Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

I've mentioned before that we are often contacted by individuals who want to start a retirement farm. In fact we are contacted so often about this I actually put a page on our website called 'Run the Numbers' as I did not have time to type out the same information over and over. I have come to the conclusion that just about every horse lover who has a few acres and room for a few horses thinks a retirement farm is the perfect way to blend their love of horses into a profession. I can say first hand that it is a wonderful way to spend your days! However I do find that most people who contact us under-estimate not only what their costs will be in regards to caring for the horses, but severely under-estimate the time cost as well.

One thing people often overlook in their questions is that there is more to running a farm than just farm work (and farm work takes up PLENTY of time). There are lots of administrative things that need to be done. Scheduling and organizing appointments for the farrier, dentist, vet, etc. come to mind. Tomorrow is another farrier day, and we have a farrier day almost every week. When I'm finished writing this post I will be using my records to make out my list of horses that will be seeing the farrier tomorrow. In addition to the usual farrier, dental and vet records I also maintain a blanket chart that lists the blankets and sheets that come with each horse so that I have a master list for reference if needed. I also note on the chart if I re-waterproofed the blankets, had any of them repaired, or if I need to contact an owner to have a blanket replaced.

Feed and hay deliveries also need to be arranged. To a point feed deliveries are somewhat automatic. However our feed usage varies up and down through the seasons, and of course we also have shavings and other supplies like salt, replacement buckets and various random items brought with our feed deliveries. So you need to stay on top of all of your supplies, not just feed, to make sure you have everything you need on hand. When I actually sit down and look at the items QuickBooks categories I am always amazed at how much stuff we go through in a year. Wormer, fly masks, brushes, fly spray, mane and tail detangler, buckets, feed bags, shampoo, ointment, bandaging supplies . . . the list is endless . . . it is kind of staggering when I look at what we go through in a year. We spend so much money with Valley Vet Supply ordering replenishment items they are forever sending me free gifts and rebate coupons. I never used to receive these when I was only buying supplies for my own horses! No matter where I order supplies from I always order in so much volume I can't even remember the last time I actually had to pay shipping on anything.

A funny side story about ordering items. The last time I ordered paste wormer apparently there was a special where for each tube of Equimax you ordered they sent you a free pair of Epona socks. Well, I ordered 55 tubes of Equimax (most of the horses need more than one tube by weight and a couple need almost two full tubes) so you can imagine my surprise when I opened the box, which seemed to be a lot larger than 55 tubes of wormer would require, and there were 55 pairs of socks waiting for me! Needless to say my sock drawer is beyond over-flowing and some of them will be given to Goodwill! I left the box of socks sitting by the door for a couple of weeks because I didn't know what to do with all of them. Jason did a double take when he saw the box and wanted to know if I had accidentally hit a button twice when I ordered myself some socks. So I had to explain, "well, you see I ordered paste wormer and I didn't realize . . . "

There is also the bookkeeping side of things. Monthly board invoices need to be sent (being paid for your work is always a nice bonus!), vendors need to paid, tax reports need to be filed, just all of the usual bookkeeping things. I don't think I need to explain in detail the importance of accurate financial records.

Next on the list is equipment maintenance. All of the equipment needs to be serviced regularly. The trailers need to have their annual service so the bearings can be re-packed, floors and wiring checked, brakes checked, etc. The tractors, the utility vehicles and all of the other farm equipment needs to be serviced regularly as well with routine fluid changes, replacing fuel and air filters and whatever else needs to be done.

Certainly not to be forgotten is the time that needs to be set aside for communicating with the horse owners. The most important thing we do for our clients is give them regular visuals so they can see for themselves how their horses are doing. It takes time (a lot of time!) to take all of the pictures and videos so that we can share them with our clients. Of course then there are the steps of downloading from the camera, uploading to various sites like this blog, uploading video to YouTube, and e-mailing pictures and videos directly to people. I enjoy taking the pictures and the videos, but the downloading, sorting, uploading and sharing I will admit gets tedious and is quite time consuming. Don't misunderstand, I enjoy updating people on their horses, just at the end of another long day of farm work sitting down at the computer to download, sort, upload, and e-mail is not always terribly appealing. A long, hot bath with a good book is much more alluring!

