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Managing Work and Caring for Horses at Home

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  • #21
    Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Set up your horsekeeping, if it's at all humanly possible, to be as quick and low-maintenance as possible. Even I get days off and those days are definitely busy doing barn chores. That's kind of the plus side. But when I'm working 13 days in a row (doesn't happen often, but it happens) I know I can keep the place running with just the quick daily routine that I've put together.

    For instance:

    An automatic waterer is THE MOST VALUABLE thing on my place. No buckets, no hoses, no worries about clean, plentiful water 24/7/365. Of course I check it every day (twice a day, actually) but it has never failed me and saves a ton of time and labor. It's in my sacrifice paddock, to which the horses have access 24/7.

    If possible, design the place so the horses have access to a sacrifice paddock or somewhere to move around at will. This keeps them healthy and happy and if you're stuck and don't have time to exercise them, they're at least out and moving. My barn has 3 stalls that open into a 1/2 acre dirt paddock, which is where they live for the most part. The gate opens into a grass paddock and I have another large grass pasture across the driveway. But if it's busy, they stay in the dirt paddock and eat hay or I just open the gate to the small pasture in the morning. No leading horses to pasture if it's super busy--they go out there when I'm home and/or have time.

    If the horses don't need much concentrate, consider feeding them "grain" just once a day. Mine do fine with this and it saves time in the morning. My morning routine is to stop at the barn on the way to work, glance at everyone, check the waterer, put out hay or open the gate to the small pasture, and go. Takes 3 minutes. Nighttime is when I clean stalls, feed, and do whatever else--even that, in a pinch, can be done in under 30 minutes. Again, the real "chores" can and often do wait for days off: stuff like putting down hay for the week, scrubbing, grooming, turning the manure pile, etc.

    Another thing I like about my setup is that it's very easy for even non-horsey people to help. My horses can be fed, stalls cleaned, etc. with literally NO contact on the part of anyone if necessary. Just put the feed in their stalls (which are open to the paddock, always), put out hay, and clean the stalls while they're eating. I realize this doesn't work for everyone and has its downsides (some people don't like the idea of horses sharing stalls and going in and out at will) but it is definitely a hugely efficient setup.

    I wouldn't board again for anything. I love having the horses at home and feel like I have MORE time with them now than when I was driving 25 minutes each way 4-5 times a week.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #22
      It takes some practice and the barn must be set up to work for you not against you. I work full-time and take care of eight horses. 3 are mine, one boarder and the rest in training/sales.

      We just built a new farm on 11 acres. The horses will have stalls that open into a sacrifice paddock that is divided up two horses per sacrifice area. The sacrifice area will open into a chute that runs the length of the property. There are several fields on each side of the chute so horses on the right side of the barn go in the right chute and horses of the left go on the left chute. The paddocks are set up to rotate so you just close the gates of the fields that are not in use and open the gates for those in use. Water set up in the chute near the barn.

      I will not have to bring in and out horses which saves an enormous amount of time. They can just come in their own stalls.

      I set up feed before hand. So morning feed is prepared the night before and then after morning feed I set up night time feed. The cart is always stocked with hay and left by the field it needs to be thrown in.

      I will have a run-in in the front field with a sacrifice area built around it which will save the fields. We drag and reseed the fields as necessary.

      Stalls are picked/clean once a day but do not get that dirty because most horses learn to use the bathroom outside (most!).

      I do not have water buckets in the stalls because it is easier to clean a trough for each side of the barn vs scrubbing/filling eight water buckets. Horses are smart and adapt.

      I leave for work at 6:40 am and get home at 4pm and start riding. I can get 3-4 horses ridden each night and then do the chores afterwards. My husband also helps out which makes it easier but I make my income from my side training business so he knows riding= money so he is more willing to help

      My run-in and stalls all have mats and the doors to the feeders open up making it easy to just dump grain in.


      • #23
        Like Deltawave I am planning for auto waters. I have also considered going to a once a day feeding of grain although I am not sure if I will. I have a barn full of young tb's all in heavy work so it might not work out for me. I need to research it a bit.

        I can also say that I have a job that has a nice schedule (7am to 3:30pm) so I can do my riding at night and I live 20 min from work.


