Should Boarders Be Required To Exercise Their Horse?
I know this question will start some debate because I read and hear so many opinions about this subject alone. As a barn owner you will need to decide how you want to handle a boarder that rarely comes out to see their horse. Now before you start the opinions please read the rest of the blog because my goal is to get you to look at both sides and a few different scenarios when it comes to this issue. Then I will share my thoughts about it.
When setting up your boarding stable you will want to decide if the horses at your facility will be allowed to stay in 24/7 or mandatory (weather permitting) daily turnout for all horses. The reason this one question alone is so important is because it will dictate much of the rest of how your barn management will operate and horse behavior and boarder responsibility will be a huge part of it. I often will hear people on social media complaining about clients that they have that never come out to see their horse. I will read posts from other barn owners that demand that their clients come out a certain number of days per week and exercise their horse and they have this in their boarding contract.
Horses in/Horses out
I want to make it very clear that however you decide to set up your boarding stable regarding this subject alone is completely up to you because after all, it is your boarding business. My job in this post is to get you to think about some of the consequences of extreme situations and how it will affect your business because it will. That I am sure of.
If you choose to have a barn where the horses will stay in their stall 24 hours a day except for when they are worked then I believe you should have something in your boarding contract that makes it a requirement that the horse gets out of his stall often to be handled, groomed and exercised. Setting up the number of days will be your decision as the barn owner. If you have not thought this scenario through then you will want to because it will become very frustrating when you see this type of situation. It happens so the best thing you can do is be very upfront with the owner of the horse. This is something that needs to be discussed during a barn tour and when signing the boarding contract. Either they have a trainer or exercise person take care of the horse if they can't come out or you might decide it is not a good fit for what you want at your barn. This is definitely something to think about.
For the boarding facility where the horses get turnout every day the situation is much different. If the horses can get outside every day for a good part of it then I don't feel the horses need to be exercised a certain number of times each week. Now let me be clear and say there are always exceptions to this rule. Since we have many different breeds and ages of horses at our barn, I look at each horse and situation on an individual basis. Over the years I have had some very young horses come to our barn and yes they need to be handled every day otherwise they become very unruly. I have had to talk with the owners of a few young horses at different times and tell them that they needed to make sure the horse was in some kind of training program because the behavior was out of control.
We have had situations where the weather was very bad during the wintertime and I have had to contact the owner of a horse and either have them come out or hire someone to walk or lunge the horse because they were in their stall for an extended period of time and the horse was starting to acquire some very bad habits. I have had some very nervous or high strung horses that needed to be exercised and handled more often than others and this is where communication is so important. With certain horses there will be a need to get the horse out of the stall and make sure the horse is getting adequate exercise of some sort when they are in due to inclement weather. For some horses even one or two days inside their stall can lead to explosive behavior when trying to handle them once you start putting the horses back outside for the day.
Then you will have many older horses who are very quiet in their stall and do just fine even when they are in for a couple of days. You need to remember that you will be working around the horses daily and safety is important and if you see an issue arising then you need to address it immediately. Every horse and situation will be different.
The problem you will run into is that everyone will have a different idea of what responsible horse ownership is and what it should involve. As the barn owner you are going to need to decide what is going to work best for your barn and you will need to stay consistent even if some of your clients don't agree.
As the barn owner or manager you are going to need to decide what is going to work best for your barn and you will need to stay consistent even if some of your clients don't agree.
What you need to remember is in life things happen and it will not always be possible for a client to be at the barn as often as we think they should be. People get married, have babies, get sick, graduate from high school and personal issues and emergencies happen and even if your boarders have the best intentions of coming out to see their horse it may not happen at certain times. Life goes on outside the barn and we need to be understanding of this when it comes to our clients. This is where I believe it is my responsibility as the barn owner to keep an eye on the horse for the client. They are paying me to take care of their horse and part of that is making sure the horse is not stressed or learning behavioral issues. If I see these things start to happen with a certain horse then I will contact the boarder and make sure we have a plan it place to correct the situation as quickly as possible. For our barn this works well and then I am not micromanaging my boarders on how often they should be out at the barn to see their horse. After all, if the truth be told, now that my girls have graduated high school and are experiencing life outside the barn, our horses are on "retirement" for now and they do just fine. They are turned out daily but are not in any work or exercise program. I believe most horses do just fine in most cases as long as they have daily turnout to move and just be a horse.
One More Thought
I know that it is about so much more than just exercising a horse. Blanketing, grooming, cleaning out feet and overall health and well-being of the horse are just a few more things that add into the whole equation. But for this short blog post I wanted to concentrate on exercising as the main subject. If you have a client that rarely comes out to see their horse, it is still their responsibility to make sure the horse is current on shots and all other medical and farrier requirements. Make sure you have this written in your boarding contract.
You can set up this part of your boarding business any way you want but I would encourage you to give it some good thought when it comes to this subject and your turnout will play a huge part in all of it. I believe that most people have good intentions on being a great horse owner but sometimes things happen in life that puts everything on hold. Look at the big picture and each situation on an individual basis. If you micromanage your boarders and require that they come out three times a week to exercise their horse then you could be losing some wonderful clients. Find a healthy balance in how you handle this part of your business. You are going to change and grow as a barn owner and manager and you will make many changes during the first couple of years running your facility. Be open to change and with each situation you have to deal with and resolve will come a wealth of knowledge learned. We all have been there and I am still learning every day.
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