It is getting late and I am sure I am forgetting some other activities. But in short your time goes to a lot of things, not the least of which is the hands on daily care of the horses and maintaining the farm. There is always something that needs to be done, whether I am outside or inside. It is a good thing I am easily bored and don't like to watch much TV!

Some of the Big Boys grazing; Levendi, Elfin, Apollo and Ivan. Levendi is an Oldenburg and Elfin is a Thoroughbred, and both are retired show hunters. Apollo is a Hanoverian (all 18.1 hands of him!) and is retired from dressage. Ivan is a Thoroughbred and retired jumper.

Faune, Asterik and Winston grazing together. Faune is a Selle Francais and retired show hunter, Asterik is a Holsteiner and retired from both the hunter and jumper rings, and Winston is a Thoroughbred and retired show hunter.

Trillion; Trillion is a Dutch Warmblood and retired show hunter

Leo (Dutch Warmblood) in the front, then Levendi (Oldenburg), Dustin (Westphalian), Tony (Dutch Warmblood), Apollo (Hanoverian) and Homer (Irish). This group represents retired hunters, jumpers and dressage horses.

Sparky and Traveller are grazing in the very back. Traveller is a large pony and retired pony hunter. Norman is hanging out on the far left and he is a medium pony and retired pony hunter. Sky, Bridget and Bonnie (my girls) round out this group of happy grazers.

Apollo and Leo are grooming each other in the back while Ivan and Trigger graze.

The Big Boys were playing again, Trigger looks happy as he runs along with his tail flagged. Bella the dog is running along with them.

Dustin pauses for a moment with his flagged tail, looking for another reason to start running.

Leo and Apollo decided to join in the running

Harmony and Cuff Links grazing quietly. Harmony is a Thoroughbred and retired polo pony. Cuffie is a Welsh pony and retired from the pony hunters.

5 comments:

Kate said...

It's a good thing you're so organized - you do a great job with all of that - thanks!

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

Nice post and many questions answered for people wondering if they would like to have a retirement farm....however you only touched lightly on the physical side at the end. I can tell you two must be pretty young and in good health!? We don't have near the equipment you do and maybe that's the difference but I would be physically exhausted....I am with just six horses! LOL! But we're older too. We once thought about a boarding facility in our newer big barn (which is our round pen) at the very beginning of our horse ownership but you pretty much have to have an indoor arena for clients to ride wouldn't you? I guess I would want one if I boarded a horse elsewhere so I could ride anytime. You are so organized and treat your clients/horses so well....it's refreshing to know that people do care what type of services they provide. What a great job you and Jason do....and you're a team...so many could not work their husband! I think we could do it too if my hubby wasn't a 9-5er ME.

Hey next time you get a run on those socks....send them my way! My kids were just making fun of mine with holes! LOL! Have a great day....more rain here and the rest of the week! Which means I'll be shuffling horses in and out of their stalls to clean and work them in the round pen to give them exercise....it's just too muddy and they've exhausted our pastures....we don't need them torn up as well! Luanne

RuckusButt said...

It amazes me that so many seem to think it's such an easy job! Sure, it sounds like a dream job to me too but I understand the reality of it is much more difficult than I can even imagine!

I'm sure there is a huge difference between just doing it and doing RIGHT. I think it is your high standards that ultimately make it profitable and sustainable. I wonder how many of the people who contact you have enough capital from day 1 to provide the kind of service that any horse owner paying retirement board would expect. Some probably do but I bet some are thinking they could imporve as they got clients, which I think is not likely to work well.

I DO think it's good they are contacting you and asking questions though! Getting information from the best is at least a good place to start :)

raphycassens said...

Doing something really well always seems effortless to the observer...

Jason said...

FOUR compliments ! You all better stop....Melissa can hardly get her head through the door as it is !LOL !! I'm just teasing, but thanks all the same.