What do I need to tell my friend/trainer/groom/hubby/barn owner/horse babysitter/caretaker about my horse when I go on vacation?
First things first - let’s get the “vacation” jokes out of the way!! We all know that actual vacations as rare as unicorns in the horse world. BUT - on the rare chance that we sneak a weekend away, or heavens to Betsy an actual week, it’s vital that your temporary caretaker know all the facts before you hit the road. This laundry list of information is also critical to give you new trainer and barn owner and any barn staff when you move into a new barn, or when your horse has a change to his routine.
This may seem easy, as in “two flakes of hay, three times daily”. But, the reality is that horses are such unique individuals, and one shoe does not always fit all. So - here’s a handy checklist of things that everyone should be aware of in your absence:
For a week, this was my home. Yeah for vacations!
- Grooming routine, and what tools your horse likes. Include areas of your horse that he loves to be groomed, and areas to be careful about. Also include going over your horse's normal lumps, bumps, windpuffs, etc., so that a new lump or bump can be noticed and treated.
- Baseline TPR (vital signs.) Just in case your caretaker needs to call the Veterinarian while you are away, everyone can then know what's normal so they have something to compare to when talking to the Vet.
- Detailed feeding instructions for forage. Amount, type, quantity (specify weight to be totally specific, or demonstrate the appropriate flake size - they can vary bale to bale!) Also add in soaking or steaming instructions, and make sure your caretaker knows where in the paddock or stall to feed. Some horses prefer one corner to another, as sometimes bickering through the fence can happen.
- Detailed feeding instruction for grains/supplements. Amount, type, quantity. Many folks will make baggies, which is great. I suggest that you make the grain portion in baggies, and have the supplements added in just before feeding. Exposure to each other and the grains and sitting for a few days may decrease the supplement efficacy.
- Also be sure to specify what treats your horse can, and can't, have. This goes hand in hand with listing any of your horse’s known allergies - food and topical grooming products!
- Your contact information (of course.) Also be sure you have outlined very specific Veterinary guidelines with your caretaker AND your Veterinarian in case of a horrible emergency, or even something accidental like a cut that may need stitches.
- Your Veterinarian and Farrier’s contact information. You may also want to let both your Vet and your Farrier know you will be gone, and leave them with appropriate information as to your horse’s caretaker.
- How to tack up your horse. It may seem easy, but there are a lot of variable here. What pad goes with what numnah, how tight to make the noseband, etc.
- What your horse’s usual routine is - when is exercise, when is turnout, etc.
- Any quirks your guy has. Does he like to eat the end of the lead rope? Does he have an ear shyness?
- Blanket guidelines - what blankets to use at what temperature. Be sure to be very specific if you have blankets that are not waterproof, just so that they are not accidentally used in wet weather.
- Don't forget to write it all down. It's a lot of info for someone to remember!
And, of course, have a super time away from the barn!!