Wednesday, December 4, 2019

FCE's "X" Factor Part 1: Barn Life

Generally speaking, my horsey plans and goals are often formulated based on how I feel about my riding. Meanwhile the general "barn life" experience is mostly kinda an afterthought.

Being realistic, tho, most of my time at the farm is not spent in the saddle. And actually, my relationship with the barn itself can majorly influence my overall experience, even subconsciously. Which, naturally, impacts whether I ever meet those overarching goals or not.

Recently, Stacie referenced an interesting Chronicle of the Horse article about "not being an annoying boarder." I say "interesting" bc its examples of annoying boarder behaviors weren’t at all relevant to my own barn experience. At all. That author's barn is set up completely differently from mine, rendering her suggestions almost entirely moot.

But it got me thinking. Bc don't we all want to be pleasant upstanding members of our barn communities? And what does that even mean? Esp in more broadly applicable terms? So I want to take a closer look at key factors to the healthy barn relationship.

With this as an introduction, the 'Fraidy Cat Eventer is pleased to present the "X" Factor, a mini series exploring what it means to optimize our horsey experience and expectations, and be our best selves within that structure. Starting with: Barn life. 

Part I: 5 Factors for Healthy & Happy Barn Life

The following comprise what it means to me to be set up for success at my barn. This should theoretically include everything I expect from my barn, while also clearly delineating my own responsibility as a boarder.

Obviously I'm drawing heavily from my own experiences to build this list, but am curious to know whether you agree or disagree. Would these same factors be on your list too? Or would your list look entirely different? Or maybe some of these lines blur together for you?

1. Services Agreement 

In my experience as both barn staff and boarder, the healthy barn relationship begins with a signed mutual agreement outlining the services provided and the costs thereof. This is the document stating, explicitly in words, what is covered by the cost of board.

At a minimum, the agreement should assign responsibility for a horse's fundamental needs: feeding, watering, turn out, clean up, and emergent care. For my lifestyle and purposes, I choose to board at what's considered a "full care" barn, meaning that these basics are all handled by barn staff. 

Other services may be considered in the agreement too, either included in the cost of board or as a la carte add-on fees: grooming, blanketing, exercise/training, scheduling and/or holding for farrier and/or vet services, trailer parking, laundry, booting for turn out, or other ad hoc necessities like stall rest or wrapping / medication surcharges. 

Regardless, a critical factor in being a happy boarder and/or barn mgr is knowing what's covered, and what isn't. Being completely realistic, if you begin a relationship with a barn without seeing eye to eye on the care or price.... You're setting up friction down the road. 

2. Delivery of Care

Factor #2 is the execution of the above services agreement. The expectation is that the barn delivers on what is agreed, and the owner pays. Both should operate within the parameters of that agreement, without demanding more or being negligent.

My expectations for barn management:

Essentially, it's the barn manager's responsibility to literally do the things laid out in the boarder agreement. But like. Really. Do them. And be accountable for them. Specifically,

- Deliver on the services stipulated in the board agreement.
- Maintain an environment that promotes the horse's safety, welfare and quality of life.
- Supply food and clean water sufficiently and on time, per the agreement.
- Routinely observe the horse for any signs of injury or illness.
- Contact the owner immediately with any questions or concerns.
- If barn staff is responsible for cleaning the barn... The barn should be cleaned.

As a barn worker, I always asked myself questions like, "What would a prospective new boarder think if they toured the barn while I'm working? Would they be satisfied with putting their horse in the stall I just mucked?"

- Manage turn in / out in a manner safe for both the staff and the horses.
- If the staff is large, ensure info is shared effectively from one shift to the next (rather than relying on the boarder to communicate individually with every worker).
- Do these things.
- Really. Do them. Completely, thoroughly, and without needing prodding or micromanagement.
- Also, let me know if I'm doing something wrong. Please.
- Put the horses first, always.

And in turn, the expectations for me as the boarder are to:

- Pay my bills.
- Make caring for my horse as easy as possible within reason.
- Provide clear instruction where applicable, like feed amounts, or a blanketing rubric by weather conditions if blanketing is an included service.
- Replace broken or missing equipment (like halters or water buckets) quickly.
- Follow barn protocols on storage of equipment, food, supplies, etc.

