As a very new boarding facility I was not at all prepared for the horse with special needs. I never even gave it a thought! To show you how naive I was years ago, I just assumed I would help get each new horse situated to his surroundings and go about my business without a care in the world! I am smiling as I am writing this because I really had a lot to learn about horse management and especially the horse with special needs.
When he came to our barn we put him in with a herd of geldings and he was doing okay but it really was not an ideal living situation for him. He didn't want to deal with the antics of the young geldings and after a while he seemed to become stressed. After much talk with the owner we decided to create a new outdoor paddock just for him and one other horse. It would be our "Senior paddock" and only used for the horse with special needs or the senior horse that needs some quiet in his life.
That was one of the best decisions we have ever made at our farm. Since we have been open there has always been a horse or two that uses this senior paddock. I truly believe it has been healthier for the senior horses in our care and it gives the owner piece of mind.
Modifying your program
There have been some challenging situations where we needed to modify our program to fit the horse that had special needs. We have had to soak the hay and grain for a few senior horses where eating became difficult. We have had horses with moon blindness and needed special lighting in their stall at night. We have had horses that have been through major surgery and needed special accommodations to rest and heal. Many horses that come to your barn will have dietary issues and you will be surprised how each one will differ in their feeding program. No two are ever the same! Even horses coming off the show circuit or racetrack will have their own set of special needs if they are not used to going outside with other horses. There can be an adjustment period for some of these horses and they need to be handled with care and patience while they take time to adjust to their new life.
I encourage you to take a look at your business and see if you are ready to handle the horse with special needs. You will have many different horses come to your barn and you should have a good understanding of what that horse requires for his care and more importantly you need to know if you can offer the care he will need. It is so much better to be honest with the owner if you can't provide the proper care needed in certain circumstances. Please don't try to fit the horse with special needs into your way of doing things. That usually doesn't work. If you want to care for the horse with special needs then you need to be open to modifying your way of doing things to accommodate these types of horses for it to be a success for you and the horses in your care.
Please don't try to fit the horse with special needs into your way of doing things. That usually doesn't work.
One more thought-Some of the warmest and best memories I have of the horses on our farm have been from the horses that needed special care. They have warmed my heart in a special way and I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to care for these great animals that lived a long rich life. If you choose to care for the senior horse or horse with special needs at your farm you will find a joy that runs deep and you will see what caring for horses with a servant's heart is truly all about. It will take you to a much deeper level of love and respect for these magnificent horses that we have the honor of taking care of.
Remember, they do whatever we ask of them for so many years of their life. Let's do what we can for them when the time has come for them to retire, relax and enjoy their life. They deserve it from us.
I encourage you to talk with others in the boarding business if you are just starting out and find out how they handle horses with special needs. The more you educate and prepare yourself the better you will be ready to handle these horses that come to live at your barn. For many of them it will be the last place they live. Wouldn't it be great if their last years were their best years. Make your barn a wonderful place to grow old at.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just starting out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I would like to encourage you to check out my two books. My first one, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business" is my families journey of starting our horse boarding business and about learning from our mistakes especially during the first couple of years. My second book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover," is about the relationship between the barn owner/barn manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. These books will take you deep inside the business world and will inspire and give you the tools to get through those tough days and situations. Together you won't find a more complete look at running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,