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  1. #1
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    Apr. 1, 2008
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    Default Co-ops, good bad and ugly

    I know there was a thread here (last summer?) about barn co-ops and how they worked for different people. I can't find the thread and am thinking that might be something I'd be interested in.

    Pros? Cons? Good stuff? How did it work for you?



  2. #2
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    Jan. 15, 2004
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    Lancaster, PA, USA
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    When I lived in Philly it worked really well. The thing is everyone has to be on the same page for a standard of care. There were 6 in our barn. 5 of us all worked well together. Number 6 was a PIA that did not clean his stalls daily among other things and was a PIA to get rid of. The 5 of us that did get along had a schedule of sharing stall cleaning and feeding and turnout so everyone did not have to come and feed and do stalls twice a day. I worked a 4 day a week 10 hour day schedule at that point...10 am to 8 pm. So I did am feedings. Another lady was a teacher and had to be at work early but got home at 3 pm so she did pm care. Another lady that was a stay at home mom only worked on the weekends so she did some of the weekday stuff/didn't do weekends etc. Number 6 was not included in the job sharing with the other 5 of us since he did not pull his weight or play nicely with others.
    Feed: we all ended up having different choices in feed. Different brands of choice, different types of hay......so luckily this was a nice big bank barn. For hay everyone bought their own and had their own stack with their name on it. Shavings bags: ditto. Grain: each person had a metal trash can in the aisle with their name on it. Poo removal: being a city barn, dumpster removal was a must. We all shared in splitting the monthly cost. (Once again PIA Mr. Number 6 was not good at paying his share.....the rest of us were.)



  3. #3
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    Jul. 11, 2004
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    7,024

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    They can work well, but only if the people are adults.

    I was at two co-op barns. One had great people, about 7 of us and we all helped each other. Feed wasn't stolen, neither was hay or bedding. A nice place.

    One barn, we all provided our own feed (amazingly, the good stuff disappeared all the time), more boarders, less of a family feeling. So, people just took what they wanted and didn't feel the barn was theirs.

    I don't think I'd do a co-op again...the potential savings just aren't worth the hassles.
    "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    I have been in a co-op for nearly 10 years.

    Most of the time it's been great -- once we had a boarder who really had different expectations than the rest of us and made everyone else's life miserable. To the point where no one wanted to come to the barn in case she was there. She's been gone for a year and I still say a prayer of thanks every day when I go to the barn and she's not there.

    Good communication is essential. Similar expectations about horse care are key. For example, do you stress out if your horse isn't fed every morning between 8:15 and 8:30? Do you need to know exactly how much hay your horse is eating when turned out with a herd?

    IME, some people are very rigid about what's the "right" way to care for horses. That's fine if you all feel that way; not so good if you're at odds.

    BTW, I second the opinion that it works best with adults. I'm not saying that all teens are bad at taking care of horses. Rather, there are times when you need to make health decisions about other people's horses. Sometimes those decisions are critical and/or expensive. Most (but certainly not all) adults have more life experience that gives them a better perspective on making those kinds of decisions. There are also liability issues with having a minor handle your horse. Accidents do happen even with the calmest, sanest horses. Better to be dealing with adults.


    My recommendations on co-op barns are here:

    Keeping a co-op barn cooperative.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 24, 2007
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    I'm in a co-op now and it works great. There are 5 adults, the horses live out so the responsibilities are feeding and picking the pasture. Everyone feeds on a different day and picks the day they feed. Everyone buys their owns grain and the four of us whose horses live together split the cost of the hay evenly. The other just buys her own hay. If you can't be there one day someone is always willing to fill in and everyone is great about giving the horses a look over to make sure they all still have 4 legs.

    I am very happy. I will say that the people who are there are what makes this work. When people have expressed interest in moving there we are careful to make sure they would be a good fit.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2007
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    SE PA
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    Default

    It's mostly all been said above...

    In addition to what everyone else has said, what makes it easiest at my barn is that we split hay and straw evenly. I've been at barns where everyone buys separately, and the good stuff always disappears fastest, regardless of whose it is. Also, if you start getting into whose horse eats more/less or who uses more/less straw, it is not only a pain in the neck but can quickly lead to crankiness We all agree that we split the cost evenly, and then we don't have to worry about any of that. (Although if someone came in with a small pony, I imagine that wouldn't make as much sense.)

