Five Tips to Prepare Your Barn for Fall

1. Organize your blankets

Cold nights will start creeping in before you know it, so make sure each horse’s lightweight sheet is identified and cleaned, especially those who may be clipped. Keep tabs on the temperature lows each night as summer begins to turn into fall so you don’t lose sight of the nights when your horses may need light blanketing. Also have the heavier blankets ready to go so winter doesn’t sneak up on you and leave you unprepared.

2. Make a plan with all the students (and parents) at your barn

It’s back-to-school time, which means busier schedules for most families that may board or train at your farm. Make sure you keep in touch with those who may be heading back to school so you can help manage their horses and their riding goals despite their busier schedules. This communication will lead to more successful outcomes for everyone as many commitments are being juggled by all parties.

3. Inspect your farm for damage or deterioration

Winter is prime time for problems such as leaky roofing, broken fences, loose hinges, insulation problems, footing issues, and more. You don’t want to save these fixes for the middle of winter, when they’re hardest to repair. Survey your property for signs that things may need attention. Be sure your windows and doors are functioning properly to seal in the heat during the cold nights to come. Check on your water tanks and insulated pipes to be sure you won’t face any issues when freezing temperatures hit. If anything needs adjusting, the fall is the perfect time to make those repairs.

4. Have a severe weather plan in place

The fall can also bring with it the chance of severe weather in many parts of the country. The east coast may face hurricanes, so be sure to identify an inland location in case you need to evacuate yourself and your horses. Research how to prepare a farm structure for high winds and heavy rain ahead of time. Other parts of the country may see other severe weather risks, such as wildfires. If you find yourself facing evacuation, many horse show grounds and larger facilities will accept evacuees and offer horses a place to stay out of harm’s way.

As fall turns into winter, heavy snowstorms can put those up north at risk, limiting access to necessities for the horses. It helps in this scenario to have 10% more supplies on hand than you normally need to keep your stable safe and healthy in case of a weather shutdown. Above all else, stay tuned in to the news this fall so you won’t be caught off-guard if the weather starts to get dangerous in your area.

5. Decorate!

There’s nothing more fun than breaking out the fall décor as the leaves begin to change. The best part of decorating for fall is that decorations can stay up through November, so you can enjoy your efforts for a long time. Use horse-safe decorations to add some fall vibes to your barn, including pumpkins, string lights (out of reach of horses), scarecrows, and more. If you have jumps in your arena, add some hay bales, pumpkins, and colorful gourds to make them festive. You can even plan a socially distant Halloween party to get the whole barn involved in a fun activity.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

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!

Five Equestrian Industry Careers You May Not Have Thought Of

When you think of jobs within the equestrian industry, riders, trainers, and breeders may be among the first that come to mind, but they’re far from the only options. In fact, you don’t have to be a great rider, or even a particularly good rider, to have a highly successful career with horses.

If you’re looking to plan your post-graduation career or contemplating quitting your current day job in favor of a life-centered around the horses that you love, your choices are many. Here’s a look at just five different facets of the industry that you may or may not have considered yet.

1) Public relations and marketing – Behind almost every equine product that you’ve used, large horse show that you’ve attended, or equestrian service that you’ve utilized, there is likely someone handling public relations and marketing efforts for that product, service, or event. Large brands and equestrian companies often have positions directly in-house to handle various facets of marketing, such as social media, content development, online advertising, and more. Other brands, horse shows, riders, and organizations will often employee an equestrian firm, like Jump Media, to handle their public relations efforts. No matter if it’s in house for one company or for a PR firm, if you enjoy marketing, social media, or writing, this could be a great fit for you! 

2) Sales – Not far removed from marketing, many equestrian brands also enlist the help of sales representatives. Being a sales rep for products such as horse feeds or supplements, saddles, or riding apparel often means lots of facetime with riders, owners, and trainers, which in turn means you get to enjoy lots of time spent in barns and around the horses that you love. 

