One of the biggest things I realized after I became a barn owner was the differences in how people handle their horse. I had boarded for many years but I never really paid attention to what others did with their horse unless it was completely out there or unsafe.
With forty horses and owners came many different personalities and views of how to handle horses and their care. It became very evident early on that I was going to see many things that would differ from how I would do things with my horse and some of the things I witnessed bothered me. I was also going to see many things that were not in the best interest of the health of the horse and I was going to have to decide how I wanted to handle those situations.
As a barn owner you are going to have clients that are very knowledgeable about horses and you will have many clients that are new horse owners. You will need to figure out when it is time to help and educate and when to step back.
As the barn owner or manager you are either going to want to micro-manage your clients because you are trying to protect them from making mistakes or you might simply want them to do things exactly how you do them. I really believe when you start to micro-manage your clients their learning curve goes down and your job becomes much more difficult.
You are going to deal with issues like blanketing and you will have many boarders that will not know when to blanket or what type of blanket to put on. You will have boarders that will take off the blanket too soon and you come out to find the horse shivering or they have kept the heavy weight on and the temperatures are too warm and the horse is sweating. You will have clients that don't know how to put certain tack on correctly and they will need guidance in adjusting it so it fits the horse properly. Those are the some of the times when your client could use some educating and help. Those issues will happen in every barn and educating your clients will make your job easier.
I know there are barns that insist on a certain farrier and veterinarian. There are barns that insist on certain saddles and tack to use and even certain ways to groom your horse. Each barn is going to be set up differently and how you set up your barn is up to you but I want to encourage you to pick your battles. Let your clients have some room to make choices and learn from those choices. Some of the things they do will drive you crazy and you have to let the small stuff go. That is micro-managing!
Remember that some of the things you do as a barn owner or manager will drive them crazy also. You need to create an atmosphere that is safe for all to learn and be themselves.
Remember that micro-managing will present itself in different forms not just the obvious ones. Here are some signs that you might be micro-managing your boarders:
- Insisting on what type of blankest or tack they need to use.
- Insisting on what farrier or veterinarian they need to use.
- Telling them that the grain or supplements they are using are a waste of money.
- Correcting them on everything from how whey walk their horse to how they play with their horse.
- Making a smart or negative remark when they tell you they have signed up for a clinic and it happens to be someone that you don't like.
These are just a few examples but there are many. I have been guilty of micro-managing at times throughout the years also. We want to control everything and that is not a good way to run a barn or business.
Here are some examples of someone that knows how to positively educate their clients:
- Giving advice on what type of blankets you have found to be durable and well made. The same would be true for tack
- Recommending a farrier that you have found does a great job but if they choose to use someone else you need to be okay with that.
- Let your boarders decide on what type of grain they would like to use (if your barn allows that) but if they ask your advice then in a professional way give them your view of grain and why you would choose a certain grain for their horse.
- Gently give reminders if you see that they could be doing something that is a safety issue or is going to cause bad behavior. Educate and encourage and give alternatives to something that might put them in a bad situation with their horse.
- Encourage your boarders to go to clinics and if they ask your opinion of what you think about the clinician than be honest but do it in a tactful and professional way without harsh words or sarcasm.
There are going to be times when your boarders ask your advice on something and then go ahead and do something completely opposite. You need to be okay with that and move on. Be there for them if they have questions but let them learn from making their own choices. Don't be a helicopter barn owner or manager.
When you run your barn with the heart of a teacher you will be educating and at the same time creating an atmosphere that is positive and healthy. When you micro-manage your barn the results are much different. Insecurity and fear of failure will take over and stops your clients from learning and growing.
Heart of a teacher
When you run your barn with the heart of a teacher you will be educating and at the same time creating an atmosphere that is positive and healthy. When you micro-manage your barn the results are much different. Insecurity and fear of failure will take over and stop your clients from learning and growing.
It brings me so much joy when I see a new horse owner grow into a confident horseman that has learned so much and wants to keep learning. As the barn owner you have the wonderful choice to decide what kind of barn you want to have and when you decide that you will attract those kinds of people. If you truly want to set your barn and business apart then lead your barn with the heart of a teacher and educate and throw the micro-managing out the window. There is enough people out there that already do that. Set a new path for your business and your clients.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just starting out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I would like to encourage you to check out my two books. My first one, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business" is my families journey of starting our horse boarding business and about learning from our mistakes especially during the first couple of years. My second book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover," is about the relationship between the barn owner/barn manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. These books will take you deep inside the business world and will inspire and give you the tools to get through those tough days and situations. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,