You know what I'd do? I'd shoot an email and I'd say something to the effect of:
I wanted to shoot you a quick email to let you know that I'm not upset about the hay thing but that I was a little taken aback since we've discussed it previously.
I am more than happy to feed your horse more hay. If you would like me to do that, please buy a hay net so that the extra doesn't end up being bedding. But please keep in mind that one of the ways I monitor the horses is by their eating habits. If my horse's hay is disappearing more quickly or more slowly than normal, that is an indication of a possible problem. In the same vein, if I notice that YOUR horse has more hay than normal because you've added some without my knowledge, I become concerned about your horse.
Horsekeeping is definitely as much an art as a science and here at X farm, I do endeavor to meet each horse's individual needs. It's more difficult to determine what those needs are if there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
Moving forward, should you feel that your horse needs additional services, feed, hay, whatever--just give me a call. I'm sure we can work something out.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
The horse gets 8 BIG flakes of hay per day PLUS grass outside. And 6# of pellets (divided into 2 meals) a day. The owner brings a full bag of carrots (3#) every time he comes out and feeds the whole thing, in addition to apples and horse treats. Believe me,this horse IS NOT THIN! He made a comment to me yesterday that the horse looks the best he has EVER looked in three years!
I have an open door policy - you have a problem you come to me or my husband. We VERBALLY tell all the boarder this so things like this don't happen. But this boarder has made himself very comfortable at my farm since I only have 2 boarders that come out to ride their horses. He will come at 5:30pm and not ride the horse but stay until 8:45pm. I'm not going to babysit in the barn - I"m out there all day and need a life away from the barn. He used to sneak my flaxseed also. I had him pay for a full bag for his own use and I think it curtailed his use.
I have 5 of my own horses in addition to the 5 boarders and treat all of them as my own. I've had the farrier and vet make comments that I feed alot more hay than most barns. I budget for a certain amount (we buy 1200 bales in the summer so we don't run out) and I've also told the boarders this so they understand but apparently it goes in one ear and out the other.
He pays for extra but I guess I need to put a limit on "extra" especially when the horse decides to bed his stall in it.
Great letter BuddyRoo! I think he was very embarrased that he got caught sneaking and I won't have to mention it again. If I do,then I will change my boarding agreement to be VERY specific about what "extra" hay means.
Er... he's not sneaking, he's stealing. He's been told before, he's stolen from you before, so he's not completely clueless about waht he's doing. I think you are being way too nice. He sounds like a first class pain in the arse boarder.
You have to be able to "budget" your hay. Certainly around here, if you run short before the first cut, sure, you can find hay, but it is fearfully expensive.
The horse gets 8 big flakes per day in addition to grass?!?! Wow, blondmane, you are being more than generous with the hay as a BO. There is no reason your boarder should be sneaking more hay for his horse!!
The horse gets 8 big flakes of hay a day, yet every time the owner is there the horse doesn't have hay but the BO's horse does have hay, enough to be able to remove BO horse's hay and transfer to his own horse's stall.
Who knows how big the big flakes are, how much it weighs relative to the horse's weight and how thin or fat the horse really is. This is only the BO's point of view and for some reason the boarder continues to believe his horse is not getting enough hay and has to do something about it. Something is definitely awry with this picture.
Having once boarded at a barn where the horses were turned out in an overgrazed, non-pasture 'field' in a large herd with two bales of hay thrown in near the gate and may the most aggressive horse win, while the owne'rs two horses were turned out in a smaller lush grassy paddock, and then in the PM when the horses were brought back into their stalls (very hungry) the only horse who had a flake of hay waiting for him in his stall was the owner's (overweight) horse, I can imagine there is more than one side to this story.
Last edited by Androcles; Nov. 2, 2009 at 10:06 PM.
You said 5 horses of your own and 5 boarders for which you buy 1200 bales of hay. I'm in New England where the average bale is 40 pounds. So when I did the math, that came up to 13 pounds of hay per day per horse which was 1.3% of Body weight for an average horse. So either you've got much bigger bales or awesome pasture that let's you skip hay for awhile each year.
