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Customer service- does it exist in boarding barns?e equine industry?

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  • Customer service- does it exist in boarding barns?e equine industry?

    Perhaps I've worked in the retail industry for too long, because I expect to be treated like a "customer" when I give someone my money for their services. Sadly, it is my experience that this concept seems to elude those that board horses. The general attitude that I have encountered is that they are doing "me" a favor by taking my money and caring for my horses. And heaven help you if you bring up any concerns- I just did that and now I'm being hit with numerous little charges.
    I'm sick of it and mad as hell......what do you as a boarder do to protect yourself? Anyone out there make your BO sign a contract?

  • #2
    I think not being treated fairly as a boarder is common,sadly. It drives me crazy sometimes, I don't really have enough courage to address problems to the barn owner. Some barn owners go out of thier way for boarders, but their rates can be pretty high Too bad all of us horse lovers can't have our own barns!


    • #3
      I think that when you hit the price tier where you are a profit, you get treated with an eye towards customer service.

      A large number of small barns are subsidizing the customers by not understanding that cash flow is not profit, and so they usually are losing money. Shocking that it isn't hard to tell someone to hit the road when you are not actually profiting.


      • #4
        Originally posted by HorseLover3 View Post
        Too bad all of us horse lovers can't have our own barns!
        Truly. (I'm serious--two horse people, three opinions on how to run a barn!)

        Though, I'll just note, that being on the other side of the coin seems to make a lot of people more aware of just what goes into a particular level of care and service. In other words, almost everyone I've known who went from full-care to self-care eventually decided their horses could survive without freshly-scrubbed water buckets after all...

        Not an excuse for poor care or service, just empathy. Rather like how a stint in retail or food service adds a new perspective to being a customer.


        • #5
          Guess I'm lucky - years of boarding experience; some not so good, some ok. Current situation is really awesome; New, modern but smaller facility (few horses in summer, lots in winter, Florida!). Owner cannot do enough to keep us few annual people happy. Have been there roughly 2.5 years and the biggest complaint I can come up w/ (and really the only one) would be mirrors on the covered arena...........OH Yea, and if they could buy the land next to us, we could cut some little trails....The local parks people closed off our trail riding area - GRRRR.
          We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


          • #6
            [QUOTE=EauMare;6046183]Perhaps I've worked in the retail industry for too long, because I expect to be treated like a "customer" when I give someone my money for their services. Sadly, it is my experience that this concept seems to elude those that board horses. QUOTE]

            I find this ironic since I've experienced really poor customer service in the retail industry recently. I would hate to receive the same level of sernice (or lack thereof) at a horse boarding facility!

            I currently keep my horses at home but I boarded my horses for years and I occassionally send my horse off to my trainer's to board for a few weeks or a month. Have you researched all of the boarding facilities in your area? I have found that customer service and the level of care will vary greatly from barn to barn. Also, are your expectations too high? At a minimum I think any boarder should expect their horses to have clean stalls (if stall boarded), fresh water, good quality hay fed a minimum of 2x daily and 3x daily if not turned out on grass, and grain as necessary fed 2x daily at regular times. Horses should be checked daily when brought in from turnout for any injuries and hooves should be picked. I would expect a night check before bedtime to ensure no horse is experiencing distress.

            What extras are you being charged for? Any extra charge, such as a charge for blanketing, should be spelled out in the boarding contract. Do you have a boarding contract? If not, you should request one. If the barn owner is charging you extra for services and those fees aren't itemized in the contract I would definitely question it. If the contract specifies that there is an additional charge for extras such as blanketing or holding a horse for the farrier then you should have been aware of those charges initially.


            • #7
              What most people don't realize is that the Barn Owner IS doing you a favor. Most barns don't make much, if any, money. The price of hay this year is through the roof - here it's about twice what it was this time last year! And I don't know any barns that have doubled their board. Once you take out the cost of hay and shavings and electricity, and tractor maintence and, and, and there isn't much left for paying the BO. If they have staff they are lucky... Most barn owners live on the property... that means that they have given up a large amount of privacy in order to have boarders. Yes, that was their choice, but sometimes it just gets tiring... never mind no vacations and never being able to sleep in.

              Boarders that want special stuff all the time can be a pain in the ass... just because you want Dobbins blanket changed everytime the temperature changes 10 degrees, and you pay board and your boarding contract includes blanketing, does not mean that it is reasonable to expect the BO to be home ALL day EVERY day to change Dobbins blanket 4 times a day into just the right blanket for every temperature range... and it is also not o.k. to spaz out at the BO if the blanket that is on Dobbin when you toodle into the barn is not the exact one of the five or six different blankets that you have provided that you would have chosen. Extra shavings create extra work, specialized feeding programs do too... true it's only a few extra minutes, but they add up and for a BO there are never enough minutes in the day... OP I expect that you are a PITA who wants the BO or staff to do things your way instead of the way they do them... and I supect it's not just one thing, but lots of things... and that's why you are getting charged extra for every little thing. Go ahead and ask your BO to sign a contract... but be ready to pack your stuff and move.


