Completing a Barn Shift

Introduction: Completing a Barn Shift

These instructions are written with the intention of being used for VTET Western Team Barn shifts for Spring 2016.

There are many ways to take care of horses and there are many different opinions as to what constitutes good practice. This document is what is generally expected of student team members when they complete barn shifts to take care of our Hokie herd. Some of the following steps can be done in a different order than shown here; however, this is the recommended order based on collective experience.

While these instructions are for this specific team at a specific barn with a specific set of horses, this is not a bad starting point for creating your own routine for your barn! Many of the core principals demonstrated here are common and would need to be done at any barn.

Disclaimer: these instructions are not by any means official guidelines nor are formally endorsed by the VTET.

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Step 1: Feed

At the start of each barn shift, team members should enter the feed room and check the feed chart. This chart will include the amount and type of feed as well as any supplements or medications for each horse.

Whomever is first to a shift should begin the process of filling feed buckets while others arrive.

  • Empty buckets are located near the large garbage cans filled with feed
  • Read the chart for each horse for each shift- feed amounts can change at any point with no announcement. Most horses are fed either Sentinel or Dynasty but some have their own feeds, especially private boarders, so be aware of what each horse needs and where it is.
  • Some horses receive supplements or medicines with their feed- these can also be found in the feed room unless otherwise noted.
  • Smartpaks are in the plastic shelving unit and pills are either in the shelves above the garbage cans or on the shelves next to the desk.

If you have questions as to where something is, ask a team member or one of our coaches!

Step 2: Bringing in Horses

While one person is filling feed buckets, the other team members should grab halters and start bringing in horses.

Our fields:

There are four fields that we have horses in and currently all horses in each field belongs to the team. The mare field is directly outside the barn door, the gelding field or “low field” is the large field out the side of the barn with the stream running through it, the small paddocks are directly out the back of the barn, and East Creek or “upper field” is at the top of the hill when walking through the small paddocks.

East Creek:

The East Creek field can be fed up at their field so that you don’t have to bring all the horses there in. If you do this, please use caution and be aware that they sometimes lose their minds when they see the feed buckets.

  • Horses that receive more feed than others should be brought out and tied to the opposite fence and fed.
  • Horses can be further separated by closing the metal gate in the field, making two fields.
  • Make sure horses eating in the same field are well apart from each other so they do not kick out.

Safety rules:

  • If people are completing the barn shift in turns, at least TWO people must be present to help with the gelding field.
  • ALWAYS carry your charged phone on you at all times!
  • If the geldings field is extremely wet or muddy and the hill leading to it becomes dangerous, the small paddocks will be opened to them so you can use the upper gate instead.
  • All fields other than East Creek MUST be brought in to feed as they will misbehave and put everyone in a dangerous situation.
  • Please make sure you close the gate every time you bring a horse out, even if you think it is the last horse in the field because it may not be!
  • In general, if a horse is being a bully at the gate, discipline them and then bring them in. If any horse kicks out at any time, make sure to alert a coach and discipline the horse immediately afterwards.

Step 3: Hay

If horses are staying in or if for some reason there is no hay in the field and it is winter, you must give the horses hay.

  • One wheelbarrow of hay should be given to each horse.
  • Hay can be found on any round bale stored in the barn- they are all for our use.
  • To get hay off of a round bale, try peeling it off in flakes or by rolling it on its side and then back and forth in the aisle- this may take several people and a winch.
  • USE CAUTION when rolling round bales or turning them over- they can weigh upwards of 800 pounds and can do serious damage if they land on anyone.
  • If round bales are stacked, DO NOT USE THE BOTTOM ROUND BALE.

If there is no hay in a field during winter, put hay in the field and then please contact the WSS barn managers and our coach so they can correct the situation.

Step 4: Water

Team members are required to fill field water troughs and buckets in stalls if horses are staying in the barn.


Water troughs can be filled by screwing on the short black hose near the trough to the spigot and turning on the water.

In freezing temperatures:

  1. Unscrew the black hose when done filling up the trough and ensure that it is drained.
  2. If there is a water heater in the trough, ensure that it is in the water and if not, put it back in and tie it to a fencepost nearby so the horses cannot pull it out.

Stall buckets:

When horses are staying in, they MUST have water in their water buckets.

There is a 100 ft hose in the bathroom tied to the wall that can be used to fill buckets. This hose reaches every stall in the barn from the front water spigots.

In freezing temperatures:

  1. Empty buckets of ice by dumping them outside the barn or by clearing out as much ice as possible. Buckets that are completely frozen must be dumped before filling.
  2. If hot water is available please use it.
  3. Drain and coil the hose when it is no longer needed.
  4. Store the hose coiled and tied to the wall in the bathroom so that it does not freeze and stays out of the way in all types of weather.

If buckets or troughs have feces or mud in them or are generally dirty, you must dump the contents out and clean the bucket before refilling. If you would not drink from the bucket yourself, do not expect that our horses will drink it. Scrub brushes and bleach can be found in the wash rack for cleaning if necessary.

Step 5: Mucking Stalls

At the end of every feed shift it is your responsibility to muck stalls.

If horses are staying in for lessons, it is the responsibility of the person riding the horse to muck their stall at the end of their lesson; however, AT ALL OTHER TIMES you must muck every horses stall.

For each stall:

  1. Pick up any piles of poo. If the horse has scattered it around you must pick the poo out of the bedding.
  2. Scoop up any wet spots with pee.
  3. If the stall has had a horse in it and looks like it is just muddy and it smells it must be stripped and bedded.
  4. Take your muck rake and scrape shavings from the edges of the stall towards the center to evenly distribute any clean shavings left.
  5. Retrieve bedding from side of the barn near the wash racks with a wheelbarrow.
  6. Bed the stall at least 3 inches deep with bedding to prevent holes from forming in the center of the stalls.

If there is no bedding or if sawdust is running low, contact the team coach.

Step 6: Clean Up

At the end of each feed shift:

  • Sweep out the tack rooms, feed room, and bathroom
  • Clean up any piles of poo in the aisles.
  • Wipe down the sink and toilet with a wet cloth or sponge.
  • Put back all halters, muck rakes, lead ropes, feed buckets, water buckets, and wheelbarrows

In general, if there is anything that looks dirty or disorganized, please organize it before leaving your shift.

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    4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing all of this information!