Updated: Apr 17, 2019
Just like a horse needs to be a good fit for your boarding stable, the barn needs to be a good fit for the owner of the horse as well. If the barn is not a good fit it will eventually lead to stress for all involved. Owning and running a horse boarding barn is a great career now but it wasn't for the first few years of our business. We were having so many problems and now looking back I realize that many of my boarders at the time were expecting things to be different then how they actually were.
Since I had been a boarder myself for many years I never dreamed that my barn would not be a good fit for some of the clients that came here. I understood the boarding world from the view of the client but I didn't understand it at all from the view of the barn owner. I was about to learn some great lessons in running a horse boarding business.
How do you know if a person is a good fit?
I have had a few people ask me how I know if a potential new boarder is going to be a good fit for my barn? Is there certain questions I ask them to make sure they are a good fit? When I really thought about it for a moment I realized that it wasn't just the questions that I asked but also the honest conversation I had with the person to see if our barn was a good fit for them. The longer a potential new client and I talk the more time I have to be extremely honest with them about how we do things at our barn and then I can hear how they feel about it. I don't want any surprises and I am sure they don't either.
It may seem like I am screening clients and YES I am! The same as if they are screening me and my facility and they should be! The reality is if a person is not a good fit for your barn, it will be stressful on both you and them. They will not be happy or content and that is not good for anyone and it will make your job much more difficult in the long run.
What should you be looking for?
I believe the best way to really find out what a person is looking for in a boarding barn is to ask them what they need in a facility. Are they looking to show horses or trail ride? Do they want or like their horses outside a lot or prefer them in a stall most of the time? Do they like a busy barn or quiet barn? Do they expect private turnout or are they content with their horse in a herd setting? The list could go on and on about what a potential new boarder might be looking for.
Weather and the determining factor for when the horses stay inside for the day. Some clients will want their horses outside no matter the weather. Are you willing to offer this? Flexibility is so important when dealing with the weather and a judgement call. Is a possible new client willing to be flexible and trust your decision?
What kind of discipline to they ride? Will that be a good fit for the type of barn you have and equally important - the size arena you have. Be very clear on what type of riding disciplines you have at your barn. If your barn is mainly a pleasure barn then it might not be a good fit for the person that does speed events.
Explain whether your herds are mixed or separated by gender and what your max is for herd sizes.
If you offer private turnout, explain exactly how you do it and where the horse will be placed. Location is important for some people. Also if there are fees for private turnout then make sure you are very clear on prices.
How you feed in the morning and afternoon is huge. Do you feed large bales for all day grazing or separate piles for each horse. Do you use slow feeders? Explain how much you feed and how you determine if a horse needs more or not. Do you charge for a horse that needs more hay?
Do you hand walk the horses outside and do you leave halters on? They might not think to ask so it is better for you to tell them how you do your daily turnout.
Do you heat the water in the wintertime?
Explain how you handle trainers at your barn and riding while a trainer is giving a lesson. Share what the busy times of the day are for riding.
Be very honest about your barn rules and hours. This seems to be a hot spot for many people.
Explain how you clean stalls and be very clear about how you bed your stalls. If you bed light then tell them you bed light and show them what your stalls look like. Give them a visual so there is no misunderstanding. The last thing you want is a boarder that is upset because they thought you bedded the stalls heavier than you do. It happens more than you would think!
Explain what extra services you offer and if you charge. Don't offer the world unless you really can do it. I made that mistake in the beginning and I learned a good lesson about being real and honest. Also be very clear about the fees for services provided.
Show them your boarding contract and be direct on how board is paid and the late fees that are involved.
Be clear about shots and deworming and how you do it at your barn and what is mandatory for your facility.
Find out the age of the horse and if he has special needs. If he does then you need to be honest to yourself and them about if you can easily care for this type of horse.
These are just a few questions to get you thinking about they type of clients that will be a good fit for your stable
Every one of the points listed above have caused issues in my barn and stress for me during our first couple of years in business mainly because I was not clear on how we did things and the client had different expectations. I really believe that if you are upfront about how you manage every area of your stable it will save you so much time and stress in the long run and you will find the right boarders for your place.
The longer you run your business the better you will be at reading people that come for a tour of your place. It is definitely a process and you will be constantly learning what questions to ask. There is never going to be a one hundred percent guarantee that every client will be a perfect fit but I do believe that the chances of a less than perfect fit between a client and your facility become much lower when everything is made very clear in the beginning.
It is definitely a process and you will be constantly learning what questions to ask. There is never going to be a one hundred percent guarantee that every client will be a perfect fit but I do believe that the chances of a less than perfect fit between a client and your facility become much lower when everything is made very clear in the beginning.
Remember that you will meet some very nice people that you would love to have at your barn but for many reasons your barn will not be a good fit for them. Look at the big picture and do what is best for all involved and even if a person chooses a different barn, you will still have a good relationship with them. When a person is not a good fit don't be discourage because the right people will find you and they will be just as nice and they will help create a wonderful atmosphere. For every person that has left our barn, I have had great people fill their spots. It will happen for you also.
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 solid barn management. 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. I want you to be prepared for the crazy and wonderful new career you are going into.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska