Updated: Feb 22, 2019
What a long winter it has been! During this time of year I will get many questions regarding blanketing and how to charge for this service. What ends up happening often is that the barn owner or manager and employees start to realize how much time blanketing takes and all the issues that come with it. Running a boarding barn will have many challenges and some of them will surprise you when they happen. Blanketing horses is not a complicated thing in itself but once you are the barn owner and/or manager, this part of your business might become much more frustrating than you anticipated and for reasons you were not expecting. It sure did for me.
The truth is that putting on blankets and taking them off is an easy thing to do when you only have a couple of horses. If you decide to board horses for a living and you are now taking care of many horses, blanketing will not only take up a lot of your time but there are many more issues that will creep in with this part of the job. Some of them will have you wanting to pull out your hair in total frustration.
Blanketing your client's horse
As the barn manager you are going to see many different ways to blanket a horse. There are so many opinions about blanketing and what people think is correct. You will have boarders that want their blankets changed according to the air temperature (and they might be very specific on air temps) and they may have three or four blankets. You will have clients that double up on blankets and then take off the layers as the weather changes. You will have clients that only have one blanket and only want it put on during extreme cold temperatures. It may not sound like a lot of work in the very beginning but once you are doing it (in some cases twice daily) the more you will start to realize that it is taking up a lot of your time especially if you have a larger boarding barn.
Some of the issues that come with the blanket season
I wanted to talk about some of the issues that come with blanketing and your client's horses so that you are prepared for when they happen. The truth is that your clients will try to do things right but many of them will be learning and will not be knowledgeable about the proper blankets to buy for the breed and size of horse they have. You will see many things the longer you board horses and your job much of the time will be to educate some of your boarders that do not realize there is a problem with the blankets they are using for their horse.
You will have blankets that are way too small or much too big. You will have blankets on horses that are too warm for the air temperature or too light and the horse has become cold. You will have blankets that have either broken or missing straps and are torn so bad that water is soaking through and then you have a wet horse. You will have clients that do not understand the difference between a turnout sheet, show sheet and a blanket. You will have blankets that are not waterproof and the horse is completely soaked and chilled. I have had clients take off the blankets too soon in the early spring because we have a warm day and then the temperature dips down so cold that the horse is found shivering.
You will also come across the horses that love to pull on each other's blankets and tear them apart. It happens a lot especially in a herd of geldings. If you are running a barn then there is a very good chance that you will have a few conversations with upset boarders because their horse's blanket is torn up and now they need to buy a new one. This is where the job can become even more challenging. Not only do you have an upset client but now they want to move horses around and your job will become stressful very fast if you are not prepared. I have seen horses reach over the fence at each other and pull off neck covers! As the barn manager you are going to need an answer for your client when they want to move their horse because of torn blankets. This is something that I want you to think about because it is a very real part of boarding horses and barn management.
I have come out in the morning to do chores and found blankets completely off a horse and the horse will be looking at me as to say, "I don't know how this happened!" You are going to become an expert about blankets because you will see every brand out there. You will learn what blankets and brands are excellent and which ones to stay away from. You will quickly realize how much money is spent on blankets and how fast some of them fall apart. This is where your knowledge will help your clients that need to buy a blanket and are overwhelmed by all the brands and types of blankets in the magazines and online.
Charging for blanketing
When we first opened our boarding barn I didn't charge for blanketing. I had no idea how much of my time it would take. I also didn't realize how much work it would become switching blankets, pulling off layered blankets and fixing twisted and sliding under-shells that do not stay on properly. Dealing with wet, muddy and ill fitting blankets is all part of it and it all is time-consuming. This was one area of my business that we changed quickly.
Years later, I don't do as much blanketing anymore. I do offer it as a service but I charge a fee. Most of my client's take care of their own blankets or find someone in the barn to share the blanketing with. It saves them money and it is less work for me. As a barn owner you can include blanketing as part of the regular board fee or it can be an extra charge that is added over and above the board. Either way is fine but the one thing I want you to think about is that as a business-time is money and if you are spending one or two hours each day changing blankets, it will start to get old fast especially if you are not getting paid for the time and labor. You need to remember that it is a business first and whether you are doing the work yourself or paying an employee, it is costing you money as the barn owner. It is okay to charge for this service. It is a very time consuming service as you will quickly find out.
You need to remember that it is a business first and whether you are doing the work yourself or paying an employee, it is costing you money as the barn owner.
Who knew there was so much to talk about when it comes to blanketing and I only touched on a very small part of it. As a barn owner and manager you are going to become very busy taking care of everything that needs to be done at your boarding barn. Don't let blanketing burn you out. Think it through carefully how you want to run this part of your business because as it grows and more horses come so will the blankets and it can make for much more work in the course of an already long day.
One special note
Most of your clients throughout the years will be wonderful. They will want to learn and will appreciate you helping them with this part of owning a horse. They will not see their horse as often as you do and in many different settings including weather. They may not even know there is an issue with their blanket unless you bring it up to them. Embrace your role and have the heart of a teacher and many of these issues will disappear.
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