View Full Version : Need some advice. Sticky situation with the stables I manage

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:01 AM
I started my barn in December. I leased the barn with full access to the facilities for $800 a month. When we opened and had boarders come in, they upped our rent to $1500 a month - $700 more than what we had agreed on. So now, to be able to operate even though we're full (11 stalls, 7 of which are boarders, I think only two of which pay full board, the others are discounted), we still have to pay into it. Which is fine. The money we get from the boarders barely covers the rent and hay.

Here's the convoluted part. We lease through some caretakers that looked after the property (it's a foreclosed breeding facility) for the corporation that owns it now. Clear as mud? Well, the caretakers have another barn that they were going to board out of as well. Except, our barn filled up day 1. It's been over a month and they keep having people come look, but leave and never to be heard of again. Meanwhile we have a waiting list already. Even though it's basically the exact same place. We have talked to a couple of people almost got them into the barn across the pathway from us, but as soon as they meet the caretakers, they disappear. Because the caretakers are those kinds of beginner horse owners that know everything there is to know about horses and horse business. Right? LOL yuh ok.

We have an indoor arena. Well since they couldn't get any boarders they're "renting" out the indoor for $10 an hour to whoever will pay for it. $50 if they want it private. Well, last night there was a conflict in scheduling, one of our boarders had an instructor coming in for their daughter and the caretakers had rented out the indoor. No worries, our boarder rescheduled.

But then the caretakers got into an argument with our boarders and said that if they want the arena they have to pay the $50 for the use. I was flabbergasted!!! They pay $600 a month for their two horses to be here, and that is supposed to cover them being able to use the arena when they want. And they weren't even wanting the arena for their private use, just were concerned because their horse is green and they needed some space.

Ugh it's just a big mess. There's more but I can barely think straight. Every other week the caretakers are wanting more money from us. The bank/corporation is only getting a certain amount of it. it's like they're upset because they can't get boarders and they're doing whatever they can to get money, at the risk of us losing boarders - their MAIN INCOME!!

I just don't know what to do. I almost want to put together a proposal to take over the whole property (70 odd stalls) and have them pushed back to being solely caretakers of the property (lawn mowing, maintenance etc) and going to the corporation, explaining the situation, that these people are giving their property a bad name (because it has already spread far and wide "If you need board go to Serendipity, stay far away from that psychotic lady with "Bla Bla")
and showing them exactly how we can make their property thrive.

But then that could backfire you know? Big time. And in the meantime, I'm trying to keep my co-manager happy who is beyond stressed about all this, as well as keep all our boarders happy and trying to keep the caretakers happy.

At the moment, I can't keep anyone happy. I feel like I'm scrambling to hold everything together and nothing is working!!!

I'm exhausted. This was my baby, my plan, I brought on my co-manager because she was miserable at the barn she was boarding at. I do all the work, all the labor, deal with the boarders. My husband isn't very supportive, he's continually predicting failure for me. I want to scream!

I'm in no financial position to purchase the property, they want $900K for the property (84 acres with stocked pond, racetrack, 74 stalls, 3 barns, 90x120 indoor, hotwalker, outdoor arena, 6 turnouts plus three larger pasture turnouts).

If you read this far you deserve the chocolate with chocolate chip cookies I'm baking right now. I'll even box them and send them to you.:(

If you read all of this.. thanks.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:08 AM
You enjoy the cookies my dear....I recommend ice cold organic milk for dunking. :sadsmile:

While this may be a "dream" for you, you know it's turning into a nightmare. No one has a bottomless bank account and no one has a bottomless spirit. If this continues, you will bankrupt both.

So it's time to gently but firmly answer yourself: In light of eternity, does this place matter that much? Is it worth bankrupting your bank account, marriage and very self? Is it worth giving ulcers to your co-manager?

If you can't say a firm YES to each one of those, then it's time to find a new place to lease and let this go. It stinks...no two which ways about it...BUT the property isn't yours. No matter how you "complain" to the true owners, no matter how much you firmly believe you're in the right (and, in my opinion, you certainly are), the bottom line is that THEY are the caretakers and it's who the Corporation picked/hired/trusted.

Hmmm, maybe pass me one cookie. We'll dunk together.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:12 AM
What does your rental agreement say? You should not have had to pay the $700 when they upped rent from original $800. Your rental papers should SPELL OUT EVERYTHING, including use of the arena. You said full use of the facilities! That means scheduling is under YOUR control.

