Five Ways to Make Your Barn Manager Your Best Friend

A good barn manager can be the backbone of any large boarding operation or show barn, and a good relationship with your barn manager can go a long way in creating an enjoyable barn atmosphere!

While many barn managers have suggested baking them delicious food or bringing them snacks as ways to get on their good side, here are five other ways that you could make your barn manager your best friend – or at least be a better boarder and client!

1) Know and follow the rules.

Perhaps your barn does not allow dogs; maybe there are certain areas of lawn that horses aren’t to be walked or grazed on, and no one is to be mounted on a horse without a helmet. Whatever they may be, your barn likely has rules that allow it to run smoothly, and your barn manager is likely partially responsible for enforcing those rules. Having to reprimand you for not following the barn guidelines or continually having to remind you of the rules isn’t fun for them, and it’s no way to build a good relationship.

2) Communicate.

Not able to make it out to the barn at all this week due to a hectic work schedule? Notice a small cut on your horse’s leg? Have a question about the way something is being done? Communicate with your barn manager!

3) Trust them.

Good barn managers are often extremely knowledgeable horsemen and women with your horse’s best interest at heart. (Read what makes a great barn manager here!) If you see a problem or really don’t like the way something is being done, revisit point No. 2 and consider properly communicating that to them; otherwise, trust that they are doing their job well. Coming to your barn manager with 10 different ways of doing things or an idea that you read online that you think may be better than how they do something likely isn’t going to sit very well and isn’t going to help your friendship.

4) Stay neat and organized.

At home, keeping your space in the tack room neat and orderly and cleaning up after yourself when you’re done can go a long way in making your barn manager’s life easier (and in making them think more highly of you)! And the same applies if you’re headed to a horse show. Make a list,  check it twice, and ensure that everything that you need for both you and your horse is packed so that you or your barn manager aren’t left scrambling.

5) Be kind.

If only this one could go without saying, but in any barn boarding situation, it’s important to remember to be kind and polite, not only to your barn manager but also to your fellow barn mates and the entire barn staff.

A smile, a hello, and a thank you can go a long way in making you the kind of boarder or client that everyone loves to have around and a barn manager’s best friend!

 

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 Ways to Make Horse Showing More Affordable

Horse show entry and office fees, transportation and travel expenses, tack and equipment costs, training fees, and grooming and braiding charges can be enough to make many an adult amateur – no matter the discipline – contemplate a second job or a steady diet of ramen noodles to offset expenses.

Fortunately, while the entirely inexpensive horse show may remain elusive, there are ways to greatly reduce your expenses and make horse showing more affordable.

Here are six tips that could help you decrease your costs this show season!

1) Identify your goals.

 Before heading to a horse show, think realistically about you and your horse’s level of competitiveness and what you hope to accomplish throughout the show season.

If your aim is to use horse shows simply as a way to test all that you have been practicing at home, to enjoy the competition with your horse, or to gain experience or exposure, unrecognized or schooling horse shows could be a great cost saver. These shows generally have much less expensive entry and office fees, paid memberships to governing organizations such as US Equestrian or the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) are typically not required, and US Equestrian fees are not imposed.

If your aim is to earn rated points, awards, or titles or to qualify for prestigious year-end finals and championships, you can still be smart and save money when it comes to selecting which horse shows you attend. Consider your travel expenses and what is realistic for you. While that beautiful horse show in Kentucky might look fun, perhaps the one of equal rating and just an hour drive from your home in Pennsylvania could be far more affordable for you and offer you the same opportunity to accrue points.

By identifying your goals in advance and selecting horse shows that fit those goals, you could save a great deal of money!

2) Submit your entries on time – or even well in advance.

Many horse shows penalize riders with an added fee for entering a horse show beyond a set entry date, while some others even offer reduced rates for early entries. Submitting your entries on time or in advance is a simple way to save money.

3) Be well organized and prepared for horse show day.

No one wants to have to purchase new gloves or spurs at a horse show when they know that they have perfectly good ones sitting at home, and having to purchase any tack or equipment at the horse show can be a good way to quickly exceed your budget! Instead, get organized and ensure that nothing is forgotten.

Make a thorough packing check list (fun fact: you can do this within BarnManager!). Be sure to include any items that you might need at a horse show that you might not typically use at home like ear plugs, Show Sheen or other show grooming products, rain gear just in case, and yarn or rubber bands.