3) Equine careers in technology – If your love of horses is matched only by your love of technology, why not pair the two? Within the equestrian industry, there’s a need for software developers (for apps and software like BarnManager!), for web designers to create beautiful websites for barns, horse shows and brands, for audio and visual pros capable of producing live streams and webcasts, and much more.

4) Entrepreneurship – Have your own idea of a service or product that you think could greatly benefit your fellow equestrians? While it’s not the right fit or an available option for everyone, entrepreneurship could be your answer! BarnManager itself was started because one barn manager recognized a need for better organization and realized a solution to meet that need. (Follow along on our BarnManager blog in coming months to meet other successful equestrian entrepreneurs and glean their advice. 

5) Non-profit roles – If you have a heart for helping horses in need, non-profit work may be the perfect fit for you. Reputable horse rescue organizations often have positions for development directors, administrative assistants or office managers, community outreach directors, and more. Visit websites of organizations like Days End Farm Horse Rescue to see examples of the kinds of roles that could be available to you. In addition to horse rescues, a large number of 501(c)(3) non-profit groups exist to help horses in other ways, many of which have similar staffing needs. The EQUUS Foundation, Brooke USA, and the Grayson Jockey-Club Research Foundation are just a few examples of these.

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!

Six Benefits of Digitizing Your Barn Records

Making the move from paper records to digital can be a bit intimidating. It’s likely that you’re comfortable with the way that you currently do things and would rather avoid change or a cumbersome learning curve.

However, there is also a chance that your barn office is filled with binders and paperwork, and, odds are, every once in a while there’s a miscommunication among your team related to all that information.

How do we know? Because we’ve been there! But by going digital, there’s a good chance that you can also say goodbye to piles of binders and begin reaping additional benefits – like these six.

1) It reduces clutter, saves paper, and streamlines your organization. – We’re listing this as one benefit, but it’s more of a three-for-one. By going digital, you no longer need to worry about missing paperwork or disorganized binders (and you’re saving trees in the process)!

“We would leave notes for each other; if somebody was on antibiotics or we were going to increase the feed for somebody, we’d put that in the notebook, and we’d date it,” said Dr. Susan Spivey, who founded and operates Southern Redhead Farms Rescue in Florida. “Now BarnManager helps us with that. It’s a place for me to stockpile those notes on each particular horse.”

Kris Amaya manages Stonehenge Stables, a top hunter/jumper operation based in Florida and New Jersey, and she shared similar feedback.

“Before when we had to keep track of our vet records, we had numerous binders. Not one or two, I want to say maybe five,” explained Kris. “We had a separate binder for the vet that would come in and do all of the chiropractic work. We had a binder for just FEI horses. We also had to split the binders between our horses in Florida and New Jersey, so there was a lot of paper at any given time and a lot of notepads. And notepads would get lost and then suddenly reappear when you were looking for another notepad! BarnManager makes everything streamlined.”

2) It improves communication with your team. – Team communication was one of the motivators behind why our founder, Nicole Lakin, created BarnManager in the first place.

“At Spruce Meadows, I would be back at the barn trying to make grain and have a question for someone who was down at the International Ring, basically a mile away, and getting in touch was challenging. I was looking for ways to get around those communication issues and to get even more organized,” explained Nicole, who was working as a barn manager at the time.

Within an app like BarnManager, you can communicate with your team and use tools like barn-wide messaging and shared lists.

3) It keeps your horses happy and healthy… – With digital records, all of your horses’ health records are at your fingertips, making it easy to stay on top of their appointments, exercise, nutrition, and more. With the feed, supplement, and medication management portion of BarnManager, your horses’ nutritional and feeding records are displayed in easy-to-read tables and charts.

And if someone needs to access the records outside of the app, no problem! One click of the “download report” button creates a PDF of the well-organized feeding charts that can then be emailed or printed and displayed in the barn (without the all-too-common risk of notes getting erased off the white board)!

4) …and it can help your horse transition to a new home if sold or adopted. – BarnManager offers a “discharge report” feature that allows you combine all of the horse’s records into one master PDF report at the click of a button, something that’s particularly useful for relaying information to new owners or lessees.

