Helping you be successful in your barn and business!
Once your barn is established and you have a clear understanding of how you want to run it, your job will become so much easier. You will know what works and doesn't work for your barn and the trials and mistakes will become fewer. But as in life there are always a few bumps in the road to keep us on our toes. When clients come to your barn with their horses many of them will be thrilled to be there. Some of them will come from poorly run facilities where the care was not good. Others will come because your barn offers the perfect atmosphere and amenities for them. Even if you are extremely detailed in how you do things at your barn and the boarder is in total agreement, you will have a few clients that will change over time as they grow as equestrians. What they wanted for their horse may have been fine in the beginning but sometimes that changes and it will catch you off guard. At least it did for me at first.
What does a boarder do when they are boarding at a barn that doesn't provide the care that was promised? I get asked this question a lot by people who read my blogs. First of all I could write pages and pages about this subject from both the boarders perspective and the barn owners perspective. I understand how upsetting and frustrating it can be because I boarded my horses for many years and I experience some terrible boarding situations. In fact all of them have molded me into the type of barn owner I am today because I don't want anyone to ever go through what I went through with my horses.
I will do my best to give a short version of this topic and my thoughts about it. The question that is often asked is what are the boarders rights if a barn owner/manager is not taking proper care of the horse and they are not being fed enough good quality hay or have sufficient clean water? How does a boarder address this issue with the barn owner?
Burnout in the horse boarding business is very real and unfortunately there is a very large number of equine professionals that feel it. During this last year I have talked with many people from all over the country and many of them are exhausted, frustrated and in many cases just don't care anymore. They are experiencing burnout and it is starting to affect their horse business and they don't see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. It's a terrible feeling and it will cripple your horse business if you let it.
I know this question will start some debate because I read and hear so many opinions about this subject alone. As a barn owner you will need to decide how you want to handle a boarder that rarely comes out to see their horse. Now before you start the opinions, please read the rest of the blog because my goal is to get you to look at both sides and a few different scenarios when it comes to this issue. Then I will share my thoughts about it.
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.
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.
Running a boarding barn will have many challenges and some of them will surprise you when they happen. Blanketing horses is not a complicated thing but once you are the barn owner and/or manager, this part of your business might become much more complicated than you anticipated and for reasons you were not expecting. It sure did for me.
The truth is that putting on blankets and taking them off is an easy thing to do when you only have a couple of horses. If you decide to board horses for a living and you are now taking care of many horses, blanketing will not only take up a lot of your time but there are many more issues that will creep in with this part of the job. Some of them will have you wanting to pull out your hair in total frustration.
I am smiling as I am sitting here at my computer because I know to some of my boarders I probably appear to be crabby quite often. Especially the teenagers! I had always considered myself an easy-going person until we started our horse boarding business. It truly does change you in ways that you can't imagine and for many different reasons.
Starting a horse boarding business was definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Not only did we have issues with the complete building project for our barn and indoor riding arena but after the barn was open for business the real problems started to happen. Signing a business loan and setting up an LLC shows on paper that you are a business owner and that process can be much easier than taking ownership of it mentally and believing it. For many new business owners the process can take years until you feel comfortable in your role as an equine professional. At least it did for me. It doesn't matter if you are a barn owner, manager, trainer or a multitude of other jobs in the horse industry. The pressure to look like you know what you are doing can sometimes cause you to stop in your tracks and ask yourself if you are good enough to do this job.
One of the things that cripples many people from taking a step forward and becoming an equine professional inside and out is fear. The truth is...it can be scary to start a business and become the boss of it all. Becoming the CEO of your barn and business overnight is something that most people are not prepared for and it will hit you like a huge wave when it happens. Learning to run your barn as a business takes time and encouragement along the way. Don't let your fears stop you from achieving a successful barn and business.
If you are going to board horses for a living then I can promise you that giving a boarder a thirty-day notice will be one of the most difficult parts of your job. I had a huge awakening when we opened our barn many years ago. I found out very quickly that there was a wrong way to give a thirty-day notice. I now have had to experience this part of barn management a few times over the years and giving a thirty-day notice is still extremely difficult but I have learned how to do it in a much more professional manner.
Boarding horses is challenging because you are going to be dealing with so many people and they will all have different personalities and beliefs when it comes to their horses. The reasons that a barn owner needs to give a thirty day notice will most likely never be the same from one client to the next. Early on in our business (before I ever experienced this part of the job) I thought that the only reason I would ever need to give a boarder a thirty-day notice was because they a client was not paying their board. I was in for a huge lesson about running a barn and people. It turns out that I would be giving a thirty-day notice a few times in my career and they have all been for many different reasons and the least of them are money issues.