Review your packing list a few days in advance of the show to make sure that you have everything that you need and that everything is in good repair. You don’t want to be left scrambling to get to the tack shop the night before the show!

As you’re packing and getting organized, it’s also wise to clearly label all of your belongings. That way, nothing gets inadvertently put in someone else’s tack trunk at the show or left behind at the ring with no identifier.

4) BYOS – Bring Your Own Stuff.

Much like it’s cheaper to ensure that you have all of your tack and equipment with you rather than purchasing anything new at the show, it’s also cheaper to “bring your own stuff.” That could include packing your own shavings to avoid paying more for them at the horse shows and bringing your own snacks and lunches to avoid paying expensive food vendors. If you’re going with a group from your barn, consider working together to organize who can bring food items to share.

5) Learn to groom and band or braid for yourself – or have friends and family help.

Whether your show requires that your horse’s mane be banded, braided in hunter style, or put into button braids, learning to do it yourself can save a ton of money – especially if you are horse showing frequently!

You can find numerous great tutorials on YouTube and on equestrian websites to help get you started on learning to braid or band before getting into the barn to practice. If you get good enough at mane or tail braiding, and if time at horse shows allows, you could even braid or band for others at the show to help you recoup your horse show costs.

Similarly, if you are able to groom, tack up, and care for your horse and your stall area yourself at the show – while still having the energy and focus needed to ride well – doing so is a great way to cut costs.

If you are fortunate enough to have friends, family members, or a significant other willing to help you out, don’t be afraid to take them up on the offer! Having an extra hand to hold your horse or an extra body to run back to the stalls for that forgotten item can go a long way and can help eliminate grooming costs.

6) Take good care of your belongings.

At the end of the horse show, again consult your packing list, this time to ensure that nothing gets left behind. It’s easy to head home from the horse show with a crop, glove, or girth missing from your tack trunk; ensuring that you have everything is an easy way to avoid having to purchase the item again.

While cleaning and organizing may be the last thing that you want to do when you get home from a horse show, it’s important to take good care of your belongings to prolong their lifespan and avoid having to spend money on new tack or clothing. Try to hang up your show clothes as soon as possible instead of leaving them crumpled in a bag or in the back of your car. (If you take good enough care of your show coat, you may even be able to avoid a dry-cleaning bill until after the next show!) Clean all of your tack and equipment as soon as possible after the show, and re-organize your belongings to keep everything ready to go for next time!

What are your horse show cost-reducing tricks!? We want to hear from you in the comments below!

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 Fundamentals of Equitation from Stacia Klein Madden and the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club

Stacia Klein Madden can typically be found ringside during major equitation classes at top horse shows across the country or at home at Beacon Hill Show Stables training some of the country’s most competitive junior and amateur hunter, jumper, and equitation riders.

Two weeks ago, however, our BarnManager team found Madden somewhere a little bit different: in Maryland amidst 11 young U.S. Pony Club riders and their adorable, fuzzy ponies and well-schooled mounts.

The riders – ranging in age from seven to 16 and in skill level from walk-trot to those competent at jumping three feet – generally focus on dressage, eventing, and beginning show jumping in their lessons, but Madden’s presence meant something different for them as well: a special clinic with a focus on the “Fundamentals of Equitation.”

The clinic was awarded to the riders as the winners of the 2018 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Barn Night Group Video Contest, presented by BarnManager, thanks to this winning entry!

This year marked our BarnManager team’s second year in a row partnering with WIHS to put on the clinic, and for the second year in a row, we walked away having gained valuable insight! (Read about last year’s clinic with Laura Graves here.)

With Madden, the emphasis on equitation provided the participating riders – and us! – with tips and reminders that can be beneficial to riding across disciplines – and across all skill levels.

While using the full ring properly in your hunter or equitation class or halting squarely in a straight line after a fence in your lesson may not be exercises you need to work on, it never hurts to revisit the fundamentals!

In fact Madden herself said, “The basics are the same, whether you’re teaching somebody to be on a horse for the first time, or whether you’re trying to win a national championship. It’s just levels and degrees of what you’re trying to fine-tune. Having taught these levels might inspire me to go back to some very simple things with my students at home when I teach this week!”

Here are five of our favorite fundamental reminders from the clinic with Madden:

1) Always remember that you are the pilot – not the passenger!

 Ensuring that the rider had full control of the horse was an over-arching theme of Madden’s for the clinic, no matter what level the rider was.

“Air Force One is the most technologically advanced airplane in the world, but it can’t fly itself! It still needs a pilot,” Madden said. “Think of your horse as the plane, and you as the pilot. No matter what kind of horse it is, you have to fly the plane. If they want to go off the course you planned, you have to correct it.”

2) Don’t allow repeat disobediences from your horse, but tailor your correction to the crime.

As the pilot of your horse, you should expect the horse to go where you direct them to go and do what you have asked them to do. When they don’t, it’simportant to correct them properly the first time and not continue to let the disobedience go on or even build into a greater problem.

In the IBHPC clinic, Charlie Atkinson had a good ride in her session on the pony, Emmie, but the chestnut mare had a habit of rooting the reins in a quick motion, pulling Atkinson out of the tack.

Madden showed Atkinson how to quickly set her hands to prevent the rooting as well as teaching her the proper timing for the correction. “When you feel her neck tense and her head go up a bit, get ready, because that’s what she does before she roots down,” Madden advised Atkinson. By the end of the session, Atkinson had a feel for the timing and correction, and Emmie had stopped rooting at the reins both while moving and in downward transitions.

There is a difference in the type of correction a horse may need, however.

“There’s a difference between a horse that stops and a horse that ducks out, and you correct them differently,” Madden said. “A horse that stops is one who loses momentum on the approach to the jump and stops straight right in front of the jump. A horse that ducks out is one that keeps his momentum but turns away from the jump.

“When the horse stops, you need to correct the loss of momentum, so you circle right away, and use your stick behind your leg to get the horse going forward,” continued Madden. “Ducking out is a steering problem, so to correct it you need to turn the horse the opposite way that he went past the jump, then re-approach.”

3) Utilize a three-second rule when it comes to your transitions.

Young Pony Club rider Penelope Roesler had only been riding Fleetwood Mac for a short time before the clinic after transitioning from a pony, and at the beginning of her session, Fleetwood Mac was a bit sluggish off of her leg aids.

Madden taught Roesler how to use the crop behind her leg to reinforce the leg aid and increase Fleetwood Mac’s sensitivity to the leg, and she instituted a “three-second rule” for her transitions, calling out a new gait then counting aloud to three to encourage Roesler to get a prompt transition. The improvement in Fleetwood Mac’s responsiveness was dramatic, and by the end of her session, Roesler was cantering a small course on him.

Particularly when schooling or hacking solo at home, if you have a sluggish horse, it can be easy to get lazy yourself and give your horse a little extra time to accelerate, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a little extra time to decelerate! It never hurts to remember to be crisp and timely in your transitions.

4) Incorporate ground rails into your routine.

Madden incorporated rails on the ground before jumping for each one of the groups. “You can get a lot done with rails on the ground. You want your horse to have a long, healthy career,” she said.

“I have multiple horses in my barn in their 20s, still sound and showing. You do that by saving their legs and not always jumping. You can keep a horse pretty fit over cavaletti, and they’re a great way to work on riders’ skills as well. Cavaletti work prepares you for jumping and gives you the skills to be ready to jump. There are a gazillion things you can do over cavaletti. Get creative with them and figure out what would help you and your horse.”

5) Be thankful for the opportunity that you have to ride in any capacity and enjoy it!

Maybe it was the way they carefully groomed their ponies, brushed out their tails, and showed their mounts how much they appreciated them, or maybe it was the way you could almost see each of them taking in and absorbing everything that Madden said and truly valuing her expertise, but watching the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club riders was a valuable reminder of what it looks to really be thankful for this incredible privilege that we have of riding and working with horses.

No matter what your discipline or riding level, I think we can all agree that love and appreciation of the horse is the most important fundamental of all.

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!

Four Things We Learned from Laura Graves’ “Dressage for Jumping” Clinic

At BarnManager, we place a strong emphasis on the importance of ongoing education in order to become better riders and horsemen and women, and when it comes to furthering your dressage education, what’s better than learning from Laura Graves!?