    We split feedings and stall cleaning, and cover for each other on vacations. Everyone has the same standard of care, so it works out perfectly.

    One thing we do here, that I would recommend for all co-ops, is keep a record book. It's just a daily appointment book... but we write down everything that happens so we have a record of it if we need to refer back to it later. For instance, what time we fed, which stalls we did, when we bought hay/straw/grain, who was ridden when and for how long, and especially if any horse got hurt or seemed NQR. That way, if there is an emergency and the vet has to be called, we have a complete history of the previous days easily accessible.
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  7. #7
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    Apr. 1, 2008
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    Default

    thanks everyone, this is very helpful.

    A couple of questions.

    1. the barn I'm at that is thinking of doing some sort of alternate care, has a lot of stalls not being used. Some horses are mostly pasture horses and handled little while others are taken out and brought in each day and yet others never go out. How would *your* coop handle the different standard of care? Would this be a big enough issue that it would not work?

    2. there are some horses that are more difficult to handle than others. They go out and come back in daily, however some of the barn members are not comfortable handling difficult horses. Suggestions on how to diplomatically handle that issue?

    3. manure would be spread by a manure spreader. Equipment is expensive and owned by the BO, so how to handle repairs and how to handle those who do not want or do not know how to run that equipment? My thought on that would be to hire it done for a flat monthly rate and split that amount by the number of co-op members. It would probably need to be spread about every second day or so.

    4. property upkeep and improvement. Who pays for what, how to decide what to improve and what is simple upkeep?

    5. If another person wanted to become a member how to handle that? By majority vote?



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    Default

    My thoughts:

    A couple of questions.

    1. the barn I'm at that is thinking of doing some sort of alternate care, has a lot of stalls not being used. Some horses are mostly pasture horses and handled little while others are taken out and brought in each day and yet others never go out. How would *your* coop handle the different standard of care? Would this be a big enough issue that it would not work? It would depend. What would your responsibilities be? Personally, I'm a "keep it simple" person. If there are too many horses with too many individual requirements, I'm not interested. For example, I know now why many barns have an extra charge for blanketing changes. Even with just 5 horses if each one needs something different 2x/day it's a PITA.

    2. there are some horses that are more difficult to handle than others. They go out and come back in daily, however some of the barn members are not comfortable handling difficult horses. Suggestions on how to diplomatically handle that issue? Horses that are not well mannered should be handled only by their owners. We've had two issues with it. One pony charged a woman and knocked her down causing a nose bleed; the other horse started rearing/charging people in the field. It was fricken scary. Those horses left. I've been handling horses for 30 years and when that horse reared and tried to strike out at me, I was scared. If someone has a horse that other people can't handled, they shouldn't be in a coop. Likewise, co-ops work best when the people there are comfortable around horses. Don't laugh. We've had a few who really weren't. They had never taken care of their own horses and it showed.

    3. manure would be spread by a manure spreader. Equipment is expensive and owned by the BO, so how to handle repairs and how to handle those who do not want or do not know how to run that equipment? My thought on that would be to hire it done for a flat monthly rate and split that amount by the number of co-op members. It would probably need to be spread about every second day or so. At my barn property upkeep is included in the cost of the stalls. That includes spreading the manure. We have piles that are composted and then spread as fertilizer. It's handled by the BO and none of us deal with the equipment.

    4. property upkeep and improvement. Who pays for what, how to decide what to improve and what is simple upkeep? Once again, that's mostly handled by the BO. If it's something simple or something that we've broken, we replace it. For example, we will need a new stock tank heater which we will all pay our share.

    5. If another person wanted to become a member how to handle that? By majority vote? When someone new comes in, it must be unanimous. However, there are only 5 of us so it's not that hard to reach consensus. My advice is to also develop a procedure to be able to vote someone off the island before you need it. Getting rid of our problem boarder was an issue because we'd never had to do it before.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.



  9. #9
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    Jan. 15, 2004
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    Lancaster, PA, USA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by threedogpack View Post
    thanks everyone, this is very helpful.

