Last week was very eventful at Rocking E. And not in a good way… One foundered pony, one emergency midnight colic surgery, one bad horse shipping experience, and one tornado later… I survived! My nerves are shot, but I survived! And thankfully, so have all the horses.
I have RELEARNED two incredibly valuable lessons in the past seven days. I’ve been confronted with these issues in the past, but having a reminder of both–especially in one week–is ominous and foreboding. But equally important as a barn manager. Here are my two things for this Tuesday:
1. Always. Always. Do night checks. This is something I’ve been practicing for years, but when one of my boarders colicked last week it really drove-home the importance of night checks. This particular horse has colicked several times, unfortunately, and has a history of being really gassy. Before you begin to worry, his owner is incredibly knowledgeable and she has done all the right things to prevent this from happening. But unfortunately, sometimes it still happens. He was fine at dinnertime (4 pm) and also when I left the north barn to continue chores at the south barn. I usually do a walk-through at 9pm to put the cats up and just check on things, but thankfully his owner came earlier to see him (7pm) and he was already feeling painful. It escalated quickly and he ended up having surgery around midnight. My takeaway from this grueling and stressful situation is to always do an INTENTIONAL night check. Many times I’ve glanced around and called it good enough. If I had 1. not done my normal night check or 2. Lazily looked around the barn, this horse surely would not have made it. How’s that for pressure? But there’s nothing like a hard, swift kick to get you going and take things seriously.
2. You get what you pay for with horse shippers. I’ve seen countless shippers bring in horses from all over the country to Rocking E, and I can say with confidence that you should NOT price shop for horse haulers. One of my precious boarder mares was sold last week, and it was hard enough to see her leave the safety and security of Rocking E, let alone watch her nervously get on a sketchy rig with untrustworthy haulers. Know what kind of trailer your horse is getting on. Know the people who will be hauling your horse. Call them multiple times-even if it annoys them. Pay the extra money for a box stall. Take pictures of your horse before they get on the trailer. Insist on knowing EXACTLY where your horse is going. Insist on sending water, hay, and grain. And if there is any way possible, haul them yourself.
To help ensure I do thorough night checks, I’ve made a checklist to keep on a clipboard at both barns. It’s just for me, really, but it will help hold me accountable to take my time and visually check every single horse. The checklist will also help in case Brad ever has to do it for me.
I never plan on my horses moving anyplace without me, but I hope in the future I can help my boarders make quality hauling decisions. Unfortunately when selling horses, the seller does not always get the option to choose a hauler, which is what happened in the case of my mare boarder.
Sometimes the most important lessons are the hardest learned. Stay vigilant in your care, friends!