Sure hope you don't have an "agreement" with no paperwork!!! Contracts protect you and the landlord or his representative, make everything clear for a good working relationship.

Without knowing your contract wording if you have one, not much we can do to help you in this situation.

You have already caved to their demands, so precedent has been set. They demand, you give. Sure not going to end, without you getting a backbone and written protection with your contract. Sounds like they will be putting you out of business shortly. You will finally not be able to meet the demands, increased expenses, stress, customers will not put up with continued rescheduling cutting into their time and general unhappy tone of the facility. In spite of good care, they will leave.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:22 AM
Unfortunately we had verbally agreed on the $800, then the day we accepted boarders, they had us sign the contract that had the $1500. So that was a huge faux pas on our behalf.

It is, however, in our contract to have full use of the facility. We've been trying to pussy foot around and be nice to everyone but quite honestly I'm fed up.

In our contract, they're to receive the $1500, and no further money. They don't profit from our lessons, or training. The arena issue only came up about two weeks ago when they realised they weren't able to get boarders.

They have a serious cash flow issue and they keep getting $$$ in their eyes and aren't looking long term. Soon the weather will be better and their indoor rental will fizzle out.

I agree, I am going to have to dig out my spine and use it.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:38 AM
Yup, use that vertebral column!!

If you wanna keep this place, then you fight for it. The written page is your greatest and best source of ammunition to the Corporation.

"With all due respect, we have a signed contract that states blah-blah-blah. We have upheld our portion and expect the same from your caretakers."

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:40 AM
If it were me, I'd start looking for a new place, BUT once I found a suitable new place, before I agreed to take it, I'd go to current bank/corp and make the proposal. If they say no, you leave.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:50 AM
I'd get out. Not putting this in writing was a big mistake. That has cost you big time, and you aren't going to get anything going without a written contract. And personally, I wouldn't make it with the caretakers, I would make it with the corporation, so that you are notified when the property sells (caretakers could keep you in the dark to keep getting your money) and you will be dealt with more fairly.

IF you get a written contract. Otherwise, this is over.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:52 AM
Honestly, the whole thing would be great, if the caretakers would mind their own business and stop changing up everything all the time. Instead of coming to me - they go to the boarders. The boarders don't have contracts with them, they have contracts with me.

Lord the list of things that have gone wrong because of the caretakers is huge. Stuff that wouldn't happen in even the most dramatic hunter/jumper barn I've ever been to.

The caretakers have got it in their head that they don't like a few of the boarders. Our boarders were carefully interviewed and are all professionals, so thank God, board is paid on time, the area is kept in better condition than when we first got there and there is no drama between boarders. At all. In fact, if the caretakers kept to themselves, there would be no drama at all.

I need more coffee. Maybe some vodka.

Feb. 4, 2010, 11:55 AM
We do have a written contract. And in that contract there is nothing about then renting out the arena. When we took in boarders, there was no talk of renting out anything. Because they were allegedly going to have boarders too. But they haven't got a single boarder, and therein lies the issue. They're scrambling to get money any way that they can, oblivious to the fact that they're about to lose their main income.

Feb. 4, 2010, 12:09 PM
Can you go over the caretakers head and approach the bank that now owns the property and employs the caretakers? At this point, I would imagine that the bank wants to derive whatever income it can from the distressed property while it has it up for sale. The fact that the caretakers are interfering with the operations and potentially going to cost the bank a renter (income) will not be taken lightly.

If this is the type of situation I imagine, the bank is making up a package on the property in order to market it. It is much better to show a property that at least has some income and has the potential for more. Besides, you mentioned that you had made some improvements to your area of the property. This will also make you more favorable in the eyes of the bank.

I'd cut out the middle man and take your grievances to the top. Hopefully, they will realize they hired the wrong people to look out for the property and will either offer you the position (be prepared with an answer/price) or will bring in someone else.

Good luck - rapacious idiots are most annoying creatures.

Feb. 4, 2010, 12:16 PM
I hope your contract has an out for you if these people scare away all your boarders.

Feb. 4, 2010, 12:25 PM
Have you sat down with the Company that owns the property to discuss purchase options. You may be surprised what they might be willing to do to help you obtain ownership. Sounds like you could make one heck of a good business out of this place. Never hurts to try.

