Personal Safety Soapbox
It's been a while since I have hopped on my personal soapbox - and this "thing" about personal safety has really been gnawing at me. Yes, horses are dangerous, and yes, we understand the risks when we work around them. However - there are things we can do to protect ourselves around them. In order to do so, we must also be willing to sometimes take a stand, eat some crow, or ask a silly question. Not always easy, but necessary.
Grooming is tough, and we take jobs as Grooms because we love horses. We put them first, we ignore our own needs, and we compromise our own lives and free time for them. That's all fine and dandy - but for pete's sake, there is a balance. This balance is totally out of whack for most Grooms - working 12 hour days for 8 hour pay, not taking lunch, and working weeks on end without a day off. What I have found this gets you in the end is not much, some resentment, injuries, and perhaps even banging your head against the perverbial wall.
Here are some easy, everyday tips to keep yourself safe, and hopefully some food for thought on how to find your balance.
-Carry a cell phone. Just in case you get stuck, in a pickle, or need a hand. If you use your phone for music playing, only use one ear bud so you can be aware of your environment, too.
-Wear appropriate clothing. Jeans are a staple at the barn - but in the heat of summer, consider chinos or khakis to beat the heat a bit. I always dress in layers, and have a spare set of clothes in the car just in case.
-Ward off the sun - sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats work well. (Stick to ball caps and avoid the giant “off to the opening day at the races” type of hat.)
-Safe shoes are a must! I know a few folks who insist on steel toed boots, but I have heard horror stories of some horses that actually stomped the steel toe portion into your foot. I like paddock boots or some sort of hiking/trainer combo. I prefer zippers to laces, to avoid the chance of tripping on laces.
-Stay hydrated and well fed. Nothing is worse than working a 12 hour day, outside, without proper food and water. Hungry = cranky = risk of getting a smack down from a co-worker. You deserve a lunch, a place to sit down, and snacks when you need them. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Click here for handy tips on how to fuel your day!
-Wear gloves. I like a thin pair when lunging or walking a horse, and a thick pair for barn chores and heavy duty stuff. Road rash and rope burns on your hands are pretty horrible.
-Be smart. Ask for help, make the call, and consult with other Grooms and trainers if you are in doubt. You will only be wiser for it.
-Know the emergency plans for colics, accidents (horse and rider), evacuations, fire, and the like. If no plans exist, take the reins and make them. This link has ideas on how to formulate an evacuation plan.
-Monitor your stress levels. Exercise, take up a hobby, enjoy your days off and hours away from the barn to avoid burnout and fatigue.
-If you are sick, stay home! No need to contaminate your friends, and you will heal faster in your own bed than when mucking horse stalls.
-Know your rights as an employee. If you are unsure of your rights, there are a boat load of resources here. Most Grooms should be hourly employees, and are required to have breaks and a lunch. Take them. Most Grooms should have worker's compensation insurance provided by the employer, make sure you have it.
Thanks so much for listening to me rant!! I hope this can help you find a balance in your days at the barn!
What else can you do to keep yourself safe at the barn?