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Is this a firing offense? Opinions sought

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  • I am somewhat confused as to how a mistake on the first day working solo translates into she "shouldn't bother applying to vet school" and insinuations that she should take up basket weaving. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_mad.gif[/img]

    I think it was an honest mistake. First time she was solo, thinking she got it right, and made a mistake. Firing offense? I should hope not. Something to be blown off and forgotten? No way.
    Something to be discussed with a special emphasis on why this was a problem? Yes.

    There should be no insults or demeaning talk, (no, "And you think you'll even get to vet school?" [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img] comments) simply address that she made a mistake, that it was fortunate that there was no harm done, but that the potential for harm should the mistake be made again is significant, and why that is. Forgive her this one time, and let her know it absolutely cannot happen again. I bet it will stick in her mind for a long time and carry over to everything else and she'll be extra careful.

    We've all made mistakes, especially when we're first starting out. If you fire everyone who makes a mistake, you'll never have an employee longer than 3 weeks.

    As for colours and sizes of horses being an identifier, I've seen some interesting descriptions of horses.

    There was an ad for a horse for sale, chestnut mare with black mane and tail and 4 black socks. To most of us, this is bay, but I've also had this described to me as "sorrel". Last week, I went to see a horse described as a 16h "sorrel" and it was the quintessential chestnut and all of 15 hands.
    My own mare is 15.2 1/2, but everyone who first sees her, including myself, insists she's over 16h...until you stick her, and see it is an illusion because of her head carriage and large build.

    ~<>~ Remember, the Ark was built by a rank amateur; the Titanic was built by a team of experts~<>~


    • <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Flash44:
      he was the only one allowed to set up the feed. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
      One of my mentors (posts often) always (always!) personally dolled out the feed, and hay. Before I was allowed the chore, I was watched like a hawk. I realize now how important was that job - in any situation.

      I saw the same routine at Spendthrift Farm. Only two men were allowed to feed the stallions and the broodmares. And only they and the farm manager had keys to the feed room. Like a safe. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img]


      • that we already have too many careless vet students & vets. I think FlightCheck has come to a useful, well-thought-out approach to handling this.

        That said, this "teenage girl" sounds to me like a young woman from FlightCheck's description:

        "She presented herself to me as a "horseperson"; went to farrier school this past summer and then worked out west at a dude ranch in the stable; knew the difference between chestnut, bay, blazes and stripes; and during training seemed to have a good grasp on things."

        FlightCheck is in FL. If this "teenager" was "out west" going to farrier school & working this past summer, it would appear to me that she is old enough to be on her own & closer to "woman". Many of you seem to cut her some slack because she is a teenager, but I class her as young woman.

        I guess I must be "a control freak" & "anal" regarding horses as some of you have perceived FlightCheck to be. I am nearing 58 (next month) & I started riding horses when I was 4. I can think of many, many errors I made over the years but *none* of them put a horse in danger--I was the one put in danger. I have truly thought long & hard & I cannot remember putting a horse in danger. I can remember hitching the trailer incorrectly *BUT* I always do a recheck of the hitch before I load the horse so I found the error before a horse was on the trailer (just as one simple example of errors I have made).

        I am so painfully aware of how human I am & I guess that makes me obsessive about checking behind myself with the horses.

        Because of our experience with Mary (a horse) this summer I am also so very aware of how a horse can be (actually & truly) killed or at least put in serious illness & danger by the wrong food.

        This is an challenging topic--one that has caused strong feelings & strongly worded posts. I think that is always useful to all of us.

        FlightCheck is an interesting screen name--makes me think of a double check before starting out, always a good policy.

        www.rougelandfarm.com Home of TB stallion Alae Rouge, sire of our filly Rose, ribbon-winner on the line at Dressage at Devon.


        • I too thought of this employee as more than a teen. Also, for those who thought FC was anal and a perfectionist/control freak, well then , count me in too.

          I once had an interesting conversation with a vet. I was talking to her about a cushing's horse who she was treating. The vet was giving the owner's false hope about her recovery (she was also 22 and arthritic)....and we were talking about "quality of life".. The vet told me in so many words that I take better care of my horse than most people, and that my expectations were high.

