University of Vermont AAHS

HARMONY: Procedural ‘Spring Cleaning’

Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[reproduced from Spring 2003 issue of Caution:Horses]

Spring is the time for cleaning.  We begin by cleaning and storing winter blankets.  Then we at least think about cleaning all that tack and equipment that is seldom used but no one can seem to throw away.  Maybe this is the year we will have a sale or put it on Ebay.  We will paint the jumps and fences, pick up branches, really clean the trailer, and maybe even completely clean the tack and feed rooms.

Spring is a good time to expand this cleaning mode from the physical to the administrative and procedural.  It is a good idea to have an attorney look at our forms every year in case there have been some changes in the law.  He or she should have notified us but it never hurts to check.  It is a good idea, also to get a fresh release from each customer each year.  That way we know we have a current one and we also know we haven’t misplaced one.

Why stop with the forms?  When was the last time we really looked at the barn rules?  Do they need changing?  Are we sure that each customer has a copy and that they signed an agreement to follow them?  Are our sign up to date?  Do they need to be freshened?

When was the last time the procedures manual was updated?  Has it ever been rewritten?  When was the last time that we checked to see if the staff was still reading it as part of the hiring procedure?  Should the staff have a copy of their own?  Spring is a great time to go over the procedure manual with the staff and update it since we will soon begin hiring seasonal summer staff.  What do we need to add to the manual so that it is complete for the summer staff as well?

Many problems can be avoided by having facility rules clearly posted for staff, students, and customer.  All customers, students, and staff should have personal copies as well.

The following is a sample list of possible facility rules.  Remember, these rules are for everyone so that all persons are safe and everyone understands the “Safety Is No Accident” philosophy of the barn.





1.         No unauthorized personnel are allowed in the barn.

2.         Stall doors will be all the way open or all the way closed—not half open.

3.         Each horse’s halter and lead will stay on his stall door or his paddock gate or in his tacking area—it goes where he goes.

4.         Horses will be tied only to designated hitching rails with quick release knots.

5.         No horse is to be left tied and unattended.

6.         Horses will not be hand fed.  Put treats in a small bucket or, better yet, in the horse’s feeder.

7.         Horses will be properly cooled and groomed before returning to the stall.

8.         All tack will be cleaned before putting it away.

9.            Personal equipment will be put in the proper place.

10.       All stall cleaning equipment must be put away.

11.       Whistle or talk before walking through a doorway or around a corner into the barn.


1.         No unauthorized personnel are allowed in the feed room.

2.            Customers wishing to change feed for their horses should see the manager.

3.         Feed room must be kept neat and clean at all times.



2.         Unused jump cups must be removed to appropriate containers.

3.         Except in designated jumping areas, jump standards and poles should be put away when not in use.

4.         Lessons have priority in the covered arena during bad weather. (Bad may mean extremely hot.)

5.         Do not open sliding doors in covered arena without permission of riders within because it can startle a horse.

6.         If you get equipment out, put it back.

7.         Please check footing before you ride, especially in bad weather.

8.         Please be considerate of less experienced riders.  Don’t allow your enjoyment of the facility to ruin theirs.

9.         Basic Arena Etiquette:

i.            Left track has the right of way.

ii.            Try to pass left shoulder to left shoulder.

iii.            Let other riders know when you are approaching from behind and on which side you intend to pass by calling “inside” or “rail pleas.”  Make certain that there is enough room, at least 8’.  Many horses do not like to be crowded from behind.

iv.            Look behind you before stopping suddenly

v.            Call you line while jumping by saying “heads up.”  Stop to avoid a close call or collision no matter who has the right of way.

vi.            Call diagonals before crossing the arena in a strong gait.  Stop to avoid a close call or collision no matter who has the right of way.

vii.            Always keep the arena gait closed.

10.       Always dismount to open and close gaits.

11.       No unsupervised jumping is permitted.


1.         Ride only on designated trails unless other arrangements are made.

2.         Do not ride where other horses are turned out.

3.         Do not ride alone.

4.         Always let an instructor know where you are going and when you will be back

5.         No unsupervised jumping is permitted.

6.         Check both sides of all jumps before jumping.

7.            Absolutely no running of horses is permitted.

8.         Keep all gates closed.

9.         Trail rides are conducted at the walk only.

10.       Let the instructor know when you will be back to the barn.

11.       Cool out all horses and put away all equipment.

12.            Walking only is allowed on trails unless by prior arrangement.  We do have schooling areas and jumps on trails but you must have an instructor present or make arrangements for their use.


1.         Check with the manager before turning any horse out anywhere.  There is a turnout schedule in use.

2.            Students are not permitted to enter pastures or paddocks to catch or turn out horses without an instructor or working student present.

3.         Leave halter and leads on the gate where the horse is turned out.

4.         Keep all gates closed at all times.

5.         Check all pastures and paddocks for water daily and clean if necessary.  Horses don’t like dead squirrels or manure in their water.

6.         Report all fence problems immediately to the office no matter how minor.

These rules form only a sample.  It is a good idea to include all staff in basic staff training so that each person who represents your barn has been trained to handle horses the same way.  They also all need to know the same rules and be aware that every one should help keep our customers and each other safe.

Spring is such a good time to renew.  Let’s not forget that the fundamental structures need renewal also.

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