Courtesy of SmartPak
Traveling can be stressful on its own, but leaving your animals to do so adds another layer of complexity to the equation! Follow these steps before you leave so you can travel with the peace of mind that your farm sitter will have all the tools that they need to care for your horses the same way you do.
Step 1: Review Everything In Person
Allow you horse sitter to meet the horses and tour the farm, and be sure to explain any quirks or special accommodations in detail. Ask them to do a trial run and feed/care for the horses for a day before you leave for your trip. For horse sitters that have experience at your farm, make sure to thoroughly update them on any changes and additions to the routine.
Step 2: Leave Clear Instructions
Your instructions may include the following:
- The routine that your horses are used to. For example, the order in which you feed, turn out, and turn in, especially if you have a larger group and dominant horses that are used to being first. Be sure to include the amount of time that your routine takes and pad it a little for someone new. Many farm sitters have other jobs and it is beneficial to give them a realistic amount of time that they will need to accomplish all of the tasks thoroughly.
- Draw a map of your paddocks, label them with numbers, and clearly indicate which horse(s) go where.
- If you have numerous types of hay, draw a map of your hay storage area and label where each forage is on the map and on the wall if possible.
- Indicate where all water troughs are and how often they will need to be filled and or cleaned.
- Note any special circumstances. For example, an older horse with poor teeth may take much longer to eat than everyone else and it is important that your horse sitter allows them enough time. Horses that need their hay soaked or steamed will require extra time allotted to set this up correctly.
- A detailed feed chart with a coordinating labeled feed room. Make sure that each type of feed, medication and supplements are clearly labeled so that there is no confusion. Consider pre-bagging feed for your horse sitter. Setting up a weeks’ worth of feed in bags can take one time-consuming task out of their day. This will also give you extra peace of mind that your horses will receive exactly what they’re used to.
- A list of any special care that specific horses may need and where to find all of the supplies necessary to perform this care. For example, if a horse needs their foot soaked daily be sure to indicate what bucket you use and where to find any products that you are currently using.
- Clearly outline and organize blankets and sheets for each horse and leave instructions for when blanket changes need to occur. Make sure blankets are labeled and there is no confusion as to who wears what when.
- Make sure that your horse sitter knows about any special seasonal accommodations as well. Do you have to haul a hose to fill a water trough in a far field? Does the mud get so bad in your side paddock that it is not safe to turnout after a night of rain? Every barn/ farm has its quirks and you do not want anything bad to happen while you are away!
Step 3: Ensure you have enough feed and supplies
Make sure that you have more than enough forage and feed for the time that you will be away, or be sure that a delivery is scheduled so that your horse sitter does not have to worry about running out of feed. If your horses are stalled, make sure that you’re stocked up on bedding, too.
Step 4: Check your fencing, stalls, and shelters
Look over your fencing, stalls, and shelters for potential hazards and make sure everything is in tip-top shape before you leave. No farm sitter wants to be chasing your horses down the street because of a poorly maintained fence!
Step 5: Leave a detailed list of contacts for emergencies.
This way if your farm sitter is away and something happens anyone can contact you or other important people. Your contact list should include but not be limited to:
- Your phone number(s) and the contact info for anyone travelling with you.
- The veterinarian’s phone number.
- The farrier’s phone number.
- The numbers of any boarded horses’ owners.
- Any employees or friends that are familiar with the farm and horses that are nearby.
- Your feed store’s phone number.
As a courtesy consider, letting your vet and farrier know that you will be away and share the name of the farm sitter who may reach out with any issues.
Step 6: Check in with your farm sitter periodically
While you’re away, check in with your farm sitter to ensure that everything is going smoothly. Make sure that you will be accessible should they need you, or put together a back-up plan with another resource for them to call if you’re not available.