Boarding Stable Choices

How to solve boarding-stable difficulties is a common question. it’s usually over the depth of the bedding, turnout, the feeding program or (believe it or not) the amount of profit the barn is making (i.e., they charge too much). These disagreements are no-win situations for the horse owner because, right or wrong, they’re management issues. If the boarder is unhappy, it’s time to look for a new barn.

That doesn’t mean that a boarder has no rights. The boarder is paying for certain services and has a right to expect them. But many disputes could be avoided with more thought before signing a contract.

If you base your boarding decision on the stall, grass or indoor arena alone, you may end up unhappy. And if you’re a barn manager making a decision on whether to accept a boarder based solely on his credit rating, you may be headed toward a disaster. Not addressing all scenarios, situations and needs can cause simple frustrations to reach angry levels.

A phone call last week from a reader presented an interesting issue on barn security. I’ve spoken with this man several times over the last few years, and he has excellent insights. He said that not long ago where they board their horses, kids were allowed to run amuck. They were very loud, feeding horses they shouldn’t, and were completely unsupervised. Worse than that, they weren?t even horse kids, just neighbors from around the area.

This man and his wife didn’t want to be bothered, and they tried to politely ignore the kids as best they could. However, the kids became increasingly obnoxious. The manager was in the barn at the time and seemed oblivious to the situation ? until his wife complained, something she didn’t want to do.

During this event, the question arose as to who would be liable if one of these kids was injured by a horse. I suspect that the horse’s owner, the stable manager, and the facility owner would be sued. Who might end up responsible would be a matter for the court to decide, but rest assured it would be expensive for everyone involved. This is just one instance of the ?what ifs? of boarding that both horse owners and barn managers need to think about: who’s allowed in the barn’

If you’re considering boarding your horse, ask the ?what if? questions. If taking a lesson a week is ?included? in the board, find out before you move in what happens if you decide one day that you don’t want to do that anymore. Will you get a discount or just keep paying for a lesson you don’t want’ What’s the barn complaint procedure’ Can you fully abide by the barn rules’

If you’re running a stable, do you screen boarders or just let anyone with a checkbook move right in’ Do you check references’ Run a credit or background check’ Do you have a typed contract that includes the barn rules, hours and how you handle disputes between you and the boarder and between two boarders’ The more you have in writing, the fewer problems you’ll encounter.

A boarding situation is like a marriage. You might love the facility itself, but love?s not enough to make it work. You have to be able to live together peacefully. And you have to know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign the contract.

Cynthia Foley