“I’ve got all of those records together for the horse. So, when they’re adopted out, I can say, ‘This is the last farrier appointment. This is the last time they received their shots. There’s the date of the Coggins,’” said Susan from Southern Redhead Farm Rescue.

Stacia Klein Madden also utilizes BarnManager’s discharge report feature when horses are sold out of her Beacon Hill Show Stables.

“It’s really important to me that, when I send a horse out, I’m sending as much information about the way that I’ve cared about that horse in the past,” said Stacia. “That way, those people can have the same information if they choose to care for the horse in the same way. I don’t like it to be a science experiment. We’re able to send a horse out with the feed listed, the vet care listed, the dental records, the vaccines, and any special instructions.”

5) It can help you identify what works and what doesn’t for your horse. – Horses’ supplemental, nutritional, and medicinal needs are often changing, and while it’s often easy to remember that something was changed, it can be hard to recall exactly when that change was made – which is where BarnManager’s change log comes in. Using the log, it becomes easy to see when something was introduced or removed from a horse’s plan.

Digital records are also useful for monitoring horses’ performance, which is a feature that Deeridge Farms and CMJ Sporthorses manager Miranda Valentine frequently puts to use.

“We have so much therapy equipment, but using all of it all the time is also not the proper usage,” explained Miranda. “You have to use it for each horse in the specific way where you get the maximum performance. I like to use BarnManager to record performance ideals, goals, outcomes, and then what we did with the horses before and after that competition to achieve that. That helps me register whether or not it was successful.”

6) It saves time and gets you back into the barn with the horses that you love. – While it may seem like a transition at first, ultimately, digitizing your records allows you to save the time that you would have spent looking for or organizing paperwork or relaying messages to different members of your team. With everything in one place, including your horse’s US Equestrian records if you choose to link them, you’re not wasting time jumping from one binder or system to another, and since cloud-based software like BarnManager is accessible almost anywhere, there’s no need to be glued to your office when you could be spending more time with the horses that you love!

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!

Organizing and Spring Cleaning Your Barn During COVID-19

Each year about this time, we like to share a new barn spring cleaning blog post. This year though, things are a bit different, and the checklist of tasks that we typically recommend may not be entirely advisable.

Cleaning out your old riding clothes and taking them to your local tack shop to consign? Not an option during stay at home orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting your horses’ annual Coggins test or having their teeth checked? If it’s not an emergency, it may be best to wait another month or two.

However, with many of us finding ourselves with a bit more time on our hands as we stay safe at home and at our barns, there’s perhaps no better time for getting organized and doing some deep cleaning.

Here are our suggestions and ideas for maximizing this time and handling this year’s barn spring cleaning!

In the Barn  

If you own or manage your farm, live onsite, or are still able to safely visit while practicing social distancing, here are a few tasks to tackle.

– Scrub and disinfect all surfaces, particularly those that are frequently touched. – Now is the time to continually sanitize and clean common surfaces such as stall doors, doorknobs, light switches, sink faucets, gates, and crossties.

– Clean out gutters and downspouts. – Clear out any leaves or build-up that may have accumulated over the fall and winter months.

– Clean your fans and check the wiring. – If you live in a cooler climate, your fans have likely been packed away for the winter. Now is a good time to get them out of storage, clean them, and ensure that all is in working order. ProEquineGrooms suggests using a leave blower to blow any dust and debris out of the fan.

– Inspect your pastures. – Walk the perimeter of all pastures to check the fencing and locate any weak or broken spots. Thoroughly clean any run-in sheds, and walk your fields and fill in any holes.

– Send blankets out for cleaning and repair.By the end of the winter, it’s likely that your horse’s sheets and blankets are in need of a deep cleaning! There are many services available that allow you to ship your blankets to them for repair, and some local services, like Horse Duds & Suds in New Jersey, offer free pickup and delivery from your farm (while maintaining safe distancing!). If you’d rather clean or fix minor repairs yourself, check out this blanket care kit from Schneiders.