              • #8
                It seems to me most complaints come from a lack of a solid boarding contract at the start of a boarding relationship or inconsistency in what's available/provided.

                When I boarded, everything was very clearly laid out. It was a well-run ship, and definitely a profitable business. Extras were charged for, but those prices were clearly defined from the start with the awareness they could possibly go up depending on the situation.

                Boarding here tends to run $300-$400/month, and the way I wanted my horse treated would be worth more like $1000/month. So, we have our own place and give that care. It's in adjusted feeding program, special attention, and space. Because I went in knowing what boarding facilities offered, I had no problem with them not giving what I wanted for my horses - just wanted to be on private property to give what I wanted.
                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                • #9
                  We've been on both sides of the fence; from our experience there's plenty of blame to go 'round.

                  From the BO's point of view an owner often fails to understand the economics of horsekeeping. They think that paying a flat fee makes the world go 'round. It doesn't. Equine needs usually ride the famous "sine wave." In good weather months you pile up resources to cover the bad weather months. Owners, particularly the green ones, read the bloody 'Net postings on why blankets, supppliments, proprietary training/farrier work, etc. are ESSENTIAL to "good horse keeping" and demand the barn impliment these practices AT ONCE!!! Of course they don't want to pay extra for them because they are ESSENTIALS.

                  While most BOs are experienced there are a few that are as green as grass. They, too, can become slaves to 'Net silliness. That's also a cause of some grief.

                  Owners run the gamut from "green as grass" to real professionals (in mutiple professions, including horsemanship). The pros are generally easy to deal with if you treat them like a pro. The greenies way to often are overly concerned with the superficial and don't know enough to deal with the fundamentals. They believe everything they read on the Internet. Even when it's obviously conflicting with other things they read on the Internet and reality. This means lots of long conversations. That is a massive time consumer.

                  A good contract is an essential to setting out the standard of care for the barn. A clear fee schedule should be part of that contract. Note that from a "drafting" standpoint not everything has to be in the contract, itself. I found a basic contract, combined with an Addendum, worked very well. That way when I had to make changes in any one horse's care we just modified the Addendum. It was an easy way to take care of the "paperwork." It also allowed me to charge an individual owner for additional services that their horse required.

                  Like I say, there's lots of blame to go around.

                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                  • #10
                    IME, a lot of the problems start when the relationship is not on a business level. Too many BO/BMs (those are unfortunate acronyms...) dont treat boarding as a serious business and don't set down their rules, responsiblities and rates. And too many boarders think that they are the exception and should have just this one little exception.

                    I got wise after a while and learned what to ask and what to look out for in a boarding barn. I never assume that things will be any different from the current situation, no matter the promises. I am friendly but not BFFs with staff and remember that it is a business and I have a right to expect what was agreed upon and to ask for explanations if things are not going as agreed. And that the barn is not obligated to do more than what was agreed upon, even if it seems so easy to me.

                    I have generally had good "customer service" as a careful customer. It is more difficult when it involves our animals, rather than clothing. A department store slaesperson being less than helpful doesnt have the impact of the person caring for your animal. I think being clear at the outset of the expectaions goes a long way towards feeling that the service is good.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SaddleFitterVA View Post
                      I think that when you hit the price tier where you are a profit, you get treated with an eye towards customer service.


                      • #12
                        I think it is unfortunate that more BO don't treat boarding horses like a business.

                        I would be more than happy to have an addendum, etc for services requested and pay accordingly for them. However, I have had several BO that the paper trail is severely lacking, even though the farm is registered as a business. One of my horses doesn't even have a contract (weanling born on the property but she's almost 8 months old now)! I think that BO could be in for a world of hurt if the wrong person came in...

                        My favorite barn owner has been by far the one that considered outside input when necessary, sent out monthly invoices, and was fun and polite to be around, but wasn't trying to be a BFF. Just wish I hadn't moved 4 hours away.

                        Prime Time Rider--interesting. I have never seen/been in a boarding barn that offered hoof picking as part of a routine service!
                        Semi Feral


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by HorseLover3 View Post
                          Too bad all of us horse lovers can't have our own barns!
                          But they can, they just have to pay for it. And that is where the glitch comes in. So many boarders do not realize the whole picture of what it costs to keep horses.

