Tips and Tricks from the Best Hunter Barn Managers in the Business! – Part Two

Our BarnManager team recently caught up with some of the best hunter barn managers in the business to learn their tips and tricks, and now we’re back with more insight from two women working hard in the saddle and behind the scenes to help their hunter operations run smoothly!

Meet This Week’s Managers

 

Karli Postel – Karli Postel rides and assistant trains for Archie Cox at Brookway Stables in California.

 
 

 

Cara Meade – Cara Meade manages for John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC, based out of Tennessee.

 

Q: What is one thing that you or your horses never go to the ring without?

Karli: The grooms never come without a backpack, and in the backpack there are back boots, hoof oil, brushes, hoof pick, and rags; they always have a whip in the backpack. They always have a little bit of boot polish in the backpack. Show Sheen, rubbing alcohol, and fly spray. The backpacks are heavy!

Cara: A towel. There are so many uses for a towel at the ring. Horses always need to be dusted off—legs, belly, sweat marks, green mouth, tack—and your rider’s boots can always have one last wipe-down. It can also be used on the jump or ground as a way to prep a spooky horse.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of the job?

Karli: Orchestrating timing is probably the hardest, just because of the nature of our industry. Nothing generally runs specific to the laid-out time schedule, so you have to make your schedule but then be flexible within it. You have be able to recognize “Okay well this ring is running a little bit faster, and this ring is running a little bit slower,” so it’s going to work out a little differently than I had accounted for originally. I think if you’re not good at time management and you can’t be flexible within a schedule that you make, you’re going to have a hard time because you might get flustered.

Cara: Communication! Whether it’s with someone who speaks a different language or just simply how someone else translates the task, idea, or information you are trying to explain. Clear and consistent communication between all parties is always a good challenge.

Q: What’s your biggest time-saving trick in the barn?

Karli: Using your resources and using your network. I see it all the time where people are at one ring and they’re like, “Well I need to check on the other ring, so I need to walkover there.” You have the resource of the gate guy. Go and ask him to radio over. He won’t mind as long as you aren’t rude and you wait until he has a convenient moment to do it; you’re saving yourself the trip. When we go to HITS Thermal where there are seven hunter rings, four jumper rings, and the barn is way far away, those 10 minutes that it takes you to walk from one ring to another are valuable. So I say definitely you need to use your resources. Sometimes getting the gate guy’s phone number is helpful. If you’re in the warm-up ring and can’t hear the count, it’s nice to be able to reach out to them personally.

I also like to keep my schedule on my phone so that I always have it on me, and I try to make sure that everyone has a schedule. Archie [Cox], myself, and then our head guy Carlos, just so that all three of us have an idea of what’s happening.

Cara: My time-saving trick is organization. I’m not naturally the most organized person, so the more organized I can be with all of the supplies I use each day, my thoughts, and the order of how tasks get done makes a big difference in how long the days take to get finished.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Karli: It’s so fun when you get to the weekend, and the clients come. You had your whole week and feel like you’ve done all the prep.When they go in and they have success, and they come out and they’re happy, that’s the most rewarding for me. Especially when it’s kid; I love the amateurs, but with the kids it’s really rewarding because you can really see it on their face when they’re so excited about winning. Even if they just went in and had a really good round, when they ride well it’s exciting!

Cara: The most rewarding part is seeing the horses perform well. There is SO much effort and detail that goes into getting each horse prepared exactly right to go to the ring. To see all of that effort pay off for horse and rider is definitely the most rewarding part.

Q: What’s your best grooming tip? And what five things do you use most in the barn?

Cara: My best grooming tip is to be organized as best you can. The more readily you can have all your grooming necessities and tack available the easier it will be to work quickly and efficiently.

I definitely use the dry-erase board; I wouldn’t make it through the day without it. A towel and some Pledge; there is never something that doesn’t need dusting. Scissors or a pocket knife, sunscreen, and tack soap.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Managing for McLain Ward: An Interview with Erica McKeever

On September 21, spectators and show jumping fans from around the globe watched as McLain Ward and Clinta delivered an incredible jump-off performance to anchor the U.S. team and clinch the USA’s first World Equestrian Games (WEG) team gold medal.

What most spectators did not see however, was Lee McKeever outside of the ring, overseeing every last detail of Clinta’s care or McKeever’s wife, Erica McKeever, coordinating all of the logistics involved with Ward and Clinta’s WEG appearance and managing the 30 additional horses back home at Castle Hill Farm in Brewster, NY.

Behind every great rider is an equally great barn and horse management team, and while they might not be the ones atop the podium, for the last 30 years, Erica and Lee McKeever have been an essential part of that team at Castle Hill.

