10 ways to be a good horse boarder

So I figured I would take a break from my depressing posts as of late and do something a little bit lighter hearted. I am often called a “dream boarder” which always makes me laugh because both Gen and I are high maintenance. Granted we have both calmed down a lot over the years, but between my anxiety and Gen’s demandingness and ability to hurt himself in the most unlikely of places, we should be anything but! I work hard at being a good boarder and literally could go back to any place I have ever boarded at, which I think is saying something. I have a pretty good boarder reputation as well so I know that my dear Gen will never have to go homeless. It is not easy at times to always leave things in a good place, but I thought I would share 10 tips with you about being a good boarder. Please feel free to add on to this list in comments as well if I forget anything.

1) Be honest with the farm management before you even move in. As much as I think my dear Gen is angel, I know that he has his moments. I always ask about the staff that handles the horses and the feeding situation before moving him in. Not only would it be dangerous to have an inexperienced person try and bring Gen in on an off day, it could lead to potential injury which could cost the farm a lot of money. If I tell them my horse can be a jerk some times, and they admit that they can handle it, and then he is a jerk it is usually no big deal. If I say he is perfect and one day he is a fire breathing dragon that is not going to be good for anyone. I also know that my horse can be food aggressive and will destroy a stall if he is sandwiched in between two horses. If I tell them that going in, they will usually do something to try and accommodate him instead of getting mad he is kicking down his stall.

2) If you are going to leave, give the barn a time line, talk to them in person, and also put it in writing. I think “exit strategies” are highly important. It is the last impression you leave and is often where things go wrong. ALWAYS GIVE 30 DAYS PAY. Always. Even if they are terrible and you are worried your horse is in danger and you cannot let them live there for another day. If there is a problem that you cannot resolve and must leave the same day you should suck up the expense and just pay because then they literally cannot say anything bad about you if you do that. You will have taken the high road. Barns are businesses and they are counting on a certain amount of income each month. You obviously saw something good in the barn when you moved in, so be classy moving out. I also say to talk to the person in charge if possible, a text saying you are moving out can seem cold, even if it isn’t meant to be.

3) If you see a mistake once, try and be rational about it. Believe me, I know what it is like to walk in to a barn and see that your horses water buckets are bone dry with your horse banging around on them, clearly thirsty. Of course I see red and start freaking out when that happens…I am human. My first instinct is to find someone and yell about it. What I do instead is simply take some deep breaths and fill up the water buckets myself. As hard as it is to do, I will contact someone about it in a nice way. Instead of, “I PAY YOU TO TAKE CARE OF MY HORSE AND YOU ARE NOT DOING IT” I go for the “Hey, I got to the barn and Gen didn’t have water (or his stall was filthy, or his halter and boots were still on in his stall, etc) which isn’t like you guys. You don’t usually make mistakes like that, is everything okay”. I know how infuriating it can be if they are not “taking ownership for mistake kind of people” and call you a liar, but even if they are, you pointed out the mistake and odds are damn good it will not be repeated.

4) Communicate with the barn when you have people coming in to see your horse. Whether it be someone coming in to get a pony ride, your normal vet visit, or some equine specialist it can be stressful to have other people at the barn. You might not realize that you scheduled a lesson for the same time as 3 other people, or that 4 farriers are showing up to the barn at the same time. The best way to avoid all that is to communicate. I have found that a white board in the barn is a great way to just make everyone aware. A simple thing like “bringing friends by Thursday at 4 to meet Gen” or “Gen getting fall shots Tuesday at 11” on the board can help to avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

5) Follow the barn rules. This one sounds easy, but can be really hard, especially if you don’t agree with the rule, or if it is something new that got put in to place and you feel like it is an attack on you. I know some barns have very few rules, and others have 2 pages worth. Just try and remember that the rules are there for a reason, even if you don’t like the reason, and that you are going in to someone else’s space. Think of it like going in to someone else’s house. You wouldn’t want someone coming in to your house and messing with your flow of things would you? Also remember that if you feel like the new rule is against something you do, it is not personal, you just happen to be doing something that is making barn management crazy! I also think it is fine to talk to someone about a rule, but until you hear otherwise I would advise you to adhere to it.

6) Talk to the barn management before talking to fellow boarders about an issue. Not happy with the new barn worker? Think someone might be taking your stuff? Tired of riding with someone who has no concept of the ring rules? You should always talk to barn management first. ALWAYS. Even if you see boarders every day and management only once a week. Even something simple like, “I feel like (insert boarder here) has been going in to my tack trunk and I want to talk to them about it” can avoid a lot of drama. Barn management might also not be thrilled with the new worker, or aware that this other boarder has been accused of stealing in the past, and they probably have gotten other complaints about people getting run over in the ring. For all you know, they might already have a plan in place to get the person out. You also don’t want the other person to go running to them saying that you are harassing them and end up in trouble yourself. Some of the least fun places to board at are places where it is a management vs. boarders mentality. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to management, maybe that isn’t the right barn for you.

