Trainer Tuesday: What is a specific barn skill that has been exceptionally useful in our professional career? 

Welcome to Trainer Tuesday! Each week we ask trainers a question and gather their answers for you. These trainers have a range of experience, backgrounds, and focus points of their programs, so the answers have as much variation as you would expect and also probably much more similarity. 

This week’s question posed is: What is a specific barn skill that has been exceptionally useful in your professional career? 

Here are their answers:

“One specific barn skill that has served me well over the years is being able to pull off shoes. Too many times horses have sprung a shoe either in the paddock or while riding, and to avoid injury I am able to pull the shoe off on the spot. I keep a set of farrier tools in my tack trunk.” -Troy Hendricks
Listen to Troy on the Plaidcast here.

“Taking and bringing in horses from turnout.” -Diane Carney
Listen to Diane on the Plaidcast here.

“For me, being able to braid is a specific skill that has been helpful to know. From saving a few dollars on personal horses to that random miscommunication, being able to braid can save the day!” -Lauren Kissel 

“Know everything about your horses stable habits! It’s the best thing for their health and well being, but also contributes to your overall success in the show arena. Know how much water your horse drinks, how many times they use the bathroom, and study their eating habits (which grain they like , or don’t like, hay , etc!) knowing your horses habits will only continue to improve your relationship both competitively and in understanding how to keep them healthy and at their best!” -Nick Haness
Read The Plaid Horse Questionnaire featuring Nick here.

“The three most useful skills I use in my daily routine in the horse business would be mind reading, psychology, and patience. The first two are for the horses and riders, and the third is something that I try to use with myself with varying degrees of success.” -Geoff Teall
Listen to Geoff on the Plaidcast here.

“In depth knowledge of how to set courses and gymnastics. Understanding the measurements as well as how to set appropriately for your particular horses and arena is vital to creating exercises that will help you and your client be successful.” -Brett Shear-Heyman

“Giving injections is a necessary barn skill that has helped me in my professional career. Whether it be a routine vaccine or banamine for a horse with an upset tummy, it is important to be comfortable giving both IM and IV so that you are prepared for whatever the horse may need.

In addition, as a young rider I learned that what you give to the horse you will get back 10 times over. That extra effort you take in the barn, the pride you take in your horse and their care carries over to all aspects of your riding and in life. I was learning life lessons while I mucked stalls, brushed, braided, and grazed my horses that I didn’t realize at the time but that have helped me in my career and in my life.” -Caitlin Marshall

“I’m tempted to say cleaning a stall correctly – I’ve certainly used that one extensively! Probably it’s being able to run/use all of the equipment – gators, 4-wheelers, tractors, drags, bobcats – that are needed around a stable. You name it and I can probably run it and use it correctly.” -Daphne Thornton
Read Daphne’s articles on theplaidhorse.com here.

“I couldn’t have afforded to get my business off the ground if I didn’t do so much body clipping.” -Emily Elek 
Stalk Emily’s spreadsheet here

“The specific barn skill that has been exceptionally useful in my professional career has been mucking stalls (with the horse still inside)! This allows a horseman quality time with the horse to notice behaviors or issues that might not be noticed in the aisle or under tack.” -Jay Golding
Listen to Jay on the Plaidcast here

“The best skill I’ve ever learned is how to pull and tack on a shoe! Worst case scenario I can get them off, and when the farrier can’t make it and we are in a real pinch I can tack one that doesn’t need any corrections back on.” -Brittany Massey
Look for Brittany in the March/April Issue of The Plaid Horse Magazine! 

