Time Is Money

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Walk in almost any barn and you will see some sort of schedule posted in the aisle, tack room, feed room or office. There are lesson schedules, feed schedules, ring time schedules, farrier, vet, shows—you name it and we’ve put it in a schedule. It is our desperate attempt at managing time, people and horses. Some of us use a wipe-off board, chalk board, computer print-out, newsletter and a few of us futilely try keeping it all in our heads.

Scheduling Clients

Scheduling ring time is a common dilemma, especially at barns that have boarders, students and trainers all using the same facility. Having more than one ring, good communication and common courtesy all help prevent conflict and allow the schedules to work.

Elysian Hills’ combined training facility has multi arenas, but that is only one of the reasons Cynthia Brickley can say she hasn’t had a need for a rigid ride-time schedule. She says the real secret is her clients. “We have always been careful to select clients that place their horses first and that have respect for their animals, property and the people working and riding here. We pretty much have an open door policy as to the use of the farm by our clients.” She went on to say that because she has “the best collection of clients in this industry,” scheduling of rings, lessons, and facilities seems to take care of itself.

Aimee Rae Pahl, barn manager of Clover Ridge in Pendleton, New York, runs a boarding facility in which she allows outside instructors to come in and give lessons. She has them put their schedule on a white board where all can see it. She tells the instructors that they must allow boarders to ride with the lesson. She does not charge the outside instructors a ring fee, so she feels her boarders should have this option. “It has worked out well with everyone. The people that take lessons schedule them when no one else is usually out.”

Pahl also uses the white board to let her clients know when she needs the ring for a special event. “For example,” she says, “I have my local club youth group coming out to my barn next month. I placed a note on the board that I needed the aisle and arena free from 1-3 p.m. on that day.” She gives plenty of notice so they can schedule around her.

Heather Boodey trains American Saddlebreds at Ingleside Farms in Franklinton, N.C. She says, “I feel like we are pretty organized. All of the horses are in training here or are lesson horses, so it’s pretty simple because there is no one who just “rides” without a lesson. Most of my clients are pretty good with e-mail and we e-mail about lesson times or phone about them. Horse owners ride two to three times a week, whereas lesson students ride anywhere from one to three times a week. We keep a calendar book that stays in the lounge all day and I take it home with me at night. If that schedule disappears we are lost!”

Boodey has two associate instructors who teach at Ingleside. If it happens they all three have lessons at the same time with riders that cannot ride together, it is not a problem. She has a small indoor arena, the hallway of the barn, the outdoor arena and a straight away trail that is ideal for working the show horses.

Show schedules are worked out with Boodey’s clients and then posted on her website, along with hotel information. She helps clients decide which shows their horses can go to, and then it’s up to them financially to let her know which ones they can afford. Before the show she posts the schedule on her website so everyone knows when they are showing. They can print it and bring it with them to the show. cont.

Boodey also has a dry erase board on the training side of the barn where people sign up for shows. The daily lesson schedule is posted on another board in the back hallway of the barn. Open communication is Boodey’s key to successful scheduling. “We all talk about the schedule and try to work it out daily.” Beth Thomas, trainer at Stone Hollow in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, does not have outside instructors or trainers working out of her facility. “In our barn anything that I am doing—training or teaching—takes precedence. I don’t mind others riding their horses at the same time but they must give way to me. To date, I’ve never had anyone who needed to request a time in the ring alone. My lesson schedule is posted in the barn or I tell boarders when the ring will be free. Our barn is totally training and lessons so it really isn’t a problem for us.” She discusses this up front with her clients when they first come to Stone Hollow. It is also written in the barn rules. She goes on to explain that all the boarders are either taking lessons or have their horses in training, and the facility is small enough to avoid a lot of traffic. Thomas concludes by saying, “We have a great group of people and I have rarely had a problem.”

Scheduling Yourself

We sometimes take for granted the barn chores as a given and don’t include them in the schedule. Allow for the unexpected. Trainer Cynthia Brickley says, “The first priority at Elysian Hills is the care and well being of the animals. Their schedule is cast in stone. Human comfort and convenience comes a distant second. When you put a group of people together with the same philosophy everything else seems to fall into place.”

Even the best-planned schedule can be thrown off kilter by the unexpected, whether it is a phone call, pop-in visitor or a horse or human emergency. Things like finding a misplaced hoof pick, struggling with a jammed stall door, or fixing a broken fence board are not usually on the schedule. Simple solutions to prevent these time stealers include scheduling a time to go over the farm and doing some preventive touch-ups like oiling hinges and door tracks, checking fences, and taking inventory of supplies. Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place really works. Another obvious time-saver is to do a task right the first time. Sometimes we think we are saving time by taking short cuts, only to have to go back and redo the task later.

The telephone counted as a frequent interrupter and time thief among those who responded to an informal survey on a horse-related message board. Many were worried a missed call would be a missed client. Others said talking on the phone while working with a student was infringing on the student’s paid time. The simple solution is to let the caller leave a message.

Drop-in visitors are a little harder to avoid, but again, if you are teaching a lesson or training a horse, a friendly smile and a wave is all you can give at the time. Invite them to look around while you finish your lesson. If you don’t have time to talk at lengths set up an appointment with the visitor. Even boarders can play havoc with a schedule when they want to chat. Again, a smile and friendly attitude while you go on with your work is the best way to handle a chatty client. You might even invite them to help with a chore like filling water buckets or sweeping the aisle.

Planning is essential to managing time in a well-run barn. Sit down with your calendar and check your schedule every night before you “close shop” for the day. Make any adjustments needed, prioritizing as you go. List the most important jobs first and leave time for the unexpected.