It's okay to ask questions
When this kind of weather happens, it will test the patience of everyone and as the barn manager you are going to find yourself under pressure to do something that might not be in the best interest of the horses or is not possible for your set-up at your facility. This becomes even more of an issue when you have clients that will drive by other barns in your area and see the horses outside and they will start to ask why their own horse isn't outside. First of all, it is normal for a client to ask this question and it is a very reasonable question to ask. How you answer it will make a big difference in the outcome. Communication is going to play a huge part in how you resolve this and you need to be ready because not everyone will agree with your answer. Before I had my own barn and business, I never really understood either how everything works in all four seasons and all types of extreme weather for horse facilitys. It is something that I believe you definitely have to work and live for a few years and throughout all four seasons to get a true grasp and understanding of.
The one thing that most of your clients will not understand is that each barn and the layout of their paddocks, land and they way the water flows will make the way they do turnout much different especially when the weather has given you the "Perfect storm." You can have two barns that are only a mile apart but the land that the businesses are on can be as different as night an day. Our barn and the land we own is very flat and it has clay soil which makes for imperfect conditions when water is involved. With this all said - you as the barn manager will be educating your clients when they ask questions about your place and how you do things.
It is only natural to feel many different emotions from stress to defensiveness when you start to feel pressure from your boarders to do things that other barns are doing. If you are new into the business then you might feel you are doing something wrong or inadequate especially if you are lacking confidence. During long stretches of bad and trying weather is when stress and impatience will appear and this is where poor decisions are made because you and your clients become frustrated. Don't go there! This is where you need to stand strong and feel good about the decisions you are making for the way your stable is set up. You need to remember that a poor decision made from pressure can have an extremely bad outcome if a horse gets hurt in the process. The decisions you make will always fall back on you and you need to remember that no matter how upset or impatient a client becomes, safety is the most important thing.
If you live in an area where the weather changes often and you can have snow, rain and ice all within a twenty-four period followed by a warm-up, you will experience extreme barn management and you are going to grow as a barn owner and manager like never before. During these times of adversity is when you will find out what it means to really lead and run your business under all conditions. Is it frustrating when your place is compared to another? Of course but it is human nature. We all do it including myself. It is okay to compare a little bit and notice how things are done at other barns but don't let it cause you to make a bad decision for your place.
The best thing you can do when unforeseen circumstances happen at your barn and questions are being asked is to keep the communication open. Explain the decisions you are making at your barn and educate if you need to. Most of your clients will be very understanding if you take the time to talk with them. There is a chance that you will have a client that will not be understanding and might even tell you a "better way" to do things and that is okay. You can listen to what they have to say but at the end of the day you need to do what is best for your barn, business and most of all the horses. You might even lose a boarder or two that become frustrated and they decide to move to a place that seems to be run the way they prefer and that is fine. Let them go and remember that the right boarders will find you and be happy with how you do things. They will be patient under the most difficult circumstances and weather the storms with you. Remember that there will always be storms and once in a while the perfect storm is going to hit. When it does-hang tough and don't give into pressure. When it is all said and done and the weather has cleared up, you will be glad you stuck by your decisions.
The one thing I want you to know is that the longer you are running your horse business, the easier it will be for your clients to trust you. I believe all new business owners will go through a time of testing and gaining trust from their clients. It doesn't mean it will always be perfect but it will get easier and you will be amazed at the support you will have from most of your clients.
Remember that running a horse business is always easy when the sun is shining and the weather is awesome. My goal is to prepare you for when the storms hit, the weather is unforgiving and your clients are frustrated. The perfect storm can come at anytime and it may have nothing to do with the weather but the pressure will be very real. You will get through it and you will grow with each storm that hits and with that will come a new confidence that will be incredible. Hang in there!
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I would love to help you work through some of the issues you are having at our barn and stable. The pressure that a barn owner or manager experiences is unique in that you are dealing with animals and every decision you make will have an impact on their health and safety. If you are looking for a book that is about these kinds of issues and real horse barn management, I encourage you to get my book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." This book is unlike any barn management book out there and it is about real life and your business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,