For example, staff at Isabel's barn were fine with measuring supplements out for each meal. At Charlie's barn, they require any supplements to be in pre-measured single servings.

- Communicate any changes or special needs cases via the "normal" channels in a timely manner.

We have various boards for sharing notes and updates. If it's not on the board? It might as well not exist.

- Label all the things.
- Pitch in or lend a hand when possible.
- At the very least, do *not* create additional unnecessary work for staff.
- If I don't know how something is supposed to be done, ask.
- And, ya know. Be flexible when unexpected disruptions occur.

Examples of pitching in will vary by barn. For example, I can fill Charlie's hay nets when I'm around, pick his stall when he's on stall rest, turn him in or out myself when I'm there (and maybe grab a second horse while I'm at it), or whatever.

These small tasks are inconsequential to me but make a worker's day that much easier. On the flip side, I promise you, barn staff will always notice if you make more work for them. Always. If you habitually leave messes behind, constantly block the aisles during turn in, or put your horse out 10 min before staff needs to bring him back in... They will notice.

Ultimately, tho, my most critical boarder responsibility is to advocate for my horse. So I want to make sure that when I *DO* speak up about my horse's care, I'm heard.

The best way to make this happen is to only say it when I mean it. To not be noisy about shit that doesn't matter. I don't mind being a giant pain in the ass when it comes to getting the basics of my horse's care covered. For the rest? I'm trying to learn to pick my battles.

3. Facilities

Presumably you've selected your barn because it has what you want. Likely some complicated calculus of riding space, turn out, stall configuration, etc. This is all relative, right? One rider might value trail access when another prioritizes indoor space.

Personally, riding facilities are key to my happy barn life. I ride year round in all weather - even dark winter nights, so options like an indoor or lighted arenas are important. Likewise, as an eventer, I chose a barn with a dressage ring, jump ring, and full cross country course. Access to these facilities is outlined in my boarder agreement and covered by my monthly payment.

Basically my expectations from the barn regarding these facilities are:

- Resources and equipment are maintained to be safe and usable.
- Footing in the riding arenas is consistent, and the xc course isn't riddled with holes etc.
- Equipment shouldn't be dangerously in disrepair.
- Any issues impeding the resource (like burnt out lights or a tree fallen into the ring or whatever) should get addressed in a timely manner. 

On my end, it's my responsibility to:

- Obey rules, follow acceptable guidelines, make safe choices, and share space.

Sometimes riding spaces get crowded, especially on dark winter nights when options are limited. As a member of the 'boarder tribe,' I must be safe and easy to ride around, and respectful of others. Even just reliably calling out "inside!" or "outside!" is key haha.

I also need to be respectful of the equipment and overall space:

- If stuff is supposed to get put away after I use it, put it away.
- If the xc course shouldn't be used in wet conditions, don't go tearing up the ground.
- If the lights are supposed to get turned off, make it happen.
- And for cryin out loud, do *not* leave manure where no manure should be.

The funny thing about sharing space is.... People tend to notice if you leave a "trail." Whether that's gear left lying out, gates/doors left open, horse hair or hoof cleanings that didn't get swept, hoses left uncoiled, and *ahem* manure.

These things do not go undetected haha, bc someone will always end up having to clean the mess. And you better believe they know for a fact that it wasn't their mess. 

4. Access to Professionals

This aspect will also vary widely by individual horse person. What we need in terms of professional services in support of our horse's care will depend in large part on what our horsey lives look like. I'm including it here tho bc, in my opinion, it's still key to a happy barn life. Can I get access to the services I need to help keep my horse thriving?

For instance, most horse people will need a vet, and many require farrier services. Beyond that, trainer options are also useful to have in orbit, haha. Maybe some sort of body worker too.

This doesn't necessarily mean that there must be professional riders or coaches based at every barn, but access to them (having the trainer onsite or shipping out) is, for me, pretty critical. After years of hauling out for lessons tho (which I still do frequently), I gotta admit it's nice to have options at home haha!

Ideally, when it comes to the pros I employ, my approach has been to find people whose judgement I trust, then just go with it. Once I've built my team around the horse, I mostly want to follow the advice I pay for and trust their guidance. I expect these service providers to be open to questions and feedback, however. Because again, I need to be my horse's best advocate.

