If you have boarded horses at a few different stables then you have probably experienced barns that have rules (and enforce them!) and barns that don't. It makes a world of difference in the facility and the overall atmosphere and reputation that a barn will carry. When we first opened our boarding facility years ago I couldn't think of many barn rules. In fact I had a hard time coming up with a handful! I was very naive about owning and managing a horse boarding stable and I am also one of those people who are pretty optimistic so I didn't think I would really need them. I had a lot to learn about running a business and what it means to run a healthy and well-run boarding stable. I thought I would share some simple truths about barn rules and why you need them for your barn. I also want to share my thoughts on what your clients will think about your barn rules and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Creating rules is easier than enforcing them!
Truth 1-- If you decide you want to board horses for a living (doesn't matter the size) you will need to create your own specific barn rules for your place. If you are new at boarding horses then I can guarantee it will be difficult at first to come up with a lot of barn rules. Your place will be new and it can be hard seeing into the future of what people will do at your barn that might be dangerous to themselves or others. It will be hard to see into the future of how drama can creep into your barn and cause havoc and stress on everyone because of a rule that is not in place. It happens and you will be caught off guard if you are new at this type of business. It can be hard to see into the future of the damage a horse can do to your stalls, grooming areas, wash stall, arenas and compromise safety of other people and horses. And often it is the mistakes the owner of the horse has made that has created a situation where something gets broken or a horse or a person gets hurt. It happens. Your barn rules will be short at first but will grow and new issues will pop up often in the beginning and after a year or two you will be surprised at how much you have had to modify your list for your boarders.
The other part of the picture is learning to enforce them. I am going to be honest and tell you that enforcing your barn rules will at times be one of the most difficult parts of the job. You are going to feel like a broken record when you need to remind people of something they are doing wrong and it will often be the same people. This part of job can be emotional at first especially when you need to remind someone about a rule and they are a wonderful boarder. Age can play a part in all of it too. I have found it is much easier to remind younger people about barn rules than someone who is close to my age. You will find yourself in uncharted territory at first (as we all do) when you need to enforce a rule. You might even worry that a client is upset with you. You need to remember that is it not personal, it is business! You will also be reminding new boarders that come to your stable how you do things regarding barn rules and it will take time for some of them to adjust to a well-run barn if they came from a stable that didn't enforce the rules let alone have many to begin with. Creating barn rules is easy, enforcing them is hard but it is needed for a well-run business of any kind.
Creating barn rules is easy, enforcing them is hard but it is needed for a well-run business of any kind.
It is your barn and business - It is your rules
Truth 2 - It is okay to have different rules than other barns. It is your barn and you can have whatever rules you want to put in place. Not every client will like all your rules and you need to be okay with that. You create rules for safety above all else but they are also created for preservation of your stable. You create barn rules so your place stays in great condition even after many years of use. Your create barn rules so that the atmosphere of your facility is a positive and healthy place to be. You create barn rules for you and your family so that you have healthy boundaries in place especially if you live on the same property. It is true when you read a sign that says, "My Barn, My Rules." As a business owner I do inherit the responsibility of creating rules but I don't do them just for myself. I do them for my clients as well so that my barn can be a better place for them and their horse.
What your clients think
Truth 3 - Most of your boarders will love a barn that has established rules. Does it mean they will be crazy about every one of them. Of course not! But a stable that has reasonable and healthy barn rules as one of the core parts of barn management is on its way to a very well-run boarding stable. Over the years I have talked to many boarders at my barn and most of them appreciate our barn because we have barn rules and they are enforced and more importantly they are equal for all. They appreciate that everyone needs to follow the rules and a "select few" don't get to do whatever they want. This happens a lot at boarding stables and then the barn managers or owners can't understand why they are having issues with clients, drama and bad morale. If I can give you one important piece of advice - KEEP IT EQUAL FOR ALL.
Truth 4 - You will have some people leave your stable because they don't like your rules. It happens and you can't please everyone so don't try. You will drive yourself crazy. I have had a person leave because we have a rule that you need to wear a helmet if you are under the age of 18. She didn't want to wear one and her parents let her run the show so they left for a barn that didn't make anyone wear a helmet. I have had people leave because they didn't like our barn hours or they didn't like our arena rules. I had a person leave because she wanted a barn that allowed drinking while she rode as more of a "party" atmosphere with other riders. I have had a person leave because they wanted to do certain training techniques to their horse that I would not allow. You just need to understand that you are dealing with many different people and personalities and they will all be looking for something different in a stable. If you stay true to what you want in your stable then the right people will find you and they will stay for a long time and be happy with how you run your barn.
If you stay true to what you want in your stable then the right people will find you and they will stay for a long time and be happy with how you run your barn.
It does get easier
Truth 5 - Your barn rules will change the longer you are boarding horses. They will get longer and as the years go by you will take some out and add new ones. The good news is you will find a healthy balance and things will start to even out and you will not be making as many changes. You will know what works best for your stable and things will become easier. The barn will start to work like a well-oiled machine and your rules will be an important part of that. Your reminders will be less often and your clients will have established habits that help create a great place to board. People underestimate the value in good barn rules for any size boarding stable and how important they are to the overall atmosphere.
If you want your job as a barn manager to become easier then start establishing barn rules that work for your stable and learn to enforce them professionally. You might sound like a broken record at first but don't give up. It does get so much easier and you are going to grow as a professional as well. It might be your barn and your rules but many of your clients who stay a long time will feel an ownership in your stable and will also help keep the rules in place and they will make your job so much easier as well.
I appreciate the boarders at my barn who have helped me keep our stable running smooth and barn rules in place when I am not out in the barn. Thank you!
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. I have included a list of sample barn rules and how those rules could affect your barn, to give you a starting point for this part of your 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,