    A couple of questions.

    1. the barn I'm at that is thinking of doing some sort of alternate care, has a lot of stalls not being used. Some horses are mostly pasture horses and handled little while others are taken out and brought in each day and yet others never go out. How would *your* coop handle the different standard of care? Would this be a big enough issue that it would not work?
    **This is one really every one has to sit down and discuss. The more variation you have when job sharing the more likelihood someone is not going to be happy....ie if you are always cleaning stalls when your horse is pasture boarded.

    2. there are some horses that are more difficult to handle than others. They go out and come back in daily, however some of the barn members are not comfortable handling difficult horses. Suggestions on how to diplomatically handle that issue?
    **If your horse is a problem child it probably should not be handled by others and a co op it not the best situation for this owner if there are less experienced horse peeps involved. It may not be "a good match".

    3. manure would be spread by a manure spreader. Equipment is expensive and owned by the BO, so how to handle repairs and how to handle those who do not want or do not know how to run that equipment? My thought on that would be to hire it done for a flat monthly rate and split that amount by the number of co-op members. It would probably need to be spread about every second day or so.
    **If it's the BOs the BO should be in charge of fixing it. If it was my equipment I sure would not want clueless folks breaking it....well meaning or not.

    4. property upkeep and improvement. Who pays for what, how to decide what to improve and what is simple upkeep?
    **our co-op folks did all partake of sharing this stuff: weed whacking, mowing etc. It was kinda fun..........we would have work days where everyone would show up for a project.. Daily stuff like pasture picking were on a job chart (just like feeding and stall picking).

    5. If another person wanted to become a member how to handle that? By majority vote?
    *yup
    answers in body of quote...sorry. Don't want to retype!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb. 13, 2006
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    1,539

    Default answers from a former co-oper

    1. the barn I'm at that is thinking of doing some sort of alternate care, has a lot of stalls not being used. Some horses are mostly pasture horses and handled little while others are taken out and brought in each day and yet others never go out. How would *your* coop handle the different standard of care? Would this be a big enough issue that it would not work?

    At my former co op every effort was made to follow owner's regimen. It worked, with some griping, because each of us took one horse care shift (14 members, one for each feeding/turnout shift in a week). If you want YOUR horse's care instructions followed, you tend to buckle down and do what others want, or don't want. If one person is doing the care, you would need to decide if less care = less $$ or does everyone pay a flat rate to cover labor.


    2. there are some horses that are more difficult to handle than others. They go out and come back in daily, however some of the barn members are not comfortable handling difficult horses. Suggestions on how to diplomatically handle that issue?

    How difficult are we talking? Ideally all members would have basic skills, and all member's horses would be minimally cooperative to be handled for basic care/turnout. Once a problem child is in the group, I would put safety of the humans first. If some members are uncomfortable with good reason, they should not be expected to handle the horse. Hopefully training would be arranged for the problem horse.

    3. manure would be spread by a manure spreader. Equipment is expensive and owned by the BO, so how to handle repairs and how to handle those who do not want or do not know how to run that equipment? My thought on that would be to hire it done for a flat monthly rate and split that amount by the number of co-op members. It would probably need to be spread about every second day or so.

    Owner maintains equipment and charges flat monthly rate to underwrite the costs of maintenance/replacement. Idea is for members to be able to plan monthly costs. In terms of running the equipment, charge as if all work is "hired out" and if some members work off board, deduct labor costs from their board.

    4. property upkeep and improvement. Who pays for what, how to decide what to improve and what is simple upkeep?

    Similar to #3. Generally co op members will not recoup costs of upgrades to a property they don't own, so owner should charge to account for overhead/maint/upgrades to property. Some "specialty" upgrades that everyone agrees to chip in for would be exceptions (e.g., arena mirror, microwave, fridge).

    5. If another person wanted to become a member how to handle that? By majority vote?
    We tried to meet potential members and then did an informal vote. Usually the need to fill a stall compelled us to take all but the most inappropriate members. It usually worked out fine.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar. 23, 2009
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    Paddle faster! I hear banjo music...
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    Ugly, horrible experience. Would NEVER do it again under any circumstance.
    "ronnie was the gifted one, victor was the brilliant intellect, and i [GM], well, i am the plodder."