        • #24
          Will you have any help, be it a husband or boarder? I won't have SO to help me but wanted to hire someone to take care of them in the evenings, do stalls and when I travel.
          *How understanding is your work? Will they be flexible with emergencies? Not sure yet about this. But I plan to have help.
          One more thing - you can plan to have help all you want, but finding reliable and affordable help can be extremely difficult in some places.

          I'm not trying to be a naysayer, just making a point. There are a lot of horror stories out there and finding good help just to take care of evening stalls and feed for 2-3 horses can be hard, especially with gasoline this high - if someone has to commute to your place, then you'll have to pay them more to make the trip worth their while.

          You also need to be prepared for the fact that help may not be reliable - someone I know had a boarder in exchange for chores and extra peace of mind, and she wound up having to kick her out because she simply "forgot" to feed for an entire weekend.
          They're small hearts.


          • #25
            Originally posted by monalisa View Post
            I am curious and wanting to know how you do it - how those who work full-time outside the home but manage to keep your horses at home, how do you do it and maintain a degree of sanity?

            I am contemplating this move, but want some assurance that I am not nuts. Economically I may have no choice, but I am contemplating taking a new demanding position all at the same time.

            Moving the horses home helped me sooo much.
            I drive over an hour to work every day.
            I leave the home at 6:15, drop my mother off at 7:15 and walk in the lab at 8am.
            I leave the lab at 4:30, pick the mother up at 5:00 and we arrive home at 6:15pm.

            The horses are usually out 24/7 but sometimes they are in during the day or night depending on the season or weather.
            My favorite job is dragging the pop spreader with my turbo golf cart. : )
            (golf cart is a must when living on farm. I can do EVERYTHING from the seat of the golf cart.
            Fill troughs, pick up mail, let horses out...everything!)

            My feed room looks like a chemistry lab and my favorite time/s of the day is feeding time.
            I no longer contantly worry about my horse's health and if something silly happens it's MY fault and I can't go over and over in my head about how it could have been avoided at the boarding facility.

            They eat when I feed them. Between 5am and 12pm - 3pm and 12am. 99% of the time they are on a regular schedule but hey, a girls gatta go out sometimes! They have a ton of pasture and free choice hay and are never waiting for meals.

            The barn is attached to my house and I can't tell you how great that is. In the summer after I ride I can just stip down to my teenies and flipflops and hose off right there in the driveway..and then continue working with the horses. In the morning I wake up, put on my robe and walk myself out my side door into the barn isle to feed. : ) !!!

            It's amazing how quickly I switched from the "always were shoes" to walking through the barn barefoot. lol.

            Also, I'm single. I think the ease of the lifestyle may have something to do with that. : )

            I could never go back to living in the city and boarding. Never.

            I would say the only stinky part of living with the horses is keeping the strays away. Dogs, Cats, skunks, possums, spiders, snakes. You have to get up the guts to do away with strays sometimes. We have to off a dog every so often because they chase the horses. And some stray sick cats that come around. That's hard on the family and we hate it but it's got to be done.
            Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


            • #26
              Barn and pastures are set up so I NEVER have to lead a horse, it is all done by opening and closing gates.

              An oversupply of water troughs and water buckets, so that they don't NEED to be filled every day (though they are checked).

              If at all possible, put all the horses on the same feed.

              Use Smarkpack so I don't have to order or measure supplements.

              Pay the delivery fee to get feed and bedding delivered.

              Cultivate a farrier (and vet if possible) who will come and work on the horses without your needing to be there. This means they need to have excellent manners.

              Finding help that is REALLY good and reialble is not easy. You will probably work through several "Ok but not great" people (as well as a few disasters) before getting someone really good. Once you do, treat him/her REALLY WELL.

              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


              • #27
                Originally posted by monalisa View Post
                I am curious and wanting to know how you do it - how those who work full-time outside the home but manage to keep your horses at home, how do you do it and maintain a degree of sanity?

                I am contemplating this move, but want some assurance that I am not nuts. Economically I may have no choice, but I am contemplating taking a new demanding position all at the same time.


                Depending on how many horses you have as well as your set up will determine the manageability factor. I work full time AND I am currently enrolled in a full time load of grad classes. Somehow I have been able to keep riding 4-5 days a week and stay on top of my barn work.