7) Be realistic with your expectations. In my area, if you are paying $700 a month for a place with an indoor, you are out of your mind if you think your horse should get two blanket changes a day and their legs hosed off when they come in. If you can find a place that does that, that is great, but realistically you need to be paying at least $1,000 a month for that to happen by me. If you are going to be boarding at someone’s back yard barn, don’t expect that person to run their barn with the same precision and timing that a 100 stall place with 10 staff members does. Is your horse really going to die if they eat breakfast at 8:30 on weekends instead of 7:00? What can you live with and what is a deal breaker? For me, I pay for a good situation for Gen because I need to be called or sent a picture text when he has a boo boo. I need to be at a place that is willing to find a way to get someone at the barn every 2 hours to put in eye ointment if he needs it, but on the flip side I also know it is a family run place and sometimes they just can’t make it work. As long as they tell me they need help, I will find a way, but that is me. You need to figure out what you can live with. Not sure if you are being realistic? Ask your friends or go to other barns in your area and ask what services they provide for their price.

8) Keep your riding/training opinions to yourself. Period. Think Parelli is crap? That’s fine, as long as they are not doing it to your horse, it is none of your business. Can’t stand the trainer who comes in to the barn? Unless you are being forced to take lessons with them just ignore it, and even then usually you can buy out of the lessons. If someone asks you training questions you can just say, “that’s a good one, why don’t you ask your trainer” or even, “I do xyz with my horse, but just because it was right for him doesn’t mean it is right for you or your horse”. If they are doing somthing with your horse that you are not comfortable with, ask them why they feel like they need to do it. If you don’t agree with their reasoning, ask them politely to stop. It is your horse and you are responsible for how you want it trained. If they don’t respect your request it is probably time to employ that exit strategy we spoke about above.

9) RESPECT EVERYONE OPINIONS, EVEN IF YOU THINK THEY SUCK. It sounds so easy, but it can be really, really hard to respect other peoples opinions. Some people think I am nuts for loving true barefoot trimming (not just having a farrier trim). I think some people are nuts for riding horses who are obviously lame. You know how frustrating it is to listen to people justify things which put horses in harms way, but sometimes you just need to learn to live with the fact you will never agree with this person. The cool thing about horse people is that for the most part they are confident, passionate, and hold strong opinions. The flip side is that, sometimes, the worst part about horse people is that they are confident, passionate and have strong opinions. You can be respectful when hearing about other people’s opinions without agreeing with them. Listen to what they have to say, say what you feel compelled to say and know that sometimes in life you are just going to have to agree to disagree. There is no shame in being a second to last word person.

10) Spend a day helping out at the farm. Honestly, this is hands down the best way to get good boarder points. Not only is it a really, really nice thing to do, but it will help keep things in perspective for you. Don’t feel like 4 supplements a meal should be a big a deal? Can’t fathom why your horse had a cut and no one noticed? Not sure why there was grumbling when you asked to have a fly sheet put on? Spend a day in their shoes and still feel if you think the same way. If you can give then barn managers a day off they will love you forever and I know from experience it is a really great way to keep things in perspective and remind myself that we are ALL human.

So I know that this was a NOVEL, and I didn’t even go in to making sure your board is paid on time or that you give the barn what they need in order to take care of your horse (i.e. if you want to give a horse a supplement, it isn’t the barns responsibility to keep it in stock at the barn). Those are just the 10 things that I think make up a good boarder.


5 thoughts on “10 ways to be a good horse boarder

  1. I think those are all really good…..and I agree with them. The only one I probably wouldn’t follow would be to pay 30 days in advance if I were leaving….at least not unless I planned for my horse to be there. I have no problem with a 30 day notice, but my budget only allows for me to pay the place that actually has my horse. Thankfully, I’ve never had Grif in any places that were so bad that moving him was a necessity for his safety. I’ve always given advanced notice. The place that Grif & I are currently at is wonderful ~ we’ve been there for 8+ years (half the time I’ve owned Grif)!

  2. Very good list! We’ve boarded at a variety of different types of barns and the one that makes me the most crazy is when other boarders start complaining to ME about the owners or the way their horse is being cared for. I can’t fix the problem so don’t tell me about it – tell the owners. #10 – I agree that if you don’t really know how the barn runs and what it takes, by all means volunteer to help out for a shift or if the barn has a “spring cleaning” day make sure to be there, but in my experience, I have found that pitching in to help while you are there can turn into an expectation instead of a favor. I’m very careful to remember that boarding is a business relationship, no matter how much I like the owners. At our last barn, I made it clear that I could help out in an EMERGENCY, and they did call me on occasion, but I was paying very good money to keep our horse there and didn’t feel that I needed to help leading 30 horses in and out of the barn just because I happened to be there was necessary.

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