I was pretty stumped, initially, on how I wanted to debut my blog posts to the world. How can I encapsulate what I believe in, who I am, what I do – and jumpstart the beginning of what could be an amazing series on a pretty cool website? I turned to my favorite iPhone app – the Notes app – and checked through some of the lists I had made on blog post ideas. None were calling out to me, none were good starting places. I checked a different list of groom’s tips I had sent to a friend a while ago. I finally gave up and sent the staff I work with a checklist of what needed to be done tomorrow and ran through a list of what I needed to pack for the horse show. At least I was being productive. I added ‘write blog post’ to my to-do list.
Then, it hit me like a ton of lists falling off my desk. A post on the secret to my success, an insight into my life, the inner workings of my mind – a post on LISTS! So here we go.
The mighty to-do list. Some fear it, some don’t understand it, many misuse it. I cannot live without it. A list is the key to organizing my horses, coworkers, and various professionals I work with on a daily basis. Today, we start with the most important lists that run my day-to-day operation.
In my stable, we have twenty horses. Of those twenty horses, we have about ten owners, three veterinary clinics, three farriers, about twelve or thirteen different people riding (of those: two working students, one assistant trainer, and one being my boss), and myself, managing and grooming. It’s a lot, it’s often overwhelming, and it can easily dissolve into chaos. I cannot be everywhere all at once to answer questions, I cannot always be on my phone, and I am often at the horse show. If we are not showing, I try to keep our hours between 6:30 am and 4:30 pm. All twenty horses are exercised daily, I have a strict no dermatitis or thrush rule, and every horse gets a second curry comb in the afternoon (more on all of this later). So, how is this all managed in ten very short hours with not a lot of staff on the ground? A list! (or really, many lists…)
The best investment in my stable was a giant whiteboard that lives in the center of traffic. It is open to anybody who wants to view it – it is public information. On the far left, every horse under the care of my stable is listed (in alphabetical order) – color-coded by groom, if applicable. Next to each horse, their ride time for the day is written out – all of this is predetermined the night before when the lesson schedule is created by the boss – along with the initials of whoever is riding that horse that day. This way, I can visually see how our day will function. I can ensure that the same saddle is not being used on two horses at the same time, or a shared bridle isn’t meant to be at the horse show and on a horse in a lesson at home. Once the riding schedule for the day is established, I can move on to carefully scheduling the rest of the horses’ day. Like toddlers, they get shuffled around a lot, and they aren’t good at driving themselves to their destinations.
The Turnout Schedule
The next list, directly to the right of my riding schedule, the turnout schedule (with a diagram of labeled paddocks) is carefully laid out. Each turnout rotation is labeled by the hour, and this is the same every day, and under each hour are the letters a-e. These correspond with paddocks on the diagram. I like to turn out most horses after their rides, but some go out first thing. Once I have scheduled all the turnouts, I can move on to treatments.
The Treatment Schedule
Mainly, my horses are just iced after they work. Although some get turned out immediately after they are ridden, so I would prefer that they are iced after the turnout. This timing is also written on the board. The only other treatments I write up are specific thrush or dermatitis ointments/treatments/baths for horses that may have just been imported or are having a specific problem. As each ride is done or the task is finished, we erase the written order. The last thing each horse gets at the end of the day is a deep curry and groom – once this task is complete and they are in their stall for the night, they get a checkmark next to their name. This symbolizes to the staff that the horse is completely finished and to move on to the next at a quick glance.
All the Other Lists
Once this board is organized, the staff are always welcome to ask me questions on decisions or discuss the plan with me, but they are able to reference this list throughout the day and use it as a guide in the chaos. There are several other lists throughout the stable for reference – tack lists detailing down to the kind of boots the horse needs to wear, feed charts detailing every kind of feed or supplement we offer, or various ointments with doping windows and uses for reference. All of these guides used in complement with the other erase a lot of confusion that we tend to run into otherwise. Without my lists, I know my stable would not run as efficiently as it does today. I am not superwoman, and often miss one of the many required details if I don’t write it down and visually see it – like sending a horse out on a hack in the same bridle that the assistant trainer needs for her lesson in 20 minutes. So, I make my list, and I check it twice. (Maybe three times).
What are your go-to methods for staying organized and on top of things?
I began my grooming career at a young age. From the moment my childhood trainer suggested I’d become a professional groom, my destiny was set in stone.
After many years of gaining experience at the local riding stable in Pennsylvania, I furthered my knowledge by attending and graduating from Centenary University with a degree in Equine Science in 2022. As a traveling groom on a Combined Driving Team, I gained valuable experience with FEI events and long-distance shipping. Today, I’m the stable manager and show groom for the top dressage sales facility NorCordia USA of international dressage rider Catherine Haddad Staller in Wellington, FL, and Califon, NJ.