“In my professional career, mastering first aid skills such as bandaging, injections, and wound treatment have proven critical for effective emergency response. This training, coupled with a nuanced understanding of equine behavior ensures a swift and composed approach to emergency situations, emphasizing the importance of staying level-headed in unexpected circumstances.” -Stephanie Swites

“I would say that my most useful ‘barn’ skill has been knowing how to operate power tools. It may not exactly sound like it has a lot to do with horses, but things get broken all the time in and around a barn. Knowing how to fix minor issues yourself in a safe and efficient way is critical!” -Susan Thomas

“One of the barn skills that has been most useful in my professional career is how to properly wrap a horse’s leg. Thanks to my background in Pony Club, the importance of skillful wrapping was instilled in me early, and has served me well as a pro. As Eventers, we often wrap after a strenuous jump or conditioning day as part of our injury prevention protocol, or use them to cover dressing on an injury. A well-applied standing wrap can be a useful tool in your horse’s routine, but a poorly executed one can lead to problems such as “bandage bows” due to uneven pressure, or can become a hazard if it slips around. Your standing wrap should be an appropriate length for your horse and have even pressure all the way around the leg, avoiding wrinkles and lumps in your bandage. The best way to learn how to become a pro wrapper is to get hands-on instruction from a trainer, then practice, practice, practice!” -Allyson Hartenburg

“The same powers of observation that are essential to success in the barn (seeing a tiny scratch on a horse that wasn’t there an hour ago, recognizing when a horse is telling you it’s ready to come in from turnout, recognizing which specific order the horses need to be brought in from turnout to maintain the peace) are incredibly helpful in every career. Not everyone possesses the same detail-oriented mindset that horse people acquire and hone, so applying it to the outside world is like having a secret superpower!” -Randi Heathman
Listen to Randi’s book Horses for Courses: The Definitive Guidebook for the Prospective College Equestrian, Second Edition.

“My first position after getting my Equine Studies degree from Lake Erie College was as a Stable Manager at Centenary University in NJ. In addition to all the responsibilities as manager, I had to clean stalls with two others, six days a week for the 60 horses on the farm. Cleaning 20-30 stalls a day in all weather taught me responsibility, tenacity and compassion for the animals. Those three characteristics have served me well in my professional career as a coach and clinician!” -Sally Batton
Read Sally’s book The Athletic Equestrian: Over 40 Exercises for Good Hands, Power Legs, and Superior Seat Awareness.

“One of the skills that has served me well in my professional career was something that was drilled into me during my time in Pony Club: the ability to accurately take and interpret a horse’s vital signs. Temperature, pulse, respiration (TPR), gut sounds (all four quadrants), capillary refill time, etc. It is so important to be able to gather that data to see if your horse isn’t feeling 100% and to be able to effectively communicate that data to the vet so you can come up with a plan.  

When I am hiring barn workers that is one of the first things I ask if they are capable of doing. If they do not know how to do it, it’s not a deal breaker but I teach them how to do it. I have had lifelong horse people and horse owners that I have hired that didn’t know how to take TPR’s and it was shocking. I was happy to teach them because not only did it help them care for my horses and the client horses better but it developed their personal horse management skills as well. One of the first things my employees were shown was where the well stocked equine first aid kit was located so it was easy for them to grab a thermometer, the stethoscope, etc. to be able to take TPR’s.

Now that I am freelance teaching, I have been shocked at the amount of times I have shown up to a barn to teach and some horse on the property is not quite right and there’s been no way to take a temperature because the barn doesn’t have a thermometer. I’ve almost been tempted to start carrying a rudimentary equine first aid kit in my car!” -Janna Bankston

“Wrapping perfectly and quickly — whether this is wrapping for training, setting them-up in the barn, or for shipping.” -Jane Frizzell

“Skills that have helped me would be know how to manage my time, which tasks to prioritize, and how to multitask! Triage is also an important skill to have.” -Traci Brooks
Listen to Traci’s book With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard.

“Being able to walk a course and check my horses legs.” -Susie Hutchinson
Listen to Susie on the Plaidcast here.

“Labeling, tagging, and organizing. As your stable grows it becomes increasingly important to organize tack and equipment at home and at the shows. Taking the time to make sure all tack, equipment, blankets, etc. are properly tagged and labeled can save so much time and head ache.” -Maria Takacs
Listen to Maria on the Plaidcast here.