– Thoroughly clean your tack. – When was the last time you took your bridle completely apart? Or scrubbed your stirrup irons with a toothbrush? Now is the time to give everything a really thorough cleaning and conditioning.

– Scrub your brushes. – As with your tack, now is the time to really scrub your brushes, and, if you haven’t already, to make it a habit of cleaning them routinely. We shared steps and tips for cleaning brushes here.

– Check your horses’ medicine cabinets and restock your vet kits. – Go through any medicines and ensure that none of them are expired, and, if they are looking into getting them replaced or refilled if needed. Review your horses’ first aid kit (that you hopefully have on hand!) and make sure it’s well-stocked and any previously used items have been replenished. Not sure what should be included in your first aid kit? Here are a few of our suggestions.

While You’re at Home

– Go through your closet. – By cleaning out and organizing your riding clothes, you could turn your breeches that no longer fit (because they’re too big, and you lost weight, obviously! ?), into cash toward a new pair. While supporting your local consignment tack shop isn’t presently an option, there are lots of ways to sell your used riding apparel online, like the Grazers app.

– Eliminate paper clutter and organize your horses’ records. – If you currently store your horses’ medical records, farrier invoices, and barn paperwork in binders, folders, or in a giant stack on your desk, now is a great time to consider consolidating them and going digital! With BarnManager, you can snap photos of your records to easily add them to each horse’s profile, and you can sync each profile to the horse’s US Equestrian records to easily pull in other data. Setup a live demo meeting to see how it works, here.

– Order those horse show photos you’ve been meaning to hang in your house. This is also a great way to support equine photographers during this time. Check out a few other suggested ways to support fellow equestrians throughout COVID-19 here.

– Make your own horse treats. – This may not help with cleaning or organizing, but it will win you brownie points with your horse and provide you with a fun activity for the time at home! Check out a few of our treat recipe ideas here. 

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!

10 Masterclass Innovation Series Takeaways Worth Knowing!

10 Masterclass Innovation Series Takeaways Worth Knowing!

For the past several months, our BarnManager team and our Equine Tech Collab partners have wanted to bring to life an event, or a series of events, that would embody the Equine Tech Collab’s mission of supporting the education of equestrians in order to equip them with the knowledge and tools needed for best practices in horse care, welfare, and management.

On Tuesday, March 19, that idea came to fruition in the form of the Equine Tech Collab’s Masterclass Innovation Series: A Mindful Approach to Horse & Rider!

The two-part panel discussion event included conversations on “The Soundness Spectrum: Maintaining Horses’ Soundness Through Proactive Management” and “In Good Company: Top Riders Discuss the Skills and Practices That Help Them with Mental and Emotional Challenges,” with panelists and moderators including:

  • two-time Olympic show jumper, Daniel Bluman
  • FEI groom for Millar Brooke Farm, Danny Ingratta
  • Tonya Johnston, MA, a Mental Skills Coach, author, and A-circuit competitor who specializes in working with equestrian athletes
  • the U.S. Dressage Olympic team bronze medalist currently ranked fifth in the world, Kasey Perry-Glass
  • Dr. Tim Ober, the official veterinarian of the US Equestrian show jumping team
  • Dr. Sheila Schils, an innovator in the field of equine rehabilitation and injury prevention
  • 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) show jumping team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht
  • Jennifer Wood, founder of Jennifer Wood Media and Equestrian Businesswomen and co-founder of Jump Media

 

We learned a ton from all of them, but we have narrowed it down to 10 takeaways from the evening to share with you! (For more, you can watch the full evening on demand on USEF Network here!)

1. Keeping your horses sound starts with spending time with them.

Two-time Olympian Daniel Bluman shared: “Nowadays the schedule for the horse and the rider and for the whole team is pretty busy. There’s a lot of traveling; there’s a lot to do. I think it’s very important that you make yourself a good schedule where you get to spend enough time with the horses. I think that’s the base of our sport, the base of our industry, and our passion. I think for every horseman, grooms, veterinarians, or the rest of the team, it’s all about spending many hours with the horses so that you have as much information as you can.”

