She may be called the Equine Nanny but Kathie Lacroix is not just a pleasant woman, who wafts in to read bedtime stories to little foals, and sing them songs about a spoonful of sugar helping medicine go down! She offers a service at Dressage competitions that goes far beyond that.
Thirteen years ago Kathie took some of her riding students to a dressage show. She asked at the show office who would be doing the night watch and was told “nobody does that”. Kathie’s previous experience with her students showing had been in the hunter jumper world and there would be someone who would check on the horses during the night. So she decided she would start a business offering that service at dressage shows. I know I have been immensely grateful at shows during the winter in Florida, at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and also White Fences Equestrian, knowing that Kathie and her crew would be checking on my horse during the night. I decided to ask her for an interview for Horse Addict. She agreed.
Tell me what is involved in your job as Equine Nanny? For the people at the show who have signed up for my service I start at 9 pm and feed hay and make a chart for how much water may be needed later. I have my son help with the watering later in the night and he will know from my chart which horses are going to need water. I also look at the horses to see if they are settled. The horses are checked every hour and on a chart on their door it is written down if they are standing, or lying down. Around 2 am my son will top up the water buckets and the amount is noted on the stall chart as well. Around 5:30 I will feed hay and breakfast grain that the owner or rider has left out for the horse. I like to be finished all the horses by 6 am, especially at a big show as people will start arriving and it is harder to get the job done. We usually do the night time checks in shifts and in the morning I will do one last walk through to see if they have eaten their grain, have enough water and the stalls are all securely closed.
How many people do you have working with you? I have four people on my staff and usually I will have one or two working with me at each show.
How many horses are you checking each night? At a big show there may be 130 to 150 horses. A middle size show about 100 horses.
What do you charge for this service? For 11 years I charged $10 and now $15. I felt my assistant nannies deserved a little more money.
Tell me about some of the more difficult situations you have had to deal with in the middle of the night? Sometimes there will be a horse with colic but one of the worst was a horse that got a foot caught in the board of the stall wall. He was panicking and thrashing and there was nothing I could do to help him. I can’t go into the stall and deal with a panicking 1200 pound animal. I called vets and the equine clinic. While I waited for them to come the horse fell and, with his leg still caught, he finally laid still. They had to put him onto a horse ambulance and get him to the clinic. He was in shock. But you know… a month later I was at a show and saw him and he had completely recovered.
Another time in Illinois, at the Young Rider Championships,a mare who tended to kick got her leg caught in the bars between the stalls. She got caught at the hock and could not get out. I called everyone, vets, the owners and the fire department. The firefighters came and had to cut the metal bars to release the leg. Then the vets stitched up her leg.
Has there ever been an amusing incident that you remember? Well yes…some horses like to have a companion perhaps a goat or a donkey but you can’t bring those animals to a show so people will put a stuffed animal into the stall to keep the horse company. One horse had a huge teddy bear and he decided he was going to massacre that bear. He tore it to shreds and scattered the pieces all over the stall!
Do you still go to shows in the northern states during the summer? I’m a single Mom and when my kids were younger I would leave them with their Grandma but now that they are older I’m not comfortable leaving them so I have stopped travelling. I have had offers from other people to take my business north and do it for me but I don’t think anyone else would do this job as well as me and it’s the name of my business that’s at stake. I don’t want to take the responsibility of sending nannies up north. I want to be there myself.
Thank you Kathie for taking the time to talk with me. I am certainly very grateful for the service you provide. It allows me to sleep at night during shows knowing my horse is being watched and looked after.