Equestrian facilities are responsible not only for horses and their owners, but for staff, as well. Rules are often set in place to ensure that everyone complies with good management practices.
For employees, have a procedures handbook that also explains expected professional conduct and provides a safety checklist. Ensure that every employee reads it and have them sign or initial that they have done so. Such a handbook helps to defend that you exercise responsible practices with professional standards in running your operation.
Also include in the employee handbook, which includes instructions in the event of an incident. Gary Grenzke, MBA, who specializes in equine insurance for Arthur J. Gallagher Co.'s property/casualty brokerage operations, advises that any incident that occurs should be documented as to date and time, what happened, who was involved, where it occurred, and names and contact information for any witnesses. Provide an Incident Report Form for your staff to complete, then advise your insurance agent of the incident in case a claim develops.
As for general rules for your facility, determine what you feel you need to ensure safety and to maximize your clients’ positive experiences at the barn. There are a variety of possible issues you might wish to address:
For Each Horse
Do you require an annual Coggins test or fecal exam for internal parasites? Does each horse have to have a health certificate before the horse enters the premises? Do you require specific deworming and vaccination protocols for the horses?
It is prudent to have signed authorization by every owner that enables a barn manager to call a veterinarian if a horse becomes sick or injured.
Do you have set hours when horse owners and visitors are welcome to come to the facility, or must check in with you before entering the property?
Do you allow smoking outside the barn? What about allowing alcohol on the grounds?
Do you allow dogs to run around free and unsupervised? Or, must they be leashed and in control?
Are children allowed to run around unsupervised? Supervision up to what age?
Do you ask that halters be removed from horses when turned out?
Do you have a rule that no horse should be left tied and unsupervised?
Are ASTM/SEI helmets required for riding? If so, is this rule for minors only or for all riders?
Do you have a protocol that every person cleans up after himself/herself and the horse?
Do you notify boarders that people shouldn’t feel free to borrow anyone else’s tack, grooming supplies, fly spray, etc.? And that no one should handle or feed anyone else’s horse without permission?
Do you discourage people from casual interaction with other people’s horses?
Do you have specific locations where people are allowed to bathe their horses, or provide for farrier or vet care?
What is your policy for using the arenas? What about when lessons are being given?
Where is trailer parking allowed?
Do you want a rule asking boarders and visitors to close all gates and stall doors?
Do you want to enforce a maximum speed limit on the grounds?
Do you want to prohibit bicycles, skateboards, roller blades or ball playing on the grounds or around the horses? Some families have kids that don’t participate with horses, but end up at the facility during a sibling’s riding lesson.
Do you want all visitors and friends to sign a waiver when entering your property?
Do you stipulate the date that board fees are due, when late fees will be imposed, and how much those fees will be?
These are just a few examples of rules you might set down for your clients. These should be provided on paper to everyone, as well as be posted in the barn so there are no misunderstandings about procedures and protocols at the facility.
Rules might seem overwhelming to some, but it is good to have everyone on the same page for consistent deportment at the facility. People like to know what is expected of them. Rules ensure the safety and well-being of both horses and humans while also eliciting a congenial atmosphere around the barn.