With more than three decades spent overseeing horses at one of the top show jumping barns in the country, there are few with more ongoing, high-level barn management experience than the McKeevers, so we asked Erica to share more about her own management career!

Q: How did you get started at Castle Hill?

When I came to the U.S., I was working for Tim Grubb in New Jersey, and Brigette that was working for Tim’s barn brought me to Castle Hill during the horse show at Old Salem.

I first met Barney Ward that night. It just seemed like a really fun place. Everyone was hanging out together, and he called everybody his family several times while we were there. I felt like, “Whoa what a really neat place that is to work.”

Then I guess he must have called Brigette shortly after and said that he was looking for someone who could manage the show horses and go on the road with him. She asked me if I thought it was something that I was interested in doing. I said, “Oh I don’t think I could.” I had experience but not being in sole control of the horses. She said, “Well I think you could do it.” I did a trial, and we kind of hit it off right from the go. He was awesome. He taught me so much about horses and horsemanship. It was really special. I figured it out, and I never looked back.

I went on the road with him for a lot of years. McLain and Lee kind of went their way, and we went our way. I pretty much ran the show side of this barn. He had his managers at home, and that’s kind of how it started.

Q: You had your son, Bradlee, in 2002, and your daughter, Baylee, in 2004. How did your role at Castle Hill change after having kids?

I took care of Sapphire when we first got her. I’d just had Bradlee, so I tried to go on the road and still be a mom, and it actually was about virtually impossible. We had a fabulous babysitter who was with us from when Bradlee was six months old, so I tried to still go on the road and keep the same role, but it was really hard. I couldn’t do it.

Then I started to stay at home and run that side of it. Instead of having a bookkeeper or a secretary, I did it myself. I still tried to occasionally go with Sapphire. I still traveled to Florida, and I still tried to do the barn as well because that’s really important to me. That’s what I love to do. Then I had my second child, and it became very difficult to do it all. So, I stayed home, and I run things at home. It’s great because now there are so many horse shows, you constantly have horses getting ready for the next event, which makes it really exciting at home too.

Q: What’s a typical day like at home now?

I like to be home until my kids leave for school on the bus, and then I go to the barn. I usually do a couple of hours in the office. We do a plan for the day of what horses are going to be doing–who’s riding which horse, who needs clipping, who needs the vet. We plan all that early in the morning.

The key to this is to surround yourself with great people, and then it’s easy. If you have good people in the barn that you trust and are good at what they do, it makes our jobs really easy too. You have to find good people that really want to do this and love the animals.

Q: What do you think it takes to be a good barn manager?

I think you have to be responsible. You can’t leave it for someone else to do. You have to do it. I think managing is the perfect word – you have to pretty much manage everything from the help to the horses to the farrier. It’s a huge role, and it’s a huge responsibility. I love it because I like to be in control a little bit.

Organization is important. We have a plan in place because McLain’s a huge planner. The horses are planned where they’re going now through week 12 of Florida.

Again, I think the most important thing is that you have good people around you that care as much as we do, and they do this not for a job but because it’s what they love. We try to encourage the people to be a huge part of each and every horse. They all ride; they all take care of them. When McLain wins, we all win. Everybody contributes to that.

Q: What are the challenges of the job?

It can be a little stressful; sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because there’s always something going on,

Now my daughter shows. She does the ponies. That’s become stressful in itself! I feel like I’m managing a whole other operation; I don’t know what’s going to happen when she’s doing the equitation! I just spent some time at the [ASPCA Maclay] Regionals last week, and that looks more stressful than ever. We just did the world championships, and that didn’t seem as stressful as some of those kids!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working for Castle Hill?

The family aspect. To be appreciated by McLain as much as he does. It’s so special the way he involves our children in the whole thing – his father was the same. It was always about family. McLain’s really, really kept up with that. I would think he would make his dad very proud with how he is. I think giving the appreciation to the people around him, that’s huge for everybody. Not just for me, but for my husband, and Virginie [Casterman] who took care of Clinta at WEG. That’s so important to be appreciated.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Tips and Tricks from the Best Hunter Barn Managers in the Business! – Part One

The Capital Challenge Horse Show attracts the best hunter horses and riders in the country – and in turn, the best hunter barn managers! While at the show, we caught up with several of them to learn their tips and tricks and the challenges and rewards of their jobs. Now, we’re sharing their feedback in a two-part series of blog posts!

Meet This Week’s Managers

 

Kassie Gustafson – Kassie Gustafson manages for Hunt Tosh Inc., based out of Alpharetta, GA.

 
 

 

Molly Sewell Schott – Molly Sewell Schott is a rider and assistant trainer at Over the Hill Farm in Sanford, FL, where she has worked with Bill Schaub for the last 17 years.

