The year 2020 has changed employment from on site to remote for many horse owners. While it is a blessing to lose a commute, the onerous business of managing house, horses and a busy work schedule can be a challenge for even the most talented multitasker.
It was more than 22 years ago that I stepped out of the confines of the corporate office employed at an international freight forwarding company, to work remotely. The high-pressure workplace was instantly replaced with the need for a different sort of self-discipline with a host of family driven needs that encompassed 3 children including twins, 6 horses and a farm to manage. Here are some tips on how to best allocate your time to ensure a stress free (well most of the time!), sane and productive work-at-home lifestyle based on my experience.
Divide Up Your Day
Time management is a key component for keeping tasks on track and routines are your friend. First thing in the morning, before the children are up and about, is a super time to hit the barn and take care of morning chores.
Not only does the morning air refresh the spirit, any horse owner with horses in the backyard will love greeting their equines first thing. It’s smart to check on horses after the darkness of night to make sure all is well, and it alleviates worries over their wellbeing. It is also a peaceful time of day and exercise first thing in the morning is also the best way to manage weight issues and rev up those helpful endorphins that brighten the mood.
Once the barn is mucked out, horses hayed up and grained, turned out, re-blanketed or otherwise sorted out head back to the house to raise the kids from their slumber and set their day in motion. Packing lunch the night before to save time, get the kids and perhaps a spouse or partner to help make breakfast and don’t forget to eat something yourself. See the other members of the household off to their day so you have the morning clear for your workday to begin.
Don’t skip the shower. You never know when a Zoom or MS Teams appointment will come up, and being clean and refreshed, and changed out of your PJ’s, will keep you feeling professional and ready to attack the tasks of the day. It is said that how you dress affects how confident you feel and how you handle yourself, so regardless of who is looking, take the time to take care of yourself.
It is always tempting to work through the day and finish off early. For myself it was not an option as I spend much time talking to folks in different time zones, both here and abroad. But a stress-busting break at lunchtime and a small meal is a good idea. I found taking a walk over to the barn, throwing hay at the horses and sneaking a quick hug with them was a great lunch break. If the weather allowed it was the perfect time to soak in few rays of sun and enjoy watching the horses out at pasture over the fence rail.
Stay on a schedule as much as possible, as the discipline makes it easier to organize work appointments and stay focused. The afternoon work session over, you can be ready for the kids to come home from school to feed and water them, sort out the homework and perhaps sneak a riding session in before evening barn chores.
If your kids are home during the day due to Covid-19 or because of their young age, try to incorporate them into the same routine as you undertake. Bring them outside to the barn at lunchtime for a break from virtual learning and teach them something useful at the barn. For young children the fresh air and activity will help them sleep when naptime rolls around in the afternoon when you are working. An outdoor playset is also a brilliant way to engage their creative minds, burn some energy and build fitness and good health.
If the design of the horse barn allows free movement of horses with in/out access it can play a key part in the ease of equine care for the horse owner and also keeps horses happy and healthy as they enjoy the freedom to choose their environment and to move their joints.
Center aisle barns with Dutch doors in each stall that open to the outside with paddock space for horses to be fed outside are the perfect solution for the busy horse owner whose work schedule varies. For savings on hay costs try an equine hay feeder and to minimize grooming times, mud fever and scratches it is prudent to install a hard surface for high traffic use immediately outside the stables in mini-paddocks.
While it is considered good management to keep horses on a set feed schedule, missing a mealtime by an hour here or there won’t be as upsetting for the horse that is not confined to a small stall.
Zoom Through The Barn Chores
It is lovely to linger in the barn during barn chores and spend time with your horses. But there are times when you need to safely zoom through barn chores. Barn design can also help here.
Provision in a center stall barn of feeding hatches in the front stall walls for hay and grain can not only make feed time fast, it is also the safest way for younger helpers to help complete the task as they don’t have to open the stall door or enter a horse’s stall.
If you have Dutch doors to the outside of the stall, mucking out can be accomplished more quickly if the horses are outside of the structure while stall-cleaning takes place rather than attempting to work around the horse inside. It is also a safer way to work.
Close the Dutch doors and shut the horses on the exterior of the building, whether either temporarily or for the day/evening depending on summer/winter weather and complete the mucking out task quickly.
The addition of automatic waterers within the stalls can also save much labor and time when it comes to horse care. Obviously water troughs in paddock areas or a standing watering pole is essential if horses don’t have access to the stalls 24/7.
The addition of an overhang to a horse barn is one of the most inexpensive methods to add valuable shelter space to a building. This space can provide refuge from inclement weather in winter and provide valuable shade during hot sunny weather. When you choose to shut the horses out of the barn for part of the day, it can save bedding costs as well as time required for mucking out.
Take Home Message
Speaking from experience I can expound on the sincere benefits of working from home and managing both family and job from one location. Our kids delighted in hopping off the school bus to a tea of fresh bread that popped out of the bread machine that I’d set up during my lunch break, the dogs for company all day long, the extra riding and time spent schooling our horses instead of sitting in traffic, and above all the quality time around the table catching up on the kids’ day.
When we built our barns (yes, more than one over time!) and paddocks, we would site the later ones within view of the house so a gaze up from the computer screen was rewarded with a glance at the horses. What could be a better and more relaxing view.
If you are busy managing multiple tasks, caring for family, house and horses either alone or with a partner, and working full-time, do remember to take time each and everyday for yourself. Incorporating horses into your home life and even adding other useful critters such as chickens and homesteading such as vegetable growing (that the children can help out managing too), to your lifestyle can add great enjoyment and value to family life and it is possible to do it all successfully.
Being home for more than the holidays can truly be a blessing!
This article is authored by Nikki Alvin-Smith.
KINDLY NOTE: This article is available for use in its entirety without edit, in any media format, on condition that credit, in any media format, on condition that credit is given to Horizon Structures Inc., and author Nikki Alvin-Smith as a byline at the beginning of the article publication and Horizon Structures URL address and Nikki Alvin-Smith URL is included. Horizon would appreciate notification of any publication. Kindly contact Horizon Structures for photos to accompany the article.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn specialists. Horizon Structures also offers both residential and commercial kennels, coops, multi-use structures and playsets. Please visit https://www.HorizonStructures.com to learn more.
About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
About Nikki Alvin-Smith: International published writer and creative content producer. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing specialist. Nikki also produces catalog and website copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures, advertising copy, photography, videography for a wide range of businesses.
As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 35 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international level and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Iberian breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage training operation in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.
Media contact: Nikki@NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com