Generally, my expectations for any of these pros is that they keep their appointments, communicate reasonably well, and do good work. That's.... Basically it.

And in return? I pay my bills in full on time haha.

5. Community

This last puzzle piece to happy barn life is more nebulous, but still directly related. Basically, I'd still ride horses even if I were alone in the endeavor. But I'm grateful for the value a vibrant, friendly and positive barn community adds to my experience.

In a way, this is its own resource -- to be nurtured and maintained by all interested parties.

Toxic environments are a drag, and hard to stop once started. There's a million different variations, too. People can be petty, rude, demanding, dismissive, selfish, entitled, egotistical, ignorant... They shirk responsibilities or create unnecessary work for others. There are absent minded idiots and ungenerous curmudgeons.

The way I see it tho, we're all drawn to horses for a reason. Many of us appreciate the "escape" horses offer us, and I find it useful to remind myself that everyone else is filling that same need in their own way. With that in mind, my expectations for myself and my barn mates are to:

- Be kind, polite, inclusive, conscientious, considerate, tactful, respectful, nice.
- Share space and resources, and don't take what isn't yours.
- Say 'hi' and maybe even smile (unless you're absolutely allergic, in which case, you do you).
- Recognize that we all pay the same board - there's no hierarchy. The ancient pasture pet or kid's pony has as much right to a grooming bay as the horse shipping out to competition in the morning.
- Alternatively, give way for sick or injured horses whenever possible.
- Help out, lend a hand / eye / ear if someone else is having a hard time. Maybe they'll return the favor down the line.
- Remember that "talking it out" can be disarming rather than a confrontation.

So yea. Like I said earlier, I built the above list based mostly on my own experiences in the horse world as staff and now owner. It's hardly a complete list, but this, for me, sums up what I believe are the key factors to a satisfying and enjoyable barn experience. The launching pad for all those grandiose horsey hopes and dreams.

It's interesting tho, because going through the list helped me figure out some areas where I could be better too, like:

- Being a better communicator
- Asking questions and giving feedback when something's on my mind
- Giving the benefit of the doubt
- Having a shorter memory lol

I'm curious to know what you think, tho. Do you agree or disagree with all or any of the above? Would these same factors be on your list too? Or would your list of top factors to happy barn life look entirely different? Why?


  1. Agree to all of the above! Although I continue to be surprised at how many people do not pay their bills in full nor on time...

    1. as far as i can see, a lot of people do a lot of strange things with money LOL

  2. Great breakdown and a lot of things I've never thought of in a regimented way or had to deal with much. It's always interesting for me to read things like this and witness it when I visit friends outside of WV. I always learn so much! And your thought-process and wants/needs listed here all seem very reasonable to me!

    When I boarded, it was always in a very low-key environment. I was always the most active boarder in that I was always around the barn doing things and providing more care aspects than basically anyone else. It was pretty much a self-care environment for the time I owned horses. Now that the horses are home, it's much of the same but on a slightly higher level because I have the ability to control all of it for the first time (woo!).

    While there are so many positives to a boarding situation with full-care that you can rely on - especially the time-savings for the rider/owner - I'm honestly so grateful to just do self-care and have everyone at home. If I had grown up in an area like you with a wealth of higher care in boarding situations instead of so many backyard situations like in my rural area, I may not have wanted my horses in my own care so much - or enjoyed it as much! As is, I've sadly learned that my expectations for standard of care are much higher than most around here, and it is just easier for me to do it than worry about anyone else lol.

    1. oh man, yea the idea of seeing my horse outside my kitchen window really does sound amazing haha - and your up is so so so perfect!! as a control freak i definitely know what you mean about feeling like nobody else is gonna care for your horse the same way you would.

      for me, mostly tho i'm an urban dweller with a rural habit haha. plus again i really highly prioritize facilities in my barn selection calculus, and it's pretty hard to imagine a future where i have the ability to have the facilities i want at my own barn.... but who knows, priorities change over time!

