At our boarding facility I do have a couple of mixed herds and it works but it is not by chance. I really need to know the horses I am putting together and if the gelding in any way acts "Studdish" then he is not in with any mares ever on our farm. It works the other way also-if the mare acts "Marish" all the time and has a hard time being around geldings then I need to find a paddock with all mares for her. I have had a couple times over the years where I have seen the personality of a very quiet gelding change fast because he was put in with a mare. There is always the element of surprise with horses but I try to keep those surprises very few and far between.
One of the biggest hurdles you will come across as the barn manager is earning the trust of a new boarder that has come from a very bad experience dealing with their horse and mixed herds. There is a chance that they were at a place that didn't know how to group the horses and their horse got the brunt of it. I have heard of people putting horses together in herds and under no circumstances are they going to change the herd even if problems arise. It could be that they don't know what to look for or that they don't have enough paddocks to be flexible. They might even believe that the horses need to work it out no matter what. Either way, when this client comes to your farm, they are going to be bringing with them the fear that it will happen again. I believe it is my job as the barn owner to educate and reassure all at the same time and I need to earn the trust from my new boarder. Sometimes the trust comes fast and once in a while it might take a long time.
There are always going to be different views on mixed herds and I really believe there is so much more to the equation. You have to do what is best for your horse farm, but if you are going to mix your herds with your clients horses then I encourage you to really watch them and their personalities for any changes that might lead to problems. If you watch them for a while they are very easy to read. Remember, it is one thing if your own horse gets hurt, but if your client's horse gets hurt in a situation that could have been fixed, you will be the one picking up the pieces and you might lose a boarder.
If I could give any advice- if you are going to board horses, make sure you have plenty of paddocks to be flexible. Horses have very individual personalities and having the flexibility to change a horse now and then when a problem arises will make your job so much easier. As a boarding facility you are going to have changes in the herds more often than a private operation and you never know if the new horse coming in will be a mare or gelding until you talk with the new boarder. That is when the job really begins. Which herd will I put the horse into will be one of the first questions that most barn mangers will ask themselves. There was a time when our farm had a lot of mares in our care but right now we have a much larger number of geldings than mares. Your clientele of horses will change throughout the years and it will change the dynamics of how your herds are set up from time to time.
It is great to be able to decide how you want your horse business to operate but taking the time to have a plan B for those unexpected circumstances is vital for a healthy boarding operation. If you are going to work with horses then you will have the unexpected more often then you ever dreamed of. It is part of the job. Take the time to learn from those unexpected circumstances and each time will become easier to handle.
If you are reading my blog for the first time then welcome!! Today's post is a small excerpt from my new book titled, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." You won't find another book in the horse world that really discusses your business and the client . The relationship between the barn owner/manager and client is so important and I will help you work through those tough situations that will come up on your horse farm.
I wish you the very best in your horse business,