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Professionals: How do you keep good help??

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  • In my examples, both barns were paying well above minimum wage (at least double) time and a half for overtime (they used a time clock) and had insurance available at an affordable rate for them. Even gave them a weeks paid vacation-on the theory it would attract better people.

    Not a ton of money but had they been more responsible, they could have gotten enough experience and a reference to make double that, possibly plus housing, going to work at a private barn like CBoylen mentioned earlier.

    There may not be the same type of advancement here as in the more "normal" jobs...but a good groom or barn manager can work up to an International level trainer's operation, big show circuit barn or a wealthy amateur's barn and make quite a decent living without having to work like a dog.

    IMO, there are two problems even if the job pays well and has benefits.

    First off, it is a low skill position, especially at entry level. You get alot who have made unfortunate decisions in life and are starting over-many again and again. They will make the same mistakes they did in that last career that didn't work out. For every good person you get that is genuine about making a start and sticking with it, you get 2 drunks, an ex con and a whack job. These people go from job to job, always somebody else's fault it didn't work or they were asked to leave. This describes the guy that loaded the wrong horse and left the right one. That was the last in a series of similar blunders.

    The other type you get is the one that wants to ride the Grand Prix horse as well as bring some horses of their own along. That, IME, almost NEVER works. They rarely have the talent for that GP ride and they never have the time to do what they are paid to do plus bring along their own horses. This was exactly the story on the one that took the wrong trunks, she was too busy with her own to take any care with the others or meet her job requirements time wise.

    My current barn pays help well and has both legal immigrants and locals...you don't have to guess who is the more competent.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

    Comment


    • Where are all the good employees and working students?

      I have been following this thread closely and unfortunately haven't had time to reply yet because we had an employee quit this morning, and of course, he had to leave today!

      Finding and keeping employees is by far our biggest challenge. Both my husband and I know what it is like to BE an employee, so we are not dumb enough to treat them badly. In fact, I encourage all of our employees to participate and give me any and all input whenever they feel it necessary, because you never know when the stall cleaner or weed-wacker or whoever can notice that something is just "not right" with a horse and prevent a colic, tie-up, or something else serious. We try to make them feel like family, because ultimately we want someone that cares for our farm and horses as if they were their own.

      Of course, we can't pay $20/hour, but we start them at $10, plus they get one of two very nice, modern, remodeled homes on the property with every utility paid, a cell phone, two weeks of paid vacation per year, and overtime. We don't offer health insurance, (worker's comp is the law in my state) but we will pay half of their regular medical expenses. When our last Ranch Foreman had a sore back, I paid for Chiropractic and massage two or three times/week for three months.

      And, to the bigot who made the derogatory comment about "Mexicans," my BEST employee ever was from Mexico. He was smart, positive, hard working, truly loved horses, only had to tell him something once, and took a personal interest in everything. He left because he had saved enough money working for me to return to Mexico and build a nice house for his family in the village where he grew up. He, his family, and us became such good friends that we actually went to Mexico and visited them to see their new house. His younger brother now works for me and is equally awesome. But we need another person and just can't seem to find anyone that will last. Our employee this morning left because he got a job framing for over $20/hour. We just can't afford to pay someone that much. He was a good worker and a nice guy and we hate to loose him.

      We are also looking for a working student, and I have had the worst time finding anyone who will do that like I and my husband did when we were younger! Again, we are offering a nice private cottage, board for a horse, can bring a dog, a stipend for food (small, but at least it's something), and, of course, tons of nice horses to ride, and all the lessons and training they want! If the person proves to be deserving, we would even pay for them to take a horse to shows. When I was young I worked like a slave for many different trainers just to be able to soak up the atmosphere, sometimes I didn't even get to ride! All for free!
      Of course, I would never treat someone as badly as I was treated, but being a working student is a lot like attending college. The university doesn't pay YOU to study!

      Although we can't offer a huge pay, we can offer a nice life and lifestyle. Where is the value any more in working in a nice environment for yes, probably less money, but to have the tranquil life of working with horses on a farm, a nice house, and nice people?
      ******
      "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
      -H.M.E.