  3. I agree with this list completely. It's been a while since I've had a horse I was boarding :( but the only thing I can think of to add to the paying for services on time idea is that hard financial times DO happen (people lose jobs or switch jobs or have emergencies and get a little behind, or whatever). Those situations do not need to be the downfall of a boarding relationship. But open and honest communication about the situation is key. For example, when I graduated from college, I had a few weeks between when I graduated and when I officially got my first real job. I had been interviewing for months at that point because I had a horse I was not willing to give up and horses = money. Anyway, I had graduated in early May, but then didn't get paid until mid-July after starting a job in the middle of June. Money was very, very tight for several weeks! Rather than hope he wouldn't notice, I emailed my barn manager (so it was in writing and he could refer back to it, and so could I) and explained the situation in detail. I also detailed what I could realistically pay every 2 weeks with my new salary and promised that by my calculations, I would have everything paid completely in full by mid-August and board + farrier, etc would be ON TIME for September. I also said if anything changed, I would be sure to communicate it. He agreed to my payment plan and I stuck to my word.

    1. that's a great point, but really just goes to show the value of communication. being clear and straight forward with someone, and timely about it instead of waiting for them to come to you, can make a WORLD of difference in finding mutually agreeable solutions to bumps in the road! awesome that it was able to work out for you!

  4. The space sharing thing is so so so important. Everyone is paying board and gets use of the facilities. That means that maybe you can’t show up at high volume time with your rank and cranky horse and take up the entire riding space lunging your wildabeest for all eternity. Likewise, if you show up to ride and the arena is in use you can always find something to occupy a half hour of your time to avoid adding to the mess. Also - leave my stuff alone! One place I boarded at in WI was notorious for using boarders stuff. I bought brand new shampoo and showed up the next time to half it gone and I had never used it. My helmet got broken and my bridle went missing for weeks. I was pissed!

    On the boarders side of things though they have to remember this is a business to the farm owners. One of passion perhaps but a business nonetheless. Don’t take advantage, your horse isn’t the only one there and if you want services the barn doesn’t provide then pay more or do them yourself.

    I love having my horses at home but I do really feel isolated at times without a barn family.

    1. ugh ppl using up my stuff or taking / breaking my stuff would drive me mad too. sometimes i wish i had my stuff in one of those gorgeous instagram-worthy wood paneled tack rooms... but then again i also like being able to lock up my tack box at the end of the day and know my stuff is nice and secure!

      regarding the "barn family" thing, i definitely know what you mean there. for a long time at isabel's barn even tho it was still a boarding situation i didn't really feel like i had my kind of "people" there until a new lesson program moved in. really tho, it seems like with your new trainer you've made a lot of new connections!

  5. I really hate boarding, and while keeping my horse(s) at home will be a huge inconvenience on my life, I'm looking forward to not worrying about it.

    That being said, I'm currently at a place where I trust the woman who watches the horses 100%. It's a small backyard barn without a lot of boarders, and she and I are close which I think helps.

    1. that definitely sounds nice. the whole "quiet backyard" type feeling is definitely appealing to me, tho you don't usually find it paired with the type of facilities i want. but then at the bigger show barns it's so easy to get that feeling of a lot of big fish in a small pond... something's always gotta give, i guess

    2. yeah for sure! And to that point, don't get mad at a barn for not being something that it's not. If you (the royal you) like to have 18 blanket changes on your horse and you're at a little retirement barn with one person doing all the work, you're gonna have a bad time.

    3. lol yes exactly. in writing this post i was sorta thinking of that in terms of "what's covered by the service agreement" and making sure that you're really truly 100% comfortable with the care you're buying into with your board payment bc.... yea. it's rare that the barn would change to suit your specific needs haha.

      being totally real tho, blanketing services is something i really miss.... actually i kinda panicked a bit about it when i first move charlie to this barn, and hired somebody to help me the first winter. she wasn't able to commit the second winter tho, but actually.... it ended up being ok. and i didn't even look for help this year. like, sure sometimes i'll ask a friend to make a change for me, but i'll also make changes on their horses too. mostly tho it turns out, it's not a big deal!

