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.
Our barn is in a part of Wisconsin that is flat and low. When the springtime comes and the ground is thawing out, any extra rain will play havoc on our paddocks. It takes them a while to dry out and depending on the weather and winter we had, it can be a little longer than other stables. It is just how it is and this is something that I make very clear when new boarders come to our barn. The one thing I have come to realize over the years is that no matter how clear you are when explaining something to a new boarder, they won't fully understand what you are telling them until they experience it for themselves. This can happen especially when they join your barn during the dry season and the paddocks look wonderful.
You are going to have many boarders that will be patient during the springtime especially if they have boarded at other places and owned horses for a while. Then you will have a few that will become upset that the horses are in for an extended period of time and they will share their frustration with you. You will have boarders that will drive around and see other horses outside while their horse is in his stall and that will frustrate them even more. That is when they need to decide what is truly important to them in a boarding facility. Some clients will not be able to take the mud and how you run your barn in regards to the horses going out and they will leave because of the mud. You will have others that will stay because they know you give fantastic care to their horse and they are willing to wait out this muddy time of year. They also know it is only a short period of time compared to the rest of the year and their horse will be fine. As the barn owner and manager you will experience both sides of the spectrum and it is never easy.
Educating your boarders
You are going to do a lot of educating during this time of year. You will find yourself explaining how the water flows and the kind of soils you have at your farm. Your boarders may not understand that depending on where you are located and if you are flat or hilly will make a huge difference. And of course the type of soil is a huge one. You will also need to be very clear on if you will allow horses to stay in while it is muddy (purely for the mess and time it takes to clean them up) or if all horses will go out when conditions are safe and they will have to deal with muddy legs and bodies for the ones that love to role in the mud. This is a part of barn management and your business that you want to really think about because it will get complicated and even stressful at times when dealing with horses, mud and frustrated boarders.
When conditions are not safe
When is it not safe to put them outside in the mud? That is a great question and everyone has a different opinion about this. There is so much to think about when it comes to mud and your herds. How much mud is too much and when is it too deep? That is something that you will really need to keep an eye on and watch how the horses are doing in the mud. We are more conservative at our barn and I want to make sure they are safe when they are out there. As the barn owner you will carry all the responsibility and if a horse gets hurt it will always fall back on you even if it is not your fault. At the end of the day you need to do what is best for your barn and business and not worry about what other stables are doing in the area. It is better to be conservative and safe then to give into pressure and have a horse get hurt. If you have a client leave your barn because they were frustrated because of the mud or how much you keep the horses in during the muddy season then let them go. It would be much better to have someone at your barn that is patient during this challenging time of year because they know soon the sun will come out and the rest of the year will be fantastic at your barn.
You are going to have many different boarders throughout your career and they will have their own feelings about mud and how you do things. You will have clients that want their horse out know matter how much mud you have and then you will have others that want their horse in until it is completely dry. That is why it is so important to be very clear on how you do things at your barn in regards to springtime and mud. Don't get caught up in trying to please everyone because it is impossible.
If I can give you some encouragement, don't put that kind of pressure on yourself! It will only bring you down and wear you out. Give the best care you can during all four seasons and under all circumstances and most of your boarders will see that and be willing to weather the muddy season with you. They will not leave because their horse gets a little muddy or is in their stall for an extended period of time while your paddocks dry out. It is a short season and soon your paddocks will dry up and the horses will be fine. Remember summer is right around the corner. Hang in there.
A special side note - I want to thank all my boarders who are patient during this time of year at our barn. You make my job so much easier and we appreciate you all.
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 without a doubt will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,