Horse Farm Maintenance: Using Family Labor

Using family labor to do projects on your horse property can be fun, but you need to make sure the tasks are safely suited to the person.
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Chose maintenance work or chores that are safe for the age of the individual family member.

Not everyone has a cooperative family group capable of working on projects together, but if you do, this is wonderful for both your family and your equine business. If you plan to enlist the help of family members for repairs and improvements on your property, find ways to reciprocate; arrange to trade labor, or do something kind for them such as caring for their animals when they’re on vacation. As with any relationship, family relationships thrive on mutual kindness and caring.

Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB (American Institute of Architects, National Council of Architectural Boards) advises people to make sure the project is right for you and your family members before asking them for help. 

“For example, don’t ask your elderly father to help with a project that involves climbing around on ladders, and don’t ask a pregnant sister-in-law to help with a project that involves lifting heavy objects or breathing paint fumes," said Lewis. "Evaluate whether your family members can help and will enjoy helping. Some projects are fun, and others can be difficult and lead to resentment.” 

If you involve family, resolve to not be nit-picky. Let some things slide without harping on their shortcomings. “They may not do it perfectly, but free labor is free labor," said Lewis. "You may need to tidy up some things after they have finished their portions, but keep any feelings of exasperation to yourself and you will have a more peaceful project.” 

Be vigilant about safety. “You don’t want your mom falling off a roof, or your daughter bitten by spiders while rooting around in the dark recesses of a tack room," advised Lewis. "If you’re going to use family labor, care for them as if you were caring for the Queen of England. Don’t let them do dangerous things, and protect them from risks when doing ordinary tasks. Have them use gloves, safety glasses and any other protective gear that is appropriate for the task.” 

Some of the best projects for family labor include cleanup projects, such as organizing and getting rid of things. “Provide personal protective gear such as gloves and face mask to protect against breathing dust. Take dangerous items such as old fuel to correct disposal locations,” says Lewis.

For gardening projects provide gloves, sunscreen and plenty of water. “For painting projects provide personal protective gear and a respirator if using 'fumey' paints," said Lewis. "Ventilate the area well. If you are scraping old paint, be absolutely certain it isn’t lead paint. Have it tested if in doubt.

“Maintenance projects such as fixing fencing, minor carpentry, seasonal fertilizing, etc. also need personal protective gear (gloves and eye protection)," added Lewis. "Don’t let family members use power tools unless they are competent with them.”