Barn Owners – Take that Vacation!
Have you ever wanted to take a vacation as a horse owner, but in your gut you just feel that it would be best to stay home? Who is going to watch your animals and make sure everyone gets fed the correct food, the correct amount AND include supplements??! If you know this issue all too well, you are not alone. However, studies show that taking time for you is good for your health and improves your physical being. Here we discuss how to take the stress off of finding great help for your barn and making a plan to be away without any worries.
When to Travel
Finding the perfect time to travel can make the situation of leaving your animals behind much easier. Think about it this way, scheduling a vacation in the middle of winter can cause more hazards at home if there is a high chance of a winter storm – shoveling, frozen pipes, etc. Yet, traveling at the height of the summer poses a risk in areas that have a high potential for wild fires. If you live in states with hurricane and tornado seasons, be mindful to pick a time where there are less chances of emergencies. Keeping away from risk as much as possible will ease your mind and allow for smooth sailing for your pet sitter.
Finding a Pet Sitter
If you don’t have a pet sitter that you trust your home and animals to, start by asking local family and friends who they recommend. You may be surprised by how many people know someone that is great with animals and very hardworking. It just takes one reference to find a pet sitter you can count on anytime! If you are coming up short on recommendations for pet sitters, look into your local farm page. Many areas have Facebook groups dedicated to farm information and you can post an ad asking for recommendations on extended barn help. This opens the forum up to references and you can gauge how much experience a person has working with animals, especially horses.
Once you have found one or two reputable sitters that you are comfortable with, bring them out to your house and farm a few weeks prior to going away. Waiting till the day before, and then realizing you aren’t thrilled with your selection of pet sitter, can make it more stressful to have to find someone else in such a short period of time. If you bring them out a few weeks ahead of time, you can spend time talking with them, getting a feel for their experience and have them do the work for the day, so they know what to expect and if they have any questions.
Setting Up Barn Details
When it comes to specifications regarding your animals and property, be sure to write everything out. Have dry erase boards for feeding and supplement schedules (also handy on a day to day basis), write down contact numbers for emergencies and keep a list of daily tasks that need to be done – watering the garden, anyone? This will help you remember what needs to be done while you’re away and keeps your help on track of the daily to-dos. I recommend making those lists a week prior, so you can add to it as you think of things that will need to be done.
Portion Out Supplements
If you have many horses and many different supplement regimens, try portioning them out for each day you are gone. Label the bags with the days of the week and either AM or PM. This will insure that your horse is getting the right amount of supplements he needs and won’t put too much strain on your pet sitter to get it right.
Stock Up on Feed and Forage
Be sure to have enough food and hay while you are gone! There’s nothing like getting a phone call from your pet sitter wondering where the extra bag of senior feed is, or that the mare field finished the last bale. Keeping stock will ease your mind, and you will have plenty left over for when you get back.
Prepare for Barn Emergencies
Have all contacts listed in the barn and in the house in case of emergencies. Be sure that your pet sitter adds your phone number to their phone index to be able to call right away. Also, knowing who to call locally if something goes wrong, can be helpful if an emergency does happen. If you have an emergency plan for your barn, go over it with your pet sitter and write down any additional instructions. Even keeping a small binder of emergency information in the barn can be helpful for anyone that has a problem.
Paying your Pet Sitter
For all animal and barn owners that hire a pet sitter, the biggest issue can always be what to pay them. Payment is going to vary by area and how many animals need to be taken care of. However, if you have any experienced pet sitter, or someone with their own business, they may already come with a set fee. If they don’t, sit down with the prospect before their hired and ask about how much they have made in the past and what amount are they looking for. If you have someone staying at your house, a flat fee a day is going to be the better option. If you are attempting to pay hourly for someone to be there all day, you are going to run a high bill, quick! However, if you have someone coming over for 3 hours a day, paying them an hourly fee can be the better option for you and the sitter. Talk to others in the area, friends and family, to see what they have previously charged. This can make it fair if they try to get a job with a neighboring farm.
Connect with your Pet Sitter when you Reach your Destination
Once you have reached your destination, you should take a moment to check in with your pet sitter. Let them know they can contact you anytime for a question or during an emergency. Now that your mind is eased, take in this time for yourself to fully relax. Enjoy time away from the barn to be refreshed for when you gallop back in!
Happy travels, enjoy!