In Episode 2 of the Heels Down Media business talk videocast, we discuss the never-ending quest for reliable barn staff. As an equestrian business owner recently stated, one of the biggest challenges in the industry is “Hands-down finding employees who want to work and don’t feel entitled to ridiculous compensation. Once the “shine” of getting to work at the barn wears off they all go sour quickly.” We don’t have all the solutions, but you might consider these ideas to attract and retain employees.

Think about the two elements of your environment: what you can control and what you can’t control

You can’t control the economy, but you can control how much you pay people and the environment inside your business. You must remain competitive in your pay if you want good people to stay. Money is not the sole reason why people take and remain in jobs but if you can’t be competitive, you have to accept that they might leave.


There are several ways an employer can create value for low-paying jobs without increasing pay. Flexibility is one of them. Allowing workers to have some flexibility in their schedule might help retain them. For example, instead of saying stalls must be done by 8 a.m., you could give them the flexibility to do the work from 6 a.m.-10 a.m.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Where do people who do this job end up? Is it a stepping stone to something or is it a path to nowhere? Workers are more willing to put the time cleaning stalls if they know it will lead to opportunities. Make each position in your business an integral part of your program and have a clear path to work toward. Find out what your employees’ long-term goals are and help them get there. For example, by providing learning opportunities, sitting in on vet appointments or auditing clinics. If you want someone to stay, give them a reason to want to stay.

Fun working environment

How fun is it to work at your barn? Is everyone constantly in a bad mood? Competitive barns are stressful environments, days are long and the work is hard, so make sure you put in the effort to make it a positive environment. No one wants to work with unpleasant people. From nipping drama in the bud to organizing fun activities with your staff (trail rides, barn traditions), foster a cheerful culture.

Value your workers

It is important to let people know that you value them and that their work matters. Take it one step further. Allow them to implement their ideas on the job. Give them a sense of value and control that shows them they are important.