Those of us who board our horses at an equestrian facility probably don’t own a farm ‒ maybe it’s a fantasy for a future day, but not right now. So you and your horse are clients at a farm owned or run by a barn manager.
Being a “boarder” or client comes with some privileges; for your monthly board you have access to amenities like an indoor ring, wash stall, tack room with a locker of your own, and perhaps nice riding trails, while someone else feeds, mucks and turns out your animal. All you have to do is show up and ride, right?
Boarders spend a lot of time discussing among themselves everything the manager/owner does right and wrong. You’re a paying client and you have a right to get the level of service you expect.
But guess what? All those owners/managers of boarding barns feel the same about you. If you ask a person who owns such a facility what the best kind of boarder is, the wistful answer is usually something like, “One that pays on time and never comes to the farm.”
If you’re a weekend carrot feeder who pays on the first of the month like clockwork, then rest assured you’re the farm favourite. For the rest of us, it may be humbling to know there are many ways that we ruffle feathers or outright annoy the men and women who run the place, possibly to the extreme point of being asked to leave. And in this era of Covid-19, do you really want to be asked to relocate?
We are here to help with the Top 10 ways to ensure that you and your horse will be welcome at your boarding barn forever.
1. Clean Up After Your Horse: This might be the number-one complaint about boarders we heard. You use crossties in the aisle, grooming stall or wash stall, you pick out hooves and/or your horse passes manure and you tack up and are on your way. Don’t do this! Take the extra time to grab a broom or shovel and clean up your area before you put the bridle on. Barn staff are not your personal cleaning service.
2. Clear Up After Yourself: If you’re one of the guilty parties mentioned above, chances are you fall into this category, too. Everyone can forget and leave their bridle hanging on the tack hook once in a while, but not a pile of blankets, boots, polos and dirty saddle pads lying around your tack trunk or stall or locker on a regular basis. Is this how you act at home? In other words, treat the barn as your second home.
3. Do Not Help Yourself to Hay & Feed: Wonder why many feed rooms are padlocked? It’s to keep you out! Tossing an extra flake of hay because you feel like it, or deciding to top up your horse’s grain is not only costly to the farm, but if your manager is any good (and we assume he or she is because you’re there) then they have carefully measured what feed requirements your horse needs. Many even consult an equine nutritionist.
4. Ask First: And if you do want to toss some hay because your horse is in the barn alone for whatever reason, ask the barn staff. Chances are they will say yes. And if you’re concerned about the weight of your horse, or how its performing, discuss the feed program directly with the manager. But please don’t take the matter into your own hands, literally.
5. No Drama! One of the upsides of a boarder barn is the friends you make. It’s a social place and we all love to catch up and talk about our passion: horses. But drama queens ruin the vibe for everyone. No one needs to hear you diss another boarder, or vent about the management (except the management), so keep the negativity out.
6. Respect Other Boarders: This is related to #5, but no one likes a moody or selfish person. Be polite, courteous and obey basic rules of horse etiquette. And if you are in a crap mood due to outside forces ‒ and we all have those days ‒ there’s no harm in telling those around you that you’re in a quiet mood today rather than snapping at them. Chances are just being with your horse will help alleviate your mood!
7. Communicate Like a Grown-Up: Again, horse facility owners/managers are people too, which means they can make mistakes. If you have an issue, bring it up directly to them and see if you can work it out. You’re at the barn because you chose to be there; if the service isn’t up to expectations after you’ve had a talk about an issue, give notice. But no need to hurt feelings ‒ the horse world is tiny.
8. Don’t Be the Barn Know-It-All: It’s an old adage in the horse world, “an adult amateur is just a junior with an opinion.” Every barn has one, that person who loves the sound of their own voice and comments aloud to anyone within shouting distance about the latest study, or why another boarder’s horse is lame or not going well. Or they like watching someone else’s lesson and professing their opinion as to what the rider should be doing, even in direct conflict with what the trainer is saying. (Which brings up the other adage: ask three horse people a question and you’ll get five opinions.)
9. Pay Your Bill on Time: You’d think this would be number one, wouldn’t you? And yeah, it seems obvious, because it is. So just do it.
10. Put the Needs of Your Horse First: That means take the time, patience and any other resource you have to learn, respect and be kind to your horse. If your horse is a sweaty mess after your ride but you’ve got dinner plans, text that you’ll be late. Stay and cool your horse off properly. This goes for every area of horse care. It’s called horsemanship and unfortunately there are far too many boarders out there who don’t seem to know what that means.