Have You Seen My Clipboard? Stress-Free Low-Tech Barn Organizing in New Hampshire

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by Fran Jurga | 28 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

I wonder if someone at this barn works in a hospital...

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I've been on a big organizing crusade lately. I think I have devised the perfect low-tech plan for managing all my projects and blogs and to-do lists. I've been quite pleased with myself!

But organizing my to-do lists was the farthest thing from my mind when I was in my friend Julie Perron's barn the other day. It's a co-op of about ten stalls in the lower level of a huge old New England hay barn. The place was well cared-for and the stalls were nice and roomy. The barn aisle was so wide, I don't think cross-ties were even thinkable. Best of all, the horses seemed very content.

While I was waiting for Julie, I snooped around, checked the feed room and the tack room and noticed how the place really was divided up, co-op style. Each owner seemed to have the same exact number of square feet of tack storage. Separate, but equal.

But when I came to the wall with all the clipboards, I reached for my camera. Something about it just clicked with my new-found sense of organization, and I thought I should share it with you. Each clipboard has a number that corresponds to a stall, so that even someone who didn't know a single one of the horses' names could figure things out by stall number. The owners write notes to each other on the face of the clipboards--"gone for the weekend", "please call if you see anything runny on Meg's right eye", etc. Julie had just bought the year's supply of fly predators and drew little boxes on her board--each owner signed and checked off a box when s/he paid Julie for their shares.

When the vet or farrier comes, the clipboard is where the check for each horse in each stall is; the receipt is left there, in turn. Anyone with a message for that horse or owner uses the clipboard system, which is out of the wind and the moisture zone, so bits of paper can't fly away. Each horse still has a sign on its stall door with ID and feeding instructions, but the clipboards are where the owners talk to each other about the business of running the barn.

Have I spent my life in disorganized barns? Maybe. I thought about all the barns I'd been in where the barn manager tries to keep track of everything about every horse in one binder or one clipboard. Or the mass of sticky notes by the pay phone. Or the outdated phone numbers and even long-gone horse names etched on stall signs. The goat that ate the farrier's check. The farrier's bill that blew away (sometimes intentionally, I suspected).

I have witnessed so many disagreements about missed communications in so many barns--who would argue with a clipboard system like this?

Vet clinics use clipboards and bulletin boards like this one at Myhre Equine Clinic in New Hampshire.

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I was reminded of those big clipboards that they used to have in hospitals, although I'm sure those have been replaced by tablet computers. Your chart and its clipboard lived in a holder at the foot of your bed and the patient was never supposed to see what was on the chart. Vet clinics often have clipboards hanging on stall doors so that whoever medicates a horse or changes a bandage can log in and document the time and task done. They have a lot to keep straight.

I will admit that I once bought clipboards in eight different colors for eight different projects and thought that would keep me organized. It didn't. But maybe if I hang them on the wall...and give each one a number...


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