So, perhaps Blondemane is feeding ample hay, but it can be incredibly frustrating as a boarder. I've been lucky, since I returned to the East Coast I've been able to find places where my guy could have ample hay. He'll eat 30 pounds a day of grass hay which for him is 2.5% of his BW a day. In Ohio the farm he was at couldn't understand why 2 small flakes twice a day wasn't appropriate for him. He was at a dressage focused barn but the only warmblood. And yes, I worked extensively in the farm management side before vet school. At UNH both the boarders and school horses ate free choice hay.
When an owner pays to board a horse, the horse needs to get whatever the owner is paying for the horse to get. If the owner wants 24lbs of hay per day for his 1200lb horse, the horse should get 24lbs of hay. The BO can charge extra if she only feeds 8lbs of hay to the others. However, I don't think it is the BO's place to decide how much hay the horse needs. If the BO and the owner can't agree on the feeding plan, the owner needs to find a new place to board.
I completely agree that if the boarder is paying extra for the extra hay and his horse is wasting it, then so be it...I'd point it out to him and say "hey, look at all the extra hay you paid for and your horse just craps on it-kinda a waste of money, really".
However, I DISAGREE that it is not the BO's place to decide how much hay a horse needs. As a BO, it IS my job to be well-educated in matters of equine health and nutrition and to make decisions accordingly. I don't limit the amount of hay a horse gets in my boarding contract, but I do insist that only myself and my husband feed hay. Regardless, I would have kicked this particular boarder out long ago when he was stealing the flaxseed...
One of the most important things a BM needs when boarding an individual's horse is: TRUST. Sometimes, it takes a month or two to earn that trust. But a boarder who really won't let you care for their horse- you don't need 'em.
Either find a strategy that your boarder is comfortable with (i.e. sell boarder several bales of hay, placed outside the stall to pull from- maybe placed in a haynet) or they probably need to go.
There are all kinds of BOs and boarders and there is no "one size fits all" answer to these kind of dilemmas.
There are some owners who are very knowledgeable and involved with their horses. There are also owners who are totally clueless about what is best for their horses but insist on making decisions. Hay is getting to be a scarce commodity-does the owner help with the hay deliveries, does he clean all that soiled hay out of the bedding? Does he have any idea how much extra work wasting all that hay entails to the farm owners?
In an ideal situation, it is between the farm owner and boarder as to an appropriate amount to feed. But there are some boarders who cannot be relied on to make a reasonable decision because they just aren't that knowledgeable. There are also BOs who have antiquated animal husbandry methods that haven't caught up with the times. A few flakes of hay a day and no pasture isn't good horse management. Neither is giving a horse more hay than they will eat or giving hay free choice to a horse whose caloric intake needs to be somewhat restricted.
Personally, I don't think this boarder sounds like the kind of person who is willing to be reasonable and thoughtful. There are some people that you just cannot please, and it ends up being more stressful than it is worth. If he's that gutsy to be stealing hay from your horse, what else does he think he's entitled to?
I agree that he should have just told you he wanted the horse to have even more hay. There is NO reason to steal hay out of a another horse's stall. I do think now that he's been caught red-handed he is probably really embarrassed and hopefully will not do this anymore. However, if he is paying for extra hay, then perhaps he just wants the horse to have hay in the stall at all times, wether it pees/poops in it or not. Just charge him more accordingly. I boarded somewhere that a woman had a mare who never ate her hay. Every morning there was just a big mess of pee hay, but the woman paid for extra bales so the extra hay was fed each day. If your boarder really wants the horse to have hay despite the wasting, just feed it and charge him even more for the hay and extra cleaning time.
Or hay stretcher or cubes. I give my horses some hay stretcher every day, mainly to mix with their supplements. They get more of it as cold weather comes in. It's much easier to store than buying additional hay.
