Communication is so important and your boarders need to understand this. Your clients need to remember that they only have one or two horses to think about but you have many. I have heard a few stories over the years from people who have spent all day getting their horse ready for a show and the next day they came to load him up and leave only to find that he had been turned outside with the herd and had rolled, braids and all! Thank goodness that wasn't at my barn. There was no communication and the boarder assumed that the barn owner would know to leave the horse in and the employees didn't know better and put the horse out. Talk about confusion. It happens more than you think.
The best thing you can do as the barn manager is to write up a letter right before show season starts and make sure everyone has read it about these kinds of issues and how you want to handle it. I have dry erase boards that the boarders need to write their horse's name on if they are to stay in for a show the next day. The can also text me if they forget to write it on the board. I have also made it very clear that if they don't do either of these things, I am not responsible if their horse is put out accidentally.
It is not your responsibility to have to guess which horses stay in and which one go outside for the day. Your day is already busy enough and you don't have time to be calling or texting your boarders to find out what is going on with their horse. I have had horses going to three different horse shows all in the same day and some will be coming back the same day while others are gone for several days. Most of your boarders will be very good with this but you will be surprised at how many people assume you know who is going where and when? If you are a large barn then you will want to make this part of your job very clear so your clients don't assume anything. That is when mistakes happen.
Returning from a horse show
I like to know what day a horse is going to be returning from a show so I can make sure that the stall is ready with hay and shavings and fresh water. Some horses are gone for a few days at a time and it will make your job so much easier if you have a return date so you are not scrambling at the end to have the stall ready. I know things change at times and a horse will return earlier than expedited but if you want your barn to run smooth even during show season than I believe returning times really help a lot in this area.
Every barn will handle this part differently but I wanted to share some of the issues I had relating to hay and what I do now when it comes to show season. Depending on where you store your hay will also make a difference.
We have two barns on our farm and on is a huge old dairy barn that has been converted. Upstairs is where all the hay is and it has to be dropped down through a shoot to the bottom floor. There my husband will stack it for feeding the horses. It is a lot of work and needs to be done a few times a week. During show season our boarders use to go into the barn and grab the hay that David had spend time moving and stacking. By the time he would go to feed, a lot of the hay was gone and he would have to go back upstairs to drop down more and stack. He was doing double the work just for show season. We finally wrote up a note and told our boarders that they would need to go up on the loft and drop down their own hay and carry it out to the trailer. They are no longer allowed to use the hay that David had stacked. It might not seem like a big deal to you but after you have been doing this job for a while and you are physically tired you will be glad you set it up this way. Your boarders will understand.
There is a lot of hay that is wasted at horse shows. I know this because I have a daughter that shows. If it is not your hay then it is no big deal but if you are the one supplying the hay then it becomes a huge deal because it is wasted money and it is your money. I am very direct when I talk to my boarder about bringing back all unused hay. The also know that if I find out a bunch of hay was left at a show because they were too tired to bring it back, then they will need to pay me for it. I have never had to do this but I know how horse shows are and after an extremely long day or week people seem to leave a lot of things behind only because they don't want to carry it back to the truck and load it up. You need to remember that hay will be your highest expense and you can't afford to have wasted hay. That is where so many barns lose a lot of money and in extreme cases it can put them out of business. Hay is expensive and your boarders need to understand this.
The day before a show...The show prep
The day before a horse show is always crazy at our barn. Everyone is super excited and the barn is buzzing with anticipation. The horses are being clipped, bathed and braided. We are very lucky to have great boarders that clean up extremely well after all the show prep is done and get everything back in order. I can't say it was always this way at times.
In our earlier years I would walk into the barn after it was closed to do the final check and the barn would be a disaster with stuff all over the place. Hoof black would be on our cement and the wash stall was not cleaned properly. The barn aisle had not been swept up very good and clippings of hair and yarn from the braiding would be all over the place. As a barn owner, this can be extremely frustrating when you are trying to keep your barn clean and now you are the one cleaning up the mess. This happened enough early on that I finally got smart and wrote up my barn guidelines for people who show horses. After I wrote up this letter and passed it out, things started to change. Now I give my horse show letter out every year at the beginning of horse show season and we rarely have any issues anymore. The boarders know what I expect and they are great at keeping a clean barn. If is up to you as the barn owner to set the guidelines so your boarders know what is expected. Remember that each barn will do it differently and if they came from a barn that didn't care about the mess than that is all they will know. You need to give them a chance to make it right and learn how you want things done at your barn.
Cleaning the manure out of trailer
I used to have a problem with people just leaving any manure that would fall out of the trailer when they were unloading their horses. I even had a person that scooped the manure out of the trailer and threw it in our driveway once! Yes I was in shock. Horses will poop while loading and unloading and you need to be clear that this needs to be cleaned up. Many people will not if you don't let them know otherwise. Remember that each barn deals with this kind of stuff differently so you need to be very clear what you want for your barn. If you don't let them know what you expect than it will happen over and over again and you will be the one cleaning up and I promise you it will start to bother you. Be honest and clear right from the start and these little things won't become big things down the road.
If you have trailer parking for your clients than I would set up some guidelines for trailer parking. Problems will occur if you don't have any organization when it comes to the trailers at your place. I believe a good rule of thumb is to assign every person a spot and that is where there trailer always stays parked. If you don't do this and it becomes a free for all, then you will have some people that will park in a different spot each time and this becomes very frustrating to everyone else. When this happens, you will be the one getting the phone call and you will be the one to correct the situation. You can avoid all of this by just assigning spaces and keeping it fair for all. I have seen mild disagreements happen over trailer parking and that is the last thing you will want to deal with.
Everyone loves horse show season and I am no different. You may think that I am being extreme when it comes to the topics I have covered in this post but this is a very real part of barn management. As the barn owner your job never really ends and you still have to work many times even after the boarders have gone home for the day after a long show. Your job is to take care of the horses, not to clean up after everyone else. Remember that good communication is what will make the difference and once your boarders understand how you want things done you will find your job so much easier. You will be pleasantly surprised how clean your barn will stay even during horse show season with the great boarders at your barn. You just need to let them know what you expect and they will appreciate that.
I wish you the very best in your horse business,