How do you enforce a barn rule without losing that particular boarder?
As the barn owner you have the choice of what kind of barn rules you want to have at your facility. You can have twenty different barn rules but if you don't enforce them then they are worthless. This is where the job as a barn owner or manager can become stressful at times. Enforcing the barn rules is never easy or pleasant. No one likes to be told that they can't do something and this is where you have to stand strong in your decision no matter how the client feels about it. At the end of the day it doesn't matter if they become upset at you. they are showing disrespect to you and the way you run your barn when they choose to ignore one of your rules.
Finding a balance
When you are running a business where the public is going to be coming onto your property, sometimes you need to find a balance in dealing with issues like this. When it comes to your boarders they need to abide by your rules completely unless you say otherwise. If you don't want anyone in the barn with flip flops on then it is up to you to enforce it until they know you are serious about the rule. Then there are other times when you need to find a balance between what is a good and sound rule and when the rule is a little too extreme. I believe every barn owner and manager go through this at sometime during their career.
At my barn, I don't mind if my clients walk into the barn with flip flops or other open toes shoes to the tack room. Many of them keep their boots in the tack room and they will change in there. I will have boarders that will come in the barn to give their horse a treat when the horse is in their stall and I am good with that also. In certain situations where the owner is not handling the horse, I don't mind if they wear sandals or other footwear. I also will have many family and friends come to the barn with a boarder and as long as they are not handling or riding the horse at all, I am okay with them not having boots on. You really can't expect someone who doesn't own a horse to own boots and many people that stop by fall into that category. It's no different then going to a horse show and seeing many people walking around the show grounds in opened toes shoes. They are there to watch a friend or relative show but they don't have a clue on what proper footwear is and many times they are in sandals. You are going to see many different situations and finding a balance is key.
Then there has been a couple of times when I had to talk with a couple of kids who were leading their horses with flip flops on and I told them they needed to go and put their boots on. I have also had a couple of young trainers that came to teach in flip flops and I put a stop to that immediately. They assumed because they were not handling the horse that they could wear sandals!
Ultimately it is your decision but that last thing I would worry about is losing a boarder over this issue. If someone leaves your barn because they were upset at your flip flop rule then they were not truly happy to begin with. Usually when a boarder becomes upset at a rule and refuses to follow it then it is just a matter of time before they head off to the next barn. If this happens don't be discouraged. I truly believe when a difficult person leaves, a new person will fill the spot that will appreciate the rules you have in place and love the way you run your barn.
I am sure that I have rules at my barn that some of my clients are not thrilled with but they respect me enough to follow them because they are happy with the care that we give their horse. They will weigh it all out and they will not leave over one rule that they don't like. It is never easy dealing with these issues but is a very real part of horse barn management but the longer you do it the more you will become confident in your decisions even when they are not popular. Remember at the end of the day you need to do what is best for your barn, business and life.
Thank you for the great question,