However, I DISAGREE that it is not the BO's place to decide how much hay a horse needs. As a BO, it IS my job to be well-educated in matters of equine health and nutrition and to make decisions accordingly. QUOTE]
While I agree it is your job to be well-educated, I totally disagree that it is the BO's place to decide how much hay a horse needs. I agree with feeding more and charging more if this is excessive, but I can't help but feel for a boarder who is worried their horse isn't getting enough hay.
I also note that the OP buys 240 bales per horse per year. I know that would not have been enough for my previous horse, a TB/Perch with a full work schedule in a cold climate. In the winter I was feeding almost a bale per day (probably 45-55lbs) - 3 flakes in AM, 2 flakes at lunch, 3-4 flakes at supper, 1-2 flakes before leaving at night. When there was grass (8hrs), he still got 2-3 flakes at supper and 1-2 flakes at bedtime.
Gosh I couldn't be bothered with all that checking and counting and writing down who took what and how much of it they took.
I feed free-choice hay so absolutely none of the horses who live here ever run out of hay and I have a lot of horses living here. Their owners never turn up to find their horses without hay, so I have never ever had this problem in the 20 years I've owned boarding stables. Now I do happen to own a large productive hay farm but I don't feel that this is relevant here because irrespective of this, I personally, would be mortified if I found out an owner felt they had to take extra hay for their horse , as I would feel it a great reflection on my apparent care of their horses.
I'm not saying this is the situation at your barn OP, just saying that if a horse always has hay in front of it at all times of the day and night then you don't get owners doing things like this.
As for him causing a horse to colic ... on hay? What sort of hay was it?
Confessions of a hay stealer aka sneaker aka otherwise (fairly) normal horseperson....
I also steal hay. There is usually a roundbale in the big field, never any grass as there are too many horses on it. My horse gets 1 flake when he comes in and sometimes 1 flake before bed. I have offered multiple times to pay for more hay, and I get reassured it's not necessary, he gets plenty of hay. I have requested him to get more hay in the evening, but it happens once in a while but 95% of the time it's just 1 flake, which takes him about 40 minutes to eat, maybe 50-60 to have the stall devoid of any shred of food.
I am one of those who think horses should be able to eat when they are hungry, not as much for nutritional reasons but habitual/psychological reasons. If horses graze up to 16 hours per day in the wild, then it makes sense to me that a food option should be available to my horse. Obviously within reason...enough that he trashes it is not acceptable, but some sort of happy medium?
Anyways, no matter how many times I bring it up I am assured he's getting enough hay. I guess it just makes me feel better that I can throw him a flake. I don't do it all the time, but basically he NEVER has hay when he's inside.
I know this is a weak justification, but they generally feed scraps of hay and a handful (okay, that's an exaggeration but basically equivilates to a full shovel) of shavings per day. I know it's wrong to take a flake of hay here and there but I guess you could call it a compulsion. It's like OCD but more like OCHF. (Obsessive Compulsive Hay Feeder.)
(I used to have my own farm...this probably has not helped my OCHF problem, having been able to throw hay as much as necessary!)
Actually, 1200 bales per year to feed 5 boarders and 5 of the owner's horses is 120 bales per year per horse. That is 10 bales per month per horse, and 2 1/3 bales per week per horse. My bales are small; about 30lbs each. Assuming the BO's bales are larger; 40-50lbs each, and that each horse is given the same amount of hay, each horse is getting 13-15lbs of hay per day. My 16.3h horse weighs 1500lbs. His 1%-2% of body weight hay requirement is 15-30lbs of hay per day; substantially below what the OP is feeding.
The bottom line is that this is a business. If you make your customers happy, you will keep them. If you make them unhappy, they will go elsewhere if they can find a better place. They will also tell everyone they know about their unhappy experiences. If you don't really want boarders, you don't have to keep them happy. If you need them, you should make some effort to keep them happy.
I am very glad that we keep our horses at home. I am also very glad that we don't have to have boarders.