Feb. 4, 2010, 12:37 PM
The caretakers haven't even been hired to work there. They live in one of the barn's kitchens, I'm fairly certain either rent free or very little rent, in return for doing handiwork, etc around the property.

I'm putting together my proposal to the bank. They jumped all over the idea of me leasing the property to start with so perhaps they would be more inclined to listen to me.

Feb. 4, 2010, 01:13 PM
So, basically some Squatters are trying to push you around?! Get that proposal to the bank ASAP and in the meantime put some steel in your spine and push back!

The bank has probably just been too lazy to get rid of the "caretakers" if they have taken up residence in the kitchen of a barn. In most states it can be pretty hard to get rid of unwanted tenants and so the bank may need a push from you in order to shove them out.

Feb. 4, 2010, 03:39 PM
Well, there has been some progress. I bunched my kohonas together and approached the caretakers. I told them on no uncertain terms could they approach my boarders and that any information needing to go down to them would go through me from now on.

I also told them (and showed them a copy of our contract with it highlighted) that the boarders are to be granted access to the facility as agreed. That access is covered by their board. In future they're to put the times the arena is "rented" on the whiteboard in the arena and our barn, and if our boarders have visiting trainers/instructors we'll do the same.

In the meantime, I'm talking with my bank manager about writing a good proposal to give the corporation that owns the property.

Feb. 4, 2010, 03:40 PM
You go girl! :cool:

Feb. 4, 2010, 03:53 PM
I think that it is entirely possible that the "caretakers" are taking care of themselves, and that the owners of the property, "the bank", has no idea what the "caretakers" are raking off.

I would make some quiet inquiries, unless of course, you are comfortable that a purchase can be made in an expedicious manner.

Feb. 4, 2010, 06:19 PM
Very good point.

Feb. 4, 2010, 06:23 PM
Not to trainwreck...but O-M-G where is this place???? Less than mil for all that?? Hell, I'd buy it, and I'm in no spot to do so. I'd propose to my BF and move there with joint incomes. <dreamy sigh>

Seriously, try talking to whomever it was you went to about leasing.

Feb. 4, 2010, 08:34 PM
I think you know the answer; either draft a modified contract that protects you and your boarders or get the hell out. Because I can guarantee that your boarders will leave (or are already in the process) if you don't straighten things out ASAP and then you'll have a lease fee and no income.

Feb. 5, 2010, 05:47 AM
What authority do these "caretakers"/squatters actually HAVE? Check with the owners. Despite the fact that they "jumped all over you" on the proposal to lease the barn, they may actually LIKE an income=producing PROFESSIONAL "taking care of" things instead of free-loading lying opportunists.

Feb. 5, 2010, 09:14 AM
From what you've indicated folks are paying you $300/mo. At the rate of $1500/mo/11 stalls, you are paying $136/stall for stall rent. Not knowing where you are located it seems like a lot of headache and not a whole lot of $$$ per horse per day for taking care of all of it.

Feb. 5, 2010, 12:22 PM
Yup, we're not even breaking even. Grain alone costs us almost $500 a month, plus hay which is getting close to that as well. I think our outgoing cash far outweighs our incoming.

I'm anxious to find out if the corporation will accept my proposal. It will be a win/win situation for all of us. And eliminates the "caretakers" from the foodchain.

Feb. 5, 2010, 12:48 PM
Yup, we're not even breaking even. Grain alone costs us almost $500 a month, plus hay which is getting close to that as well. I think our outgoing cash far outweighs our incoming.

I started my barn in December. I leased the barn with full access to the facilities for $800 a month. When we opened and had boarders come in, they upped our rent to $1500 a month - $700 more than what we had agreed on. So now, to be able to operate even though we're full (11 stalls, 7 of which are boarders, I think only two of which pay full board, the others are discounted), we still have to pay into it. Which is fine. The money we get from the boarders barely covers the rent and hay.

Why on earth are the majority of your boarders paying a discounted rate when you say you are not even close to breaking even.

Feb. 6, 2010, 03:39 AM
Create a business plan showing what you want to do with the place by running a professional boarding facility. This business plan must cover everything that you will do to bring your business to fruition, but also look at how it will benefit the corporation (i.e. money) you can do this with laying out the costs involved in running the place and the money that can be generated from it, also make sure that you point out that you have already have clients on a waiting list.

The added bonus of this is that the corporation would then have it pointed out to them just how much revenue they are missing out by having the current caretakers.