 

 

Kate Wood – Kate Wood has managed for Liza Boyd at Finally Farm in Camden, SC, for almost two years.

 

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of the job?

Kassie: At a show, I’d say just communicating. Making sure that all of the pieces are working together – whether you’re getting horses to the ring or you’re in a situation where you have a lot of clients. It really just depends on that – getting your whole team to work together. If you’re at home, not at a horse show situation, I would actually say pretty much the same thing: just making sure that everyone is communicating. There are a lot of moving pieces that make a barn run efficiently. Being able to manage all of that is probably the trickiest part.

Molly: For me, I think my challenge is juggling multiple roles. I ride and also manage the grooms and the horses. That’s the hardest thing. I’d also say, making sure that communication is good between all of us.

Kate: Keeping all of the pieces moving; making sure that if there are lessons for the day that need to get done, that they’re getting lined up in between showing – just trying to make sure that the day runs as efficiently as possible. It’s really hard to do, because you’ve got horses showing in the ring, and you’re trying to get other lessons put together. The time management is really the big thing.

Q: What’s your biggest time-saving trick in the barn?

Kassie: I’m a huge multi-tasker. At the end of the day when you have a tack hook full of bridles, tack cleaning takes up a lot of time. So, any little stuff you can do throughout the day – like tack cleaning, those little types of things – they really help.

If people ask me, “What can I do to help you?” I hand them a pile of polo wraps to roll. Hunt’s daughter, [Maddie Tosh] is great. She always helps us in the barn. I call her my little secretary because she is just fabulous. You don’t realize how much it helps you when someone can do those kinds of little things for you. It allows you to have that time to do something else that you need to. Keeping up with the little things like cleaning tack and rolling polos throughout the day makes a difference.

Molly: I like to make sure that everything is organized when I close up shop every day. It saves time in the morning. I would rather stay at the barn later and then have everything smooth and efficient in the mornings, as far as tack being perfectly organized and that sort of stuff.
I like everything to be done the night before because you have very limited hours in the morning. When I get to the barn, I want to be able to pull every piece of tack out of the trunk and have it exactly where it needs to be before everyone starts riding. I even pack the trunk at night based on what we’re doing first, so I’ll put the schooling bridles on the top so that we can just get them out and get the horses out the door and to the ring. That’s probably my biggest time-saving thing as far as being organized.

Kate: Just really overcommunicating – even if you repeat yourself five times. Making sure that everyone knows the game plan; writing everything down. Liza and I don’t leave the barn before we go over the board together and make sure that Jack [Towell] is clued in on what the morning is bringing. We just like to have a good game plan before we leave that day.

Q: What item or items do you use most in the barn?

Kassie: Anything I post for them I always hashtag #ShapleysSavesLives because it does. We’re a huge fan of Shapley’s products. Whether it’s the High Gloss, the Spray Paint, whatever – we’re huge fans. We use a lot of MagnaPaste for hoof packing.

Molly: Venice turpentine – at least that’s what I’m always buying! It’s for their feet; we’re always making sure their feet are comfortable because that’s the most important part. If you don’t have any feet, you don’t have any horse.

Kate: We love our Seashore Acres products. We use a ton of that stuff for scratches and for fly spray. I also have to say our rubber jump poles. They’re safer than regular jump poles; if you want your horse to land a little further out off a jump, you can place them on the ground. If they land on those, it’s a lot safer than if they were to land on a wooden pole. And again, our radios. Our radios are very important to us.

Q: What is one thing that you or your horses never go to the ring without?

Kassie: I never go anywhere without my backpack. I always say that it’s full of my magic tricks. I always have a hoof pick and a tail brush. We take all of our horses up with a chain lead shank. It makes it easier to hold them while they’re getting ready. I’m a really big fan of the baby oil that’s a gel; it’s super easy to carry in a backpack. You don’t have to worry about it spilling or anything like that. Baby powder of course, hoof oil, all the basic stuff. I have a kit of makeup that I take with me, in case we need it for any touch-ups. You never know what’s going to happen!

Molly: Our horses and ponies are very spoiled; they definitely never go to the ring without peppermints! Then our grooms all have their essentials like hoof picks, fly spray, and towels in the backpack that goes to the ring with each horse.

Kate: My radio. That’s how we survive. And normally my hat and my boots just in case!

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Kassie: Any time that a horse goes well – especially if it’s one that I had to get ready in the morning. With Hunt’s farm, I love seeing Maddy do well because they’re such a close family, and they’re all so dedicated. They put so much into it. The whole family gives 150 percent every single day. That’s wonderful to be a part of.