      Comment


      • Skipped some pages but have been following loosely..On the other side, how does the hard working, motivated, enthusiastic, goal-oriented employee/potential working student find the employers who are looking for that and willing financially to have someone like that? I'm not saying $100,000 a year, but make enough to support oneself, horse/s and maybe have money for a horse show or to go to the movies. I looked into one working student position where I would be paying $600/mo to be there...it didn't make sense to me how I would be coming up with $600/mo to be a working student and also keep taking care of my horse at home and pay for food where I wasn't getting paid a dime??

        Comment


        • Trixie, thats *scary*...But to play devil's advocate - I own a farm where I am head trainer, and when all is said and done, I take home a lot less than $3.60 per hour By the time the farm mortgage is paid, hay is bought, farm equipment is maintained, etc, the people who clean stalls for me have more money at the end of the week than I do. Just food for thought...

          Yes, I am earning equity every time I write that huge mortgage check...small comfort, because with property values as they are now, my place is worth considerably less than I paid for it.

          I'd love to have an assistant trainer and more employees, but I can't afford to pay them fairly, so I don't bother advertising for these positions. Sounds like others have no shame in doing this.
          Please don't sabotash my conchess.

          Comment


          • We don't make our working students pay, but...

            CassandraMarie: Look at it this way, in the case of the working student we are looking for, we are giving them free rent in a nice private cottage (1 bed/1 bath, full kitchen, living area, covered front porch) which is worth at least $450/month, + all utilities paid, ($150/month) + cell phone ($100/month), + board for one horse ($450/month), + food stipend ($400/month), plus all lessons and training they want ($400/month), that equals almost $2000/month, not including the possibility that we would take and pay for their horse at horse shows, (or one of ours for them) which as you know could cost up to $1000/week! Which doesn't include all of the learning about feeding, bandaging, medicating, training, client relations, showing, and everything that goes into being a trainer or stable manager. I fully expect that if a working student commits to us for a year and does a good job, that they would be able to go on to a paid stable manager or assistant trainer position, (depending on their riding skill) and we would give them the reference to do so.

            As I said before, being a working student is like getting a college education (although that is important, too) in the real-world horse business, and, just like when you go to college, you don't expect the university to pay you to study! Unless you get a work study grant and you can work off your expenses. That is basically what we are offering.
            ******
            "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
            -H.M.E.

            Comment


            • I wish I knew about some of you (AMY) when I was younger - I would have worked for you in a heartbeat.

              This won't really be helpful at all - but when I was a groom, we had a number of working students from the UK and New Zealand. I must say, they had a hell of a lot more work ethic and passion for learning then those in the states. You may consider advertising for that angle.
              www.canterusa.org
              www.harpsonline.org

              Comment


              • IMO, none of these jobs is going to pay for you to keep horses. Even if you get board, then you get less salary wise.

                Most of the American public cannot afford to keep and show a horse on much higher income. To me that is one of the unreasonable expectations with many who seek this career.

                Those that accept the position thinking it will finance their horsekeeping, pay for horse shows PLUS allow them to live decently are mistaken. It's just not there.

                Heck, many of us make well more then even top paid barn staff and can hardly afford to show. I honestly don't think half the kids looking for W/S positions have any idea what it costs to keep a horse versus their income expectation.

                Those that go into it not wanting to own their own but care for and ride those owned by others have better prospects of success.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by findeight View Post
                  IMO, none of these jobs is going to pay for you to keep horses. Even if you get board, then you get less salary wise.

                  Most of the American public cannot afford to keep and show a horse on much higher income. To me that is one of the unreasonable expectations with many who seek this career.

                  Those that accept the position thinking it will finance their horsekeeping, pay for horse shows PLUS allow them to live decently are mistaken. It's just not there.

                  Heck, many of us make well more then even top paid barn staff and can hardly afford to show. I honestly don't think half the kids looking for W/S positions have any idea what it costs to keep a horse versus their income expectation.

                  Those that go into it not wanting to own their own but care for and ride those owned by others have better prospects of success.
                  This is a very good point! It is hard enough to fund riding and showing with a well paying "real world" job.
                  Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan

                  http://www.halcyon-hill.com

                  Comment


                  • HOLY CRAP where were you when I was grooming????SIGN ME UP FOR THAT DEAL!


                    Originally posted by sickofcollege View Post
                    I seriously do not get it...

                    How can people BO or client treat the grooms so badly? Why? It is absolutely insane!

