Guest article by Helena Timmermann-Spallek
Since I am little horses are part of my everyday life. My heart really beats for dressage but in the last years I also got more in touch with breeding dressage horses, as my family does this already for about 15 years. My biggest dream is to run my own stable in the future with some broodmares, but also with several dressage horses, especially youngsters. But even though I have spent every day in the stable for more than 20 years and have experience in handling horses and young animals, it is something completely different to run a professional stable. That's why it's important for me to learn how the daily routine works here.
On the website yard & groom I was looking for a suitable job. The variety of jobs there is huge, you can choose between different countries and what kind of work you want to do. So I found quite quickly the job offer from "Magic Stables" in Laren, Netherlands, who were looking for a stable help for the coming summer. The Magic Stables are owned and run by Justine Mudde and her parents. I thought it would be a great opportunity, also because it was possible to bring my own horse, Albus, and train with Justine. I applied for the job and soon the answer came that they would really like to have me there.
The first weekend in June, Albus and I finally arrived in Laren. Justine and her parents first introduced me to their beautiful stable and then we were able to recover a little from our trip from Germany before I started work the following Monday. My new home was the apartment above the indoor riding arena. The apartment was so cozy and the best part was having the horses so close by.
That evening Justine invited me for pizza in a small Italian restaurant in Laren and I could already ask her a few questions about her and the stable to get to know everything a bit better. Then on Monday, my first day of work, I met Benedetta, an Italian woman who works permanently at Magic Stables. She showed me how things are handled at the stable and introduced me to their daily routine.
Normally, the workday started for me at 8 am, on really hot days already at 7 am. My first task was to check on all the horses to see if everything was okay. They had already gotten their breakfast of bicks (concentrate) and hay at this point. The next step was to prepare the horses with some boots and put them in the horse walker for 40 minutes. The horse walker at Magic Stables was actually made for 6 horses, but we only put 3 horses in the walker at a time, with a space in between for safety. In the meantime, I cleaned the stalls and took the horses to the paddock after the walker. In good weather, all horses could go into the field, otherwise they were given a walk on the rope to graze in the afternoon. At noon around 1 pm the horses got hay again.
Justine had a plan for each day, when she wanted to ride which horse. So it was also my job to prepare the horses for riding or lunging. It was important to manage that there was enough time between the times when they came out. After riding, the horses were given a shower or or I sponged them with warm water. The bridles were also cleaned daily and the saddles were greased once a week. Besides that, it was also important to keep the stable, fields and the arenas clean.
After every workday my last task was to clean, flatten and water the walker for the next day. In the afternoon when everything was done, I was able to ride and train my own horse. Twice a week I had lessons with Justine, and my horse and I really improved a lot in that summer! In the evenings, the horses were given bicks and hay once more by the stable owners. Before going to bed I also checked a last time on the horses and changed the blankets or put them down, depending on the weather.
What I liked most about the Magic Stables was that the entire team always made the greatest effort to do the best for the horses and to make everything safe and keep the horses healthy. I also really loved that everything was always clean and the riding arenas were top maintained and had a super riding surface. The conditions for training could not have been better!
Twice a week I had a day off. On those days I was able to explore the area, go to the neighbouring villages or to Amsterdam. Justine and I also did some really nice things together, she took me on a boat ride on her boat and to her lessons and competitions or we had dinner in some fancy restaurants in the village. So not only did I gain new experience in handling horses and riding, but I also got a new friend with whom I am still in close contact. So if I need any advice, especially with my horse, I can always write or call her. The plan is to continue training together when it is possible again due to Corona, and I am really looking forward to it!
And finally, Justine gave me the chance to do an interview with her in preparation for this article.
Hi, my name is Justine Mudde, I am 26 years old. I grew up in Laren (the Netherlands) where the dressage stable is located, nearby Amsterdam. I was always surrounded by horses, my biggest passion. This passion turned into my job after I finished the Masterclass Deurne and the KNHS Orun level 4. I'm schooling horses and people every day from beginner/3 y old up to Grand Prix.
Can you say something about your business, how big is your riding stable, what do you offer?
The business I run is a family business. I am schooling the horses and my parents take the best care for everything around my task. We have 14 boxes, an indoor and outdoor arena, a walker, two paddocks, several fields and an apartment for an intern. I offer several things such as training (with different goals), selling horses, bringing horses in to competition, teaching and competition guidance.
What is the daily routine and who takes over which tasks? What are the seasonal differences in your schedule?
In the daily routine the horses come out 3 to 4 times every day. I've got someone to help in the stable who takes care of saddling, feeding and taking the horses out of the box. While she is doing this I am riding all day long, followed by teaching. The seasonal differences are, in summer when it is very warm, I start riding around 5 am. The horses come into the field before it is too hot, they get a small siesta and after this they come out for another movement. To keep the fields good and the horses safe we never put them out in the field when the grass is wet and slippery. We let them eat grass on the rope, put them in the paddock, use the walker, longe loose and as always I train them. We always make sure there is enough variation so they don't get bored.
What is the goal for your business, what drives you?
What drives me is to improve my knowledge. I always strive for the best. The best results, the most honest way of developing/training the horses, with a lot of attention and care, happiness and health for every horse. This is a sustainable way to provide a horse as good as possible on the market.
Are there plans for the future, for your business, for your riding, what do you want to achieve and how do you implement it?
We always set goals together, we work with short and long term goals. For every horse I've got the same one, reach as much as what is possible for them. Sometimes I've got years for this, sometimes only a couple months, but I always want to get the best out of it in the available time. If I get years before the horse is sold I work on my own goals. Getting into the Grand Prix competition. I love animals and being outside, but I also fancy the game. One of my biggest joys is to be in nice competitions. For the business I am focussing now more on horses that can be sold.
How do you deal with the Corona crisis in your professional life and does it affect your stable operations?
I think Corona has a bad influence for selling horses to people all over the world, because travelling is very complicated at the moment. The competitions have been cancelled for a while already. Luckily enough I am still teaching and the good thing is, all the horses are really growing into next levels at home and everyone, family and horses are all healthy.
Could you give recommendations to other professional riding stables on what you have implemented and how to optimize processes or the achievement of objectives?
I think a good training schedule is super important, variation in training. Enough walking, we never bring the horses straight to the field or paddock, they are always warmed up by riding or walker to prevent from injuries. Besides this the right feeding schedule is important and a good quality of food. In this way they won't get something as colic easily. If the horses get this often, it might be a good idea to reconsider your feeding schedule. Before you can achieve results, these basics must be good.
Thank you, Justine, for sharing these insights and also many thanks to Helena for writing this informative article!
Helena is 24 year old and a passionate rider. You can follow her horse life under @dressurpferdetimmermann on Instagram.