Last week we looked at how to carefully select a boarding barn that suits you and your horse. This time we’ll examine the flip side and look at how barn owners and managers choose suitable clients for their equestrian facility.
This process isn’t foolproof and every person is different, but it might provide insight into why (or why not) you and your horse have been given a stall at a particular barn. And for barn owners/managers, this list might give you some new tools to use.
Only you, the owner/manager, know what sort of environment you wish to have and how involved you want owners to be. It’s an old joke that stable managers prefer horse owners who pay on time and never come to the barn, but in reality, that’s a mixed blessing. No one wants to see a neglected horse – it’s sad for one thing, but it also can pose a danger to the horse or staff if the animal isn’t exercised regularly.
When you meet a prospective client, it’s wise to ask them up front what they are looking for and what they do with their horse. Are they weekend riders? Carrot feeders who show up monthly to pay the bills? Do they show heavily? Travel a lot and aren’t around? Knowing what kind of client you want at your farm, and what fits in with current boarders, will help determine if the potential client is a yes or no for you.
Set them. People generally like to follow rules, so knowing that you won’t allow outside coaches, vets, blacksmiths, or other tradespeople onto your property is something you need to establish early on and make clear to the potential client. In fact, any rule or preference you have for, say, a certain feed company or turnout routine, should be made absolutely clear. That way, if the prospective client has an issue or doesn’t agree then you can both agree it’s not a fit.
You can get a sense of potential conflicts as soon as you outline your “day in the life” at your barn. This is exactly as it sounds: an itemized list of what happens each day, and at what time, at your farm – everything from feeding times to when the barn is closed to boarders for the evening. If the potential client argues or disagrees with your methods, chances are it won’t work out.
This may seem obvious, but very few stables ask for references before accepting new clients. We get it, it’s a tough economy, especially in the horse industry, and no one wants to turn down money. But sometimes a little bit of a background check will prevent headaches and drama later.
Ask the prospective client why they are searching for a new facility and if they have a reference from the previous barn, or the barn before that. Can another boarder that is currently at the facility vouch for them?
Granted, there are loads of reasons people leave one stable, personality clashes being an equestrian classic, so asking for a reference from their current stable might not be fair. The horse world is small, so chances are you and the prospective client have at least one person in common; perhaps the person’s coach or former coach is someone you can call. It’s worth the extra digging in the end.
All boarding facilities have one. Or at least they say they do; it’s often a way of weeding out unwanted clients. And how long their wait list is, how it’s organized, and who’s on it, can be proprietary. Barn managers can choose to do their priority list any way they see fit, from first choice of vacancy going to friends of other boarders who come highly recommended (see above), to those who have visited the property several times and continue to stay in touch but not in an irritating way (see below).
It’s tough to judge a person on one meeting, but like a job interview, that is the unenviable task of barn managers and owners who want/need to rent out a stall. But unlike a job interview, you usually only have one meeting to decide about a person.
Barn dynamics are a real thing. Boarding barns aren’t like a show stable where the coach reigns supreme and sets the tone for morale. A boarding barn is welcoming to all levels of riders, different disciplines, and different breeds of horses, all of which much coexist peacefully. This can be a challenge, and given that most facility owners/managers aren’t psychologists, trying to assess if the prospective boarder you’ve just spent 45 minutes with will fit in with the current clientele is anyone’s guess.
Since managers have experience in the horse community, they are often good judges of character and can see signs of what a “high maintenance” client might be, or someone who will be the “barn gossip” or “sh*t disturber” or any other classic horse stable type.
Ensure you allow a good balance of disciplines and levels so that no one feels left out. And when the new boarder arrives, make sure you introduce him or her to the other boarders so they feel welcome.
Have one. There are plenty available for free download online such as this one at eunderwriters.ca but if you have the resources, hire a lawyer to add specific terms into yours.
Send every prospective client one of the boarding agreements along with your set of rules for them to sign off on before they ship their horse into your facility. Establishing boundaries and rules ahead of time will offset future issues and if problems do develop, it protects you and gives you the ability to evict the offender.