It's hard. It's time-consuming. It's often thankless.
To the outside observer, it might seem that working in a barn is unrewarding and just that: chores. I mean, all you're doing is feeding and turning horses in and out, cleaning stalls and sweeping aisles, right?
Well, anyone who has actually worked in a barn knows differently. In fact, people who work with horses have to become highly skilled, be fairly athletic, and must know how to pay attention to detail. While people can start with little to no experience, they usually get paired with longtime horse keepers who can mentor them until they have enough experience to work independently.
Working in a barn can do more than just give you a gym-level workout. Here are the top six lessons you won't be able to avoid if you stay long enough at the job.
6. Hard work is necessary
This is probably the first thing you'll learn if you get the chance to ever work for the horses.
You'll quickly realize how you can actually move heavy things if you put your mind to it. You might have to go up and down stairs or ladders to get to the hay loft. You'll have to fill feed bins and then horse buckets with grain. Those feed bags and hay bales need to be moved, stacked and then fed. The walks to the paddocks can be long, bumpy or snow-covered. No need for you to go to the gym after that!
5. It's ok to get dirty
Because you won't have any choice in the matter! You'll likely end up with hay bits in your hair and down your shirt, mud all over your lower legs, dirty jeans because of having to lift the feed bags off the dirt floor. Then there's the mouth goop that the horses leave on your shoulder as you lead them out, and splashed water as you fill buckets.
4. Team work makes the dream work
After you have to do the barn all on your own, you quickly learn the value of help. There's nothing better than two (or more) people sharing the chores, one person taking on one task while the second person does another.
3. Routine is wonderful
This lesson probably will come from the horses themselves. Horses thrive on routine. Timeliness, feed, exercise... the more regular these can be, the happier the horses in your care. You'll learn the value of establishing and then maintaining a routine.
2. Efficiency is key
Every barn worker learns all about efficiency and saving energy - not just the electrical kind!
Before you figure out your routines, you might end up having to walk back and forth to key areas - such as the feed room, the tack room, or the paddocks. Soon enough, you'll start figuring out how you can save as many trips as possible - because, let's face it - the number of steps you walk can add up pretty quickly when you're walking real distances!
You'll work out what you should carry with you even while you're heading to a paddock to do something else.
10,000 steps? Haha! Even after multiple step-saving attempts, you'll still end up somewhere in the 15-25,000 steps region. That's in ONE DAY!
But you won't be able to stand for inefficiencies ever again!
1. Horses come before anything else
This is truly the #1 lesson you'll learn if you work in the barn. While it's true that you're working for the barn owner, or for the boarders or lesson students, you'll soon realize that it's all about the horses. How will you learn this valuable lesson?
It might happen when you notice that one of the paddocks run out of water, and how the horses stand around the water tub waiting and waiting - in the heat of the summer. Or you'll notice how a horse gorges on his hay when he comes inside - after having finished the morning hay on that long snowy wintry day, when there's no grass to be found otherwise.
These mistakes will urge you to be more diligent because the horses are literally reliant on you. And it's a big responsibility.
There is one other thing that happens when you add all this up. In the end, you become a much more empathetic human being. Which will serve you the rest of your life.
Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!
Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions.
This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.
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