          Wow, now see, I suppose people could look at this thread that way too. Is it too much to think that a horse who is all color coded and the grains all made up in advance can't get his correct ration? I certainly don't feel I am that great of an owner always, just consistent and conscientious in my actions. If that's anal and "over the top", well then, that's me. I have high standards, but to me, it's common sense here that is lacking.

          I teach my childern (10 and 12) how to do a task. They know to ask if they are confused.....I know with my daughter she has gone overboard sometimes on asking every little detail to the point of us just saying "do the job"...but that's for tasks which are somewhat no-brainers (doing dishes, putting food away, etc). Perhaps the gal didn't have the common sense to realize she was doing the job incorrectly....who knows. I don't begrudge owners expecting a task to be done properly after a task has been explained, shown and trained and they nodded and said "Yes, I understand the task". I have respect for those who at that point say "NO, I DON"T understand such and such."......just my afternoon rambling thoughts on this.....

          The gene pool could use a little chlorine.
          Ellipses users clique ...


          • HEY ! Who says thats a negative? Those of you who keep making noises about the use of the words "control freak" as if its a *bad thing* are being silly! This is a GOOD THING!!

            I'm not nearly control-freak enough about my horse, but I noticed everyday I'm far more controlfreaky than the majority. I've probably avoided dozens of dangerous, expensive, fatal accidents as a result! Good for any of you who fall into the Anal catagory! Pat yourselves on the back!


            Member of the controlFREAKY clique. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

            "We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur." -- Vice President Al Gore, 9/22/97
            Proud member of the * Hoof Fetish & the NervousNellieWorryWart* cliques!


            • I also say-it will NEVER happen again.

              Unless this girl just didn't feel like doing the job correctly, got lazy and left, I don'tthink there is any reason to let her go.

              It was a mistake, mistakes are part of the human condition-if you stress the point of feed being a very important factor in her routine,a nd explain it to her agin, I can almost gaurantee it will not occur again.

              Everyone deserves a second chance, it sounds like this was an honest mistake here. Now, if it happens again, I think it is understandable to let her go. But this was her first night alone.

              - Whit
              "If it weren't for electricity we'd all be watching television by candlelight."
              - George Gobel
              I must say, I\'ve met some horses whose feet smell far worse than my husband\'s.


              • <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by mcmIV:
                HEY ! Who says thats a negative? Those of you who keep making noises about the use of the words "control freak" as if its a *bad thing* are being silly! This is a GOOD THING!!

                I'm not nearly control-freak enough about my horse, but I noticed everyday I'm far more controlfreaky than the majority. I've probably avoided dozens of dangerous, expensive, fatal accidents as a result! Good for any of you who fall into the Anal catagory! Pat yourselves on the back!


                Member of the controlFREAKY clique. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]


                May I join that clique? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img]


                • reading through this, and working at a barn myself... i would die for color codes. that would be the epitome of my life. i am in love with the boarders who set up their supplements in baggies, i would love a barn owner to be like flightcheck.

                  from what i see in Flighthchecks post, she is a very competant owner of a boarding stable. she taught this girl the ropes, and supervised her over several sessions... seeing as she is in florida i dont think mud is happening on a bay and a black. thats a huge difference. if the two horses were the same color i would give the girl the benefit of doubt.

                  the simple fact that Flightcheck has tried very hard to simplify everything, shows the girls lack of caring. black and green are very different colors. 15 hh and 17 hh are very different. when flightcheck called she acted as though she was laissez faire about the whole deal.

                  i would rather board at an anal barn, than a barn with woodchucks working and sticking wrong horses everywhere... whos to say someone who cant tell a large horse from a short fat horse can close a gate, or latch a stall. this girl seems too careless to keep. first impressions last, it was her first "real" responsibilty and she didnt care enough to do a good job, sucks to be her, but id can her asap.

                  good luck flightcheck... id love to have color codes again!


                  • I have been reading all the posts and I am glad that some of you don't work for me. You would all cost me too much money.

                    I like the fact that most people are that anal, it gets the job done and gets it done right. This is the most important factor.

                    As a manager you have to look at it as a buisness. Take the personal aspect out of it. You have to ask yourself some basic questions:
                    1) Did I as a manager did I give her the tools to succeed?
                    2) Did I think she was ready, or was it a case of I need to do something and she is the only person here, so lets see how she does (not really ready for the task)
                    3) Is this person trainable?
                    4) If so, is it worth the money that you have thrown away to use more money, time and effort to train someone else when the training has already started with the first person.
                    5) If the person is not trainable than yes go ahead and let them know that there services are no longer needed. In the long run more money time and effort would be needed to train this person right then finding someone else.

                    As a manager who has 220 people employed with them, I can tell you that most of the time you can look to yourself and find that in most cases the tools necessary to succeed in a task weren't given correctly.

                    Everyone is so quick to say "let them go", but you have to think of it as a buisness. The time and money you have already spent training them is not something you should just throw away if it is a training issue, which is what this sounds like to me.

                    Take the time to talk with this individual and coach them. Talk to them about the things they did well, the things you liked about what they were doing. Then let them know about the things they need work on and why it is important. Then let them know that you are going to quide them better in there tasks to make sure they are on the right track.

                    This works 99% of the time, and your employee will know that you are approchable with issues, or if they have a problem. It also lets them know exactly what boundries are and what you expect to get the job done. You just need to spend a little more time in training, with this individual and I believe it will pay off for you.

                    Hope this helps.


                    • If something like this happened to me, my first reaction would be, "what happened here?" This situation is odd enough that I'd be concerned that there was some kind of emergency...like, she had to leave in a hurry. I am not excusing - just trying to think about what on earth... This can really set the stage on the conversation: "Can-do, when I came home and saw the horses..... I was afraid there had been an emergency. Did you have to leave suddenly? Is that why the horses were mixed up?" This kind of sends a message right away, as in, I'd expect this if your house was burning down and you had a life-threatening emergency... And, honestly, something like this could have been the case.

                      The second thing I'd think about was a distraction. As in, she came with a friend, or boyfriend, and did not concentrate on things as a result. If you have not done so already, make sure that you make it clear that this is work and not to be mixed with social time. You want her to be able to concentrate on the task. Make this a positive message, but clear. "Can-do, in case I haven't told you, I want to let you know I have a rule: while you are working, I don't expect you to have any visitors. If you want to bring a visitor, let's make arrangements outside of your work time, and I'll be happy to help give a special tour". Parents would love the tour and friends, especially boyfriends, would recoil with horror, having just the effect you want.

                      Ask a few questions and then listen very carefully to the responses. You are not likely to get the whole story (especially in the second case).

                      Can you tell what age my children are....


                      • I'm 17. I'm currently in charge of a barn because the owners are away for 2 weeks-- when they get back, they're leaving again really soon, and I'll be on my own again for 2 weeks.

                        While I've made mistakes, such as having a valuable weanling pull away from me and careen down the driveway going mach 10, lead rope flapping in the wind, or, better yet, not feeding a horse in one of the back paddocks for a few days because I had completely forgot anyone was back there (luckily he had an automatic waterer and a hay roll), I'm always super-careful when the owners are away. I do not want anything to happen while the horses are under my charge-- if something's going to happen, I want it to be while they are there. Granted, some things can and will happen, and there's nothing you can do to prevent it, but I'd just as soon it not be under my watch.

                        Personally, I think you should give her another chance. It took me 2-3 weeks of working every day to get to know all the horses, and things happen. I know it could've been serious, but so could've the valuable weanling dashing down the driveway with leadrope attached. If she seems truly worried and upset over it, she probably won't do it again.

                        ~~ .. and the #1 horse-product that has yet to come out: Caffiene-free Thoroughbreds!~~
                        We ride and never worry about the fall ..
                        I guess that's just the cowboy in us all.
                        (Tim McGraw, "The Cowboy in Me")


                        • Lordy, I'm glad I don't work for some of you people. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] I am a teen, and work at a barn, and I have made some REALLY stupid mistakes. Adults don't realize this, but it is really hard to get hired as a teenager without any work experience, so I am very grateful that I have this job, and whenever I make a mistake they calmly tell me and you can be sure I never make the same one twice!

                          And some people were making snotty comments about teenage work ethic- I think all adults are grumpy. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

                          -The next time you are annoyed at someone, remember, It takes 42 muscles to frown, and only 4 to reach up and smack them upside the head!-


                          • <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ClipClop:
                            And some people were making snotty comments about teenage work ethic- I think all adults are grumpy. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE> [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] ClipClop, you crack me up.