                    The last barn I was at refused to hire mexicans. Yet, the staff they had were terrible

                    I am not in favor of people crossing the border illegally. But, I don't hate or discriminate against people who are good hearted, enjoy their job, and just want to survive.

                    I LOVE the help at my new barn. He doesn't have the best living facilities but he really enjoys his job. He treats the horses with nothing but respect. He tries his hardest to meet all of the needs of the clients. Plus, he goes that extra mile if a horse is sick, etc.

                    My family has a farm where we retire horses and will take show horses out there for a break. It is a great facility but finding good help is insanely difficult.

                    Sadly, we have been robbed blind so many times--saddles, bridles, tack trunks, etc. The entire tack room was empty! They not only abused the farm credit at the feed store--bought tons of stuff for themselves when they were supposed to be picking feed up. Stole farm vehicles--truck, suv, atv, and gator (wrecking all of them on the same night!).

                    The absolute worst was when the cops showed up one day because they had a tip saying that there was a METH lab in the workers home!

                    The list goes on and on...

                    I think we are too nice...
                    - We provide a nice 3bedroom/3bath house (w/d, dishwasher, etc.) huge front/back porch, with a nice grill to have cookouts.
                    - There is a pool behind their house for their use.
                    - We pay cable, internet, electricity, etc.
                    - They do get benefits (health insurance, etc.)
                    - Board horses for free. Max of 3.
                    - Can bring their own pets.
                    - We have our own gas tanks and they can have 1 tank a week.
                    - They get $3k a month to support their family. It isn't *that* much but considering the rest I think it is generous.

                    I just don't get what we are doing wrong. We've finally found someone decent for now. But, you never know where it can go

                    Comment


                    • And again I say...where in the heck was someone like you when I groomed? Sounds like we "old timer" grooms were all busting tail...and rarely can you find a kid that is willind to do that today!
                      Hmm...thinking of quitting real job and driving to your farm LOL


                      Originally posted by Horseymama View Post
                      Of course, we can't pay $20/hour, but we start them at $10, plus they get one of two very nice, modern, remodeled homes on the property with every utility paid, a cell phone, two weeks of paid vacation per year, and overtime. We don't offer health insurance, (worker's comp is the law in my state) but we will pay half of their regular medical expenses. When our last Ranch Foreman had a sore back, I paid for Chiropractic and massage two or three times/week for three months.

                      And, to the bigot who made the derogatory comment about "Mexicans," my BEST employee ever was from Mexico. He was smart, positive, hard working, truly loved horses, only had to tell him something once, and took a personal interest in everything. He left because he had saved enough money working for me to return to Mexico and build a nice house for his family in the village where he grew up. He, his family, and us became such good friends that we actually went to Mexico and visited them to see their new house. His younger brother now works for me and is equally awesome. But we need another person and just can't seem to find anyone that will last. Our employee this morning left because he got a job framing for over $20/hour. We just can't afford to pay someone that much. He was a good worker and a nice guy and we hate to loose him.

                      We are also looking for a working student, and I have had the worst time finding anyone who will do that like I and my husband did when we were younger! Again, we are offering a nice private cottage, board for a horse, can bring a dog, a stipend for food (small, but at least it's something), and, of course, tons of nice horses to ride, and all the lessons and training they want! If the person proves to be deserving, we would even pay for them to take a horse to shows. When I was young I worked like a slave for many different trainers just to be able to soak up the atmosphere, sometimes I didn't even get to ride! All for free!
                      Of course, I would never treat someone as badly as I was treated, but being a working student is a lot like attending college. The university doesn't pay YOU to study!

                      Although we can't offer a huge pay, we can offer a nice life and lifestyle. Where is the value any more in working in a nice environment for yes, probably less money, but to have the tranquil life of working with horses on a farm, a nice house, and nice people?

                      Comment


                      • Here we go again....and here I am again....

                        And I know that NONE of you barn/business owners would allow your grooms or working students to ride in the ammies, would you.

