Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Let me start off today's post by telling you that I am not a trainer. For a very short time when I was a teenager I wanted to be a horse trainer, after all, don't most young girls dream of training horses and making a living at it. Trainers are an amazing group of people and if they are good at what they do then they will be one of the most valuable people you have at your barn.
When we first opened our boarding business years ago we didn't have an established trainer at our barn. I wanted a barn that allowed the boarders to choose their own trainer. I thought this would be a positive thing for our barn because many of the boarding facilities in the area do not allow you to bring in your own trainer - usually because the barn owner is a trainer himself. I completely understand the reason for this if you are the barn owner/trainer combined. It is a smart business choice. For David and I it would only benefit us to have trainers here helping our boarders.
Going back to the beginning
We had only been open eight or nine months and problems were already happening in our very new and very young boarding business. Because we had many different riding disciplines and philosophy's on training and riding, soon I was getting calls from different boarders that were upset because they didn't understand what a particular trainer was doing to a horse in the arena. Sometimes the boarder thought the trainer was being to harsh with a particular horse. Other times I would get calls that the trainer was taking up too much of the arena or asking people to wait out in the stall area until they were done. Slowly the problems started to escalate until I had clients that were talking about leaving our facility.
Before I knew it I was spending too much time trying to figure out how to talk to these trainers and come up with a solution on how we could all share the arena. I needed to come up with a list of what was allowed during lessons and what was expected from the trainers that worked out of my facility. I began having problems with trainers not following the regular rules of our barn. I actually had one trainer that would use other peoples tack without their permission and then forget to put it back! I needed to get the point across that this was not their barn and they didn't make the rules. I was very willing to listen and find a way to make it work for everyone, but I was dealing with some strong personalities and during the first couple of years in business and I was easily intimidated. I was slowly becoming a doormat and I needed to grow up fast and become a strong businesswoman in order to run a healthy boarding barn.
When honesty is missing
Another issue I was dealing with was the trainer that was not being honest with their clients. We had trainers that were telling clients that they were at the barn on certain days working with their horse and charging them for it and I knew they had not been to the barn on those days. Sometimes we wouldn't see the trainer for a couple of weeks but they were charging the boarder for services not done and my husband and I were stuck in the middle of it.
I know some of you reading this article are thinking this would never happen at your barn. It does at many stables and more often than you think. I now believe the reason these issues develop is because in most cases the barn owner or manager is not aware of what is going on in the barn or is not strong enough as a business person to put a stop to it. That was me years ago. I strongly believe what ever happens at your facility is a reflection of your barn and you as a barn owner and manager. If you want a barn that has a reputation as a business run with honesty and integrity then you will need to be the one that leads it in that direction and that includes the trainers that will work out of your barn. They will represent you in many ways and be the face of your facility if they are their often.
Asking a trainer to leave
I now realize how much clout a trainer can have in a barn and how fast they can set the tone for the barn. Clients can and will be so dependent on their trainer and don't always see all the problems that a barn owner will see and it can make things sticky if the trainer is doing things that are not allowed or dishonest. When we were having serious issues with trainers in our early years of operation I learned very quickly that it was risky to ask a trainer to leave because you would risk losing boarders that would follow with them. Eventually I did ask a trainer to leave and this did happen. It was a low point for me and my boarding business and the stress was incredible at the time but I survived and you will too. Looking back I have to say it was a great life lesson and I believe one of the seeds of transformation for David and I into strong business owners. It was very painful but I don't think we would have grown or learned anything if we didn't go through that trial. I have learned now not to be a doormat and it opened doors for other wonderful trainers to come to our barn. We don't have any of the issues we did during those early years and now I am not afraid to talk with a perspective trainer coming into our barn for the first time and let them know what we expect here at our facility. I am also not afraid to ask them to leave if I need to. Learning to run a horse business takes time and I truly believe through adversity and trials we will grow as stronger equine professionals.
One last thought
If you find a trainer that has the same philosophy about the care of horses and clients and you both respect each other then they are worth their weight in gold! I think one of the biggest assets a boarding barn can have is a good trainer. When you find one let them know how much you appreciate them.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I wrote my newest book to give you an in-depth look into the business of boarding horses and all that it entails. This post today is one small example of what my new book addresses. If you are boarding horses or are planning on it, please check out, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business." It is a very comprehensive book on boarding horses and covers every part of it from building your barn or stable to rock solid barn management that works. I wrote this book because I realized there is an information gap when it comes to this subject and my goal is to help others so they don't make all the mistakes I made when we first opened our boarding facility.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska