Updated: Oct 30, 2018
They say that the best lessons in life happen from the mistakes we make and I agree wholeheartedly. Deciding to open a large horse boarding business seemed like an easy thing to do, after all, I love horses and how hard could it be taking care of them and the people who own them? No one could have told me many years ago that when we opened our boarding stable that I would one day be writing books and teaching barn management at our facility and giving talks at other places. Back then I was over the moon with excitement for our new business venture and I believed this was what I was meant to do. The years have taught me a lot and the lessons have been extremely hard but with each mistake and heartache it only made me want to do better at the career I had chosen.
I have found a new passion that started about five years ago when I first wrote my first blog and book. I realized with our boarding business that there wasn't a support system or the resources in place to help the business owner or barn manager work through the issues that were happening at their stable and I knew that something huge was missing in the equine industry when it came to barn management. What was missing is support, encouragement, advice and guidance and from someone who had been to the dark side and made it out stronger and more confident in running their barn, I found a new passion and calling. I know that may seem a little dramatic but to me it is very real because during our early years of running our business, life was very hard and draining and many tears where shed. In fact many times my husband and I were ready to quit the business and money was so tight we wondered if we would lose it all. It is much harder then you think in the beginning. The one good thing is I am not a quitter and I learned from each mistake and moved forward.
What makes me qualified
I had a person on Facebook make a comment on one of my blogs (I don't know this person) that I was a self-appointed expert so I wanted to explain why I feel I am qualified to teach barn management to others. First off all, I never went to college for barn management or business-mistake number one. It would have made my job much easier in the beginning. I always encourage people that if they want to run any kind of business then they need to take some business classes and learn the important stuff that I had to learn the hard way. I also know that just because you have a degree doesn't mean you will be successful. There is so much more to the equation when it comes to boarding horses but taking classes for business will help tremendously. I now can write up a business plan and do accounting and payroll and manage all of our finances for our farm but I learned it the hard way. Yes I can teach it now because I have learned what NOT to do when you are running a business. I also know you can make an honest living boarding horses if you do it right in the beginning with a good foundation in place for every part of your business.
I have taken care of forty plus horses on our property and learned a tremendous amount about horses, herd management and the important clients who pay your board and that was through trial and error. I thought I knew horses and herd management but once you start doing it yourself and you are the one responsible when something goes wrong (which it will a time or two) it takes it to a whole new level. Remember it is much different when you have clients involved and you are taking care of their horses and the buck will always stop with you. That is when it gets very real and very tough at times. Every decision you make for the horses in your care will affect your clients as well.
I have learned to give a thirty-day notice the right way after doing it wrong a time or two. I have learned that boundaries are vital for any business and without them your business will always have issues. I learned this the hard way. I have learned that not everyone will like me and the decisions I make for our barn and the horses in my care and I need to be okay with that. They are not here to build me up and make me feel good. They are here because they have hired me to take the best possible care of their horse. If we become friends that is icing on the cake. I have learned that barn rules are needed for a healthy barn and looking the other way doesn't work! I have mislead and beat around the bush in the early years when giving a tour because I wanted so desperately to have a client sign on to bring their horse even if they were not a good fit. That never works in the long-run. Thank goodness I learned this one fast and now I have no problem being very direct and honest when someone isn't a good fit for our barn. I have lost my temper and had to ask for forgiveness when I have blown it which has happened a few times. I have also learned to forgive and let go which is so important because your clients will make mistakes also. That is what creates a healthy barn. I have learned that you need to communicate because your boarders cannot read your mind. The businesses that stay strong and have a healthy client base usually have a barn owner/manager that has fantastic communication skills and that includes having discussions at times that are not fun but needed to get everyone back on the same page. It will happen often throughout the years that you are running a barn and you will grow and learn how to do it better with each situation that arises.
I have learned to handle our finances in a much more appropriate manner and to always think ahead because summer comes and the hay needs to be purchased for the year and there is nothing worse then coming up short on cash because you spent it on things you didn't need earlier in the year. This was a big lesson for me during our first couple of years. We have been served papers, sued and survived all within the first two years. I have experienced a trainer leaving and taking seventeen horses and clients with them when they moved to a new barn. Yes you read it right - Seventeen!! And we survived and came back stronger than ever. (God had bigger plans for me in that situation but that is a whole other story).
I have learned to take a job that is very physical and hard and streamline it to save a lot of money on employees and labor and make my job easier on a daily basis. A barn that is extremely efficient and consistent will show and your clients will appreciate it as well as your pocket book. I know what it is like to be completely broke with little kids and have to keep going and pull money out of a hat. We had some extremely lean years and it meant selling things like jewelry and driving a vehicle that was over twenty years old to make it because we didn't want to borrow money (and I am sure we wouldn't have qualified for a loan anyways because we owed too much money on our business loan). It is true when you borrow money you do become a slave to the lender. Keep that thought in your back pocket for the future. Those years taught me a lot about myself and the inner strength I have and now looking back I am glad they happened. They made me much stronger as a businesswoman and set the road-map so I can now help others.
Running a large boarding facility is definitely a learning experience. Your knowledge will grow like never before and even though you might go to college for equine science you will still be a beginner when it comes to running your own place. We all start out as beginners and how we finish will be determined by how much we are willing to learn from our mistakes and seek help when we can't fix something on our own. I have only touched on a few things that make me qualified to teach barn management because after all, a blog post is supposed to be short. But there is so much more to barn management and success in your business and personal life-and it will affect your personal life!
What true success is to me
A successful boarding barn is not about the number of horses and clients you have at your barn or the money you are bringing in (even though you need to make enough to pay your bills!) To me a successful boarding barn is a barn where people want to stay and you have very little turn-owner. It is a place where people can go on vacation or take care of family matters and not worry about their horse and the care. It is a place where your clients can come talk to you even if it is uncomfortable and they know you will listen and not lose your temper. It is a place where forgiveness, trust and respect are part of the fabric of the barn and a safe place for all to learn and grow.
It is as simple as that. I am not a self-appointed expert as one person stated on Facebook. I do believe I have learned a tremendous amount about running a business and taking care of horses and their owners and being successful at it and it may have been painful at times while I was learning (and still am!) but I wouldn't trade it for the world because it has opened new doors for a new passion of helping others get their barns and businesses back on track both in how they are run and financially sustainable. I am honored if others call me an expert at what I do and I am humbled at the thought that others look at me that way. Yes I have failed many times throughout the years but have come back to create a successful boarding business. And the very best part is I still love what I do each and every day for the horses in my care!!
Barn management has many different functions and parts to it and when they are all working together in harmony it really shows in the business and how everything operates. I have survived the early years of trying to manage a boarding barn and business and come out knowing that it can be done with your barn as well. Sometimes all we need is someone with a fresh pair of eyes to look at a situation and see how to improve it. We have all been there and you are definitely not alone. I get emails weekly and each person has a similar story as mine and what an honor it is to listen and talk with these people and share in their journey.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are ready to start your business off with a good foundation then I encourage you to check out my newest book, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business." This book is a comprehensive guide into horse boarding and you won't find another book that covers in great detail every aspect of this business. This book is perfect for anyone that is boarding horses and I will walk you through every area of the business and how to think ahead specifically for your boarding business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,