The other night I was on the phone with a friend (Debbie) — basically trying to talk her down. Her horse has mild Cushings. She moved him to a new barn, and over time he was starting to go downhill. She took him to New Bolton where they did a series of tests. They found that the Cushings was not under control. The clinic vets had no good explanation, as the horse was previously being treated with pergolide with good success. They asked her she was certain he was getting it. Debbie sounded devastated as she spoke to me from her cell. What’s happening to her horse???
I have a hunch…
Debbie moved recently to a new boarding facility, and I know a former barn worker from there. It’s a nice barn, but it’s a big operation with chronic understaffing and lots of staff turnover. Can you guess what I’m thinking?
Me: Debbie, do you track how much of your pergolide is being used?
Debbie: [pausing] No.
Me: Are you sure he’s getting it? Do you know how long it’s supposed to last?
Debbie: They leave me a note when he’s running low on things.
Me: So, that would be a no.
Debbie — the likely answer is, he is not getting his meds.
In any workplace — restaurants, factories, retail, you name it — things are supposed to happen don”t get done. Barns are no exception. IMHO, it’s wise to scrutinize your horse’s care. I told my friend Debbie, it’s your responsibility to make sure your horse is getting the right feed/meds, because he’s your horse. How do you make sure this happens?
- Make it clear. Write it, say it, reinforce it.
- Make it easy. No complicated notes, no conflicting instructions, if-then statements, no branching diagrams.
- Make it trackable. Don’t be sneaky, or nasty, or accusatory. Just monitor as best you can and ask management about any discrepancies you notice.
Smartpaks & checklists
As a barn worker I am often frustrated by poorly written, confusing, or absent guidelines for care. Some nitty gritty techniques to help out the barn staff…
- Use SmartPaks for supplements/medications. They’re pre-measured and pre-labelled.
- For critical meds, use a clipboard/checklist for each dose to reduce the chance of double dosing or missed doses.
- Feed pellets instead of powder. If barn workers aren’t careful in dumping feed, if horses toss their feed around, all that money is dust in the wind.
- Date it! Date barn notes, give start/end calendar dates for meds–avoid words like “today,” “tonight,” “Sunday,” etc.