Going back to my imaginary livery yard – that you can read about here – I was today thinking about how I`d organise the staff, keep liveries happy, and other bits and pieces.
In my experience, the professional equestrian world has two types of people; those who are very good with horses but not very good at mixing with people, and those who aren`t quite so good around horses yet are very good at dealing with the public. In order for businesses to be successful, I think you need both types of people in management. I`ve already decided that I would want a partner in my livery yard, so I would need to find someone who complimented me.
I think I would also have a core of three managers. The head groom, who would be in charge of the day to day running of the yard, caring for liveries, and helping exercise horses if needed. I think they would also have at least one permanent groom working underneath them, and then in winter they can be in charge of contracting another groom or two to help cope with the workload of the winter part-liveries.
I would then have an instructor, who would teach liveries, have external clients, and exercise horses. Instructors are usually good at communicating, so I would have them as the point of contact for the liveries. Let`s face it, I would be the instructor and point of contact, which means I would need to find a partner who had very good knowledge and experience of horse care, and was devoted to looking after them.
I would then have a maintenance manager, who preferably had a farming background so knew all about caring for the land and building robust fences, yet had animal sense around horses. I think I would have quite a laissez-faire approach to them, just meeting once a week. Their jobs would involve maintaining the buildings, fences, water system, arenas, and also caring for the land. Unfortunately, most horse owners have very little knowledge about when to rest, harrow, fertilise their fields, so the maintenance manager would oversee caring for the fields and advise liveries on when to rest paddocks, and organise the rolling and harrowing. I would have a separate email address for maintenance so that liveries could contact them with details of damages. The email system would also enable to maintenance to communicate directly with liveries. For example, “We will be fixing the fence in your paddock tomorrow afternoon,” or “Next week`s forecast is dry and warm, so we will be rolling your paddock on Tuesday”. Which should mean that everything runs more smoothly because the jobs don’t go through a middle man, and horses will be brought in if necessary.
Everyone wants lessons, or to have enough space to jump, or to avoid an over crowded arena, but it can be so difficult to organise an arena booking system. I have a solution though! I would have a website for my livery yard, where the liveries are all members which gives them access to the Arena Booking System. That would mean that liveries can check to see if anyone has booked lessons for the following day and week, so can plan to hack on the day there is a jump lesson, or ride earlier in the day. People could book the arena out for a lesson, state that they are willing to share the arena, state if it is flat or jump lesson, or even if someone wanted to set up a jump course to jump on their own then they could and those who don`t want to school around fences know in advance. I would put restrictions on booking though, so that only one arena (assuming I have two or more arenas at my yard) is booked at any one time, and at peak times there would be no option of booking lessons unless people are willing to share.
Paddocks are also a difficult topic with livery yards. I think I would have individual turnout, but with over the fence contact with their neighbours. Depending on the land I had, I would assign each horse two paddocks. If possible I would have “winter grazing” and “summer grazing” on each side of my land as that would allow the tracks to be completely rested, and be easier to care for the land. The winter grazing will be the drier side of the land, possibly uphill, and the track and gateways would be of hardcore so that they don`t get as muddy. Winter grazing should be closer to the yard because with fewer daylight hours time is of the essence.
The ideal fencing is post and rail; I`d try to have that with electric running along the top rail, and I would definitely avoid stock fencing because of the amount of wire, and the fact they are not as solid looking so are more likely to be pushed or leant on.
In order to keep liveries happy it is important that the manager is approachable, and knows the ins and outs of the yard. It is also important to encourage liveries to be friends – the yard becomes a happier place and there are far fewer politics around the yard. To help solve this I would organise a monthly livery get-together. In summer it could be a pub hack, or a BBQ, and in winter it could be roast dinner at the pub, or pizza in front of the TV watching Olympia. Just bringing people together without the horses and encouraging them to chat will help build friendships, as well as the staff being approachable so that problems don`t fester. The staff will also be able to get an idea of the vibes around the yard, which should also prevent arguments developing.
I think that`s as far as my daydreaming got me. There are definitely other aspects to consider, which I will probably think about on one of my next hacks!