The Idiot's Guide to Horse Stable Management

Author's Note: This was originally written by me as a guideline for the barn I manage. The owner and myself got sick and tired of things going to hell in a handbasket each time I took any length of time off. Since I do not wish to live at my job, we agreed something had to be done, so there would be no more "well I didn't know" excuses. This has not been edited in any way. Besides, would the horses really care if their names were used?

Barn Routine
Note: Much of this will sound anal and picky, but it is these little things- done consistently- that will help the barn work more smoothly.

The first thing I do upon coming into the barn is to check for anything that is out of place/ out of the ordinary, i.e., water on the floor where there shouldn’t be and it’s source, water valves in the “off” position (very important in the winter), a horse laying down in distress (if you arrive at the barn before sunup in the winter months, they are more apt to be laying down from sleep than distress, you will know the difference if they do not rise by the time you start feeding), doors ajar/unlocked, etc. Take note of things, write them down as you notice them, not at the end of the day- you will forget about them.


  • Do Marfa and Jackson’s feed first. They both require their feed to be wetted down fully and that is best done with warm water (kind of like instant oatmeal). Doing their feed first gives it time to absorb the water and cool off a bit.
  • Set their buckets by their stalls and fix everyone else’s feed.
  • For feed order, I feed Skittles to Diablo, Desi (now currently Marfa) to Sylvanna, and Peaches to Comanche. The only reason why I do it that way is because that is how the buckets stack together best. As a rule, I don’t feed Peaches first, as he only receives a small amount and finished way before everyone else. I usually add a handful extra to Comanche’s feed bucket and give that extra bit to Peaches as it helps save time (one less bucket to deal with), you may choose to do otherwise.
  • Rinse Marfa’s and Jackson’s buckets with water from their buckets. This will ensure all their feed is given to them and will help in cooling their feed. Make sure the feed is emptied completely from every feed bucket before putting them away. Yes, this means using your hands.
  • When you are done with the feed, put the buckets back in the order they were in, with Marfa’s and Jackson’s set upside down against the back wall. This way, you (or the next person who feeds) won’t waste time searching for which feed bucket for which horse. Make sure all supplements (Breathe, Pureform, etc.) are back on the shelf where they belong.

In good weather, take the hay out to the paddocks while the horses are eating and feed the cats. Add water to the water troughs too. In bad weather, give each horse a flake of hay, except for the group you choose to muck out first (they will be going into the arena).


Turnout groups are as follows:

The paddock each group goes into varies greatly on the day, season and weather. Never put horses out on the grass paddock in early spring when the grass is very green. On Saturdays and days when there are a lot of lessons being taught, the older group should be in the arena paddock so they’re easy to access for the riders. Otherwise, they can go out into the grass paddock. Each group should get at least one turn a week out on the grass paddock in the summer. Get the boys out on days when you are unsure of the weather, and can’t decide on doing a full turnout. They get very rambunctious when cooped up for too long. Turn them out in the arena paddock, that way if the weather gets bad suddenly, you can bring them in without too much exposure for yourself. Sylvanna should be kept in when the footing is muddy and/or slippery, but do not keep her in too many days in a row as this increases her lameness. Same goes for Skittles, but only if she shows signs of being lame on turn-in from the previous day (which should be noted in the book). IMPORTANT NOTE: In the winter, check all blankets and straps before turning out to prevent accident and injury.

**Turn-in should be no later than 4PM.**


  • The stalls should only take 15 minutes per stall if they are done thoroughly and consistently every day. If a “rush job” was done one day, then you have made more work for yourself (or whomever else) the next day. There are some stalls (Sylvanna for example), you can get away with, but I would have to say that with 95% of these horses you can’t.
  • Remove piles of manure/soiled hay first, and then bank the stall to find the rest and the wet spots. Don’t leave any stray poo-balls behind if you can help it. Pull as much of the bedding toward the center as you can.
  • Add at least a scoop of pellets daily (or as soon as the bedding starts to turn a brown colour) to the stalls that are usually messy/wet/heavy, ideally where they pee the most. Remember: stallions and geldings typically pee near the center of the stall, mares typically pee around the edges. There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule.
  • The messiest stalls and the stalls where the horse wears the bedding down thin should get at least a full bag of pellet shavings a week. The others should get at least a half a bag.
  • Do not worry about getting the bedding spread out to the edges. The horses do a pretty good job of doing that themselves.
  • If you can, it is best to sweep up after each section of stalls you do. It will help speed up your overall tidying time.

Water and Hay

  • Sylvanna, Bear and Comanche receive three flakes of hay, Peaches gets two (he should never get more than two at one time, otherwise he will spread out all over his stall, soil it, and not finish it). Everyone else should get four flakes.
  • Increase or decrease hay amounts when the flakes are abnormally large or small.
  • Risky, Bear, and Jackson have a tendency to not finish the hay they are given at night, especially if the hay is rather coarse and “stem-y”. Hay them sparingly when using the bales that are like that. A flake or two should be the most given.
  • Normally, I change and water the buckets after I’ve mucked each stall. In the cold weather when the water is turned off, I save the watering until the very end, that way the horses have as much water as possible until it is turned back on the following day.
  • If you don’t completely clean out the buckets, at least take the time to scoop out any hay, else it will ferment in the water.
  • In the months where the water is not turned off, top off all water buckets before leaving the barn for the night.

Tidy-up and Final Check

  • It is best to sprinkle the walkways with water before you sweep to keep the dust down on the dry days and when the barn is closed up tightly.
  • Everyone should make an effort to take care of the cobwebs. They tend to be more prominent in damp weather.
  • All stall guards should be removed from stall doorways.
  • Turn off all lights, especially check upstairs.
  • In subzero temperatures, make sure the water system is off and drained completely, that all doors are free of ice, shut and locked tightly, and that hay or some form of insulation is protecting the doors facing the driveway. Also make sure all horses are blanketed and that the straps are on properly.

***Above all, BE AWARE- of your environment, the horses, and what you are doing.***