                            • Oh, if only some of you lived in central West Virginia! You could do a STUDY of bad vets here. Actually, having lived in a fair number of off-the-beaten-trail places, I think I'm something of an expert in recognizing "cow vets" who treat horses! Imagine trying to keep your investments healthy when that's all you have for advice? I'm all for tossing out the unsuited, like someone implied. But I suspect grade inflation and students who are consumers rather than products of education exist at even some vet schools.

                              Sportponies Unlimited
                              Specializing in fancy, athletic, 3/4-TB ponies.
                              Sportponies Unlimited
                              Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.


                              • OK I have not read all of these posts but did skim a few that said things like "simple mistake" and wrong feed won't hurt anything.

                                Well, despite clearly labeled baggies and buckets, somebody fed an aged gelding I was leasing the wrong meds in the wrong bucket with the wrong feed and he ended up in anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) and I ended up in shock from the vet bill. Took me 4 months to pay it off at a time I really couldn't afford it. Person who did this had the attitude of "oops, sorry". Not nearly as sorry as I was.

                                I "fired" that barn owner and moved as my trainer did a few weeks later.

                                While this is not as serious, fortunately, it doesn't bode well for this person's future in being trusted alone with the horses.

                                I'd do as any other employer would for something serious, put her on probation. Anything else happens she is out.
                                If she wants responsibility she has to accept it, and the consequences when she screws up. If she's willing to admit she did screw up and appears to regret it, I'd give her one more chance. If she gives a million excuses and doesn't accept responsibility, fire her now.

                                The Horse World. 2 people, 3 opinions. That's the way it is.
                                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                • I hate to sound harsh. But, yes, it is a firing offense.

                                  I made a mistake in letting a very pleasant, well meaning gal, who made numerous mistakes stay on...I kept giving her more chances and supervised her closely. Just when I thought things were going well...boom! Her lack of following instructions resulted in one of my horses with a broken neck (which died) and one in surgery for colic (I won't go into details...I haven't even had time to grieve.)

                                  I've learned the hard way...if barn help doesn't get it right, then shows no REAL remorse about the mistake, or lacks a DEEP sense of responsiblity about a mistake, I can never feel at ease. If I have to re-check everything, then I might as well do it myself.

                                  While I forgive mistakes in the beginning when someone is learning (I'm supervising), I've learned to weed out those that naturally "have it" and those who don't when it comes to horse care and following instructions.

                                  Susan Doner, Little Bull Run Farm. Standing Boleem, Argosy and King's Camelot. www.littlebullrun.com
                                  www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                  "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                  Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                                  • I'm confused. I just read the original post again, and all I could figure out was that the girl in question had put the wrong horse in the wrong stall. She *didn't* screw up the feed (apparently, the feed was already in there?), just confused the animals.

                                    A question - were the color-coded halters on the horses at the moment when she had to decide what went where? If not, to my mind it's perfectly possible that she just picked the wrong horse (who knows how?), and did the right thing with what she thought she had.

                                    Yes, there can be potentially fatal reprecussions from feeding the wrong thing to the wrong horse, but in _my_ experience (30 years with horses), that's very much the exception, especially when it's just hay and grain and not meds.

                                    And working "solo" for the first time can be daunting - there was one job I had in college (making observations with the big telescope at UVa at 2 in the morning) that I just could _not_ do if someone else wasn't around. I'm sure it was a confidence thing, but still.

                                    So, I'd talk to her, ask her if she can explain why she made the mistake, and see if understands why this was a big deal. Then go from there.

                                    Everyone makes mistakes. I'm not sure what my biggest one (with horses) has been, but backing that pony mare into a corner (she was very careful just to graze my head with her hoof - she _could_ have killed me) was one of the more memorable. Of course, _she_ was fine.


                                    • She's ditzy so she couldn't get into vet school? Where have I been?

                                      I work at the vet teaching hospital at Oregon State where I am an undergrad student (in psychology of all things) and I've found that, dare I say it?, most of the vet students are relatively ditzy.

