As a barn owner you are going to deal with many conflicts between you and your clients and that is just the beginning. You will have conflicts between boarders and it will be for many reasons and sometimes it doesn't end well. The issues might be about horses that don't get along and horses that are being picked on. You might have conflicts with trainers and how they run their business. You will have boarders calling you concerned about the weather and upset at you because you put the horses outside and they don't like that decision. You will have boarders that will follow the rules and some that choose not to. You might come into a situation where a horse is hurt and the owner refuses to call the vet and you need to decide at what point you step in and not give them the option. Drama and jealousy is something that will creep in if you allow it and it can ruin a barn. What about when a boarder is doing extremely unsafe practices with their horse? What about when a boarder or trainer is using extremely aggressive training techniques to a horse and other clients are calling you upset about it. It happens more than you know. Do you say something or look away? What about getting paid and the client that is always late with your monthly board check? The list will go on and on and as the barn owner or manager it will always fall back on you. Are you ready?
There are so many issues! Where do I start?
First of all don't get overwhelmed. I have found out through personal experience that as the issues and complaints come at you it is very easy to get overwhelmed and just quit. It's hard to even decide where to start. It might seem like the issues are coming from all ends of your business. Between the horses tearing down the fences and getting hurt and the clients becoming impatient with their personal issues that need to be resolved - there needs to be some sanity in the whole thing! Take the most important problem which is usually any safety issue and take care of that first. Everything else can wait. Then look at each problem in order of importance and tackle it. It doesn't matter if your clients need to wait a few days to get a problem resolved (as long as it's not a safety issue) they can wait. I have had some extremely impatient boarders especially in our early years and I believe they became like that because they were allowed to be.
The one important thing most of your boarders will not understand is when you are dealing with horses things don't always get resolved in an hour or two. Sometimes it can take a while especially when the situation needs to be looked at and evaluated. You can't be in a rush when it comes to changing things with horses. Some issues might be easy but others might take a day or two to resolve. Better to take your time and do it right than to rush and make more problems for yourself and the horses involved. You might run into a client that doesn't understand this and it is your job to help them understand. I think every barn owner experiences this from time to time.
Making changes is going to be a frequent thing especially during your first couple of years running your barn. What looks and sounds good in the beginning sometimes turns out not to be such a good idea in stable management and revamping the way your barn runs is all part of it. I believe the barn owners that refuses to change and correct the problems they are having are the ones that burn out and even become bitter. They won't improve their herd management program or even be open to new ideas. They won't deal with the issues in the riding arena and barn with clients and the list can easily go on. This creates constant negativity and even a little anger with the clients and that is when a barn starts to go down hill.
Your responsibility as a barn owner
You may not like what I am about to say but it is your responsibility as the barn owner to deal with the issues that are at your barn. If you are truly serious about being a barn owner and running a business then taking care of problems is part of it and you need to realize it. We all go through it and if you look at it from a positive perspective, there is no better classroom then your barn and learning to problem solve one issue at a time. That is when your learning curve will go through the roof and that is what will separate you from the rest. Your clients might not like some of your decisions and you need to be okay with that. You have to go forward and not look back.
Every successful barn owner has had their share of terrible days where they wanted to quit and sell their farm. The difference is they chose to handle the issues head on and keep going. That is why they are still around and that is why they are successful. It is a journey with a ton of learning along the way. In fact you should never stop learning. That is how you grow and get better at your job.
Making the final decisions for issues that come up in your barn will have an impact on you and your clients. Are you ready to stand your ground and run your barn how you think it should be run? I hear about issues at barns all the time where the barn owner is struggling to please everyone but it's at a high cost to them. The clients are not stressed at all but the barn owner is regretting ever getting into this business when it gets this far. I know this because I was there many years ago.
Taking the leap into the world of business is hard no matter what part of the horse industry you are in. Ultimately you need to decide what works best for your barn and go with that. Be prepared because you will make mistakes along the way (I made many of them) but those are the times that you will learn the most. When that happens you just need to move forward and not look back.
Resolving conflicts in your barn is something that I believe becomes easier the longer you do it. I also believe the first couple of years will be the most difficult but if you stay strong and work through each problem they soon will become a memory and the issues will disappear. After you have been in the business long enough you will be more prepared and see the issues on the horizon even before they are brought to your attention by your boarders.
Fear seems to be the root of many problems at a barn
Remember that many of the issues you will have at your barn will be fear motivated. I believe people are good inside and one of the only reasons they get upset quickly is because they have been through bad experiences at their previous places. I understand that also because I have boarded many places with terrible boarding experiences. Keep that in mind when issues are brought to your attention. If you look at these things through the eyes of a boarder it will become easier to understand what they are feeling and then you can go from there. If you choose to make a decision that is not popular with your clients then you will need to take the time to educate and answer their questions and ultimately give them reassurance. After all that is all anyone is looking for. They just want to know that their horse is going to be taken care of. Isn't that all any of us are looking for?
I love when I can say yes to a client and accommodate them and the needs they have. It is a wonderful feeling to make them happy. What is even a better feeling is when I can say yes because it is the right thing to do not because I was pressured. Too many people say yes out of pressure when they know deep down inside it was the wrong thing to do. Don't go there because I can guarantee that you will come to regret it. Follow your head not your emotions. Remember you need to live with the outcome each and every day from that day forward.
If you are struggling right now at your barn and how you are running it then take a step back and breathe. It takes time to learn to run a barn with confidence but you will get there also. Establishing a strong foundation in your business and resolving the daily issues are what every new business owner goes through. It will get easier and your clients will soon learn to trust you and how you handle the problems that come up at your barn.
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 book, "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. This is the most important book you can have about barn management because if you can't resolve the issues with your clients, trainers, managers and so on, then your business will suffer greatly. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business and together these two books give a complete look at horse barn management.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,