Chronicles of a Stable Owner are real-life stories about caring for horses and their people
Written by Dr. Gwen Donohoe, Owner/Manager of Sagehill Stables
It's 10 pm. My one-year old has been teething and I finally get her back to sleep... and then I get the text.
"There is no water in the barn..."
Water is one of the most challenging things barn owners and managers have to deal with. Fixing water problems for most business owners would typically just mean calling a plumber. At 10pm on Sunday night of the May long weekend, it's not likely that we were going to be able to get any assistance (tonight or tomorrow for that matter) and with 60 horses on the property needing water it was a serious situation. Horses don't just stop eating, drinking and pooping because it's a long weekend!
Luckily we have two or three back-up plans for getting water to horses depending on the exact issue. These issues might include problems such as freezing water lines, physically running out of water, power outages and damaged water fountains. And yes, we've had to deal with them all!
When I run into challenges like this I try my best to think rationally and positively. But the reality is, it's hard to stay positive and not let these challenges get you down when you are already exhausted.
Some of my 10pm thought bubbles:
It took some time to convince myself that I was not going to go out at 10pm at night and find portable water troughs, set up a pump in the pond to fill portable water tanks to haul with the tractor through the muddy pens to water the horses outside. The horses literally had to cross water in all the pens to get to the water fountains - finally a positive aspect of the extremely wet spring we've been having! However, I did still go out to assess the reason for the water problem, turn-off the pumps and re-assure the staff working that the horses would be good for the night.
By 6am I had my husband running a 250 foot long hose and a pump from the pond to the cistern at the back of the barn. We would be able to fill it this way until Tuesday when we could get a load of water hauled in again. Normally, we have an underground line that would feed the cistern from the pond if it ran out, however, it froze this winter and still was not thawed (water problem #3...).
After inspecting the water fountains, we found one with a major leak. The reason we ran out of water appears to be the broken water fountain emptied the the entire cistern out in one of the paddocks in the evening, creating an even bigger lake than was already there...
So we spent our Monday of the May long looking for parts to fix the water fountain and fixing it, dragging our 1-year old along for the ride. This is a pretty typical long weekend for us. If you want to be a barn owner or have horses on your property, you better get confident in being able to fix situations like this when they happen. Have at least two back-up plans that you can implement your-self, because you are not always going to be able to call someone to fix it for you.
These silent wins and successes are something you have to feel proud of yourself for, even though no-one else may know or realize what you are doing and sacrificing to care for the horses. Students were able to continue their lessons, boarders came out to ride and enjoy the beautiful weather, and most importantly, horses stayed healthy. This is one of many many many water stories I have... I know that every stable owner has similar stories too!
Now, back to dealing with the other water issues, the spring flooding situation and frozen water line situation... To be continued...