                I have one horse and 1 mini companion. Having the mini companion as opposed to another horse has cut down on my chores significantly!! They poop less, eat less, dont' break boards or tear up blankets My guys share a 12x15 bedded run-in stall that has 2 dutch doors. I can close the stall if I so choose but I never do. They have 4 board fencing on 3 acres with some grass.

                It takes me 5 minutes to feed in the AM. I soak my geldings beetpulp the night before, scoop in his grain/supplements and pour it in his bowl and throw him some hay. The mini doesn't get grain and shares the hay. Blankets are the most time consuming thing in the AM.

                The 100gallon heated water tank only needs to be filled once a week in the winter and it is a piece of cake to dump/clean in the summer. I go through 1-2 bags of shavings A WEEK with the run-in stall. My horse only soils his stall when the weather is crummy. I have friends that stall their horses at night. They spend alot more time on chores and their horses don't look any nicer.

                If you want to save time 24/7 turnout with optional stall access is the way to go.

                Invest in good quality turnout sheets, hoods and blankets for protection from the elements.

                If you can, get lights installed for your ring, it helps ALOT.

                My good friend down the road feeds my guys when we go away and I feed her gelding when she is away. She knows my horse better than anyone else and I know hers very well. Works out wonderfully.


                • #28

                  One thing to factor in (that I didn't) is extra time off work or time off farm work for healing your broken back and aching joints. I manage to frequently injure myself from trying to do it all at once. Right now I am a walking cripple suffering from what feels like a 250 year old lady back from 5 hours of mowing and seeding.

                  Then again you may have more self preservation than I do. I'm still a newbie at this farm stuff.


                  • #29
                    It's a Lifestyle Choice

                    I have 2 at home, and commute 2 hours a day, but am fortunate that I have been able to choose my own hours, so I work 10 - 6:30, as I'm not much of a morning person. Up to feed horses and clean stalls at 7:30. Feed again when I get home at 7:30. Mine live out 24/7 365 with access to their stalls on bad weather days. I lock them out when weather is nice to cut down on mucking time. 1/2 bale out in the morning and another 1/2 out for with their evening feed. Only a couple flakes if they're on grass. Mid weight blankets in winter to keep grooming time to a minimum, but don't have to clip. Trailer to a lesson Sundays at my trainer's indoor.

                    Worst part is riding time. During the week, especially in winter, is a challenge, but I try to do that first thing every Saturday morning, before I do anything else, and then lesson on Sunday. It's easier when DD is home from school, she rides Trav a few times a week. The younger horse's training is hit or miss, which is a shame because he was supposed to be *my* horse, but we're working on it. He's only 7, will be with me for life, and as I had my fun showing in the past, am in no big rush to get him out there. When I'm in the mood to show, I take Trav, he's an old pro.

                    The best part is that I know exactly what care they're getting at all times, everything is done MY way, there's no drama or disappointment, or power stuggles. If I miss a stall cleaning.... no one to care or blame but me. Can be frustrating at times to find reliable hay supply in drought years, but that's about the most stress I have. There's no way I could afford to board 2 horses somewhere that would be up to my standards, and the last time I had a horse boarded it was a constant guilt trip, either for not being at the barn or not being at home with the family. Travel is a challenge, but I have wonderful neighbors, and they're more than happy to feed and muck, as I take care of their menagerie when they travel, and they do a lot more of it than me.
                    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                    Witherun Farm


                    • #30
                      As others have said, being able to leave the horses turned out instead of locked in the barn is key to making it work. This will save you both time and money. Plus, your horses will be MUCH MUCH quieter and forgiving if you miss a few days in a row of riding.

                      I get up at 5:45 and do the barn, drop my son off at school at 7:35 and then go to work. I get home somewhere between 5 and 5:30. I ride right away if Flash Jr doesn't have to go anywhere. He usually rides with me, which is absolutely priceless quality time spent together. You haven't lived until you've played tag on horseback. Or watched a kid try to jump a pony bareback for the first time ever. Having my horses at home instead of at a show barn has kind of put the joy back into horses for me. It's not all about the showing anymore; it's just enjoying being around horses. I did a lot of showing, life was great; I didn't do a lot of showing, life was still great.
                      Man plans. God laughs.