All equestrians know that having a horse and working at a barn is hard work. Feeding, watering and turn ins/outs are time consuming. To save some time I made a list of time saving barn hacks I used myself.
Brush on a string
For buckets in paddocks and pastures keep a brush on a string attached to the bucket. Without the string it wanders off… For stalls a dishwasher brush works perfect.
Keep a skimmer handy
For big water buckets that are not emptied daily, keep a skimmer at hand to take hay and leaves off of the water surface. Works much faster than using your hands and in winter you keep your hand dry and warm.
Use a leave blower to sweep the isles
Needless to say that you can only use a leave blower when there are no horses inside. It causes a lot of dust to fly around. Wear a dust mask and earplugs.
Teach all the horses how you want them to behave
This is a time investment but well worth it. Teach them all that they have to keep their heads low while haltering, put their noses into the halters themselves and walk with you without pushing or pulling.
Teach them some food etiquette
Rule about safe and desired behaviour around food is not innate. It is taught.
When I worked at a barn in the weekends it only took me 3 weekends to teach the horses that hay and grain where only provided to horses who kept 4 feet on the ground and stepped back & looked away so I could throw in the flakes of hay in their stalls (which saved time and increased my safety). I hate the noise 15 horses can produce when they are kicking their doors simultaneously.
Master the hay nets
If you need to fill hay nets I hope you use square slow-feeder nets. They are a bit more expensive but you can fill them up in a few seconds.
If you have to fill old fashioned hay nets use a plastic roll-up sled to keep the opening of the net open. They are a $3 -$10 dollar investment and save a lot of man hours.
Key ring knife
When I was a barn help I bought a small key ring knife to open up bales. You can also cut through baling twine with another piece of baling twine and use it like a saw. Or attach a pair of scissors to the wheelbarrow you use for feeding.
Do you have useful barn hack? Please share it with us! We would love to hear about them.
If you want to teach your horse to behave around food or feeding time, visit my website and book an online consult.
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We all use or have used verbal praise and a pat on the neck as reward for a horse.Was it helpful? Did we get more of the desired behaviour? In other words: was it reinforcing the behaviour we wanted?
What is a reward while training and how can we measure its value? A reward is an event that is added during or directly after a certain behaviour that reinforces that behaviour. If we don’t see any increase in the behaviour or the effort to display that behaviour it wasn’t a real reward or it was not associated with the behaviour.
In order to associate a reward with the behaviour we must give the reward during the desired behaviour or within a few seconds.
Horses that get a bucket of grain in their stall after they performed well in the arena will not associate their behaviours in the arena with the bucket of food. Therefor the horse will increase their performance next time, at least not due to the food. That is why positive reinforcement trainers use bridges.
Reinforcing the behaviour
If the reward doesn’t reinforce the behaviour, it wasn’t a reward for the horse. Most Dutch people learn to ride in a riding school and we have learned to pat (sometimes it looked more like slapping) the horse on the neck as reward. In hindsight: I have never seen any increase in the behaviour that was ‘rewarded’ this way.
During dinner time a lot of horses are kicking their doors. Why do you think that is? I think because they think that they will get food because they kick the doors. After all: they always get their food while they are kicking their doors.
I have worked at stables and even if I was only working in the weekends, it would take me about 4 weeks to teach most horses (25 out of 30) that the desired behaviour was: 4 hooves on the floor and ‘looking’ away (head in their stall so I could throw in their hay from the corridor). It took a bit of patience and consideration during feeding time, but it was rewarding for all parties. For me because I saved time and it made my work safer. Horses that are ‘looking away’ when I am feeding them grain or hay can’t snap at their food with all the dangers that come with it. A few weeks later all the horses learned the new, safer behaviour. For the horses because they got ‘jackpotted‘ every morning: grain and the second time I came: a bucket of grain.
So next time you are rewarding your horse: pay attention. Is it really rewarding? And does it increase the behaviour you desire.
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