There are a few steps I take when talking with potential new boarders that help determine if they might be a good fit for our barn or not. There is no guarantee that my thoughts about the person are completely accurate after the conversation but the longer that I have run our boarding barn the better I get at reading people.
When I am talking with a potential new client and I am sharing how we run our barn and what we offer, they usually will share their concerns and in the conversation the board rate will always come up. In most cases the person will make a comment if the board is a little steep for them and I am okay with that. I don't want to pressure them into something they can't afford. I would rather spend a long time talking with them and getting to know them then trying to rush a sale.
I do believe the more upfront and direct you are in beginning will eliminate people if they can't afford it. I always share all board, grain, sales tax and extra costs for services done. I want it out there for them to think about. Sometimes just those extra fees will be the deal breaker for some and it would be so much better to know before they move their horse rather than after they are already here and settled in. They might be the nicest person in the world but if they can't afford the monthly board fees than it will become very stressful for you and them.
The bottom line
The reality is there are no guarantees when it comes to people and business. I have had the nicest people come board at my barn and down the road they lose a job and things change overnight. I have also had clients that I thought were very nice and responsible but they had hidden personal problems that didn't show up until months later. In those situations it rarely ends well and those are the times that I have lost money for the care of the horse. Thank goodness it has only happened a few times throughout all the years that I have boarded horses but it has happened. The longer someone boards at your barn the more you will see them go through many different stages in their life. You might see them lose a job or get a divorce. They might even be dependent on a substance or alcohol and you never knew it for a long time. All these real life issues can affect them to the point where they forget about the horse competeley and stop paying board altogether.
You need to protect yourself as the barn owner!
You need to remember that this is your business and you need to protect yourself. The best thing you can do is to make sure you have a well written contract in place that includes a section about your legal rights when a client defaults on the board. Make sure you have an attorney look it over to be sure it is legally sound and correct for your state. Too many barn owners get themselves into trouble because they get emotional and upset and take matters into their own hands when they really don't know what the law states. You need to take the proper steps to make sure you are within the law when it comes to dealing with loss of board payment and dealing with the animal. Protect yourself!
Boarding horses for a living is a great career and life but it comes with risks just like any other business. Take your time when talking with potential new clients and be honest about all the extras and fees that go with the monthly board. I am able to read people better than I used to be when we opened and I believe this happens to most of us as we gain experience.
Remember that with each experience and conversation comes great learning opportunities that will only help you grow and make you wiser when it comes to these kinds of issues that are a very real part of horse barn management.
I wish you the very best in your horse business and thank you for the great question.