Work With Horses: Becoming a Stablehand
Becoming a stable hand means more than working with horses; it is a way of life! There are several different disciplines in the horse world; whether your dream is to ride the winning racehorse in the Derby, or lead a pony in your care at its first show, the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work has contributed to that moment is a great feeling.
Are You Up to the Job?Working with horses is very hard work; tough chores have to be done all year round and in all weathers.
Hours are long and often anti-social. (Horses don't celebrate public holidays!) Fewstable hands manage to maintain a social life because of the hours they work and theassociated low income (they earn from around £7,500.) Their lives revolve around their horses.
It is crucial for a stable hand to be fit and able to cope with the constant, strenuous, physical demands of the job as most working hours consist of pushing wheelbarrows, carrying heavy buckets and other equipment, sweeping, lifting and generally being on their feet and active, all day, every day.
Potentially DangerousA stable hand's work can be dangerous, not just because riding is a hazardous sport, but because accidents do happen when handling animals. Horses can bite with one end and kick with the other! Having half a ton of horse standing on your foot is no joke, either.
Find out if the stable you want to work for provides protective clothing as buying your own overalls, gloves, boots and relevant protective headgear can be very expensive. Ask about personal injury and public liability insurance and make sure you know where horse and human first aid is kept and who is qualified to use it.
Beyond the Stable DoorEstablished stable hands are expected to travel with the horses in their care to events in other counties or even countries. This is good experience but it's not glamorous! While their horses have everything they need in the horsebox or aeroplane, stable hands travel light. (Jewellery and the latest fashions have no place in working with horses and can cause injury.)
Warm, waterproof, lightweight and safe are the designers of a stable hand's wardrobe,and, although they must have high personal standards, they appreciate that their horses are the real stars.
Qualifications are not necessary to begin a career with horses but a genuine interest in their care is important. It is possible to take an apprenticeship, foundation course or NVQ in Horse Care if you decide this career is for you. Adequate training is always provided
Stable hands don't have to be top jockeys to find work they enjoy, but top jockeys will have been stable hands first. They are the backbone of the industry.
Daily RoutineDuties involve a precise routine of mucking out stables and preparing fresh beds for horses in their care, along with sweeping, grooming, feeding, leading, exercising, cleaning tack and other associated equipment and generally keeping everything as it should be.
Daily grooming plays an important role by not only keeping horses looking good and feeling comfortable, but also in strengthening the bond between stable hands and their charges. Stable hands are often first to notice if a horse is unwell or injured because they know the normal behaviour of each animal in their care. They observe the body language of their horses and are aware of useful clues to mood and general well-being so can notify the yard manager of any changes in appearance.
FeedingEfficient stable hands always serve meals on time! Feeding horses is quite a science and specific dietary requirements are carefully worked out to suit the temperament, workload, age, size and health of each animal. Because horses have very delicate digestive systems the wrong meal, fed at the wrong time, can cause serious illness.
LeadingHow to lead horses properly is one of the first major lessons the new stable hand learns. Correct positioning and technique is crucial.
There are occasions when horses need to be trotted up in hand to enable a trainer, farrier, vet, saddler or prospective buyer to assess the horse in motion. Stable hands will learn how to do this safely and correctly while at the same time showing the horses at their best.