  6. Really great post! I just read that article you linked and I haven't been at a barn that was like that (mostly thanks to uhhh California turnout being tricky!) but your list I fully understand. I like to believe I only become a PIA when I start noticing the barn not delivering on the care agreement, but care is pretty non-negotiable since the horse is everything. I have noticed at the new barn I get absent minded (or really rushed) and end up leaving something out. Always like 1 thing, my whip, or a brush, usually that item will just stay where I left it and I remember the next time I am out (everyday) and I put it away. Case in point, I left saddle oil out the day I left for my honeymoon and well it sat in the same spot for 3 weeks, totally out of the way but very dusty. I always feel really bad about it but I'm taking extremely proactive steps to keep it from happening anymore!

    The texting is huge, in this day and age people think everyone is on call 24/7 but we also feel like we have to be on call 24/7 - it's taken me a lot of work this year to just not reply to emails or texts from a client if I think its too late, or I don't have time at that moment. It can always wait for an hour or a night.

    1. totally agreed about being a pain when it comes to the actual fundamental care. bc yea, that's the crux of it all. everything else tho i'm trying to be better about!

      that's nice tho that nobody messes with your stuff or is snarky about it when it gets left out! there's always *so.much.stuff* with horses sometimes it seems inevitable that something might be forgotten. i'm lucky that i generally can groom right next to my locker, so stuff stays right there or in the immediate area, rather than needing to get toted back and forth.

      and yea i'm trying to get better about communicating within "working hours," especially if it's something where i expect a reply!

  7. This is timely for me. I've been having a little issue with Cosmo's care, and I am not really sure if it IS an issue or not.:

    Cosmo is gross and slimey. He drools. He drips food all over his walls and his stall. It's not his fault. But it's part of his care. I don't expect the stall guys to wipe down his walls every day, not even at all, really. But he also drools food back into his auto water. The barn staff placed a large tub under the auto water to catch the run-off (it used to be broken and have a constant drip) and I always scoop out the bits of hay and grain in his auto-water into the water tub.

    It's hard to keep his auto water clean since he's always depositing food. I don't mind scooping it out when I am out once a day. But I do have a problem with the tub not getting emptied. It sits for days and smells like death. Which I think makes Mo not want to drink out of his auto water, right above the smelly tub. If the tub is emptied once a day there is never more than a couple inches of water and it doesn't get a chance to get smelly. I've told the BM several times and he relays it to whichever guy is assigned to that set of stalls for the day/week/month. But I've had to say something 4 or 5 times now over the past 6-8 months. And a lot of the time, I'm just dumping it myself (but not when it's too full for me to move on my own).

    SO: is Cosmo's care above and beyond normal then? The other horses don't have the same gross waters. Their auto waters don't grow algea/slime (which I clean when I notice). But also, Cosmo can't help it.

    1. ugh yea.... that's kinda a hard question to answer from the outside. on one hand i can see why they treat it like an "extra" task, but on the other hand, keeping water clean should seem like part of the agreement, right?

      my real question is: why is there the tub at all? does the auto waterer work now, is the tub still necessary? and maybe that's a better question for the manager. instead of "how come the guys aren't dumping this tub," maybe it's "how can we change the tub situation to make it easier for the guys to stay on top of it?"

      like... if it's too heavy to lift yourself when it's full, i'm imagining one of those giant water troughs or like a muck bucket or something. is that really necessary in a single horse run? if there's that much water coming out of the auto waterer, maybe the priority should just be to get that fixed?

      idk. again it's hard to know as an outsider but i'd be frustrated too. clean water is definitely part of my own "services agreement" so even tho 'Mo kinda has his own special way about him, there still should be a reasonable solution that doesn't involve literal rotting swamp water in his run... ick

  8. This is so important - and I love that you broke it down into 5 items. A lot of people forget that the barn is to be respected... just because someone works there doesn't make it their job to clean up after you.

    I do know that the semi-local barn has a facebook group, which makes it easy to remind people about things (ie. shutting off the lights) or letting them know a horse needs to stay in because it is injured, etc. It seems like a great way to get the info out to the masses without needing to address it over and over again. It also helps with informing the boarders who aren't out regularly (as these people don't see the huge chalkboard).

    1. we have a facebook group too, actually, where a lot of those reminders and chatter happens. definitely a useful resource! for me personally, i found that not everybody checked it, including staff, so i don't rely on it for important staff communications and instead stick to the actual physical board. also i found that some people are snarkier on the facebook chat than they would be in real life haha. that's modern communication for ya tho!

