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There’s a small “barn” near my place with 4 horses all above 27yo. They are used for kids, for “pony days” etc. I have never been so I’m not sure about the exact set up but Sounds rather small and amateurish. I saw a flyer the other day that they need money as the care for older horses has become more expensive. They are asking for donations. Now. I ride at a barn where all I can do is tack up, ride and brush. I use lesson horses. I have asked to do some chores and was turned down. So I wonder if I should get in touch with this smaller barn and see if there’s anything I can help with? What options do I have? I need supervision to handle barn work as I am not experienced but I would have loved to volunteer. Or maybe I can lease one horse? My 7yo also rides, maybe this could be a good option? I’m a bit lost and am waiting to get in touch with them until I have a clearer idea of what to say. Any thoughts?
 

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Sounds like a good opportunity to at least make contact and see if they want some help. It does not take long to pick up on barn chores. I would just email and say you ride and would love to spend more time helping out around horses (I would specify not riding), and are there any chores that you could volunteer to come and help with like mucking out, cleaning/refreshing water, feeding out, grooming (like bathing and extra stuff in addition to the little brush they get before/after riding), or even leading kids on pony rides.

If they are not interested in that, then you could ask about part-leasing a horse onsite for you and your 7 year old to go and learn some more about care, and your 7 year old could ride.
 

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I think there is no harm in trying - I've volunteered at many places. Those that didn't accept me at first I returned later to say "hey, I volunteered HERE for xyz now will you accept me?". The biggest thing I've seen with new volunteers is staff are worried that people wont keep their eyes peeled. Even with horses used for RDA yards (riding for the disabled association) aren't always angels. One used to be a stall kicker/squisher. The other issue is that staff might not have time to help train volunteers and consider them more a liability. Also a lot of places get annoyed at having "volunteers" who later demand riding lessons etc as compensation?

"Hiya I recently saw your flyer and am inquiring about volunteering. I've been taking lessons at X for Y years and offered to volunteer as very much would like the full ownership experience.. feeding, turning out, mucking out, working with a range of horses etc - they unfortunately do not have room at the moment. I would love to help out at your barn, if you would have us. I realise and accept that riding and lessons might not be included. My son and I already have lessons at X and would really appreciate the opportunity to get hands on experience in any capacity. I have been studying horse care as much as I can online - I recently been studying about colic, choke, cushings and laminitis and what symptoms to look out for as I hope to have my own horse eventually.. If things go well I would be looking to commit for 6 months minimum and am willing to offer X hours either these mornings/afternoons etc. Initially it might be worth just beginning with myself volunteering and at a later time, if an option, include my son? I already groom and tack up at my current yard but would need some guidance in other aspects of horse care and handling to begin with."

I think it would be very hard to find anyone willing to take on a mother-son duo (esp that young) to train. It would be better to get you up to speed then you can help supervise your son and keep him safe. Might need a month or two. Have a chat and suggest a month's trial with you shadowing etc. Note: there have been some places I went to volunteer and the horses were... very challenging so I noped out quick. It has taken me a few years to feel confident and experienced enough to manage a variety of situations. Whatever you do, keep yourself safe. Lesson places usually have a routine and set way for handling their horses as well as having better behaved ones for the public. A small privately run yard... a bit of a toin coss? You don't know until you try so DO try :)

I like the leasing an oldie for hands-on. I cared for a horse in their 30's for peanuts once a week when he was too arthritic for my friend to have lessons on. I just love oldies. Did everything BUT ride and the owner very happy.

ALSO: check guides, youtube etc, for the following so you at least have an idea of what is safe:
  • safely catching from field and turning out
  • safe handling practices (haltering, leading, tying etc)
  • good feeding practices
  • how to rug
  • learn about the symptoms and care of colic (all the different horsey types), choke, laminitis and cushings (just to name a few)
  • how to do leg wraps (this is something that needs quite a bit of supervision, but definitely check it out)

Tip: when you finally get to volunteer take photos of everything. Where to find certain things. If mucking a stable take a picture of how the owner likes it. If putting a muzzle on take a picture of the horse on both sides. Same with rugging.

Sorry if too much info just I really did the teacup ride of volunteering before I got my own mare ahah :p
 

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You can always offer your physical labor....
Do be careful though when they want your hard-earned money to cover costs of their business expenses, namely to take care of their horses financial needs.
Time spent I would think would be appreciated, but...also expect to be required to sign a waiver to exempt them of any wrong-doings or liability. Just because they are kids pony-ride animals does not make them sweet as pie, some animals are ornery or worse.
But it bothers me that the business can not afford the care of what makes them money... :cautious:
🐴...
 

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This idea that you need supervision to do barn work is a little ridiculous. How much training do you really need to shovel manure? Fill water buckets/troughs? Even fix a fence here and there? Now, if they are talking about exercising, lunging horses, or caring for injuries, sure, you need training for that.

I do think you could volunteer, but am not sure if this is the right place to do so. The only way to find out is to have a look at the place. Are the horses healthy? I have a 22 year old horse who is in great health. Mind you, theirs are a bit older, but do they look like they are well cared-for? Are their hooves trimmed properly? Are there in a condition that is acceptable for riding? If not, I would hesitate to get involved. It will only lead to heartache for you. I'm with @horselovinguy - why do they need money donated for their lesson horses? My senior requires a lot of extra care, meds, and supplements, but I don't ask for donations for him... that said, it's possible they are really nice people trying to do their best so it might be worth having a look. But I'd venture that any barn would welcome some free labour! So if this one isn't quite right, look for another. Just because your coach thinks you need a degree to shovel manure, doesn't mean they all will.
 

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Are their hooves trimmed properly? Are there in a condition that is acceptable for riding? If not, I would hesitate to get involved. It will only lead to heartache for you. I'm with @horselovinguy - why do they need money donated for their lesson horses? My senior requires a lot of extra care, meds, and supplements, but I don't ask for donations for him... that said, it's possible they are really nice people trying to do their best so it might be worth having a look.
This 100%. Especially the heartache part.
 
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Call and see if you can stop by, meet them, and perhaps volunteer. I have a volunteer come over here and she is a godsend. In return she gets riding lessons and instruction on how to train.

I'm not certain how you give lessons with horses that old. At a certain point, it is cruel to make a very old horse give lessons. My old mare was retired as her heart values became leaky... Although you could put a toddler on her and she would be a saint and take care of them. She always loved children and still follows us around when we ride. But her riding days are over.
 
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