Molly: I think the most rewarding part of my job is of course going in and showing – that’s my favorite thing and my passion. But it’s also so rewarding when the ponies and horses go to the ring and they’re prepared beautifully – when they’re perfectly tuned and schooled and yet they’re also gorgeous to look at. It’s very satisfying to see them all braided up; they go to the ring and do their job and then they’re champion our reserve.

Kate: I really love when the horses go in and do their job and everyone is happy. I like it when the horses are happy most of all. That’s the most fun for me, preparing the horses and then watching them go in the ring.

Q: What’s your best grooming tip?

Kassie: Fly spray. I use the wipe and spray. It is phenomenal. If you put it on their hooves instead of hoof oil, the footing doesn’t stick to it. I’m a huge fan of that. You can fix anything with some fly spray – brush it into their coat, wipe off the dust – fly spray is my go-to trick for sure!

Molly: I would say our biggest, best grooming tip would be for the wintertime when we do body clipping. We always clip our horses if they start getting the slightest bit of hair on them because we find that if you clip them when their hair is shorter, they keep their color longer. If you let the hair grow out long, they lose all their color.

Kate: I think just being aware of the details, not just with the horse being turned out well, but making sure that they don’t have fungus; making sure that their coats look good, they don’t have hives or bumps. It pays off to just pay close attention and know your horses.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

A Quick Conversation: Laura Graves

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

Dressage rider Laura Graves is fresh off an incredible individual silver medal win at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (which she adds to her 2016 Rio Olympic team bronze medal), and we had the privilege of catching up with her before WEG at the BarnManager-sponsored “Dressage for Jumping” clinic! (Read more about that here.) She took the time to talk to us about everything from her 4-H beginnings to the hardest part of making your career out of riding.

Graves and Verdades

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?
There were actually two of them. My parents ended up trading our old, used washer and dryer for these two ponies. One of them was jet black, really handsome, and some sort of cob mix. His name was Rafter. Then we had a little Appaloosa whose name was Spanky.

It started out with just those two, but then you know, you have a barn, and you have property – I don’t think my dad really understood that then my mom would just start collecting horses! Anything free or if it didn’t have a home or if it had some sort of tough situation needing rehabbing – there were a lot of horses that had mental issues. They were either really nervous or they wouldn’t get on trailers or for some reason or another people didn’t want them. So, we ended up with all of these free horses.

I have two sisters, and we were all members of our local 4-H club and my mom ended up being one of the leaders. I just wanted to be a part of the presenting of the horses. I didn’t even want to ride. I just liked to groom them and present them. They judge you on how clean your tack is and your own turnout. Then it wasn’t until years and years later that I decided that I really wanted to ride.

The other 4-H leader would give me some lessons. It didn’t really turn into dressage until that 4-H leader said, “You know, if she really wants to ride, she needs to get some real lessons,” and sent us on to a woman who also taught lower level eventing but focused mostly on dressage.

Q: You’ve had a lot of incredible success, but what’s your favorite riding moment or memory?
I have probably two stand-out moments. One was the [FEI World Cup Dressage Final] in Omaha. We had tweaked my final centerline for my freestyle a little bit. I remember the crowd cheering so loud that I couldn’t even hear when my music was supposed to stop. That was pretty amazing.

But probably the biggest stand-out moment for me was in Rio. I had just finished my Grand Prix Special, and we were discussing how not many people came to watch the dressage. With jumping at the end you know how many rails you had down; you know how fast you went. You can look up at the clock. But in dressage, you don’t know for a minute. You kind of count on, “Well that felt pretty good,” and then if the crowd is loud, you go, “Okay, that must have been really good.”

In Rio, I was thinking, “We just delivered the ride of our lives!” and it was like crickets. I heard maybe four people clapping. I was so confused. But I said, “Good boy. I think you were pretty good.’”And then when we turned around to leave the stadium, my three teammates came rushing down because they could see the score, and they knew that we had just won the bronze medal! That moment was amazing.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?
The World Equestrian Games.

Graves and her WEG mount, Verdades

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?
I’m not a morning person. If I don’t have any wrenches thrown in, which is unusual, I get up around 7 a.m. I try to get the dogs out of bed – that’s usually the hardest part of my morning. They like to sleep in also.

I’m always at the barn and on a horse by 8 a.m. Then I schedule my day so that the girls and I are getting barn chores done and horses turned out, and we just go through the riding schedule. Maybe I ride five or six in the morning, and then after lunch, it’s just teaching. I have three clients that have horses in the barn or trailer in. Then the horses are all done by 4 p.m. The barn is totally closed up, tucked in, lights off by 5 p.m.

