The first couple of years that our facility was open were the most exhausting years I could have imagined. Overnight I had forty horses in my care and it seemed we were working around the clock trying to get everything in order and meet our boarders needs. I was trying my hardest to make sure everything was going smooth for all our new clients but I was quickly learning that what looks good on paper doesn't always work on a daily basis.
We were going to have many firsts to come in those early years and I was about to learn the meaning of "The buck always stops with the barn owner." Overnight I was dealing with horses that didn't get along and needed to be changed from the herd they were in. I was also dealing with horses that had bite marks, kick marks and so on and then I had to deal with the owners of each horse. I thought I knew herd management but I didn't really know it until I had to put forty horses into smaller herd sizes all in about two months time. Even after that it took several months to figure them all out. That alone was exhausting.
During those years I would at times have to discipline owners horses when they became unsafe for me to handle and I had to educate and talk with the owners about their horse if this was an issue. Talk about uncomfortable. I had to learn how to talk with my clients about following the barn rules and learning to enforce them and that was hard and even painful at times. I had to learn about boundaries and how to separate my personal life from by business life and learn to run my business like a business. I had to learn to not be a doormat and make a decision and stick to it even when it was not popular. I had to learn how to ask a trainer to leave my barn and sadly even had to ask a couple boarders to leave for the betterment of our barn. Those were unbelievably hard lessons. I had to learn that it wasn't personal, it was business and it was as simple as that.
During those early years you will learn how to comfort a client when their horse needs to be put down and you will need to be the one that is strong through the process. You will learn to resolve issues and if they are not able to be resolved then it might be better for your client to find a new barn and it is okay. You will learn discernment and it will be one of your greatest assets.
You will learn discernment and it will become one of your greatest assets.
In those early years you will learn the difference between when a horse is seriously hurt and when it is superficial. The horse will be the easy part. Dealing with the owner of the horse will be the part that will be challenging. Learning to educate your clients about cuts, bites and kick marks and when it is serious or not is something that comes with the territory and each client will their own opinion about it. Some will panic at the slightest cut and then you will have others that you need to insist that they call the veterinarian.
During my early years of boarding horses we had clients that didn't like our hay and even wanted to bring in their own hay. I never dreamed this would be an issue I would need to take care of. I have had boarders that panicked because they felt their horse wasn't getting fed enough and usually those are the horses that are overweight to begin with. I have come to learn that many of the issues a barn will have are fear driven and that is because your boarders previous boarding experiences have been bad and they don't ever want to go through that again. That is where your job as the barn owner is to educate, encourage and you will need to prove yourself especially in the early years of your young business.
You will have good days and bad days and you will have people leave that told you at one time they would never leave. You will have others that think the grass is greener on the other side and you will learn to let them go and be okay with it. You will learn to be professional in all situations even when you don't want to be and if you blow it and lose your cool (which I have a few times) you will own up to it and move forward. You will find out that many of your clients are very forgiving of the mistakes that you will make. The best thing you can do is learn from each mistake and move forward. You will learn to hold your head high and keep going knowing you are doing everything in your power to make sure the horses in your care are safe, happy and healthy. You will learn you can't please everyone even under the best circumstances and it is okay.
Then one day down the road you will wake up at your normal time and walk out to the barn. You will start your morning chores the same way as you have for the past two or three years and all of a sudden you will realize that you have made it. Your barn has a earned a great reputation and you have very little turnover. You have boarders that are happy and will support and defend you and the care you give if they hear negative talk. You have learned how to resolve issues at your barn with little stress and you have become a business owner and equine professional. You will have a new confidence inside of you that you never realized was there before.
One day you will look back at those early days and be thankful for each experience both good and bad because those were the times that you grew the most as a horse professional. Congratulations!
If you can stick it out and learn from each situation, I am confident that you will make it. The horse industry is a tough industry to get into but it can be done and you don't need to come from a long line of horse trainers, breeders or any other equine professionals. I didn't at all. In fact my family was as non-horsey as any family could be. I grew up living in apartment after apartment in Los Angeles, California. I was lucky that my father bought me a horse at ten years old and I learned to ride horses on city streets and patches of cut grass along the sidewalks. I know now that God had other plans for me.
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 one, "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. Together these books will give you a complete and very real look at horse barn management and running a business. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,