This summer was unlike any summer I have ever had since we opened Vinland Stables back in 2006. Not only did I have surgery (I donated a kidney) in July but I had to hand the reins over to a team of people who would run my barn from the beginning of the day all the way until barn closing each evening for the rest of the summer. It was something that I was secretly nervous about on the inside. If you have your own business then you know exactly what I am talking about. It turned out to be the most relaxing summer I have had in over a decade!
When we built our boarding facility many years ago, I had no idea how much my life would change. I thought it was only about the horses in the beginning...I was so wrong and I am glad I was. I never expected that one day I would share an entire week in a hospital with one of my boarders but it happened. I wanted to share this unexpected and beautiful story about horses, friendship and a much needed kidney donation.
A couple of days ago I was leading horses outside for the day when a mare spooked and knocked me down into the mud! I couldn't move fast enough in the mud to get out of her way. Not the best way to start out the morning to say the least. It was the first day we had the horses outside in over a week due to the bad weather and extremely muddy conditions and we were waiting for warmer weather to dry out the paddocks. Boarding horses here in the Midwest seems to come with its own unique challenges for each season and springtime can be a tough one. Needless to say, when we finally did decide it was fine to put them out they were a little excited and that is an understatement.
If you are running a boarding stable in an area that gets muddy during the springtime then you will encounter many challenges besides the mud. Not only will you be dealing with squirrelly horses while they are in their stalls for extended periods of time but you will undoubtedly have some clients that will become frustrated during this time. It can be a very difficult time for everyone. If you have mud and horses then I am sure you have experienced what I am going to talk about. If you are just at the beginning stages of your horse business then this is a part of barn management that will most likely catch you of guard and you will learn a lot about yourself during this time. When we first opened our boarding barn years ago, I was not prepared for this part of barn management and how complicated it can become.
If you are boarding horses for a business then I encourage you to read this post. Anyone that has owned a horse business has probably at one time or another second guessed their decisions regarding their business and fear usually plays a part in all of it. It can be very stressful and even scary trying to run a boarding barn especially when you have a business mortgage each month and empty stalls that aren't bringing in any money. I have been there and it is a terrible way to live and the more I talk with other barn owners I am finding out how common this is. What can be even worse is when you compromise how you run your barn and your beliefs for a few extra dollars. Do I have your attention? I sure hope so.
Owning and running a horse business is a wonderful way to make a living but just like any other business there are parts of it that are not fun at all. Dealing with the financials of a business can be stressful especially when you have to count every penny and make sure all the monthly bills are paid. In the world of horses and barn ownership the overhead is usually very high and the reason is simple. Horses eat a lot and hay will be your largest expense next to your business mortgage. Besides your mortgage and regular farm costs, you also need to feed these beautiful animals and it gets more expensive every year.
When we were a young and new boarding facility I never gave much thought to what I would do if a boarder wrote me a bad check. I just didn't think it would happen to me, after all their horse was living at my farm and if they wanted to see their horse they would also see me. Another big lesson was around the corner for me.
I have to say that I love being fifty-something! At this point in my life I am willing to be bold and try new things without much of the worry whether they flop or not. I was cleaning stalls this morning with my husband and these words kept popping into my head in a poem and I decided to take a leap of faith and put them all together. This poem is for anyone that has chosen to work in the equine industry and I hope it encourages you and lifts you up. Please never forget, we are all in this together to support each other no matter what part of the industry you work in. Here it goes...
Where does confidence come from? That is a great question and I believe as women we are always trying to figure out who and what impacts our confidence. Owning your own horse business will test you beyond your wildest imagination and put you in many situations where you have to make decisions despite lacking confidence to do so. You will not be given any other option and you will need to rise to the job ahead and not look back. The great thing about the whole process is even though you will start out with very little confidence, with every decision you make your confidence will grow. You probably won’t even notice all the changes taking place in you until you reach about the fourth or fifth year of running your horse business.
One of the biggest shocks I experienced when we opened Vinland Stables many years ago was the turnover of boarders. It was like we had a revolving door and I was not prepared for it at all. My husband David and I had built this huge facility and we were getting ready to live our dream. I had been a boarder for many years when I was younger and I thought I knew the boarding world when we decided to start our horse business. There was another side-The side of the barn owner.
As a new barn owner and manager of my own business I was jumping on an incredible ride that would take me through many highs and lows and at times I must admit I felt like I wanted to jump off never to get back on! It became challenging, emotional and my self-worth at what I did for a living was something I started to question myself about often in those early years. It felt like everyone knew more than me and as boarders left our barn for something different I started to feel like David and I had chosen the wrong business to get into. I now understand and truly believe that every new business owner will go through this and this is where you need to dig deep to find that inner strength and keep going. Learn from your mistakes and move forward without looking back.
You don't know how many times over the years my husband has said to me, "We are out of toilet paper again!?" Not only do we run out of toilet paper in our house at times (due to three women) but that is nothing compared to the toilet paper we go through in our barn bathroom! If you are running a horse boarding barn then you know exactly what I am talking about. Especially if most of your boarders are women.
The truth is that when we opened our boarding facility many years ago, we never realized how much we would run out of or need to fix and replace so many of the things that keep your horse business going. It was one area of our business that I didn't have a true picture of all the costs and it really hurt us in the beginning when money was extremely tight. I am going to be very honest and tell you that there were a few times when we would run out of toilet paper in the barn bathroom and I didn't have the money to go and buy more. We were broke and I was counting loose change out of a jar to buy a few rolls of toilet paper until the board checks starting coming in. Yes, if you are thinking that is crazy, you are completely right and it is a crazy way to run any kind of business. But it happens more often than you know especially in a young business where money is constantly going out for everything and not enough is coming in.
Today's post is a must read for all barn owners and managers who are running a horse boarding business. It is about the pressure that every barn owner and manager will have put on them at one time or another by their boarders when things are not going right at your stable. It could be that the weather has been horrible and it has made for stress in your barn or you might be feeling the pressure to build and add more amenities even though you don't have the money. You could be pressured to feed a different type of hay or do regular farm chores differently so that your boarders are not inconvenienced. The pressure from your clients is stressful and at times can even leave you second guessing your decisions and your knowledge. I never thought about this part of barn management when we first opened our facility but it is very real and alive.