  9. Very thorough breakdown - great post.

    For six years I ran a short term boarding business next door to my farmette. (You can really stack up the crazy when you combine short term + horse people + vacation...��) The only way I could protect myself, and the boarders, was to be extremely specific with what services I provided, what the facilities entailed, and what the boarders were responsible for - when making the reservations, during the stay, and the condition of the facility when they left. Here's a link to the webpage if you care to check it out.

    It felt like a lot of things covered should fall under the category of common sense, or how to be a polite guest but, there you go... managing expectations + clarity of communication is key!

    1. that facility is awesome btw!! tho i totally can see how running it might actually make you eligible for sainthood LOL! but yea. there's rarely any reason to ever regret being EXTRA explicit when it comes to expectations.

      a lot of people (and obvi horses) are fine with less, in general. but so many of the problems i see (and the problems in that original CotH article linked above) seem to arise when people are expecting *more*. if everyone knows exactly what to expect at the outset, it's generally all good. but ya know, never hurts to have a few reminders too LOL

  10. Ugh I tried to leave a comment earlier, but somehow got busy at work (the nerve!) and didn't hit publish...

    Great post - I think you forgot item 6 for the barn, which is have ponies/minis available at all times to look cute! ;-)

    I think a lot of your points make so much sense. Sadly, people are people and both sides makes things difficult. Back when I used to board, 1 out of 5 or 6 barn owners was actually a good honest person and stuck to her contract and did what she said she would. I once had barn owners taking my grain/supplements to feed to their own horse! It was all individually bagged and the amounts were off, so I started asking questions about what was going on. They admitted to it after I called them out. Due to that and other issues, I left shortly after, since I just couldn't tolerate the shadiness of it all.

    I do miss being able to go away and not worry about the beasts, but as an introvert that doesn't ride much at the moment, I'm not missing a big barn and facilities that much.

    1. omgosh real talk tho, i LOVE that my barn is crawling with shetlands. they are legitimately around every corner and i feel like i'm still finding more of them! like the little stallion pictured is actually tucked behind some other buildings and i didn't even know he existed for the first year or so at the farm! but he's sooooooo cute!! i just love seeing them, esp after a long day working etc.

      more to the point, tho, ugh i hate that shadiness. and it seems so pervasive in the horse world too. i wonder why that is sometimes... like maybe bc there has to be so much trust involved with a boarding barn with so many literally valuable items (including feed) all concentrated in one place, that it can be irresistible to some people to not abuse that trust? idk. i feel lucky i haven't had to deal much with that sort of shadiness myself...

  11. Yep, all of this! Honestly, I'd much rather see this post circulate than that passive aggressive article.
    I think you're right, it all boils down to communicating expectations and following through on them. At the end of the day, it should be pretty simple!

    1. lol that article was obnoxious haha. i almost wonder if someone could figure out exactly who the author was talking about with each bullet point if they happened to know the author or barn personally!

  12. Great post. I agree with all of it. I have been at places that ended up falling down on their side and I'm sure that they think I was a bit PITA. One thing I learned was to lock up my stuff. People borrow it and then it disappears. The other thing I would add to this list that it is the horse owner's responsibility to make sure that the horse has good ground manners and will not endanger the staff.

    1. i actually thought a few times about how to add in a responsibility about a horse's manners, or where it might fit. honestly tho i'm still not sure. at the end of the day they're still horses, crazy shit can happen at the drop of a hat. it's easy to forget the risks we take by being around them, to forget how vulnerable we are, until something happens. and unfortunately it's usually staff that bears the most risk bc they have the most interactions with the horse on a day to day basis (esp at higher risk times like turn in/out). like, a barn manager at a barn from my past got kicked in the face and was only discovered lying unconscious by sheer luck (it was a day the barn was closed). the accident changed her life, tho luckily she did survive with basically full faculties (minus some teeth and an eye) and returned to the job after recovering.

      but like... idk how to stipulate liability for that in a contract with the barn. was the owner negligent in not instilling enough training to keep the horse from being dangerous? is the owner responsible for those medical bills? or was it a freak accident? i'm not even sure they knew which horse kicked her, tbh.

      i think the spirit of your point is very true tho, even if it's not something i think can easily be written into a services agreement. generally i tend to think that staff safety supersedes horse safety when push comes to shove, and that we should be able to trust staff to act in accordance with their own safety and not take unnecessary risks. as owners we should do what we can to mitigate risks by training our horse and communicating any known potential risks or issues that could arise. personally i'm of the opinion that a barn is within its rights to say that a horse deemed dangerous must leave.

