All in a Day's Work

By Vicki Schmidt

Keeping hay away from fence lines is one step toward keeping the fences in good repair and preventing damage to them, as well as injury to your horses.
Photos by Vicki Schmidt.

There is very little about a day on the farm that goes like clockwork. Almost every day, some small event or issue that wasn't - or couldn't be - planned takes a bit of extra time. Add two or three events, or a ripple effect, and what started out as a pretty good day could quickly get a bit crazy.

When you have employees, especially for a working horse farm, there are things that are out of your control and things that are within your control. How you plan and adapt to both of these can make or break a day's productivity. Even in the chaos of the average day, there are standards of care and duty for chores that are nonnegotiable. These tasks often relate to the care, feeding, watering and safety of your horses and livestock.

To help my students and staff as they learn to handle a day on our farm, I've designed a few questions. After two weeks of education and "learning the ropes," anyone new to the farm is given a little quiz. If I've done my job well in training the students, and if others have helped them learn, most find they have no problem with the answers.

If you ever feel your staff is a bit scattered when it comes to your farm's daily routine, consider designing a few questions to help qualify what they have learned. Some questions may be routine, while others should be specific to your farm. The questions that follow here may or may not be useful, as they are designed for my farm's daily chores. With a little thinking and creativity, you can probably come up with a selection of questions that will help ensure that your staff has a proper command of your farm's routine. If you find the questions are not answered properly, look for ways to entrench the learning so improvements take place. Good luck, and happy horse farming!

1) The daily variable that most often determines the day's activities that we have no control over is the _____________.

2) List six of the eight priorities that must be checked and completed as part of nightly chores.

3) An adult horse poops approximately once every _____ hours.

4) As a general rule, horses turned out in the front pastures are rotated every ____ hours.

5) List three of the four primary reasons not to put hay near a fence line.

6) List four of the five quality indicators when putting out hay for the horses in large paddocks.

7) A stall is ready for a horse when it has been _____________ and _____________, and has a _____________ and two to three _____________.

8) What do you always check when putting a horse into a stall?

9) What do you always check when taking a horse out of a stall, and why is this a good idea?

10) The 1-ton dually (farm truck) gets how many miles per gallon?


1) The weather forecast

2) All horses hydrated; all horses hayed; all horses with a clean place to lay down and sleep in their stall or shed area; all stall doors latched and rechecked; all horses happy and content; all barn doors closed or gated (depending on weather); all perimeter gates shut; all horses outside and rechecked for hay and water.

3) Every two hours

4) Every four hours

5) Horses will fight with another horse over the fence to get hay. Horses can get tangled in the fence and tear it down trying to reach hay near or on the fence. The wind blows the hay into the fence or onto the other side, inviting horses to get into the fence to get the hay. If the fence isn't working well, the horses will get used to not getting zapped when reaching for hay.

6) Spread out individual flakes so horses have to walk to get them (simulates grazing); put flakes in areas where horses want to graze and not on/near poop piles; put hay in at least one more pile than there are horses in the pastures (a minimum of three distributed piles for a pasture that has two horses); check water tubs for clean water and note amount of water (fill if/when needed); visually check fence lines to make sure they are in place, undamaged and secure.

7) Cleaned; bedded; a full bucket of clean water; flakes of hay.

8) That the stall is clean, with a full bucket of clean water and two to three flakes of hay.

9) How much feed hay is left in the stall and how much water is left in the bucket - helps determine if the horse is properly fed and hydrated.

10) 10 mpg, whether hauling horses or hay or driving around!

Vicki Schmidt is owner and manager of Troika Drafts in Hebron, Maine. The working draft horse farm features Shires for work, sport and show. Visit them online at or contact them at