I just think the quiet time is so important for them. And if I can keep the part of their day where they’re being bothered shorter, I think all together they’re much happier. It’s something that I’m pretty strict about.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?
We fall in love with this sport for the horses, but when you decide to turn it into a serious career, you have to be really prepared to fail. I say nobody else cares that you take down a rail. Nobody else cares that you missed a flying change. And that sounds a little bit mean, but it really can be very isolating.

Even the people around you, your parents or your spouse, they’ll say, “Oh I’m so sorry that you missed the flying change.” But nobody gets it the way that you do, and you have to be prepared to deal with that totally by yourself. I think that’s the hardest part of what we do.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Leveling the Playing Field: The USET Foundation

In my work with BarnManager, I have the privilege of experiencing a number of opportunities that I most likely wouldn’t otherwise have. This includes sitting down with Laura Graves during the Washington International Horse Show Barn Night clinic and getting more involved with the United States Equestrian Team  Foundation. Both of which have led me to write this blog post.

The first of these great experiences has been the opportunity to begin volunteering my time with the USET Foundation. They were looking for young voices to come in and help them communicate their mission to a younger audience and to help them launch a grassroots fundraising campaign to complement their existing fundraising efforts. I am one of many who are volunteering their time and experience, and I am so grateful to work with and learn from all of the people that this opportunity has afforded me.

I, like many young professionals, am very busy and constantly juggling a million responsibilities and requests. So I don’t give my time to people or organizations that I don’t believe in. I love horses. Every time I ask myself why I am driving hours to the middle of nowhere to compete or getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, I spend five minutes with my horse, and all of my doubts disappear.

You are here, so it is safe to assume that you understand this type of irrational and sometimes frustrating love that we never outgrow. Part of this love is an awe and admiration for those who compete at the highest levels of the sport. They often appear super-human, completing extraordinary efforts time after time. We become devoted fans and cheer for their successes and mourn their failures. But the story that isn’t told often enough is the role of the USET Foundation in their successes, in our successes.

So first things first, the USET Foundation is NOT the same as the U.S. Equestrian Federation. The USEF is the governing body for equestrian sports. The USET Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission of supporting the competition, training, coaching, travel, and educational needs of America’s elite and developing International High-Performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

To me, that is a long-winded way of saying that the USET Foundation levels the playing field at the highest levels of equestrian sport. And I never really understood this until sitting down with the hard-working team at the USET Foundation and talking directly to Laura Graves, one of the many athletes whose successes at the international level would not have been possible without the Foundation’s support.

A flight to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France, for Laura Graves’ Verdades would have cost Graves roughly $20,000 – the approximate going rate for a trans-Atlantic horse flight.

However, Graves—like I venture to say the vast majority of us—didn’t necessarily have an extra $20,000 readily available to ship Verdades overseas to compete in Europe that summer. But that didn’t stop her from competing at the 2014 WEG and bursting onto the international dressage scene in a big way after finishing fifth in the Grand Prix Special, fifth in the freestyle, and fifth with the U.S. team in Normandy.

From that point on, Graves and Verdades together have become a much-loved face for dressage in the U.S. and for the bond between a horse and a rider. They’ve been a vital part of U.S. dressage teams, including the bronze medal-winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and they will represent the U.S. again at this month’s 2018 WEG in Tryon, NC.

But what if Graves had never been able to pay to get Verdades on that flight to their first WEG – or to any of the major competitions since then for that matter? And how do she and so many other riders like those representing the USA at WEG come up with that sort of money on a regular basis?

 

The answer is the USET Foundation – the secret to leveling the playing field in team equestrian competition in the United States.  

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that equestrian sports, much less at the elite levels of international competition, are easily accessible to everyone regardless of their backgrounds or access to means. But if you can navigate the challenges and obstacles of getting to the top levels of the sport, shouldn’t talent, ability, and preparedness be the only determinants of your ability to represent your country?

That would not be the case without the work of the USET Foundation. However, what is not widely discussed is what that really means. It means that the USET Foundation is ultimately making it possible for the team selections to be fair and not impacted by a rider’s financial circumstances. There are many intricacies in USEF team selection that I may not understand or be privy to and many that are imperfect, but it is because of the USET Foundation that selection can be based solely on the horse and rider’s ability and fit for the team at the time.

Once a horse and rider have demonstrated the ability and qualifications to be selected for a team, they are able to be a part of that team no matter whether or not they can afford it, thanks to the USET Foundation.

“For me, that support is the only way that the dream works,” said Graves. “People tend to think maybe at this point in my career I’ve just made it and now it’s different. This is an incredibly expensive sport. When it comes to supporting the travel and the competition of these horses, it’s a whole other ball game. There are times still where I think ‘How am I going to pay that bill?’ I am someone who could not have achieved what I’ve achieved without the financial support of the USET.”

