Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Ode to the Best Barn Manager

I've been at quite a few barns with Tristan. Some of them have been spectacular. Some of them have been actively dangerous. Most of them have been decidedly mixed.

The barn I am currently at is the best-managed that I have ever seen.

There are a thousand small grace notes in the basics: the layout, the avenues of communication, the ample supplies, the wealth of knowledge, the friendliness and efficiency of everyone.

One area that has to stand out, though, is our barn manager.

I write this on the heels of a 25 minute phone call in which we did a rundown on Tristan and his latest batch of stuff. I called initially see whether they could help me out with soaking Tristan's ever-problematic RF, but we covered a lot more ground in the conversation.

She had thought up a gradual plan for weaning Tristan off his summer fly mask + antihistamines, with a timeline that would coincide with an upcoming barn-wide vet visit; that way, if his eye blows up again (which would mean it's a tear duct or eye problem rather than the allergies we strongly suspect) the vet will be there to check on it when it's actively causing problems.

She has two other horses getting their ACTH levels tested on that same day, and she had talked things through with the vet to make sure that we were well enough past seasonal rise for the tests to make sense. She wondered if Tris should go on that list too; yes! Getting an ACTH re-check for his Cushings was on my list this fall.

She wanted to make sure that my concerns about our new farrier were allayed, and reported that she'd had conversations with the two other owners using him, and they had reported that they were happier as well, so she was satisfied that he was doing a good job. She had been actively managing his first three visits, checking in with owners, and making sure he was a good enough farrier for the barn to recommend to people. She would never have said "you can't use him," but she wanted to make sure we were happy and she was ready to intervene if we needed help or advice.

These are just today's details. I have conversations like this with her on a nearly weekly basis. When Tristan had his surgery and rehab she was amazingly helpful, though she'd known me and Tristan for less than six months. In the time since she's provided help, advice, and friendship on everything under the sun. She always gives me good ideas, or helps finesse my ideas, and makes it easier on me to ask for barn help by giving me clear outlines of what would be most useful for them. She was instrumental in helping to figure out Tristan's blanketing regime last year, and I know she was tweaking it constantly, right up to the end, checking all her horses multiple times a day to make sure they were warm enough, not too hot, that their blankets fit right, and on and on.

She is unfailingly cheerful, kind, generous, and thoughtful. She loves all the horses in her care, and I have never seen anyone work harder to do right by them and to keep constantly updated through new research, new ideas, new best practices, and new ways to help them. She is always experimenting with new systems to make things more efficient, smarter, tidier, and easier for everyone, and she is a keen discerner of the line between "too many new systems" and "things that genuinely will make life better." She knows when to drop a line of experimentation and when to keep searching for the thing that will work.

She has extraordinary powers of observation and works well with a wide variety of owners - from me, who tends toward the hands-on and neurotic, to other owners, who have semi-retired or leased-to-the-barn horses and are 99.9% absentee. I have never felt for a moment that I was bothering her, that I was not communicating well, that I could not ask a question, or that I was worried to ask for - or give - clarification. Even at 10:00 pm at night.

She also texts. Which is awesome.

So: here's to awesome barn managers at large, and to mine in particular. I often feel like I don't appreciate her enough, though obviously I tell her frequently and at length how terrific she is. I'm going to try to make a resolution to do more tangibly, like bringing baked goods to the barn and maybe getting some gift certificates for her to use.

Have you had a barn manager or other barn staff member who has just been amazing? What kinds of things did he or she do that were above and beyond?


  1. Having a good barn manager is pretty much the best thing ever. My current barn's owner/manager/resident trainer is great (it doesn't hurt that she is my friend, too, and on the dressage group board with me). The barn isn't fancy, but she cares for every horse like it's someone's Olympic mount. I never feel concerned when I can't make it out to the barn for a few days, which is a huge improvement over other places I've boarded.

  2. Having a BM you're not afraid to discuss things with and you feel is genuinely willing to help you out is an absolute must. I had the BEST pair of BMs down in PA that I'm still really close with and don't hesitate to bounce ideas off of even now. My current BM is a little disorganized and lax with a schedule which drives me crazy sometimes, but she's so friendly and helpful and willing to go out of her way to help you out if you need it that it makes up for it.

  3. an awesome barn manager can make all the difference!

  4. How awesome! I've mainly been at co-ops or do-it-yourself type situations in the past so I don't have much experience with being at an actual boarder barn with a manager, but this sounds great. She should be on your Christmas list for sure! ;)


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