“I would have to say wrapping legs. It is important to know how to wrap so they don’t get bow tendons. Also knowing how to take care of hooves and checking for things like thrush or pastern dermatitis.” -Pearl Running Deer

“I think a good skill to have is knowing what type of diet and nutrition each horse needs to perform at the top of their sport. The way I feed a hunter will be slightly different from how I feed a jumper. Learning from vets, other practitioners, and older horseman will help you know what is best for your horse. Knowing your horse well will help with this too.” -Jenn Tirrell
View Jenn in the February issue here.

“Rope handling is a basic barn and horseperson skill, however, it’s useful for more than simply leading a horse. As someone who works with rescue horses — helping to prepare them for new careers and for their forever homes — fostering trust with equine partners is at the foundation of what I do. Many of the horses I handle were neglected or abused and, as a result, need to overcome significant fears and insecurities. Communicating effectively with horses helps to build trust and that’s where rope handling becomes important. Beyond leading, lunging, and groundwork, proper rope handling can greatly improve a handler’s timing with and feel of a horse, therefore ensuring more effective communication between horse and handler.”  -Sara Strauss, Head Trainer, Days End Farm Horse Rescue

“A very useful barn-related skill that is important as a professional is to closely observe the conditions of each horse and how their stabling and farm environments affect their conditions. A horse’s stabling environment should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. A lot of gut-health issues, allergies, skin irritations, and thrush can occur because your horse is encountering something in its environment that has triggered these issues. For example, one horse may be healthier and more comfortable with straw bedding instead of shavings. Similarly, something as seemingly simple as the condition or cleanliness of a horse’s stall underneath the bedding can make a difference in a horse’s well-being. As a show jumping professional, my horses’ well-being and happiness is of utmost importance. Paying close attention to my horses’ conditions and their surroundings on a day-to-day basis help me to best care for them.” Gabrielle Strigel Show jumping professional

“A barn skill that has been exceptionally useful to me is the ability to braid a mane or tail, or re hang a fake tail that has fallen out. I cannot tell you the number of times that Skylar or I have needed to jump into action and put a fake back in when it has fallen out at the ring, or needed to repair a forelock braid or even scramble to braid a whole mane for one that was missed on the braid list. Braiding- everyone should know how to do it!” -Shayne Wireman

“I think one of the most important skills that I’ve picked up along the way is being able to notice and deal with mild colic symptoms without having to call the vet. Learn to check the color and moisture levels of the mucus membranes. Be able to listen for gut sounds on both sides. Learn to check the skin for the appropriate amount of ‘bounce back.’ Then learn some quick remedies…banamine, electrolytes, a wet mash slurry, handwalk, maybe a light lunge at the trot or a bumpy trailer ride. These things can take the discomfort away from your horse and save a ton of time and money with the vet… especially if you live in an area where there isn’t one right around the corner.” -Geoff Case
Listen to Geoff on the Plaidcast here.

“How to organize my show board! At McDonogh when we travel we don’t have grooms and we don’t have barn staff. All the riders, no matter how young, are responsible for all the daily care, grooming and after care so it is important to clearly explain my expectations. I do my board every show night and edit all through out the day. Many colors many edits! Order of go, here by times, who needs a bath, after care, barn work etc and assign riders to the jobs. Even the lead liners check the board!” -Amy Dawson

“Anything you learn at the barn you will use throughout your career. From doing stalls, grooming, and feeding, to turning out and bringing horses in. Also knowing your horses schedule for feeding and all the every day things that are important for them. Get to know your horse in every way possible. That alone could be the most important understanding your horses health and well-being.” -Bob Crandall
Read Bob’s Questionnaire in The Plaid Horse here.

“A barn skill that has been very useful to me over the course of my career is knowing the early signs of skin issues such as rain rot or scratches. That skill has become especially useful having a business in Seattle. In the Pacific Northwest horses may occasionally get a variety of skin issues and treating them early is critical.” -Rob L. Jacobs
Listen to Rob on the Plaidcast here.

View last weeks Trainer Tuesday here.