And it’s not just dressage riders like Graves or riders in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, show jumping, and eventing that the USET Foundation is supporting – it’s all eight of the high-performance equestrian disciplines that will be represented at the upcoming WEG: dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, endurance, reining, para-equestrian, and vaulting.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the support from the USET Foundation in the success and growth of reining on the international stage,” said Jeff Petska, the Chef d’Equipe for the U.S. reining team at the 2018 WEG. “The opportunity it affords athletes to compete on the international level and represent their country is remarkable and has had a great impact upon each athlete’s career.”

The WEG is the only event of its caliber in which all eight of the disciplines are showcased. That means eight times the U.S. teams and eight times the expense. But thanks to the generous support of donors, the USET Foundation is making the 2018 WEG dream a reality for the approximately 50 U.S. riders traveling to compete in Tryon.

“The United States is shipping and caring for 50-plus horses and a delegation of approximately 125 [people] for the WEG,” explained Bonnie Jenkins, Executive Director of the USET Foundation. “This includes providing travel and accommodations for athletes, coaches, team leaders, grooms, veterinarians, farriers, physiotherapists (horse and human), team doctor, chefs d’equipe and a chef d’mission.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have wonderful friends and supporters of the USET Foundation that help make all this possible and ensure our athletes and teams have the financial resources necessary to achieve competitive excellence, not only in the WEG year but also in the critical years leading up to the WEG gaining international competitive experience in preparation for international championships.”

Not all of us are destined to compete on the international stage, but we all revel in the joy and sorrow, the sweat and tears, the patriotism and the passion of the athletes that represent us at the highest levels of the sport. But imagine what this sport would be like if the USET Foundation did not exist. Who would we be cheering for if we didn’t feel like we were sending our best and most able to represent us on the world’s stage? Sure, some riders would find wealthy sponsors to support them, as they do today. This is necessary, and we can thank these sponsors for many of the top partnerships that we see today and that have earned medals and accolades for the US Team for decades. However, we cannot allow team selection to be limited to only those with financial means and to the riders who can secure the support of a generous sponsor. Without the support of the USET Foundation, it wouldn’t be our team, it would be their team.

It is also important to note that many of these sponsors are tremendous supporters of the USET Foundation and responsible for some of the grants and programs that facilitate the leveling of the playing field when it comes to USEF team selection across disciplines. But the USET Foundation exists for all of us. And it is the reason we can proudly cheer for OUR team at the WEG and beyond.

That is what I see as the crowning accomplishment of the work of the USET Foundation. Not the medals, trophies, and coolers, but their commitment to supporting a team that belongs to the U.S. equestrian community as a whole. Like fans of any other team, we can love or hate, take issue with or support blindly any individual player. But we can still cheer for them with abandon knowing that they are ours, and they are the best that we have on that day. Not the wealthiest, not the most connected, the best.

That is how the USET Foundation levels the playing field, and that is why we need this organization to continue to grow and evolve in their support of the athletes we admire, and the dreams that do come true.

To learn more about the USET Foundation and how you can help level the playing field in U.S. equestrian sport and support riders in representing the United States in international competition, visit www.uset.org.

 

What Makes a Great Barn Manager?

“Behind every great barn is a great barn manager” – or at least, that’s what we at BarnManager believe! But what does a barn manager do that makes the role so important? And what makes someone a great barn manager?

While those answers vary from discipline to discipline and program to program, we’ve found that no matter what kind of horses they’re taking care of, a great barn manager is a great barn manager.

Managing Horses, Managing People

First and foremost, almost all barn managers’ top priority is the proper care and maintenance of the horses they’re responsible for. Depending on the barn, that can mean overseeing:

  • feeding, supplements, and all of the horses’ nutritional needs and any medications
  • turn-out schedules
  • horses’ exercise routines
  • the cleaning of stalls, as well as barn cleaning and maintenance
  • vet, farrier, and specialist appointments and scheduling
  • the ordering of supplies and feed
  • and more!

If the barn has a competitive show program, the manager is also likely in charge of all aspects of the horse show schedule, including arranging transportation for the horses, making packing lists, submitting horse show entries, ensuring the horses are up-to- date on health matters such as vaccinations required by show managers, and organizing the necessary veterinary paperwork and/or passports.

The horse care aspects of the job can themselves fill up a rather lengthy list, but the tasks of a typical barn manager don’t stop there! In fact, for many barn managers, the management of people is as much, or even much more so, a part of the job as the management of horses.

Barn managers are often also in charge of the small business operations side of running the farm as well, including:

  • employee schedules and payroll
  • the hiring and training of new employees
  • accounts receivable and payable
  • lesson scheduling and coordinating.

