Before you go off on vacation, create a checklist for your horsesitter, even if this person is a member of your family. Covering all your bases will help ensure the well-being of your horse (or horses). Knowing that all is well at home will give you peace of mind while you’re on the road.
[ ] Emergency contacts. Provide the names and phone numbers of your veterinarian and farrier, including after-hours emergency numbers, if available. Also include the name and number of a horse-savvy friend or neighbor who can provide assistance in event of an emergency.
[ ] Water. Make sure your horsesitter checks your horse’s water supply daily, even if you have an automatic watering system.
[ ] Feed. Give your horsesitter complete instructions on how, when, and what to feed your horse.
[ ] Medications and supplements. Provide detailed instructions on any medications and/or supplements you give your horse. Premeasure these before you go, and put them in zipper-close plastic bags. Or consider using a prepackaging service, such as SmartPak Equine (888/752-5171; www.smartpak.com).
[ ] Treats. Provide a list of treats that your horse is allowed to eat and how you want them given. For example, you may want your horse to eat only fresh treats, such as carrots and apples, and only from a bucket, rather than by hand.
[ ] Blanketing. If your horse needs to be blanketed at night or fitted with a fly mask and sheet in the morning, let his caretaker know.
[ ] Tack-room/barn orientation: Spell out where necessary items are located in your tack shed and barn. Arrange a time to do a walk-through with your horsesitter before you leave for your trip, orientation sheet in hand.
[ ] Ground exercise/riding/turnout. Your checklist should include specific instructions on the type of exercise you want your horse to receive in your absence. Give details on the amount of time your horse should be exercised, and how you want the horse warmed up or cooled down.
[ ] Barn/pasture care. If your horsesitter will also be taking care of your barn and/or pasture, provide instructions on exactly what you’d like done. Include details on how much time your horse should be kept in the barn or pasture, whether irrigation should be used for the pasture, whether barn lights should be kept on at night, etc.
[ ] Manure management. Specify how often you’d like the stalls and pasture cleaned and where the manure should be disposed. If your manure is picked up by a service, let the horsesitter know where manure bins should be located for pickup and when the pick up will occur.
[ ] Personal touches. Your horse will feel more comfortable in your absence if you let his caretaker know what he’s used to in the way of special treatment. If he enjoys grooming, ask your horsesitter to brush him every day you’re gone. His hooves should be picked out every day. If your horse is used to getting a treat every night before you put him away, ask your horsesitter to maintain this routine.
[ ] Warnings. If your horse has any idiosyncrasies that could prove dangerous, let your horsesitter know. If your horse kicks at people or other horses, bites when being cinched, is difficult to hand-walk, or doesn’t get along with certain other horses, call this to his caretaker’s attention, for both safety and liability reasons.
By Audrey Pavia