Backup Horse Care

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If there’s one unarguable benefit to boarding your horses over keeping them at home, it’s having a backup caretaker. When you board, being unavoidably stuck late at work is not a big problem. You can focus on your task without worrying that your horse is walking the fence line, wondering why he’s being “neglected” that night.

But if you keep your horses at home, a long delay can be a major problem. You need a backup caretaker who can, at the very least, put the horses in the barn (or out), feed and water them and be sure no one is injured.

You’ll need clear instructions written out beforehand and clearly displayed. Poorly written instructions are no one’s fault but your own. “Clear instructions” doesn’t mean “Star: 2 SF, 1 HS, 1 JN, RP.” While this may remind you that Star needs two scoops of sweet feed, one scoop hoof supplement, one scoop joint nutraceutical, and a probiotic, it will mean nothing to someone else.

Note hay isn’t even listed on the list — you may know each horse in the barn gets three flakes at night, but will the fill-in caretaker' Sure, you can give detailed directions when you call for help, but by the time you’ve located someone who can take care of the horses, you probably don’t have the time to detail what each eats, let alone how to tell Star from Shemp — both dark bays. The time to get all this organized is before you need the help.

At-home horseowners should take the time to:

•Confirm a backup caretaker. Maybe you can work a deal with a fellow horseperson to be each other’s backup.

•Detail feeding schedules with exact amounts, names of products and where you purchase them, in the event that you’re held out of town longer than anticipated and run low or out.

•Explain how to identify each horse and their quirks, such as the horse who must be led in first.

•Leave the names and phone numbers of your veterinarian and farrier. It’s a good idea to leave the backup caretaker’s name with your veterinarian and farrier, too, so he or she can feel confident when someone else calls about your horses

•Decide who will take your horses in the event you’re involved in a serious, incapacitating accident — or worse. You may need to consult an attorney on this one.

And don’t forget the dog and the barn cats while you’re at it. A lot of lives depend on you, so don’t let them down.

’Til Next Month,

-Cynthia Foley