Be professional, be transparent and make sure what ever decision is made PUT IT TO PAPER, also have contracts left, right and center as these help with establishing who is responsible for what and the agreed monetary and conditions terms.


Feb. 6, 2010, 06:11 AM
You're learning some valuable lessons here.

Albeit hard lessons and ones that would have been best learned from the mistakes of others.

If you look at the numbers of small equestrian centres that set up and fold within a couple of years you'll find that you're not the only one that sets out with a dream but NO viable business plan, market research, cash flow forecast, contracts for goods and services (those that you buy and sell).

Not only do people think they can run stables with no real experience of managing horses, but a heck of a lot think they can do it with no commercial knowledge at all. They become at best busy fools subsidising others lifestyles whilst they pour money in and turn in a loss. Or else they end up worried sick, out of funds and impacting on their own and their family's health and livelihood.

At least though you've recognised the problem early so you can do something about it. But truthfully it's not "horse people" you need advice off. It's just all "business stuff". It's obvious to me that aside from the problems you have with "caretakers" and your own operating costs that you've not got your price structure right either.

So just set up and you now already need a business recovery plan and a contingency plan. You need to put it to your landlords what you're looking for in terms of enabling you to secure what you require.

If you don't get it, then you've got the opportunity to know exactly where you stand and to start again on a firmer footing.

You do also need to address the matter of what you charge though as well because otherwise even if you get your rental costs sorted, you're still stuck with an operation that's going down the pan.

What you can't do is fail to address the problem, or stick your head in the sand. Do that and you might as well just flush your money down the toilet and cut out the middle man and save yourself a lot of trouble.

I'd suggest you invest in some personal development and the expertise of a small business consultant to help you with this. It will be money well spent and a lot better than doing what you're currently doing with your hard earned cash and diminishing personal assets.

Feb. 6, 2010, 05:09 PM
Absolutely right. On all fronts. Thankfully I'm only investing $200 a month, so it's not all that much (well it is but it isn't) in that really that $200 is covering the "board and feed" of my three horses as well, and my co-manager is doing the same and having her three horses as well.

I can't wait to get my proposal finished and present it to the corporation. I know for a fact that I can turn that property into a thriving business.

Honestly, my first mistake was asking a friend to come in on the idea, I was trying to help her. The second mistake was not getting the contract in writing prior to getting boarders in. Third and final mistake was allowing them to push me around.

First solution was to stop letting them push me around, and it's been amazing the change since I stood my ground. My boarders are already happier.

Adapt and overcome! That's what I was taught in the army and I will make this work!

Feb. 6, 2010, 06:51 PM
I think you are on the right track! I bet those caretakers are upping your rent and not telling the owners.
Good luck, I think it is going to work out for you! Keep us posted.

Feb. 7, 2010, 10:41 PM
OP - good for you. Now you have stood your ground and seen the improvements I am sure you will stand your ground even more. Definitely get that letter into the corporation. I would not be surprised if they have 1 contract with you for $1,500 and another that they have actually given the corporation for $800 (probably with your signature forged on it!).

On the indoor arena I am thinking that the "caretakers" have absolutely no right to ever do a private rental for what you are saying, regardless of whether they write it down or not! What if they start writing it down every day?

Feb. 7, 2010, 11:37 PM
I think that it is entirely possible that the "caretakers" are taking care of themselves, and that the owners of the property, "the bank", has no idea what the "caretakers" are raking off.


I am certain that the bank doesn't realize that the "caretakers" are renting the property out to such a high liability business. Your $1500/month contract is probably TOTALLY INVALID anyway because it is not a contract with the actual owners of the property. Have you had to provide a certificate of insurance to anyone? A bank would never act as a landlord to a commercial business without requesting a certificate of insurance.

Feb. 7, 2010, 11:57 PM
For help with a business plan, contact SCORE - a volunteer group of retired executives who give totally free advice and counseling for persons starting businesses. As a woman-owned business you may be able to get special financing if needed.

Feb. 8, 2010, 03:47 AM
Yet another example of: a verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Feb. 9, 2010, 07:53 AM
Have you had to provide a certificate of insurance to anyone? A bank would never act as a landlord to a commercial business without requesting a certificate of insurance.

Yes, the corporation is covered on my certificate of insurance, of which I had to give them a copy.

I've heard of the woman owned business financing. I might look into that more.