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by alteringwego View Post
    Ugly, horrible experience. Would NEVER do it again under any circumstance.
    what was so horrible?



  13. #13
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    Mar. 23, 2009
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    stolen tack, stolen feed/hay, inadequate care, fights over money and who was responsible for what, lying, and major safety issues.
    In our co-op people were responsible for chores based on how many horses you had, i.e.- if you had 3/4 of the horses then you did 3/4 of the work. However one member of the barn failed to see that point and thought that all work should be split evenly despite the fact that she had 3 horses for others 1. She managed to never clean stalls and stole things then lied about them to the BO. Actually she lied about lots of things to the BO.
    When my gelding was hurt she was to hand walk him in the morning for 20 minutes but I later discovered that she had her 9 year old daughter walking him (and he nearly killed her).
    The stories go on and on but overall the experience was a nightmare and not worth any money saved by doing the work myself rather than full board.
    "ronnie was the gifted one, victor was the brilliant intellect, and i [GM], well, i am the plodder."



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by alteringwego View Post
    stolen tack, stolen feed/hay, inadequate care, fights over money and who was responsible for what, lying, and major safety issues.
    In our co-op people were responsible for chores based on how many horses you had, i.e.- if you had 3/4 of the horses then you did 3/4 of the work. However one member of the barn failed to see that point and thought that all work should be split evenly despite the fact that she had 3 horses for others 1. She managed to never clean stalls and stole things then lied about them to the BO. Actually she lied about lots of things to the BO.
    When my gelding was hurt she was to hand walk him in the morning for 20 minutes but I later discovered that she had her 9 year old daughter walking him (and he nearly killed her).
    The stories go on and on but overall the experience was a nightmare and not worth any money saved by doing the work myself rather than full board.
    thank you very much. Do you think it would have worked without this one person involved?



  15. #15
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    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    Keep in mind that unlike a boarding facility, where the care *should* be consistent no matter who is boarding there, when you are part of a co-op the care is dependent on who is involved. You need people who are reliable, who can assess your horse every time they look at it for a problem, and who are willing to step up to the plate and deal with issues for other people's horses.

    We now screen people very, very carefully because you absolutely cannot have someone who you do not trust taking care of your horse. Part of it is experience, part of it is accessibility (we all live close to the barn), and a very large part is common sense. Apparently that is not handed out in equal quantities to all people. We often go for several months with an empty stall until we find the right person. Luckily the property owner is sympathetic and wants the barn to work more than they want the $$ for the stall.

    Not everyone is a "shirker". Some people just don't know any better. I started pre-bagging all my feed when a new co-op member fed both of my horses Purina Athlete instead of Purina Strategy. Athlete is a high protein/fat supplement that is NOT meant to be fed in the several pound quantity that she fed them. They were on my vet's radar screen for founder for 48 hours after that incident. And the sad part? I had pre-mixed all their feed and she'd overlooked it!

    Insufficient handling experience turned one of the horses at the barn into a nightmare at the barn. The pony was food aggressive to begin with but instead of working around it, the owner started bribing the pony with food. It didn't take long until she was dangerous to be around. At least this time the problems were caused by the owner.

    I love being in a co-op because it allows me to be in control of my horses care in a way that I couldn't when I boarded. But you absolutely need to trust the people that are there with you.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep. 25, 2006
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    Plantation, FL
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    Default I love my co-op, but...

    The barn "manager" we'll call her, drives me nuts. She has a lot of personal problems that spill over and affect her job responsibilities as the manager. Fortunately, her life is so hectic that she only has the responsibility of collecting the rent checks, and feeding in the mornings. We all work around her like a well-oiled machine that overcomes her lack of ability and makes it all worthwhile.

    Having said that, I DO love my co-op. We rent our Barn and 3 acres from the "Owner." We are all adults from the 20-somethings to the early 50-somethings. We understand that safety is a foremost requirement, and take care to handle all the horses appropriately.

    Each member is responsible for buying their own hay and grain. Some members combine their resources, to make their lives easier. I buy my own, b/c I prefer to.

