Great employees for horse barns can be hard to come by, and you want to be sure that you can trust whomever you hire with your horses’ health and safety. There are many steps you can take to ensure that you hire someone who is a perfect match for the employee you’re looking for.

Have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for

Before you set out looking for an employee, establish just what you’re looking for. Define the set of skills that they will need – are you looking for someone to turn out a few horses who are easy to handle, or are you looking for someone to work with yearlings? Depending on your situation, the skills and experience that will be required of a potential employee will differ. Think about how much experience you want the employee to have and how much training you’re willing to provide. Are there areas that you won’t compromise on? If so, be aware of them and consider listing the requirements in any advertisements to cut down on the applicant screening that you’ll have to do later.

Ask trusted people for referrals

Prior to advertising for the position, ask around to see if people know of someone who might be a match for the position. Ask trusted equine professionals such as your vet, farrier, and trainer. Also check in with local equestrian friends. Such people might be able to connect you with an experienced person with a proven history of good work.

Target your ad

Place your ad in areas where it’s most likely to be seen by the type of candidate you’re looking for. “Horsey” areas such as bulletin boards at local feed and tack stores, and at equine veterinary hospitals can be a great place to start. If the position you’re looking to fill is a larger one, consider running an ad in regional equine publications or on equine employment websites.

Screen candidates carefully

Conduct a phone interview before asking potential candidates out to your property. Create a list of questions to ask the candidate beforehand, and if the phone interview goes well then request an in-person interview. If the position involves riding, then the in-person interview might include a riding trial. Be sure that this trial is on a trusted horse, with the applicant wearing safety equipment including a helmet, and having signed a liability release beforehand.

Ask for references

Ask each candidate for multiple references and request that at least two of the references be previous employment supervisors who can attest to their equine skills. Call and verify each reference and ask specific questions detailing the candidate’s level of experience and work ethic. Consider whether you’d like to request and verify references before or after meeting with each candidate in person.
Use the internet

The internet provides a wealth of information today, and a simple search of each candidate’s name may reveal information about their past employment. Some employers choose to run a background check on potential employees, and if you’re looking to fill a large position then this might be of particular benefit.
Once you’ve found a candidate who is a potential match for your position, take them on for a two-week work trial to make sure that the situation works for everyone involved. Be upfront and honest about the job’s requirements and take your time in choosing an employee who will fit in well with your barn’s atmosphere and needs.

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