Danny Ingratta, the head groom for the team at Millar Brooke Farm (home of 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, Olympian Amy Millar, Jonathon Millar, and Kelly Soleau-Millar), added: “For me it’s daily; every day I’m looking at the horse. I’m feeling the horse—everything from acupuncture points to if their legs are a little bit bigger. I like to touch the horse and see what it tells me. You run your hands down it’s legs. Are there bumps? Is their scurf on its legs?”

Daniel also noted that the more time that you spend with your horses, the more likely you are to notice if something is off or unusual: “It makes it easier for me to notice if there are differences. If I normally do circles to the left or to the right and the horse is not reacting or doing what they normally would do, and I know them fairly well, then perhaps it’s important to call the vet and check that there’s not something that’s bothering them.”

2. Educating yourself is important for both you and your horse. 


Educating yourself is another vital step to maximizing your horse’s well-being and soundness. It also goes hand-in-hand with spending time with them – and your vets will appreciate it too!

“Familiarizing yourself with anatomy enough to run your hand down the legs and know where swelling is and that it’s different from one day to the next [is one of the first things you can do to improve soundness]. Most vets appreciate clients who have gone through the process to form an opinion in that manner. Focus on your own education; get what you can from each example.” – Dr. Tim Ober, the official veterinarian of the US Equestrian show jumping team

3. A good relationship with your vet can go a long way. 

“I would say that a grand prix horse showing in an intense schedule down here [in Wellington] should be seen every two weeks. Then I would scale it down and say every two weeks to every six weeks. I think everybody is challenged to figure that out in their own program—what a good rhythm is. But if it’s more than six weeks, it’s difficult to get to know the horse or it takes a much longer time to get to know the horse. I think there’s a big advantage in developing that familiarity with your veterinarian.” – Tim

“I think a close relationship with your vet is really important. If your vet doesn’t know your horses well enough, he or she is prone to making mistakes.” – Daniel

4. Stress is not always a bad thing – at least if you’re a muscle.

While negative connotations generally come to mind when we hear the word “stress,” it can be a positive force, too. In fact, stress is needed for a muscle to grow and rebuild. Dr. Sheila Schils, an innovator in the field of equine rehabilitation and injury prevention and a professor in the pre-vet program at the University of Wisconsin for more than 20 years, explained:

“The only way that you’ll get a stronger muscle is to break down muscle fibers. Often what we see in our horses is they get done with a competition, and we feel their backs and immediately feel, ‘Oh they’re sore.’ In my world, as long as that soreness doesn’t become pathological, I’m in the back going, ‘Yay!’ Because now, next week that horse is going to become stronger.

“We don’t want to over-stress those muscles, but we have to look at this discomfort and pain in a different way. The way that we reduce this stress, so it ends up making a stronger muscle as an outcome rather than resulting in injury, is we use the muscle more.”

5. Just because you may feel like you need a day off following a horse show, it might not actually be what is best for your horse.

In order to move the muscles more and to help them grow and heal, Sheila explained that a day off from riding after a big effort is not really the best solution.

“Even though on Monday, when all of you need a day off, you think, ‘So does my horse.’ Wrong! The brain may need a day off, don’t get me wrong, but the muscle needs to keep on rolling. The worst thing after the muscle has been stressed is to let it sit in the stall and rest, because then it becomes inflamed. If I have my preference, you ride them, because you have such a better sense of when that horse becomes fatigued. You can sit on them and know how far to push them, rather than putting them in something that doesn’t have that idea of how far. If a horse has had a strenuous week, and then you put them on a treadmill, or especially a water treadmill, then you could be not giving them that appropriate recovery time.”

