Horses are amazing animals full of strength and beauty but they will be the first to get hurt even if your place is the safest and most well-designed barn in your area. It has always been a standing joke to many owners that some horses just need to be wrapped in bubble wrap. I know if you have ever heard that expression before you are probably smiling right now because many of us would like to wrap a few horses in bubble wrap. As the barn owner and care taker of the horses on your property, a horse that seems to get hurt often can cause stress to both the owner of the horse and the barn owner. Sometimes when this happens the end results might not be positive and can hurt your business.
As you know horses can be reactive, aggressive, playful, spooky, curious and the list can go on and on. That is what we love about them. The are full of personality. For the most part I believe as a horse matures he starts to learn from his mistakes and usually the chances of him getting hurt become fewer as long as he is in a setting that is safe and well designed. It's the youngsters all they way up through maturity that seem that have more problems and find themselves in situations that end up with a call to the veterinarian. Now I am not saying it is always the young ones but at least with my experience here at my barn, it usually is the younger or nervous horses that do the stuff that gets them hurt.
Now comes the accident-prone horse. The longer you work in the horse industry the more you will see horses that become labeled accident-prone. They seem to get hurt much more than the average horse and learning to deal with this type of horse and their owner will become part of your job as the barn owner or manager.
The more challenging part - the owner of an accident-prone horse
I had a situation happen here at my barn many years ago that didn't end well. I had a nice boarder that owned a young quiet gelding who was as sweet as could be. They came to our barn and within the first month the vet had to be called because the horse needed stitches. The people were fine with it and life went on. Soon I was calling these people because it seemed as though every other day (I'm exaggerating) I had to call them because their horse kept coming in with cuts or was lame. This particular horse loved to play and was playing constantly with the other geldings but he was young and didn't seem to know how to say out of trouble. We even moved him to an older more calm group of geldings hoping things would settle down. Finally after several visits from the vet and a partially missed show season, they decided to put him on private turnout. They were extremely frustrated (which I totally understand) but I thought all would be good once they got this horse on private turnout and let him heal. To all of us the unthinkable happened. I went out to bring him in one afternoon and his leg was cut open and he was hurt and he was all by himself!
That was the straw that broke the camels back for these people. They gave their notice and moved their horse. They never told me but I truly believe they thought the reason their horse was getting hurt so often was because of our facility and how we designed it. It was one of those underlying thoughts that people will talk in circles about but never come right out and say it. I was crushed at the time and I was fairly new in the boarding business and very insecure. I constantly was going over in my head what I could have done differently. I was also worried about my reputation as a boarding facility and the care we give. The last thing I wanted was to get the reputation of an unsafe facility.
Years later I now know that their was nothing I could have done differently. It wasn't me or my husband or the way we had our barn and paddocks set up. It was simply the horse. A year later I ran into the people at a horse show with that sweet gelding and his leg was all bandaged up. He had gotten hurt at the barn he was at and had several stitches in his leg. I felt so bad for the horse and I also felt bad for the people. They had a very nice horse that seemed to be accident-prone by every definition.
As the barn owner you can't control how a client is going to react to you if their horse tends to get hurt more than the average horse. All you can do is make sure you have done everything in your power to provide a safe environment for the horses in your care. Having a strong knowledge of herd management and knowing the personalities of the horses at your barn is a huge part of it but there is always going to be that one horse that likes to get into everything. We have had a few over the years and they have kept me on my toes.
One last thought - You can't take it personally if someone leaves because they feel your barn is not safe enough for their horse. Every boarder will have their own idea of safety and what is important to them when it comes to their horse. In fact the views are from one spectrum to the other. You will drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone so don't go there. Design your place with safety as the top priority and when you do that most of the horses will do just fine. If someone leaves because they have an accident prone horse and they believe the problem is your facility then let them go and it will be okay. You soon will have a new boarder with a wonderful horse that will make your barn their barn home.
The wonderful thing about horses and why I love them so much is because they are full of life and each one has their owner personality. I never tire of watching them out in the paddocks doing what they do best - just being a horse.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,