January 2016 - Stable Management

Horse care component of Emerging Athletes Program is a hit for young rider.

by Cecily Hayes

Following up on our December issue’s report from Ransome Rombauer and Michael Williamson on the USHJA’s Emerging Athletes Program Nationals, here is Cecily Hayes’ report on the Stable Management portion of the event. She was one of four selected from throughout the country to be part of this portion of the Finals.   

Day 1: After meeting the EAP committee and staff members, the riders drew their horses and we were all assigned our groups. After meeting the horses and getting to know the Otterbein University stable, Anne Thornbury took me and the three other stable managers into the classroom to discuss our jobs as the stable manager or leader of our group of four.

We took notes about the horses that were in our groups, learned about their quirks and what was needed for their daily care. This included turn-outs, extra walks and extra equipment. We briefed our riders about their horses and their needs. After a “get to know you ride,” we went about our nightly chores and equipment organization. Finally, the Welcome Reception and back to the barn for night check. These included checking the water, making sure the horses weren’t too cold or too hot under the blankets, picking out their stalls and feeding a hay flake.

Day 2: This is when the real work began. My group was the first to ride with Peter Wylde. That meant that our morning chores needed to be done early in order to be properly prepared for their lesson. I was the first of my group to be there, so I went about pulling wraps and cleaning water buckets. While my group’s riders were clinicing, I audited, listening for any tack changes that needed to take place in the arena.

At one point, I was asked to grab a standing martingale for a horse named Noah and fit it onto him quickly in the middle of the ring so he could get back into the lesson. It was quite stressful!

After their lesson, it was straight back to the barn to get the horses comfortable and ready to go out in the pasture. My group was next to set jumps, as a result I hung back in the barn to ice and turn out the horses.

In an equine physiotherapy lesson with Janus Marquis, we learned about all kinds of ways and tools to use, whether it was for rehab or just to keep a performance horse comfortable. We then went on to lunch, but returned to have our stable management lesson with Anne Thornbury. We examined the way our blankets fit our horses. A well fit blanket sits just in front of the withers and doesn’t sag or droop at any point on the horse.

We then hooked up a Pessoa rig and talked about the benefits of working our horses in it. This is a lunging device that can be used to teach a horse how to use its hind end to push forward into a rounded front end. It also teaches them how to use their core and strengthens their backs.

Then it was back to evening barn chores and a pizza party. Always finishing out the day with a night check.

Day 3: The third day started off normally with our morning barn chores, but we were to observe and jump crew with Peter first that day. That meant that our horses were the first to go out in the turn-outs. We watched Peter’s techniques in warming up both horse and rider in preparation for the course.

Next it was a media training session with a USHJA representative. We learned how to present ourselves for an interview and how to prepare for the different types of interviews.

Afterwards, it was time for our stable management test. We had to execute a standing wrap and show how to fix a bridle, as well as mark down conformation and specify types of bits. Lunch was then given and after it was my group’s turn to lesson. While auditing I helped with tack changes that needed to occur on the spot. We moved on after the lesson to get the horses put away and got the evening barn chores done. We went back to the hotel to prepare for the banquet that night.

Day 4: Nations Cup

We had our normal morning chores, but we also had to braid and make sure the horses were spotless. The riders then walked the course while the stable managers stayed back to keep an eye on the horses that were tacked up and ready. When our riders came back to get on we had the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge finalists come to be grooms. They went to the ring and the stable managers stayed to make sure the next horses were getting prepared properly and in a timely manner.

After all the rounds of the Nations Cup, we went to put the horses away and then returned to the ring for the awards presentation.

This program is so special and is a fantastic learning experience. I met two new friends at our Petaluma clinic and the three of us (Ransome & Michael) moved on to Nationals together. You get more of the teamwork aspect through this program and I will definitely be returning next year.


Author Cecily Hayes trains with her mother, Reagan Hayes, at Hayes Training in the East Bay Area’s Walnut Creek.