Why Best Practices in Horsemanship and an Equine Code of Ethics Is Important

Best practice is explained as ideal practices and ethical beliefs that are accepted as a set of guidelines that we commit to when we are performing a function or fulfilling a role.

Here are some examples of certain roles that have basic tenets that are accepted as the ethical values that are being agreed to when someone practices their craft:

By trade, I am a Network Engineer in the telecommunications industry. I have recently shifted my career direction to explore other directions with emerging technology.

About two years before my relocation after college, it was suggested that I consider equine therapy for my veteran. This was a new concept to me. What do horses have to do with emotional regulation? My research to validate this advice began. I was expecting a rigorous learning opportunity alternatively, a lot of it was not what I expected.

 

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Graduating college with two degrees, I was offered a position where I would begin the path of exploring the validity of Equine Assisted Therapy. In two years of working towards learning about horses, these are some of the lessons I’ve learned and some of the questions to think about.

  • Choosing a boarding facility is tough. Some facilities in financial trouble will exchange boarding fees for work that hired help would typically take care of and there can be high turnover in boarders and hired help.
  • Do NOT give your health insurance policy number away to an equine facility. If a facility is asking for your insurance information, unless it is a certified medical facility that informs you of your HIPAA rights, you may want to consider going elsewhere. Only medical professionals in charge of your care should have your insurance policy number.
  • Your insurance information is a part of your personal safety and security. What are their policies if you are bullied by fellow boarders? What are their policies for sexual harassment? What are their policies to address trainees in the arena and boarders who think they should have the entire arena to themselves? These are only some of the safety and security concerns you should consider.
  • Find out what the hired help’s credentials are. There are several who claimed to have equine experience and their actions did not back that claim. There was an experience of a horse dying because of the stress certain people created in the horses.
  • The hired help can be working under the table which is a disservice to their L&I contributions. Working with horses is backbreaking work and if you get injured on the job, working under the table can strip you of any medical assistance that may be needed for recovery to get back to work.
  • Do some research on the facility to find out if they are in foreclosure before investing in that community. When a facility is in the process of foreclosure, what risks will be involved with boarding your horse with them?
  • Investing your funds to board your horse in a facility is more than a financial investment. There are emotional investments as well. Are boarders or managers eager to gossip about other boarders? If they are talking to you about others, can you imagine what they would be willing to say about you? A lot has been learned about this. It has been interesting to hear so much about the boarders and the opinions people have of each other and most of it has been unkind. I did expect to hear through the grapevine what they had to say about me while I knew a lot of private information about them. They still don’t know what I have been told because it was never my business in the first place.
  • If a boarding facility claims to be all about the best interest of the horse, do they offer pasture time for all the horses or do they have a policy that only full-care boarders get pasture time? It would be interesting to know how many facilities know that studies have shown that pasture time builds stronger bones in the horses. Horses that get pasture time tend to be better behaved and have an easier time learning. If a boarding facility cares about the welfare of the horses, do they have pasture time that accommodates the best practice of 2-10 acres per horse?
  • Do the ‘rules’ change frequently depending on the mood of the facility members? This is one of the reasons that a code of ethics is important because the code of ethics can help with your understanding of what is:
    • Excessive training methods
    • Equine abuse
    • Equine neglect
    • Excessive ‘spurring’
  • You, the horse owner, are responsible for the training that is necessary to help the horse be the best horse it can be. If you have specific goals for your horse, what is the facility beliefs about training? If your horse is in specific training for specific goals and you do not want your horse(s) touched or given treats will signs be posted to protect your horse and will the facility respect your needs by enforcing your requests?
  • Have conversations with the boarders to see if the rules apply to all boarders or only to address their perception of ‘problem boarders.’
  • Make note of the bedding in the horse stalls. Especially the self-care and partial-care stalls. Are there horses that are standing in a foot of their own feces?
  • Notice the flooring of the stable. Did they use quality materials and does it have good drainage? PennState University published that, the more time a horse spends in his stall, it becomes more important for the flooring to be quality flooring because it can have an impact on the horse’s legs and feet. If the facility does not permit pasture time for self-care or partial care customers, you may want to consider a different facility. Ask yourself, do they really care about the horse first or is it ambiguous and subject to interpretation?
  • If there are signs that a horse’s stall has not been cleaned for several days or more than a week, where is the hay for the horse placed for feeding?
  • If you are going to be boarding a Mustang, does the facility meet BLM requirements?
  • A good question to keep in mind when interviewing a potential boarding facility is, “Can you give me an example of a time when you had a problem boarder and what you did to handle the situation? What made the problem boarder a problem?”
  • Make note of the facility hours. If your horse is acting up, most quality horse people understand that giving a release in the right place is important so the horse understands that they did something right. Is there some flexibility in the closing hours if your horse is in training and decides to act up? Cooling a horse down in a cooling blanket takes time after a rigorous training session.
  • Ask yourself about your horse’s dietary needs and verify that the facility has the accommodations that fit your needs. If your horse cannot get pasture time, if your horse has PSSM and pasture time is a dry lot, will the facility give your horse the extra hay that it will need and will they stick to it for the best interest of your horse?

You are paying good money to board your horse. You may have specific requirements. Write your requirements down so you know what questions to ask. Read through the ‘barn rules’ carefully and have a set of situational interview questions available to ask the managers and the boarders.

It is important to know what you’re getting yourself into because the care of your horse is your responsibility. Getting into the wrong facility could set your training schedule back several weeks or months if the facility is not willing to honor your needs and requirements. Doing the homework ahead of time can help you determine the community culture of that facility before you invest your money, time, and subject your horse to an environment that may not be in its best interest or yours.

LifeJourneyDaisy

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