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Using Volunteer Labor for Maintenance and Improvements

Chose volunteer tasks around the barn wisely, then have fun!
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Credit: Thinkstock You could have a "spa" day and let volunteers give all the horses a bath.

Credit: Thinkstock You could have a "spa" day and let volunteers give all the horses a bath.

When making improvements or maintaining you property, the primary keys to success with volunteer labor are to select projects that are safe and appropriate for the people helping, according to Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB (American Institute of Architects, National Council of Architectural Boards). “For example, if you have Boy Scout labor, choose a defined project such as rebuilding a small item that can be built in a day. If you have a lot of boarders volunteering on something, make the project physically non-stressful and appropriate for people of all ages,” she said.

Always choose safe projects. “You may face risks enlisting volunteers," said Lewis. "What if someone is hurt? Lower those risks by doing projects that are safe and low-risk, and consider having volunteers sign a release form before participating in the activity.”

Some of the best projects for volunteers involve relatively simple things that involve a lot of hands. Lewis said this list could include:

  • Spring weeding and planting.
  • Repainting and repairing jump standards, cavaletti poles, barrels, etc.
  • Repainting a barn sign.
  • Cleaning the barn lounge and redecorating it.
  • Manure cleanup: Have your volunteers scoop up a lot of the manure that gets neglected, such as around the pasture gates.
  • Throw your junk away: Your barn might need a major cleanup involving boarders and their horses. Rent dumpster and recycling bins for the day and collect unused tack for donation to a horse rescue.
  • Bathing all the horses. Think of a spa day. This would be a lot of fun for younger volunteers. Get permission if you’re bathing someone else’s horses.
  • Spring cleaning. This can go beyond tidying and throwing things away. Have people help wash the barn aisle, sweep all the rooms, rake paddocks, wash windows, clean horse trailers, etc., to get things in top shape before the busy summer season. You can do the same thing before winter; have volunteers help wash all the blankets and assist with winterizing tasks.

“Be creative! If you put your mind to it, there are many great projects for volunteers on your property,” said Lewis.

“Finally, treat your volunteers well," said Lewis. "Provide hats and sunscreen if people don’t bring those, along with gloves, cold water and Gatorade, and a place to sit in the shade. Make it fun. Provide food or order some pizza to show your appreciation for the kindness of their help. Consider inexpensive gift baskets for large volunteer events. It’s amazing how much a little appreciation does for creating goodwill and fostering participation.”