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It's always been hard to find good stable help. The work is dirty and physically demanding, the hours are long, the weather is always a factor and the pay isn't great. Good barn staff are worth their weight in gold. Bad barn staff....not so much.
Unfortunately for anyone who owns or manages a barn, the latter is much easier to find. In fact, after seeing what our barn owner has gone through and swapping horror stories with others in the business, I've come to the conclusion that some of these people genuinely don't want to work in a barn. They must be trying to get fired because otherwise, there is no logical explanation which justifies some of the behaviour I've witnessed and / or heard about.
To help those candidates be successful in their quest to fail in the horse industry, I've compiled a list of helpful tips:
1. Don't show up
This one is a no-brainer. Don't show up when you're supposed to, either for an interview or for actual scheduled work. This method is particularly effective if you're scheduled to work only one day a week, and at least twice a month have car trouble, the stomach flu or a family wedding to attend on that day. To be even more effective, don't notify your boss until the very last minute or - better yet - not at all.
2. Suck at your job
This one is a bit more challenging because, let's face it, mucking stalls isn't rocket science. To truly suck you have to do a spectacularly bad job. Try picking only the visible poop and leaving all the pee behind, buried under a light dusting of clean shavings. Or you could go the opposite route and quickly strip everything out of each stall without bothering to sift, filling the stalls back up with an entire month's worth of clean shavings in a single day. If needed, you can always kick it up a notch by "forgetting" to close gates and stall doors. That ought to do the trick.
3. The more the merrier
What's more fun than shovelling poop all day? Doing it with a friend tagging along to entertain you! Bonus points if your friend is terrified of horses or wears flip flops to the barn, or if it's a new love interest and you spend more time groping each other than mucking stalls. If you truly aspire to terrible greatness, take a job babysitting a toddler, bring said toddler to the barn with you and leave him / her completely unsupervised in the arena for three hours while you muck stalls with headphones in your ears and music cranked on max.
4. Know everything
One of the quickest ways to lose your job is to disregard everything your barn owner or manager tells you. Their 30 years of experience can't possibly compete with your very expensive two-year equine management college course in the U.S., right? You're a highly trained expert, so make sure everyone knows it. Offer training and riding advice to the boarders and suggest new feed programs for every horse. Question everything from tack and equipment to vet care. Loudly. If your boss has the audacity to suggest that you follow instructions, simply roll your eyes and sigh each time you're shown how to do something.
5. Slow and steady wins the race
In this case the goal is to get fired quickly; ironically the best way to do this is to go slowly...very slowly. The less you get done in a day, the faster your boss and co-workers will get frustrated with you. Let them! Why hustle when you can take 20 or 30 minutes to clean each stall and not break a sweat? Fair warning - this method may not work at barns where the manager is smart enough to pay a flat fee or per stall rate instead of an hourly wage. In that case I recommend waiting until you are left in sole charge of the stable, preferably when everyone else is at a show. When they return after a 12-hour day to find only five stalls have been mucked, your termination is guaranteed.
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.