    Grain and hay is stored in the feed room. Everyone has their own pallet in the feed room for their hay, and everyone has a can/cans for their grain/grains.

    Separately, in the barn, everyone has a tack locker with 2 saddle racks and shelf, assorted hooks, etc. Most of us buy our shavings bagged and store them on the roof of our tack lockers.

    The barn is old, but sturdy (hurricane-proof). The aisle is a little narrow, but oh well, I didn't build it or buy it. We have 3 acres with 3 one-acre paddocks, barn in the middle and ring in the back paddock. The horses are turned out as a herd, mostly. The paddocks are rotated so we always have grass--mostly unheard of in suburban boarding in South Florida. Plus our barn backs up to the Davie, FL trail system. Another plus!

    Since the horses are mainly kept out except for inclement weather, stall cleaning is rarely an issue. One time, we left a note for a slacking member, but the offending stall was swiftly stripped and has been kept clean ever since.

    Horses are grained in their stalls, so there is no fighting over food, and everyone feeds similar or the same hay. Horses are hayed out in the paddocks by spreading a pad of hay for each horse in the paddock before turning them back out after graining.

    The rest of the co-op members take turns feeding one night a week. I feed Saturday mornings and Sunday nights. If you have more than one horse, you have an equal number of nights to feed. We all like each other, and call each other to trade off when we need someone to cover our "turn."

    Manure is spread along the fence line, and paddocks are cleaned monthly. We have a chore list, that rotates monthly, including cobweb detail in the barn, cleaning the paddocks, water trough cleaning and filling, and cleaning the feed room.

    In addition, we have a worming schedule. Blacksmith and vet is by individual choice.

    There is one major thing I think the barn manager has overlooked. She does not have a rental or co-op agreement in writing. I really think one ought to have one for liability purposes, to set forth rules of operating the "farm," etc. I think a co-op should have some type of operating agreement in place and some place to have an accounting of any money in the "kitty" for farm repairs. She really could be "on the hook" for any injuries to guests, etc., because there is no policy re: same. (Yes, I'm an attorney.)

    A couple of questions.

    1. the barn I'm at that is thinking of doing some sort of alternate care, has a lot of stalls not being used. Some horses are mostly pasture horses and handled little while others are taken out and brought in each day and yet others never go out. How would *your* coop handle the different standard of care? Would this be a big enough issue that it would not work?

    Each owner is responsible for their own stalls daily or every two days. As stated above, it has only been an issue one time at our barn.

    2. there are some horses that are more difficult to handle than others. They go out and come back in daily, however some of the barn members are not comfortable handling difficult horses. Suggestions on how to diplomatically handle that issue?

    Every horse should be able to be haltered and lead in and out as required. If the horse is too difficult for the least adept member of the co-op that horse should be asked to leave. Safety of horse and human is paramount. No one wants a vet bill or worse, a hospital bill!

    3. manure would be spread by a manure spreader. Equipment is expensive and owned by the BO, so how to handle repairs and how to handle those who do not want or do not know how to run that equipment? My thought on that would be to hire it done for a flat monthly rate and split that amount by the number of co-op members. It would probably need to be spread about every second day or so.

    Lucky you! We're still using wheelbarrows! You need to have a "kitty" for unexpected repairs. Our "Owner" just replaced the old well pump, and the new one sprung a leak. He fixed/replaced it promptly. This is one of the things that should be addressed in a co-op operating agreement.

    4. property upkeep and improvement. Who pays for what, how to decide what to improve and what is simple upkeep?

    Once a week, a handy man is paid by the "Owner" to cut the grass and trim the fence lines and around the barn area.

    5. If another person wanted to become a member how to handle that? By majority vote?

    We are full right now, and have a waiting list. One member of the co-op is self-appointed "showing agent." When we have an opening, we dress up the stalls with shavings and I keep the front paddock spotless. However, we've been full since August.

    I was "voted off the island" for my gelding's assertive behavior. However, I was voted back on before I left b/c it was really two alpha geldings, mine and one other, neither of whom would cede leadership of the herd, that were causing the fighting. Since I am so helpful and handy to have around, my gelding was afforded his own paddock and is not to be turned out with the herd. He doesn't care. It adds to his superiority complex.


    I hope this helps!
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