What Makes a Great Barn Manager

With so many moving pieces and components involved with being a barn manager, strong organizational skills are extremely important, as are these three additional traits of a great barn manager:

  • Extensive horse knowledge – Since he or she is often the one overseeing each horse’s daily care and feeding, it’s important for the barn manager to have a solid understanding of equine nutrition, basic equine medical treatments, and all elements of daily horse care.
  • Great interpersonal skills – A barn manager is often the one interacting with both employees and clients on a daily basis, and therefore he or she needs to be an effective communicator with the ability to also listen to and work with others, and to deal with any conflict or problems should they arise. The attitude of the barn manager often really sets the tone for the barn environment – either positively or negatively.
  • Dedication – Barn management is not a 9-5 job. It can often mean long hours and 24/7 availability should a problem or emergency situation arise, and the horses in the program are likely never far out of the barn manager’s mind even when he or she is away from the barn. Dedication to the job and to the horses is a key to not only success as a great barn manager, but also to true enjoyment of the job.

Thank You to Barn Managers!

Knowing just how much goes into the role, we at BarnManager are extremely thankful for all of the barn managers that we’ve had the privilege of working with!

Thankful for your barn manager and want to make his or her life a little bit easier? Or a barn manager yourself looking to make your life a little easier? Consider introducing
BarnManager! Our cloud-based software is designed to streamline organization, keep records all in one place, and get barn managers out from behind the paperwork and
back into the barn with the horses they love. Signup for a free trial here!

Managing Horses in Multiple Locations with Laura Kraut

A month ago, Laura Kraut rode on the U.S. Nations Cup team at the CSIO5* Ocala in Ocala, FL. Three weeks ago she was contesting the Sunshine Tour in Spain, and this week, she is back in Wellington, FL, to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) – only to go back to Spain again on Sunday, March 18.

It’s a busy travel and horse show schedule that could feel difficult by anyone’s standards. For Kraut however, it’s made easier – and even what she describes as
(almost) somewhat relaxing – thanks to the team behind her that understands and exhibits a few key components and characteristics. She shared with BarnManager what a team needs to make managing horses across continents a simpler task.

Compatibility

“You’ve got to be compatible with your team first of all no matter what. I’m very fortunate in that I have my sister who is like having me. I know that what she’s doing is what I would want done. When she’s at a different location than I am, I don’t really have any worries.”

Kraut’s sister, Mary Elizabeth Kent, is the one on the ground in Wellington, FL, where she oversees the approximately 14 horses that they currently have competing at WEF. In Spain, it’s Kraut’s lead rider, Julie Welles, who is in charge of the 18 horses there when Kraut is back in the States.

“They have to be people that you want to work with. I think that’s one of the reasons that Julie has worked really well – because we are all compatible.”

Credentials

“They’ve got to have the credentials. If they’re going to be a rider than you’ve got to respect the way they ride, and if they’re going to manage, you have to have the basic same philosophy of how things are done.

“You’ve got to have people riding your horses that you feel will, at the very least, keep them where you left them or for the better improve them and keep their condition good and their flatwork good.”

For Kraut, she can trust that her horses will all receive the constructive, positive rides that they need from her sister and Welles, who rides the horses in Spain and many of the young horses throughout the year.

Care

In addition to having Kent and Welles at the wheel when Kraut is not on site, the horses are all under the care of well-qualified and knowledgeable grooms.

“It works perfectly. We’ve got enough grooms in each location to help keep the horses looked after the way that they need to be”

And whether it’s a groom, Kent, or Welles, there’s one thing that it is crucial for all of them: “The health of that horse. They’ve got to be on top of that. They have to be paying attention to whether they feel good or whether they feel a little stiff or if one is lame, and they have to be able to make a decision about that. Obviously they consult with me, or my sister, but at the end, you have to rely on them to make a good decision.”

Making those decisions, consulting one another, and all staying on the same page leads to one of the most important components that make everything possible:
communication.

Communication

Kraut, Kent, Welles, and the entire team stay closely connected no matter what location they each are in, and they are constantly communicating and consulting with one another on the day-to- day, what is best for each horse, and how each horse is
performing.

“You asked me about what the difficulties are with managing horses in different locations, and I think the struggle would be if you didn’t have the staff in place to communicate with and to execute the whole thing. For me, I’m very fortunate in that I have that, so it eliminates any worries.”

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Sign up to start your free trial and to find out more here!

Protected: What’s In Your Tack Truck? – with Lillie Keenan

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a rider patting a horse

The Gift of Personality

quote about dreamers

I took a class in College called Personality in Politics. The class offered a wildly engaging analysis of the way that personality effects Politicians, policies and their ultimate success or failure. Think Time Magazine meets People Magazine. Needless to say, I loved it! This past week I found myself reflecting on those days while I observed some interactions between horse and rider, rider and trainer, rider and vet and so on. In the equestrian world, we are constantly surrounded by a huge variety of personalities, and I can’t help but take notice of how differently so many people seem to be working to achieve the same things.

