Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Could you do this for my horse?": The art of the barn note

Hi [Barn manager],

I noticed Riley is not eating his probiotics or his antibiotics when mixed with his regular feed. Would you mind mixing it with some applesauce and  grain and feeding it to him BEFORE he gets his low-startch pellets and supplements? Also the vet gave me this fluid which must be mixed in a ratio of 1/2 C fluid to 1 cup water which he needs once a day. You can give it to him any time other than feeding time

Oh, and I left a check for you in your tack box for the handwalking.  Please only walk him in the main barn with the rubber mats, he slips on the cement aisle. Make sure to use the chain and to close both barn aisle doors...



That's a note I never actually left for my barn manager, who has almost 40 horses under his care. I have seen him literally jogging through the morning to get his work done -- and that's just the basic care. I have a litmus test for my special requests. I ask myself, "What if all of his boarders wrote notes like this? Would he ever have time to sleep?" Into the trash it went.

Mastering the art of the barn note...
Like all forms of persuasive discourse, writing barn notes is an art. How do we make a barn manager *want* to do extra chores (e.g., tell'em to go to hell and hav'em forward to the trip)? If you want to master this skill you'll have to look to someone else for guidance. For every note I leave there are five balled up pieces of paper that go into the trash. I hate asking for favors. And as someone who works at barns I get those little missives from boarders. Frankly some of them do annoy me. I can't reconcile the two perspectives of horse owner and barn worker. I might roll my eyes at a someone else's note, but all I have to do is imagine my own horse in the same situation. Instant empathy.

I have collected some whacky barn notes over the years and will share them with you in dribs and draps. What crazy barn notes have you seen (or left) for the barn manager?


  1. I got one with combined blanketing and turn-out instructions that, due to our mostly cold snowy weather and the wardrobe choices, meant the horse couldn't go outside. It concluded with "He MUST be turned out alone a minimum of 4 hours daily, and the indoor arena isn't big enough for him for turnout." Thankfully this client moved on to annoy another barn staff to tears.

  2. Not sure I remember any too crazy notes. I always tried to keep things as simple as possible for my horse's caretakers. I made it a point to go to the barn every day myself and do all the tricky little jobs. Fortunately, during my boarding years, I didn't miss too many days.

  3. My barn manager doesn't speak or read English, but I do speak Spanish. So ... I don't leave him any notes! I just give a SINGLE verbal direction, if needed. Like, "can you feed an extra flake tonight as I am heading out in the morning." This way I KNOW I am not "bugging" him. I also give his horse his vaccinations, so we're kind of even. :0)

  4. I believe I've left notes for other boarders like "noticed your horse was trying to eat half the fence. I removed the large sliver from his mouth. Hope he's okay."

    and I've yet to figure out how to ask that my horse get turned out more consistently. I admire your multiple drafts, I seem to try to come at it from every angle, and still not achieve the desired result. Maybe a fishing pole, a hundred dollar bill dangling in front of someone is in order... =)

  5. Goodness, I haven't boarded for years but anything more complex than "two scoops pellets and a flake of hay" meant you did it yourself! Which sometimes made life a little tricky when we lived in Midtown.

    My parents do all kinds of crazy stuff for our boarders but they are retired and enjoy it. My dad stayed up for like a week straight bottle feeding a foal last year. (Sadly, lost the poor little guy anyway.)


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