    2. Yes, I know it's complicated. And I'm not sure how it can be stipulated but I have seen some owners allow their horses to be pushy, bargy and generally pricks about leading which make it dangerous. I used to work at a barn (in exchange for riding) and there was one horse that you had to carry a crop into the stall every time because he would attack you. I wasn't thinking so much about liability- more along the lines that if the barn owners identify a horse needing more manners that it is the owner's responsibility to make sure that happens.

      I boarded at one place where the owner was in love with Irish. I watched her leading him and he was being a jerk. I told her that all she had to do was jerk a bit on the lead and say 'smarten up' (or anything really in a growly voice) and he would be fine. She said 'oh I couldn't get after him, he's so sweet'. Then one day she said that he stepped on her foot. sigh. In this case I was being responsible but couldn't talk the owner into being sensible. So I guess I'm babbling a bit. :)

    3. ugh yea definitely. as staff i've kinda hated dealing with difficult or asshole-ish horses. seems like every barn has at least one, haha! i definitely agree that owners should do everything in their power to instill good manners in a horse. some owners are absent tho, or very inexperienced themselves. and some horses are just babies... or stallions. so there can be limitations on expectations in those circumstances but everyone involved should do what they can to keep it safe. like putting a sign on the stall door of an aggressive horse, or making a rule about such and such horse always needing to be led with a chain. provided the staff is exercising good judgment in the treatment of the horse, i think it's their prerogative to do these things even if the owner objects.

  13. It was interesting to read this thinking from the other side. We boarded for years and I loved a lot of aspects of that barn. Mostly because I knew the owner cared deeply about my horses and would go out of her way to take care of them. It took a lot of work on our part since it was a partial self-care facility, but I loved it and always felt safe leaving my horses. Now, we're planning to offer boarding next year once the indoor is done and I've been thinking about what we want out of that. We've known from the beginning that we'd rather lose money than tolerate obnoxious boarders (not needing to make a living off the barn is a privilege I realize few barn owners can afford). I will ruthlessly cull people. But I do need to figure out how to write up "don't be an ass" into a formal boarding agreement.

    1. I think that you can by writing in a sort of 'code of conduct'. Something along the lines of 'we aim to provide a safe and fun space for horses and their owners/riders'. To do this we expect that:
      concerns regarding your horse care is brought to us and discussed
      no gossip of judgements of others.
      assume that everyone is trying their best
      open to new information and ideas

    2. oooh that's exciting about preparing to offer out spaces for boarders!! i wish you luck in that endeavor haha. it is nice that you're able to prioritize the quality of the environment and atmosphere over the bottom line. ultimately i think that's where so many barns get into trouble... it's such a tough tough business for a lot of places that you really have to be happy and love it for it to work, i think

  14. I read the post to which you are referring, and I agree with everything you said about it in the beginning, because that has never really applied to me and my experiences with horse facilities. Most of my boarding experiences have been when I was younger, when I didn't own the horse and didn't pay attention to agreements. Now that I have been to other facilities as I'm older and need to pay attention, it's definitely been different.

    Like Liz I've generally always been the most active boarder at those facilities. But there are many things you pointed out that have been great in getting me thinking. I really like that idea of knowing exactly what's being offered that you're paying for, and I'm certainly going to keep that in the back of my mind if I go someplace else and board Amber. No barn contracts I've signed have outlined that so succinctly, so I think it's great you pointed that out.

    I have found tho that I tend to have higher standards of horse care than a lot of owners around me - especially in Vegas. I do love having the ponies in the back yard (or right around the corner for me), and being able to make decisions for my horse easily is definitely something I like. But my mom and I still have expectations. I clean my own mess, make up Amber's hay every day, make up grain, do night chores - so it still works out as a good relationship for that. A lot of what you said I believe can encompass nearly all barn situations, which I think is better than that article personally :)


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