The care and well-being of the animals at Palmetto Carriage Works is something we take very seriously. So it only makes sense that the people who take care of our animals are chosen just as carefully as we choose our animals.
Down at the Big Red Barn, we have 20 barnhands. They are a team of well trained, knowledgeable and dedicated people. We took the time to sit down with one of our barnhands, Richard, to ask him a few questions about his daily routine at the Big Red Barn.
PCW: What are your daily responsibilities as a barnhand?
Richard: Feeding, grooming, harnessing and hitching 25 or more horses and mules… and that’s all before 10AM!
PCW: Is there one aspect of the job that you enjoy more than others? Why?
Richard: The animal interaction. I’m not really a people person. A lot of folks have asked me why I’m not a tour guide after 19 years in the industry – it’s working with the animals that gives me a better sense of accomplishment.
PCW: Are you able to make connections with the animals? Give an example.
Richard: Yes. I’m particularly fond of when an animal willingly takes the bit when placing the bridle. I think that is a connection that goes beyond “Hey, you’re the guy who feeds me and I might follow you!”
PCW: Are some horses easier to handle than others? How so?
Richard: Absolutely! Just like people every animal has their own individual personality. Some are easy going, some are more difficult to handle. There is some truth to the old saying “as stubborn as a mule” but I’ve known some pretty stubborn horses and a few rather willing mules.
PCW: Do you have a favorite horse? Who and why?
Richard: J.T. is really easy going and a hard worker all wrapped in one, just like me.
PCW: How long does it take to groom a horse?
Richard: An experienced barnhand can groom in just a few minutes. I would say 7-10 minutes to do the job on average, though. Some animals are nice and clean, you just need to pass a brush over them, others need full baths every morning to be ready to dressed in dray (harness).
PCW: How much hay do you think a single horse goes through in a week?
Richard: 2-3 bales plus grain (which averages out to about 8 quarts of grain per feeding).
PCW: Walk me through how you saddle up a horse.
Richard: Saddle is the wrong term – “harness” would actually be more accurate. Start with grooming, once the animal is clean you put on their collar and collar pad, then the actual harness goes on. We use a floating style work harness so it is pretty much one piece. The hames sit on the collar and then are buckled at the bottom. Once the hames are buckled, the girth (belly band) is fastened and the remainder of the harness (backstraps, spider & breeching) is stretched out over their back. Lastly, the bridle is placed on their head.
PCW: What skills do you have to have to handle horses?
Richard: Patience, a gentle persistence and consistency are all key elements.
PCW: Are there any lessons you have learned over the years working as a barnhand? What are they?
Richard: Expect the unexpected…. in a nutshell. They are animals who thrive on a routine and through repetition they begin to find complacency.