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Working around - not with - horses

From: Lara

Dear Jessica, I studied your archives but I haven't seen this question addressed. I have always loved horses but I am a little bit afraid of them even though I have had the advantage of lessons as a child. I tried to take some lessons two or three times as an adult but I was too afraid to enjoy being on a horse. Nothing seemed to make much of a difference but that is okay because I have no ambitions about riding. In fact I have no desire to ride at all. But I love horses and enjoy being with them and just being able to see them. Part of my problem may be that I have a medical condition that makes my movements a little jerky sometimes and I know that this kind of movement will probably startle the horses, so I am always worried about startling them and them jumping or trying to run and me getting hurt. But I would like to be near horses, just not on them or holding them. I like to learn about horses and read books about horses and watch movies with horses, etc. I live with my parents (I am 32, it's because of my medical condition I can't have my own apartment) and I want to have a job. They have said that I can work at a horse barn as long as I don't ride the horses. That is fine with me. But I don't know much about barns and my parents don't know anything about barns, and so I was wondering what kind of jobs there could be at a barn for someone like me. There is a horse rescue place about twenty minutes from where we live. I visited one time and talked to the lady and said I would like to come work for her for free, and she said she could always find something for me to do. I dream about working there but I don't know if she meant it. I would love to work there. She wouldn't have to pay me, I don't need a pay check I would just like to have a job around horses. But I know I can't help ride the horses or rescue them. I don't want to call and sound stupid when I ask her about a job. She may not even remember that she talked to me once already. Can you please give me some ideas or hints about what other kind of job I could do to help at a place like this? I could come every day, even on weekends. Thank you from my heart, Lara

Hi Lara! I'm sure that the equine rescue organization would love to have your help - there are never enough volunteers at any facility. There is a lot of work involved with equine rescue, and a lot of that work does not directly involve the horses. I'm sure there are many things you could do that wouldn't involve riding or handling the horses. If you call for an appointment and go talk to the manager, here are some things that you might want to think about discussing:

Barn work: Wherever there are horses, there are likely to be stalls to be cleaned, pastures and paddocks and runs and pens to be picked out, water buckets and tanks to be scrubbed and refilled, bags of feed and bedding to be moved, hay to be stacked, and a hundred and one other tasks that go to keeping the barn clean and tidy and the horses' environment safe and healthy. If the barn is really big, cobweb-removal and floor-sweeping can involve quite a lot of time every day.

Tack-cleaning: If horses are ridden or trained or even exercised at this facility, there will be tack - saddles, bridles, girths, stirrup leathers, etc. - in need of cleaning. If horses wear halters in their stalls or when they're turned out, those halters will all need regular cleaning, too.

Outdoor work: Pastures, runs, etc. aren't the only outdoor areas in need of care. Equine rescue facilities need to be kept tidy and visitor-friendly, and that means that people (including, perhaps, you) need to be out every day trimming grass, watering plants, pulling weeds, repairing broken fences, and washing (or painting) things that need to be washed (or painted). Some facilities have little gardens where the staff grow (for example) carrots for the horses, and someone needs to look after those gardens.

If you aren't very strong physically or if you have allergies, and if outdoor work is too much of a challenge, horse rescue facilities are also usually in need of office help! Typing, filing, running errands, answering telephones, routing calls and taking messages are some ways you may be able to help out. If the facility has a visitors' center, you may be able to help give tours; if the facility has a shop, you may be able to help out by organizing and labeling the items or by working as a cashier.

I think that you should make a list of all of the things you know you can do and all of the things you would like to learn to do, and go to see the manager of that equine rescue facility. When she told you that she could always find something for you to do, I'm sure that she meant every word! Why not go and have a talk with her? Ask your parents to come with you - I expect she would like to meet your parents and talk with them about what kind of work she needs to have done, and what kind of work would best suit you. Ask if there is an experienced volunteer who could become your "mentor" and help you learn the things that you don't know. Good luck!


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