In my past as a working student, and now as a happy horse loving amateur and a self-proclaimed student of the sport, I find myself spending lots of time in the schooling area. I am generally on foot more than in the saddle these days, which if you are in the right place at the right time can afford you some free lessons in riding, teaching, and patience (Let’s be frank, it is a busy schooling area).

three jumping trainers in the warmup ring

McLain Ward, Max Amaya, Jeffery Welles

There is no shortage of personalities in the schooling area at any busy show. Think about it the next time you are out there. There are timid riders, over-thinkers, under-thinkers, people in la-la land, aggressive riders, passive riders, angry riders and patient riders. I am really just scratching the surface here, and that doesn’t even take into account the various members of the ground crew that accompany each four legged creature. Look around, take a second to stop and listen. You will hear calm explanations, loud screaming, laughing, crying, fighting, joking.  And to each their own. It could be anybody’s day once they step into the ring.

a rider and horse in a barn

Meagan Nusz and Dynamo: No lack of Personality for Either of these two!

The additional complication to this meshing of personalities that happens  in any human interaction is that horses have personalities too. Part of working with horses is realizing that you are not just following a run of the mill recipe for success that works every time. Each horse requires a special understanding  in order to  best provide them with what they need.

In this vein, I thoroughly enjoyed a recent interview with the Incredible Eric Lamaze following his unprecedented winning streak in the Thursday WEF Grand Prix in Wellington, Florida this circuit. When asked by Equestrian Sport Blogger Extrordinaire Noelle Floyd what sets his sponsors Artisan Farm apart from other big time supporters of the sport, Eric answered very astutely:

“They are very, very understanding of our sport. They have a great understanding of our industry–what it takes to win, how easily you can lose. How easily you can be disappointed in a horse you purchased if {they’re} not a match with the rider or if you simply make a mistake. They really understand that this is not an exact science, and it’s impossible to get it right every single time.”

rider getting coached on a horse

Eric Lamaze, Artisan Farm’s Fine Lady, Tiffany Foster; Photo © Erin Gilmore

A rider such as Eric can hop on just about anything with four legs and 9 times out of 10,  he will make it better, or allow for him/her to be their best. This is not some magic voodoo that Eric, or other riders of his caliber have discovered and chosen not to share with the rest of us. There is no magic potion, bit or lucky socks. These people, and I include Managers, Grooms, Vets and Farriers in this category, have success because they take the time to understand each horse’s distinct personality. They put in the extra effort to find out what makes each horse tick, what makes them want to go out and give their all. And they find logical ways to meet the needs of each horse, each individual, each personality.

Similarly, the best teachers find a way to explain the same concept as many ways as it may take for each student to comprehend. They adapt their own personality to support and fill in the gaps of their pupils.

barn management team KPF

Team KPF

It is a beautiful thing to see a team like Mclain Ward’s or Kent Farrington’s work with one another, support one another, appreciate one another and succeed together.

a rider patting a horse

McLain and Rothchild aka Bongo

Personality is a gift. It makes us unique. It sets us apart and and makes us special. But the true gift is being able to identify and understand a personality, and work together to make something great. Sapphire and McLain, Hickstead and Eric, Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet, these are personalities who found each other, and made each other whole. And what horse and rider could not do for one another, grooms, managers, vets, exercise riders and more stepped up and did what needed to be done.

With modern politics in its current state, we could use more meshing of personalities to make each other great. In horses, in politics and in life, the dominant personality will always make itself known. But the success of that personality is all in how it works with others, and finds the right teammates to fill its gaps, make it stronger, make it better.

As horse people, it is on us to do the meshing, the hole filling, the supporting. Success with horses, no matter the arena, is finding the right fit, and working with your team to make it work. Personality impacts politics as it does equines. It is our responsibility to find the right team and adapt to one another’s personalities to support our equine counterparts (as I hope, however naively, politicians do to support their constituents).

horse in a paddock

Sapphire

As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. So the lessons that I have taken away from my observations of some of the best in the sport at the Winter Equestrian Festival through ups and downs, at their best moments, at their worst, and on the days that fall somewhere in between:

1. Surround yourself with a team that makes you your best self.

2. Respect and embrace the individuality of your horse, your team, your friends, and your peers.

3. Be willing to adapt to bring out the best in one another (Horse or human).

4. Stop and look around every once in a while. There are amazing people doing amazing things. And if you’re lucky, you may just get a front row seat.

Until Next Time…quote saying life is amazing