                                      A common and unfortunate attitude amongst vet students is the I'm-going-to-be-a-small-animal-vet-so-why-do-I-have-to-waste-my-time-chasing-cows-and-horses-around? Or the polar opposite attitude also occasionally surfaces. You know the I-rode-a-horse-once-in-third-grade-so-I-know-absolutely-everything-about-them!

                                      Of course not all of the vet students are that way but they all seem to go through a phase where they are God and us lowly mortals had better stay out of their way! Then, unfailingly, some sneaky sheep or wayward warmblood sufficently humiliates them and suddenly they are relatively humble (human?) again.

                                      Last winter I actually stopped one of the Senior vet students from giving the wrong horse cataract medication. The donation horses are housed on one side of the hospital with the food animals while the rest of the equines are on the other side. The student whom I'll call Homer (because it was a total "Duh!" moment), was instructed to put eye drops in the eyes of a chestnut Arabian mare named Mariah who had cataracts. The ONLY chestnut mare on that wing of the hospital. I don't know what he was thinking but somehow he ended up in the stall of a chestnut QH gelding named Razor who was putting up a tremendous fight about the eyedrops.

                                      My dry observation that he was giving eye drops to wrong horse was met with a holier-than-thou expression until one of the attending vets wandered around the corner and saw him in the wrong stall with the incriminating eye medication. The ensuing teasing from his classmates and the attending vet were enough to scar the poor fellow for life, I'm sure. His sexual identity was called into question since he obviously couldn't tell the difference between a gelding and a mare.

                                      But my long-winded point is that I know a lot of vet students, some really great with animals and some who should stick with the books. Ditzy has nothing to do with getting into vet school, or I'll eat my boot!

                                      As some say, common sense is not so common!


                                      • is just like a buisness, and CONSTRUCTIVE correction of mistakes is what is needed, but if the trainee has a bad attitude, poor attendance/tardyness, or is somehow deficient for the job [in this case maybe color blind] if accomodation for the deficiencies are impossible, cut your losses and move on because it wont get better.
                                        more hay, less grain


                                        • Wow. I actually have just read ALL of the posts here...and fwiw, here is my assessment.

                                          Whether or not this is a "Firing Offense" is totally up to FlightCheck. I would, however, ask a few questions:
                                          1. Have you clearly stated your expectations fully, in detail, and several times? Does the girl know what constitutes a "totally unacceptable if this happens you're out" situation?
                                          2. Do you feel that you know to your satisfaction WHY the mistake occurred (didn't understand, got confused, etc.)?
                                          3. Has the quality of her other work been satisfactory or not?
                                          4. Do you basically get along with the girl and feel that she is worth investing more time and training in?
                                          5. Can you afford to replace her for this in terms of time and training already invested?

                                          FWIW, I am a pretty anal horse owner. But I allow for mistakes to happen. However, I have also gotten barn help fired, deliberately. Why? Because after six months the woman still could not tell the horses apart, and endangered me, our vet, my horse and mostly herself by interfering during a medical process, stepping into the horse's space saying "he's upset and needs you to be nicer" to a horse that was dangerously in pain and medicated. Even the vet yelled at her, and I've never heard him do that.

                                          I don't LIKE mistakes, and they'd better not happen more than once. But they happen.

                                          FlightCheck is the only one who knows what HER BARN'S tolerance for mistakes is. She has the right to set that tolerance level. I would, though, urge that the "why's" of the mistake be fully explored to help avoid it in the future. As a manager, I don't like mistakes. But what I like less is not understanding - WITH the person who made the mistake - why it happened and planning what we'll do to ensure it doesn't happen again.

                                          As to the vet school judgement - I'll be kind and suggest that maybe FC was just peeved and venting in a safe place, much as one might say "omigawd that person is a moron." I'll just trust that FC wouldn't DREAM of saying that to anyone over one mistake.

                                          Now, a funny story about how easy it is to mix up horses. When I had my first mare, I went to ride one evening. It was rather dark in the field, but I brought her in, curried and brushed her, noticed she was a bit strange with her feet -- not her usual self -- got her saddle on, and went to put her bridle on. THAT was when I realized......it wasn't my mare! I'd spent all that time with a horse quite similar, but different enough to tell in a heartbeat, and I hadn't. Why? It was the end of a long day and I was just doing things by rote, rather than being present with them. It can happen...