We have all seen the threads online and the blogs. About how people hate boarding and how barn managers/owners, hate boarders. Honestly, it is amazing that there are boarding barns anymore with all the drama.
I have been on both sides of the fence, as a barn manager, who for 6 years, kept the same loyal and sane boarders and as a boarder for more years, at some really good barns and at some really bad barns.
I don't understand the mentality of someone getting into the boarding business only to sacrifice the care of the horse for ego and/or money. My mantra has always been It's All About The Horse and in my world, the horse comes first.
Running a barn is hard work. It is not glamorous, although one girl who ran a barn that I boarded at really did believe that it was....she was out of the business in less than 2 years. I am surprised she lasted that long, although the quality of care began to decline after a few months, which was when I left. You are on call 24/7, 365 days a year and horses do not understand the word Convenience!
I have learned, as a boarder, that you have to chose what is most important to you (besides quality feed, hay and water, not to mention safe and clean, ) because no barn is perfect and everyone who is running a barn thinks that their way is the best. Which is why I keep Tucker nearly an hour away. Each way. Yes, I drive it every day and am thankful that I don't have a 9-5 job and I do wish we would hurry up and sell our house and buy a farm. For Tucker, it is important that he has a turnout schedule to accommodate his allergies (no night time t/o, and in the summer, in his stall, fan on, by noon), he is getting fed what I want him to eat for his EPSM and allergies ( I once spoke with a barn manager who insisted that it was ok for Tucker to eat the same as the other 30 horses in her barn and he would be just fine, EPSM or not!) and when I travel for work, I want to make sure he is getting his supplements. His Vitamin E, magnesium and other supplements are crucial to his well being and quality of life. EPSM is potentially life ending without those supplements. I also want him on grass. I cannot believe how many expensive show barns in Central Florida do not practice pasture management and can't even be bothered to remove the weeds or at least mow them. I refuse to spend my money on a weedy or sandy lot.
As a barn manager, I was lucky to have excellent boarders, who cared for their horses. It was a small barn so there was no drama. I did ask my first boarder to leave because her trainers tactics resulted in a colicing horse every Monday after she would return from the weekend with the trainer. She couldn't make the connection and I asked her to leave. I never had any rules other than to clean up after yourself. Everything else was pretty much common sense, but then my boarders were seasoned equestrians and knew better than to run in a barn, leave gates open or put a hot horse up.
I have heard stories from time to time of people who have had to call the police in order to leave a farm. For one local hunter/eventer trainer, it seems a common occurrence. I had the opportunity to assist in such an extraction this week, when I was called to help some friends remove their horses from a farm where they were no longer wanted, but the barn owner was making it difficult for them to leave.
I will try and be brief, but it is a good story!
A couple started a training and boarding facility. I knew them from my current barn, where they were boarders, and they seemed really, really nice and on the same page as I am about the care of horses. They secured a lease on a local farm and 2 of my friends moved their 3 horses there. The first week was great. Except that the husband, a farrier, changed his mind about allowing their own farrier on the premises, and required them to use him. He agreed to lower his fees, but after getting one friend to sign a TWO PAGE contract (!!) his bill included fees such as a consultation fee and modification fee. Oh, and the horse was lame after he shod him. My friends approached him about his "fees" and he became belligerent, told them that his fees were his fees, and that he could charge what he wanted. He also bad mouthed their old farrier (who has done my horses for 13 years) at which point one of my friends told him that he was out of line and not being professional.
The next day, a set of rules were affixed to the barn walls in several locations. Among the rules,
"It is expected to be polite and respectful at all times and act with professional conduct. Bad attitudes, inappropriate behavior and unfriendliness WILL NOT be tolerated and will result in being asked to leave the facility instantly."
Then the following day, more rules were added! They included (my favorite!):
" When entering/exiting arena, announce GATE for the safety of yourself and other riders" (it is a small facility, a small ring with 3 other horses!)
"Under No Circumstances what so ever are lessons to be given by no other than...(the trainer) And since one friend was helping the other friend with her riding, it was obvious that this rule was also aimed at them specifically, despite being initially told it would not be a problem.
"No jumping unless during a lesson"
"Immediately after riding, pick up manure from your horse"
"You must pass left to left while riding" (they have to post this?)
It was quite obvious that they were thinking of how they could make my friend's lives miserable. There were now 3 pages of rules, most of which were your basic rules: don't run, turn off lights, close gates, etc. And this fee happy couple would assess you $30 for every infraction!
At the end of the 3rd page of rules, riders were reminded to have fun! Seriously! I would be so worried that I was going to be fined every day for going in another horses stall, leaving a light on or feeding treats to my friend's horse, there would be no way I could have fun.
Yesterday morning, having given notice that they were leaving, they were greeted with a bill for twice what they had initially agreed to and an altered boarding contract, where the barn manager had added that he could place a lien on the horses for unpaid bills. Again, he was quite the pompous ass, and committed battery on one of my friends by slamming a gate into her knee, knocking her to the ground.
I received a phone call shortly after that I was needed that afternoon, with my trailer, to help move the 3 horses.
They were advised by the police to go in only with a police escort, and what a sight it was, one friend in her suburban, followed by the next friend in her truck, 2 deputy cars, myself and our farrier was following, as he came to assist.
I will spare you the 2 hours of total nonsense that ensued, but despite all of his attempts to keep us from loading 3 horses in two trailers and get their personal effects out, we managed. If the deputies were not there, I don't think it would have gone as well, considering he was pretty hostile to them as well as the rest of us. He was ranting and raving the entire time and very disrespectful to the police.
My parting words to him, were that I was disappointed to see that he was not conducting himself with class and integrity and I told him that the horse world was a small community and that if you acted like an ass, everyone would know it and he would not stay in business. I am mad at myself for allowing myself to think that he and his wife were wonderful people. I hope I don't make that mistake again and I hope I am never involved in a police assisted extraction again!
And if you are looking into a boarding facility, do your homework.