The U.S. Olympic dressage team bronze medalist and 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final runner-up represents so much of what we at BarnManager believe in and stand for – she’s truly connected with her horses and is so passionate about their care and their well-being. So, it was an absolute privilege to sponsor a “Dressage for Jumping” clinic with Graves on Tuesday, August 14, at the Ohana Equestrian Preserve in Virginia!

The riders of Kama Godek LLC, were awarded the clinic as the winners of the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Barn Night video contest, sponsored by BarnManager, and it was open to auditors to attend at no cost. For those not able to be in Virginia on Tuesday, it was also available to watch (and to re-watch here!) on USEF Network. We were in attendance and loved meeting so many great people and learning so much from Graves!

Here are just four of the takeaways that we came home with:

1) Dressage riders and jumpers – we’re not that different.

The “Dressage for Jumping” clinic was the first time that Graves had taught exclusively jumpers, but she herself said, “Whether you’re jumpers, or eventers, or dressage people – everyone struggles with all of the same things.”
What are some of the struggles that we all face? Most notably, according to Graves, getting horses in front of the leg and straight – two of the fundamental flatwork concepts that were emphasized throughout the clinic.

2) You should only work as hard as you want to.

Okay, this doesn’t mean that you should quit your day job and just go watch Netflix because you don’t like working. Instead, what Graves reiterated throughout the clinic was creating a level of responsiveness from your horse that allows you to not exert more effort in the saddle than what you want to be exerting.

As she explained, “If you’re using all of your energy to get a mediocre performance, your odds of getting a better performance are slim to none. You have to get more by doing less.”

Graves started each rider’s one-on-one session by asking, once they had moved into a trot, how hard they were working on a scale of one to 10. Graves joked that she is “lazy” and likes to only work at a one or a two when the horse is trotting.

“The first thing I ask when I get on a horse is, ‘Can I ride 10 of these in a day?’ ” said Graves. “If I can’t ride 10 in a day with breaking very little of a sweat, then for me it’s too much work.”

So, how do you make it so that you’re doing less? You have to make the horse care about what you’re doing and respond to it. If the horse isn’t moving forward in front of the rider’s leg for instance, rather than continually kicking and squeezing and working at an eight or nine on the one to 10 scale, you have to deliver something more.

“If he doesn’t care, you have to say, ‘How far do to I have to take my leg, hand or whip to make him care?’ ” explained Graves. “He has to mind your leg more than he would want. You have to find a place where you can surprise them enough that you make your point.”

By doing this, Graves hopes to create the situation where “if your leg is away, the pressure of the air of your leg coming toward his side should be enough to speed him up again.” This responsiveness allows the rider to only work as much as they want to be working, ideally at a one or a two.

3) It’s okay to make mistakes. You shouldn’t work just to cover them up.

“The main thing that I find holds people back is that we’re afraid of mistakes. Nobody’s more afraid of mistakes than dressage people,” said Graves. That may be true, but as Graves also shared on Tuesday, “horses making mistakes does not mean we’re bad riders,” and it’s extremely important to embrace mistakes rather than working to cover them up.

As an example, Graves had the very first rider of the day, 14-year-old beginning rider Piper Tyrrell, allow her horse to break from the trot down to the walk when Tyrrell took her leg off. Breaking to the walk was a mistake; Tyrrell wanted the horse to keep trotting even with less leg encouraging her forward. However, until Tyrrell let the mistake happen and was able to then correct it, the horse likely would not have been cognizant of the error.

“If you don’t let the mistake happen, he doesn’t even know if he’s doing the right thing or the wrong thing because your leg is always on,” said Graves.

4) Laura Graves is awesome.

We had a good hunch about this one going into Tuesday, but our conversations and the clinic with Graves only confirmed it! We loved her message:

“My number one goal is to make sure that the rider understands something that will hopefully change the way that they ride for the rest of their life. I really try to make sure that I deliver a clear message to every person so they say, ‘I really learned something today.’ ”

From her attitude toward teaching and her desire to truly instill her knowledge in the participating riders to her true passion and love for her horses and the sport, Laura Graves created fans for life in the BarnManager team!

We sat down with Graves to talk about her beginnings in dressage, her typical day at home, and managing the mental aspect of the sport, and we can’t wait to share more!

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!