Max Amaya manages Stonehenge Stables' day sheets.
Whether you have a barn with two horses or twenty, finding efficient ways to manage your operation takes time, research, and trial-and-error. It’s well worth the effort, though, because a smoothly run barn lends itself to a happy, peaceful environment in which horses (and riders) can really thrive.
At any given time, Stonehenge Stables is home to more than 40 top show horses. With that number of horses, all needing to be on their game, management takes on a whole new level of importance.
Decades of experience at the top of the sport have served Trainer Max Amaya and barn manager Kris Amaya well as they’ve managed to whittle it down to a science. They’ve shared 5 of their favorite tips for a great barn management system:
1. Carefully plan your horses’ schedules utilizing “day sheets.”
Each of the horses’ schedules are carefully planned and written out on day sheets, which can be created in any form best suited to the user. For Max and the Stonehenge team, they are large, legal paper-sized sheets with Monday through Sunday written across the top and each horse’s name down the left-hand side, grouped by the groom that handles their daily care.
Each day, the following day’s activity is planned for all horses, and assigned to the rider, whether it is Amaya; his brother and fellow trainer Victor Amaya; one of Stonehenge’s additional trainers, TJ O’Mara or Samantha Ramsay; or the owner of the horse.
“That’s something that I learned from Beacon Hill more than 20 years ago, and I found it fascinating,” said Max. He generally completes the sheets with input from the entire training staff. “I write them, but we talk about each horse as a team. You have to be focused on it for about 20 or 30 minutes every day to get things right.”
Another benefit? These sheets serve as a written history of each horse.
“It’s really helpful to have a pattern of what we do every day. We keep about four to five years of these sheets in New Jersey in the files. If for some reason one day we have a question about what a horse did, we’ll have the history.”
2. Communicate, and then communicate some more.
Talking through the day sheets is an important part of creating the most effective plan for each horse because, with so many horses, no one person can know the ins-and-outs of how each horse has been performing or what their previous day’s ride was like.
For the Stonehenge team, the same goes for all aspects of the horses’ care, including their feed and nutrition. Rather than relying solely on one person to set the nutritional goals for all of the horses, the team is in close communication on each of the horses’ needs and works together to carefully adjust individual diets or supplements as needed.
Barn manager Kris Amaya
“If I notice a horse has lost a little bit more weight than I’d like, I mention to Kris that the horse needs a little bit more food,” explained Max Amaya. “That will maybe be an increase of not even a quarter of what he normally eats, then about two weeks later, I’ll just pay attention to how that horse developed – if he gained a little bit of weight or if he’s still the same.”
“We all pay attention to it. Max will tell me, ‘so and so needs more grain’ or ‘so and so needs less hay,’” added Kris, who has been a part of the Stonehenge team since 2009. “We’re constantly communicating.”
The team’s methods of communication are made easier by their next piece of advice.
3. Get organized!
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but do not underestimate the power of good organization!
When it comes to organization of the tack, feed, and storage rooms, the Stonehenge team recommends keeping things visible so that you can see what you have and so that everything is easily accessible. At Stonehenge, frequently used products such as soaps, hoof dressings, and saddle pads, are always kept well-stocked and well-organized to avoid last-minute or frequent trips to the tack shop, which also saves time.
Outside of the tack room, the organization of the horses’ paperwork and information is of the utmost importance, and keeping it all on track is something that Kris is exceptionally good at, thanks to her equine expertise, attention to detail, and her use of spreadsheets and software.
"Do not underestimate the power of good organization!"
“We have lots of spreadsheets!” said Kris, referencing a farrier spreadsheet as an example. “It’s almost a year’s worth of farrier visits on one sheet. Then, we have a white board at the end of the aisle where our farrier works. I’ll list the whole entire month, so when our farrier comes, he can see that he has five [horses to shoe] this week and eight the following week. Then, he’s not totally surprised and can plan in his mind.” (There’s that good communication coming into play again!)
4. Go digital.
While the Stonehenge team still keeps their physical day sheets and other written tools, like the farrier’s whiteboard, they’ve gone digital with much of their record keeping and recommends the same to others.
For Kris, BarnManager is her stable management software tool of choice. It allows her to keep the horses’ records and customizable lists and charts in one place, accessible by phone, tablet, or computer. That means that even if one member of the team isn’t near a physical copy of a critical piece of information, they can still access it wherever they are.
“Before we had BarnManager, we had numerous binders to keep track of our vet records. Not one or two, but five,” said Kris. “We had a separate binder for the vet that would come in and do all of the chiropractic work. We had a binder for just FEI horses. We also had to split the binders between Florida and New Jersey, so there was a lot of paper at any given time and a lot of notepads. And notepads would get lost and then suddenly reappear when you were looking for another notepad! BarnManager makes everything streamlined.”
5. Treat your team well, and they’ll run your barn well, too.
If managing your barn also includes the management of other people, treat them all how you would want to be treated. In turn, you’ll develop trusted relationships with staff that you can count on to care for the barn the same way you would.
“Our guys do immaculate work,” said Kris of the staff at Stonehenge that keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly and provide top care to each of the horses. “They’re very passionate, and you can see that when you walk into the barn. We have one groom, Miguel, that went with Max to the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. He’s been here probably 18 years, and now his oldest son, Miguel, Jr., works here, too. He’s just like his father; they have the best personalities. They will do anything for their horses, and they love their horses. We’re very lucky to have them, and we try to let them know that.”
Read this next: Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a New Barn
Photos by Jump Media.