The introduction of a Livery Yard Handbook to clients can be a great resource for both yard owners and clients. Whilst livery contracts are becoming more commonplace, the inclusion of yard rules and specifics can often make these long documents and changes to situations or yard routines can make them quickly out of date. As an alternative option, a Livery Yard Handbook can be created and issued to all clients, and the acceptance and understanding of the contents included as part of the livery contract. Handbooks are an excellent way to kickoff effective communication with your new clients, and make sure that everyone is on the same page for rules, expectations, and yard routine from the start. But what should you have in a Livery Yard Handbook?
There are no rules… really anything you feel is beneficial for clients to know either in relation to physical attributes of the yard, the yard routine or rules and regulations. A handbook can set expectations and clearly define the boundaries for clients. As well as this, a handbook can protect yard owners by clearly stating the rules, policies, and procedures that can prevent liability. A well-structured and planned handbook can also save you time. It will be there as a reference point for all clients and will save explanation or reiteration of the rules to new or problem clients.
Remember, whilst you will be issuing to longstanding clients just as a reminder, you may also be issuing to brand new clients who are unfamiliar with the yard, and the local area. Below we have listed some considerations to make when thinking about issuing your own handbook. This is also an important list from the point of view of any livery clients who are reading this article as there may be points listed below that would be beneficial for you perhaps to know about your yard, but have maybe not had that information!
- Contact Details – Basic contact details for the yard and/ or yard manager; Contact times; Details of any yard Farrier, Vet etc; Details of FB or WhatsApp group chats;
- Yard Routine– Usual feed times and turnout times; Seasonal changes
- Visiting Times– Acceptable Times for visiting the yard; ‘Out of Hours’ policy.
- Invoicing– When invoices are issued and to be paid by; Payment details
- Visitors– Who may visit and when; If advance notice is required; Where visitors can access; Behaviour of visitors;
- Yard Services– Whats available; Prices; How to book; Christmas and Bank Holiday Charges
- External Services–Are any services (instructor, grooms etc) permitted to carry out their services; Is there a facility hire fee; Is proof of insurance, experience etc required; Restrictions on visiting hours; Permission for paid services between clients
- Turnout and Grazing– Any seasonal restrictions; Extreme weather events; Herd management; Forage for winter months
- Use of Facilities– Any specific rules relating to use of facilities; Restrictions on availability; Restrictions on use for lessons; Use of coin meters and charges; Clearing and storage of tools and equipment; Storage space and upkeep; Parking areas for cars and horseboxes
- Bedding, Feed, and Forage– Details of deliveries and order processes; Prices and availability if supplied by yard; Storage arrangements; allowances for ‘ad-lib’ forage
- Maintenance Expectations– Detail responsibilities for clients regarding fencing, stable and paddock maintenance; Poo-Picking; Muckheap and wastage
- Welfare Expectations– How often owners should visit; Requirement for prompt veterinary or farriery treatment
- Worming– When these are carried out; Whose responsibility
- Bio Security Policy– Policy to be followed to prevent and contain infectious diseases (such as an Isolation policy); Advice on travelling to events etc;
- Security and Safety- Smoking Policy; Clothing Policy (i.e riding hats, no open-toed shoes); Child Policy; Pet policy (i.e are they permitted, where can they go, dog poo); CCTV; PAT testing and use of electrical appliances; Location of First Aid Kit (human and equine), Fire Extinguishers etc; What to do in the event of an emergency; Security of gates, tack rooms etc;
- Extreme Weather– protocol in the event of a frozen yard, snow etc;
- GDPR Details– Data held, ‘GDPR Policy; Notice of CCTV
- Local Facilities– Give details or links to local Riding Clubs, Hunts, Competition or Training venues; Details of local permitted riding schemes
- Recommended Services– Local instructors and grooms; Recommended vets or farriers
This list is not exhaustive and you will need to carefully consider your own yard, routine, layout, and practicalities. A good way to work it out is to keep a notebook on your yard for a week, and note down everything of importance you do in the course of managing the yard and caring for the horses- this should help you come up with a satisfactory list.
Although handbooks are an effective tool for managing yards, if it is not written properly, is too broad or too specific, or the procedures are not followed consistently, this may prove confusing to clients. Whilst it is important to be concise with the information included, you need to consider how likely such procedures and rules are to change between issue and possible update. For example, if you detail exactly the herds or who uses which paddock as they are at the time of issue, you do not really want to be re-issuing new versions of the handbook if this is likely to change within a few months. Anything which is likely to change regularly can be touched upon in the handbook, but exact details are probably best left to be communicated directly to clients at such a time as changes take effect.
You can issue your handbook digitally by email, a link on your website, or a hard copy when you give new clients their other paperwork, such as contracts. It would also be recommended to have at least one copy available on the yard for reference. When included as an appendix to your contract, you will need to include a statement within your contract such as “As part of this Livery Agreement, the Horse Owner confirms that they have read and understood the information contained in the Livery Yard Handbook’” which forms a legally binding agreement, and/ or you can issue them with an acceptance form to go alongside the livery agreement, and can also be issued for each updated version of the handbook to confirm they have read and understood.
Remember, as your business grows, the way you conduct your business changes, and therefore the procedures of your yard may change as well. It is recommended to review and update your handbook annually- however small the changes may seem- to update rules, information and procedures that no longer apply. Don’t be afraid to use a review of the handbook as an opportunity to get your clients input on what is working and what is not, as they are the ones who will be working according to the handbook and they can provide insight on procedures which can be added or taken away to enhance their experience. Keep in mind that details of other information- such as service providers, local clubs or other services details- may also change, which will also be a good opportunity to check this information when you update your handbook.
We have a Template Livery Yard Handbook available here
The inspiration for this article, and the basis of our template Livery Yard Handbook is thanks to the organisational skills of Terri Hill at Hill Livery in Bristol. Terri is a longstanding advertiser on LiveryList and her listing has an amazing 56 five star reviews on her listing! See her listing here.