                        Comment


                        • HM, it sounds like you provide a wonderful program and opportunity for your working students, and defintiely something that I would look into further!! However, most trainers are not as generous as you are. And now what is the work schedule expected of your working students? Is there time available for those who need to make more money to be able to whether that be extra things around the farm or perhaps a pat time job waitressing or the like? Besides my rent/board I'm still paying out about $400/mo in other bills including car insurance, medication, a couple of student loans and who knows what else. I think it's hard to find a place where you can combine working for a paycheck and riding/helping your trainer with the idea of advancement to either a management or training type position.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            I found good help finally!!!! She gets to the barn early does what she has to do and she loves her job. She is the best!!!!!
                            Author of COTH article "The Other Side of Aaron Vale"

                            Comment


                            • Its not just the equestrian world that is facing difficulties keeping good staff, let alone finding staff. I work in HR and believe me, finding staff that is actually going to stick around is difficult. Today's entry level worker will switch on average of 8 companies in their career life. Not to mention they switch CAREERS on average of 3 times. Its very difficult in industries were there is little ability to move up or broaden skill bases. Retail is a prime example, most young workers see those jobs as 'after-school jobs' or jobs to have until something better comes along. It all comes down to motivation and growth opportunities, then wages. But reading these post I'd LOVE to have you guys as my boss, hopefully you find the staff you are looking for!
                              ~The best thing in life is to do what others say you cannot~

                              Comment


                              • I know the crappy pay/living situations (see run down trailer) seems to kill a lot of peoples motivation. I have the best job and a great boss. Could I live on this salary without the help of my parents? No. I have a 4 year business degree and could easily get a high paying desk job. Do I want that??....heck no! My entire paycheck goes to my ponies and shows. Then I see the other side where I could be an ammy, but would have to work my butt off to make enough money to show and then probably be too stressed and tired to enjoy it all.

                                My boss is great, I feel appreciated and learn something new everyday. It is truely about the passion for the horses that keeps me getting up in the mornings. I mean really how many people get to say they get paid to show horses!! I know that when I no longer have my parents that I will find a way to continue on in this industry.

                                Seems like those that can't keep good help overwork their employees, pay them pennies and never bother to say thank you.

                                Amy, I would KILL to work for a place like yours. Maybe because Bend, Oregon is my favorite city. I went to the University of Oregon and really miss living there. California just isn't the same.

                                Comment


                                • Loveshorses: Thanks, we like Bend, too! Although it is a little far from horse shows sometimes! And hey, I am also a fellow Duck!

                                  CassandraMarie: I treat the working student position as if the person were attending a University. The goal when you go to college is to learn a marketable skill in the shortest time possible that you can then use to get a job. Although they don't get a degree from us (obviously), if they do a good job they will get a reference. They could get multiple references from our clients and our dressage trainer as well. When students go to college, they don't expect the college to pay them to study. They may have to get a job in addition to taking classes, however a lot of times the family and relatives are prepared to help out a least a little with expenses. Our working students work six days/week, 8 hours/day. We did have a working student a year ago that got a job washing dishes at a local restaurant on the weekends to make extra income. I let her start work later in the mornings for that. I have also had a few learn to braid well and braid for extra income at shows. I did that when I was younger, too.

                                  Moli: Our working students are not paid to teach lessons or train horses. They are actually paying US by way of trade for work. They are grooming, cleaning stalls, setting up feeds, turning horses out, etc, etc. Then they get lessons, usually on their own horses. If I am going to pay someone to train my horse, they have to ride better than I do! And that usually is my husband, who I don't pay !

                                  amanda.stewart: I am getting nowhere finding a working student and am prepared to take anyone of whatever age
                                  ******
                                  "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
                                  -H.M.E.

                                  Comment


                                  • In my experience, here are a few things an employer can do to keep good help:

                                    1. SHOW THAT YOU CARE - about the horses, about the clients, about the barn's reputation and about your business. Nothing kills a new employee's enthusiam like a boss's apathy.

                                    2. SHOW UP ON TIME - If you say you are going to be at the barn at 9:00am, then be there at 9:00am or at least call if a problem arises. How can you expect an employee to be puctual if you can't!

                                    3. BE A PROFESSIONAL - Your employees will look to you to set an example on how to act. Don't set the wrong example but expect them to be any different! The "do as I say, not as I do" motto does not cut it.

                                    4. BE & PLAY FAIR - Don't work your employees any harder than you would work yourself. Also yelling at an employee for something that was not their fault may help you feel better but may be the last straw that makes them quit.

                                    5. TREAT OTHERS LIKE YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED - This seems to be the hardest thing to remember but it is the Golden Rule.

                                    Good luck to all the employers looking for the perfect person and good luck to all those job seekers looking for that perfect employer!

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