By Jordan Kelly
There are people you meet in the horse industry who command attention. They have these big personalities and smiles to match that instantly attract others. There are also those who tend to stay on the sidelines, head down working, resting b**** face game at level 10.
I personally am the latter. It’s not that I don’t like people, I am just more on the introverted, less confident side. I’m newer to the riding game and I have to catch up, and I’m also not naturally a bubbly person. But part of the horse world (especially when you’re a working student) is learning to be someone that everybody loves.
DON’T: Hide at the sound of a car pulling down the driveway.
DO: Learn to smile and say hello to anyone who pulls up to the barn! Ask how they are, what they’re up to today, make sure they have what the need and if there’s anything you can do to help them. Part of your job is making the clients happy, and if there’s any way you can help, make yourself useful!
DON’T: Sigh dramatically at a request that is inconvenient.
DO: Smile, nod and as long as the request is reasonable to your daily routine, carry on! Throwing on an extra blanket or adding an oil to feed is not going to kill you. It takes two seconds to do something extra to make the boarder happy. They don’t want to hear your sass, especially when they pay a good chunk of your paycheck.
DON’T: Get so lost in the day-to-day drag that your head isn’t really there.
DO: Pay attention to every detail your brain can decipher. This is so, so, SO important! Noticing a horse has lost a shoe, or is getting some fungus on its legs etc., before the owner and/or your boss can lead to major brownie points. Plus, it’s important and is part of your job. Every little thing matters, and always take into account how a horse looks going out to the field as well as when they come in. Learning hoof beat patterns while leading in and out can be helpful. Just know your horses – these are your children as much as they are the owners’ children.
DON’T: Be a gossip queen.
DO: Tell the client what they need/want to hear. There are always going to be people who love to talk it up, but you shouldn’t feed into anything that could become drama. You don’t want your name involved if it does become a big deal, and it doesn’t look good on your part. See all and know all, but don’t speak of all.
DON’T: Talk badly about client horses.
DO: Worship every hoof fall that horse takes. That horse is the owner’s baby, he/she can do no wrong. So even when they’re being a total butthole to catch in the field, were frisky leading, or tried biting you around feeding, hold your tongue and smile. If they directly ask about any behavioral issues, be up front (but not in a complaining manner) and just smile/nod or empathize if the owner is having struggles. Don’t feed into any negative feelings, as it’s their relationship, not yours. You are just the caretaker.
DON’T: Dilly dally and sit around at shows, even when you’re not riding.
DO: Offer any above and beyond assistance, regardless of being paid extra or not. Not only does this get you brownie points, but it is adds experience to put on your resume! Whether it’s helping unload the trailer and set up stalls or braiding a mane and grooming a horse, anything is helpful and makes the people and horses feel cared for.
DON’T: Forget important details of a horse’s care.
DO: Keep up to date on any farrier, important vet work (if the boarder has requested you stay in the loop) and supplements/extra appointed care. If you need to, keep a calendar just for farrier dates and keep each horse’s schedule in mind. Text/call boarders when they’re running low on supplements, not when they’re already out! Also sending texts/calling when the horse has any unusual cuts, swollen legs, lost shoes, etc. shows that you’ve been paying attention. Know what temperatures they want certain blankets on and always know who is clipped or not. Clients who can’t come to the barn every single day will feel reassured with you taking care of their baby.
The point is to be a person people want to be around! Do your job, but go above and beyond with it. Don’t be scared to take on extra little tasks to help people out. Being approachable is important in this industry if you’re wanting to work within the barn. Clients depend on you to care for their four legged children where they are unable to, and they should be able to come to you if there is ever a problem or a change being made. Make them feel happy and at home!