HomeExpert AdviceArticleHow to have a happy yard

How to have a happy yard

Posted in Management

Your yard is supposed to be an enjoyable place, but that can only happen if everybody gets along. Here’s how you can play your part

Whether your yard is big or small, commercial or private, it’s a community that relies on everybody working in harmony. You spend a significant amount of time there – and part with plenty of money for the privilege – so your home-away-from-home needs to be somewhere you enjoy being. 

Set an example

Imagine how annoyed you’d be if you went to muck out and the wheelbarrow was in the wrong place or half-full of somebody else’s dirty bedding, or if you wanted to school and the arena was full of fences left out by the previous person. Your time is precious, particularly during the week when you need to fit your horse around work and home life, so the last thing you want is to waste your time tidying up after everybody else. 

Set an example by doing your best to make life as easy for others as you’d expect them to make it for you. Try to look after all the facilities as though they were your own. This includes clearing any droppings out of the arena after you’ve ridden, putting equipment back where it belongs, and leaving your areas of the yard clean and tidy. 

Knock-on effect

It’s said that no man is an island and the same is true of horse owners, particularly when they’re on a livery yard. Everything you do during your time there will have an impact on somebody else, so it’s important to consider the effects of your actions. If bringing your horse in for a ride means leaving his fieldmate out alone, think about whether this is something the horse and his owner will be happy about – if the situation was reversed, would you prefer to have your horse brought in, too, so he doesn’t become unsettled?

Do your best to be considerate about using shared facilities, too. Don’t book the prime slot for the arena every single evening, for example, because others may want to use it, too. If it’s not possible to ride at another time, could you share the space? Use the situation to your advantage – getting your horse to listen to you despite the distraction of having one of his friends in there will be good practice for the warm-up arena at competitions. 

Top tip – Try not to let people become isolated or left out of the group – find ways to help them feel included, or simply make an effort to talk to them.

Troubleshooting

Any sort of strife will have an effect on you all, so do your best to be kind, polite and courteous to everybody, even if you find them difficult to get along with. If you do have an issue with one of the other liveries and it isn’t possible to ignore it, calmly explain to them what’s upsetting you, bearing in mind that they probably didn’t mean to cause a problem, and see if you can come up with a solution together. Try not to get angry or let it descend into an argument. Avoid being drawn into gossip and rumour-spreading, too – it causes a bad feeling and isn’t something anybody wants to be a victim of.

Everybody’s an expert

Every yard has a resident know-it-all. Sometimes this can be helpful, but at other times the advice is unwanted. Everybody has their own way of doing things and, in many cases, each of those ways is as valid as the next. Before rushing to advise somebody, consider whether they really want your help. It may be more prudent to wait until they ask you. Instead, focus on your own horse and let them get on with their own thing. If you have serious concerns, speak with your yard owner and leave them to manage the issue.

If you’re receiving unwanted advice, listen and politely thank the person for their help. If this is a regular occurrence and you really feel you need to do so, calmly explain your reasons for doing things the way you do. It’s important to be open-minded, as you never know when a learning opportunity may come along, but if you feel confident in your decisions then stand by them – after all, you know best what suits your horse. 

Hands off

Avoid borrowing other people’s things. While it may seem as though there’s no harm in using their expensive body brush because it produces a better shine than yours, they won’t appreciate finding it covered in your horse’s hair the next time they come to use it. There’s also a biosecurity aspect to consider – sharing items of kit between horses increases the risk of spreading disease. 

Horse kit is expensive, so when something goes missing or mysteriously turns up broken, it can be very annoying. Deter borrowers by keeping all your belongings tidied away and clearly labelled with your name and your horse’s. 

In the know

Does your yard have a code of conduct or a section in the livery agreement about behaviour on the yard? Speak to your yard owner about having a copy of this displayed in a communal area where you can all see it. This means that everybody, even newcomers to the yard, knows what’s expected – ignorance can’t be a defence for bad behaviour. The rules are there for a reason, not least of all to keep everything running smoothly, so do your best to stick to them and encourage others to do the same. 

Beat the bullies

Unfortunately, bullying does happen – a recent survey by the British Grooms Association found that over 70% of respondents had been bullied. If you’re a victim, it’s important not to suffer in silence – speak to somebody you trust and make your yard owner aware of the problem. 

Working together

The golden rule for a happy yard is to treat others as you want to be treated. All it takes is everybody to come together and work as a team. Why not strengthen your friendships with some group activities, such as a pub ride or fundraising challenge for your chosen equine charity

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