                          Why board some where that does not spell out all the details that matter to you in your boarding contract?
                          You (general you) can not pick a barn for Dobbin and then expect it to be everything you have ever wanted a barn to be if you did not ask up front about all those things.

                          I always find it amusing when people list what they think full care should include. The one thing a thread like that proves is there is no one thing that equals full care and that is why the horse owner better make sure they have a good boarding contract.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by EauMare View Post
                            And heaven help you if you bring up any concerns- I just did that and now I'm being hit with numerous little charges.
                            I'm sick of it and mad as hell......what do you as a boarder do to protect yourself? Anyone out there make your BO sign a contract?
                            I'm curious as to what concerns you brought up that are resulting in extra charges.

                            Please share so that the lowly BM and BO's can stay informed!


                            • #15
                              Originally Posted by SaddleFitterVA
                              I think that when you hit the price tier where you are a profit, you get treated with an eye towards customer service.

                              Originally posted by asb_own_me View Post
                              Ummm... IME, not necessarily.
                              Back in the mid-late 90s I was paying $675/mo for a luxe barn where, unfortunately the trainer I followed there was only nominally the BM.
                              The know-nothing, moneybags BO was calling the shots.

                              And some of them were truly far off-target.
                              BM had the knowledge & facility to provide excellent care, but BO kept adding his useless $.02 & mandating petty procedures that interfered.

                              1 - Unless you used the (inept) barn vet-of-choice, your vet had to sign in a logbook detailing his/her visit and treatments provided.
                              Besides being business between owner & vet, is that not a tad insulting to the medical professional?
                              2 - BO setup a vaccination schedule that might have made sense at a racetrack or busy sales barn setting.
                              For the 12 or so boarded horses it was overkill - even by UC Davis standards at the time.
                              (barn was NOT in CA, I contacted them for their advice)
                              3 - BO expected boarders looking for a new horse to buy from him exclusively.
                              He nearly lost 2 boarders this way, only BM's intervention kept both from pulling out.

                              So although the profit margin was in place, the level of care/customer service was not.
                              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                              • #16
                                As BO, I can say that very rarely do I make a profit on boarding. Between gas prices rising, hay prices through the roof, cost of feed, sawdust, electricity, insurance, mortgage, utilities, barn maintenance, etc, I'm lucky to make a $1-200 profit a month. VERY lucky if it's close to the $200 mark. Granted I'm only boarding 4 horses, but they're all easy keepers.
                                So yea, a BO usually is doing you a favor to board your horse, especially if the horse is a hard keeper, messy, or tears up fields running around.
                                I can also say that 99% of the time, even if you're the "perfect" boarder, the BO thinks you're a PITA. Get used to it.
                                come what may

                                Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


                                • #17
                                  These posts about how BOs are doing boarders a "favor" are ridiculous. If you're not profitable, raise your rates! If a boarder has a contract agreement for the care that will be provided at $xx rate and it isn't being done, the BO is in violation of their agreement. If boarding other people's animals sucks so much and/or doesn't bring in a decent/any profit, don't do it.
                                  "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


                                  • #18
                                    Customers are entitled to assume that the rates charged by a BO/BM are acceptable to them, and represent adequate compensation for the services provided. (If they are not - and I can hear the howls of protest that the market simply won't bear a profitable rate already - then that is a business problem for sure, but not the customers' concern.)

                                    There are many areas where boarding is a loss leader, meaning the owner is willing to break even or possibly lose a little money on that part of their business in order to have customers in the barn who will spend money on related, more profitable services (training, lessons, showing, sales, etc.) The fact that the boarding is unprofitable in that situation does NOT mean the BO is doing the clients a favor; it is a means for the BO to attract clients for the other, more profitable components of the business, and thus is simply an expense.

                                    Boarding is unquestionably a difficult business. The key is finding a situation where the client's idea of good care is at least substantially similar to the BO/BM's vision. Both sides generally have to accept that there may be some minor differences - as in blanketing, described above - and be able to live with them without a ton of emotional distress for the situation to work out over the long term.
                                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                    • #19
                                      I have worked in retail, food service, and singlehandedly run a sale barn inclusive of all care and feeding and, far from making me "more understanding" it has made me less so.

                                      Because I've done it. In 110 degrees and in 3' of snow.

                                      And thus I know from personal experience it is not that freakin' hard to do it right. Really.

                                      Sorry to burst the martyrdom bubble, but someone had to say it.
                                      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                                      Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                                      The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Lucassb View Post
                                        The key is finding a situation where the client's idea of good care is at least substantially similar to the BO/BM's vision. Both sides generally have to accept that there may be some minor differences - as in blanketing, described above - and be able to live with them without a ton of emotional distress for the situation to work out over the long term.
                                        And we have a winner!