6. You’re not the only one with show ring anxiety; Olympic and World Championship athletes battle it too. 

“Even these big events that you go to, I try to think of it as a very small thing. Because if it becomes too big in my head, it becomes overpowering. Then I can’t focus. Two hours before I start my preparation, I feel sick to my stomach. I’m not nervous; I’m just anxious. Once I start braiding and getting him tacked up and all of that, it goes away. Then after my warm-up I feel pretty secure. I trust my training; I trust my coach, and she sends me in having full confidence.” – Kasey Perry-Glass, the U.S. Dressage Olympic team bronze medalist currently ranked fifth in the world

7. There’s great value in routine.

In fact, Daniel says he thinks it’s the most important tools for any athlete, and Adrienne and Kasey agree! Here’s some of what they had to say about routines and the rituals they utilize themselves:

Daniel: “[Routine] keeps you going in moments when your mind shuts down because you’re just so tired. You have to train your brain to not think about what’s at stake, rather it’s just one more time that you’re going in the ring to do what you practiced. I try to spend a lot of time with the horses before big competitions because I know that that’s going to give me that peace that I like. Part of my routine is actually to ride my horse as close to the competition as possible, so that I already know I’m guaranteed that period of time of peace.”

2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) show jumping team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht: “Before a big class, I have a distinct routine, which brings comfort to uncomfortable situations. I was so freaked out the first day at the [WEG]! I had no idea what to expect. I found comfort in being able to a) meditate and b) listen to books. There are certain chapters of certain books that I listen to that I really like. (She often listens to chapters titled “Fear” and “Desire” in the book Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D, as part of her pre-competition routine.)

Kasey: “I’m an overthinker. I think way too much about everything. I look at my husband all the time, and he doesn’t think about anything like ever! I just want to channel that. I’ve tried to simplify my life in any way that I can. The more organized that I can stay in my daily life and my routine, the better I am. My horse is on a very time-sensitive schedule at competitions. I plan everything out. By putting on his bridle, by putting on his saddle, braiding – because I braid myself, it helps me get in the zone.”

8. Daniel Bluman loves a good nap

Through trying different routines, Daniel found that a pre-competition nap is often quite beneficial for him. It’s all about what works best for you!

“Daniel over there, he sleeps often. I see him when he’s really nervous before a big class, where as I like to keep myself super busy.” – Adrienne

“I definitely love sleeping. That’s not a secret to anybody. The class may be going on, and I’m taking a nap before I get on the horse. That’s also something that has worked for me. If the first time I took a nap before competing I went horrible, I probably would have never napped again! But napping has consistently worked well for me. I’m an anxious person by nature, so I go over the plan too many times. Then at some point my brain shuts down, so a little nap is always fantastic to refresh. You just have to have somebody to wake you up in time!” – Daniel

“Sometimes focus comes in many forms…[Olympic dressage rider Adrienne Lyle] loves to sleep. We have to wake her up. So, it’s interesting how everyone can be so different.” – Kasey

9. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember why we all do this in the first place: the horses.

The next time that you’re feeling anxious going into the show ring or find yourself overthinking your last bad ride, try doing what Daniel does:

“I try to focus on the reasons why I do the sport. I didn’t start riding because I wanted to win a five-star grand prix anywhere in the world. I didn’t even know that five-star grand prix existed. I didn’t start riding because I wanted to be the most successful rider in the history of the sport; I really just started riding because I loved horses. In times when I’m really anxious or I feel my head is getting ahead of me, I just really try to remember that thankfully we work with horses and not with motorcycles or with cars. We work with actual animals that have this incredible power to give us that feeling of calm of peace.”

10. We truly are “stronger together.”

”Stronger Together” is the tagline of the Equine Tech Collab for a reason. We knew that together we could do far more to further our shared missions than we could ever do alone, and the first Masterclass Innovation Series was a testament to that. Not only did all of the Equine Tech Collab partners come together, but also the panelists all gave so generously of their time, knowledge, and expertise – something that we are so incredibly thankful for! By working together to share this knowledge and to share resources, we hope that the equestrian community as a whole can become even stronger together!

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!

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!