ice, twice a day? Does the shed you have up there have electricity for lighting so you aren't running up and down the hill in the dark, and trying to feed and water a horse in that shed as well? Ditto for the manure coming out of that shed and paddock and having to come back down the hill. Is the compost pile going to have to be out in the back forty, uphill? This is all a huge time sucker.

                                Is there a paddock close to the barn for turning out a difficult/injured horse? Can the hose be stored within reason of the spigot in the barn throughout the year without freezing, or will you have to be hauling it out of the basement of the house each and every day, maybe twice a day. Is there a way of keeping your paddock tanks from freezing in the winter? Or are you going to be chopping ice twice a day. It gets old, fast. And, if you have groups of horses on outdoor turnout in each paddock, is there a way to set it up for hay and watering from outside the paddock so the non-horse person won't be mobbed by hungry, pushy horses? I'm experienced and I have turned down jobs because some of these pastures are just too dangerous.

                                Is there a way to store some hay near the barn for the days rations, or are you you hauling from one building, across the field and to the barn each day? Do you have a room you can lock for tack? Or are you hauling it in and out of the house? And is there room for grain/supplement storage and storage of cleaning supplies, etc. Is there room for a refrigerator to store meds, or is the sitter going in and out of your house?

                                The best farm I ended up working on had all of the problems above. They ran an insulated water line up the hill, put electricity into the sheds so we could see, set up a compost pile near the paddock so the manure could be brought directly sideways to the fence and not downhill/uphill. Hay and grain still had to go uphill, but the water buckets in the shed were heated, so I wasn't chopping ice. Tanks in the paddocks ended up being muck tubs placed near the fence, haying and watering could be done over the fence so that once you got to grain you didn't get mobbed--the owner then put in automatic hay feeders so the paddock horses also got hay at noon and 9 pm as well. Stall cleaning was easy as the compost pile was brought down from the top of the hill and placed behind the barn. Three of the stalls turned out directly into the paddocks so the most difficult horses could be turned out, the stalls cleaned and set up and the doors re-opened so they could go in and out all day. Hay and grain storage were near the barn, the mud in front of the barn and on the way to the turnout was replaced with stone dust so you weren't slipping in the mud or dancing on ice with a fractious horse; the hose was stored on a good wall reel in the heated tack room, which also had a working sink, a small refrigerator, a telephone, a white board for messages/numbers and was where the timers were located for the automatic hay feeders in each paddock. The door could be locked. I never had to go into the house for anything, the water lines never froze, I was never running uphill with full wheelbarrows or chopping ice out of water tanks, etc, etc. I ran into all of these problems and more on some of the other farms. They loved the place, I loved it and loved doing that job winter, summer, spring and fall.

                                Try to work the layout so the flow from one chore to another is so smooth that you don't mind doing the work in all kinds of weather, that you are always working safely in good light, and the pipes aren't freezing on you in the winter. Then you'll love your farm, your farm sitter won't mind taking the job, and may even give you a discount for being so thoughtful!
                                Last edited by Chief2; Jun. 3, 2012, 04:22 PM.
                                "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Chief2 View Post
                                  Is there a way of keeping your paddock tanks from freezing in the winter? Or are you going to be chopping ice twice a day. It gets old, fast.
                                  Automatic waterers are your friend.

                                  My trainer gave me this advice: put your money into auto waterers because that way if something happens to you you can toss a bale of hay out and they have food and water. I am so glad I listened to her -- there is NO time spent watering; I maybe clean the bowl once every few months.

                                  Chief2 has great advice!
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                                  • Original Poster

                                    Wow, thanks for all the advice! I will definitely keep it all in mind. We have an offer in on a place, but there are a couple of hurdles to overcome to make it ours. Hopefully we will have good news by the end of the week. Cross your fingers for us!


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by She's Pure Gold View Post
                                      Hubby and I are looking for a house with enough land to bring my horse home (and board another so he has a buddy) and I'm starting to get all worried about everything that could go wrong. We both work full time, though he's home for summers because he's a teacher, so the horses would be alone for most of the day 3/4 of the year. How do those of you with horses at home but who work other jobs cope? What safety measures do you have in place? What are some things we should be considering and planning for? The 3 biggest fears I have are a horse getting loose, getting hurt (more than just a scrape), and getting stolen. Please help this worried first time "mommy"
                                      My husband and I work full time and have our two horses at home. I don't worry about them while I'm at work. I worried much, much more at some previous boarding facilities!

                                      I have electric fencing for their paddocks and there is perimeter fencing around most of the perimeter (by the road).

                                      I don't worry too much about horses getting loose, although I'm sure it could happen. They would probably just stick around to eat grass, anyways.

                                      Horses can get hurt at any time, including when I'm at home, so I don't worry about that any more than usual.

                                      I have no worries about my horses being stolen.
                                      Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**


                                      • #20
                                        Glad you're using some variation of "flex fencing" -- it's what I have and I love it, moreso as various of the original fenceposts fail (DO NOT using landscape timbers as fenceposts; they do not last!). Post sags, but the fence stays up (at least the line posts; corner or end posts are, of course, much more critical -- I advise using the biggest posts you can get for those positions).

                                        I only have one horse, who has the run of a good-sized paddock with access to the underside of the bank barn with overhang -- the ideal situation, IMHO! (except for being the only horse, I know, I know.)

                                        I am lucky that I have a fine old barn (as in, ~ 150 years old) that has a hayloft, so I can buy my hay each summer and be stocked for the year. I drop what I need each week (gravity can be a lovely thing ).

                                        I also am lucky that I have a "wishing well" in the paddock that was a functional well, back in the day. I have a sump pump dangling below water level from the original rope/bucket hook, and I had an electric line buried out to it so all I have to do is plug the pump into the outlet mounted on the inside of the stonework to produce water to fill the water tub; in cold weather I can plug in the heated water tub. I am SO lucky I have this.

                                        A friend with LOTS more horses than I have uses large capacity heated water tubs in her paddocks, which of course means having water as well electricity run underground to let them be filled/plugged in. She's been clever in her fencing that lets her share a large tub between two paddocks.

                                        I have to differ from another poster who loves automatic waterers... I HATE them! You have no way to monitor how much water your horse is actually drinking. My riding instructor sent her few horses home with a student/boarder when she hit her 80's and was forced to retire; the boarder put all sorts of money into a fancy barn with auto waterers in each stall, which the horses had never encountered before. My instructor's horses were lost to colic in the first winter there. To each, their own.

                                        Manure disposal: do you have a plan?
                                        I wheelbarrow a load up the hill every day/other day to dump; I have to put a large tarp over it during fly season or else one of my neighbors complains (I'm sympathetic to his complaints, but it's a PITA to deal with the tarp ); I use the bucket on my small tractor every 2-3 weeks during fly season to load that pile into a small utility trailer to take further up the hill (away from neighbors, also away from possible groundwater contamination) to unload by hand to compost. I also feed Solitude and subscribe to a season's worth of fly predators. It might be worth it for you to contact the Mass. version of an Ag. Extension service, like UConn provides, to discuss manure handling issues.

                                        I have neighbors pretty close on every side and ONE of them are an older couple who have my contact info. and they are awesome neighbors who watch out for me; however the guy on the other side of this rather narrow property also works in Hartford, 45 min. away, but in any case he would be clueless about anything whatsoever happening outside because he LIVES inside; one almost never sees him poking his nose outside. Welp. At least he's an EASY neighbor!