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Experiences: small boarding operation

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  • #21
    Originally posted by tartan View Post
    it is very hard to profit from a boarding operation; our goal is only to offset the costs of the country/horsey lifestyle.
    Have you thought about having to deal with strangers invading your "happy place", possibly complaining, making messes, and generally stressing you out? You can't get away from it when you are at home. Some boarders are great, some are not. They will also cost you money in "hidden" forms, insurance, extra electricity, etc...
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    • #22
      Originally posted by tartan View Post

      Maybe I am out of touch, but from some of these posts, it seems like there are some extremely inconsiderate boarders out there... stealing, tearing up wet lawns, garbage everywhere??? Are these just the few 'worst of the worst' out there, or are these people at every barn? I am so careful to keep the horses and stable I ride at looking better than I left it, I am in this person's HOME.
      This is correct. I am not saying all boarders are evil, far from it. But NO ONE is EVER going to be as considerate of things like wet lawns, cleaning up the was stall (or whatever) as you are. They simply DO NOT CARE. This does not make them bad people, but it is very frustrating to me and DH, when we see our very nice, very NEW barn being, for lack of a better term, abused.
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      • #23
        Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post
        This is correct. I am not saying all boarders are evil, far from it. But NO ONE is EVER going to be as considerate of things like wet lawns, cleaning up the was stall (or whatever) as you are. They simply DO NOT CARE. This does not make them bad people, but it is very frustrating to me and DH, when we see our very nice, very NEW barn being, for lack of a better term, abused.
        You put that very well, mps. None of the people who did awful things in my last post were bad people, they saw things from the POV of a boarder. Even the stealing--stealing can be as simple as people "borrowing" a fly spray, shampoo, or some medical supplies thinking it is harmless and intending to replace it later, or carelessly taking lookalike tack/equipment by accident or "borrowing and forgetting to return" when they can't find their own. Or, people taking bags of shavings when they go to a show thinking that I would have had to bed their horse's stall anyway. The bottom line is that despite rules and contracts boarders have a lot of access to your property.

        The bottom line is boarders have different priorities than BOs. They want to ride and have fun with their horse, they want a lot of space to keep their stuff, and they want to relax when they come out to the barn and they want to bring guests out to enjoy the property and the horses. They aren't worried about me or my staff having to clean up after them or put their stuff away, they aren't worried about me getting sued by their clueless guest who wanted to play with the stallion, and they definitely aren't worried about me having to clean out the washstall drain because they keep rinsing manure down it.

        Many boarders have chosen to board because they do not want to care about the trivialities of farm keeping. I really don't think I've ever had someone do something awful on purpose, it always seems to fall into the category of, "oh, I didn't think it was a big deal" or just general cluelessness.

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        • #24
          Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post
          Many boarders have chosen to board because they do not want to care about the trivialities of farm keeping. I really don't think I've ever had someone do something awful on purpose, it always seems to fall into the category of, "oh, I didn't think it was a big deal" or just general cluelessness.
          You guys hit the nail on the head. Even good boarders--people who pay on the dot, try to follow the barn rules, and generally not be a PITA--don't see things the way an owner or manager does. They forget. They use things that aren't theirs out of convenience and because they think it won't do any real harm. They mean to come back later to clean up after their horse, to close the gate, to turn off the light...and don't. And, at the end of the day, they truly have no idea how much anything actually costs you in terms of time and money.

          In a lot of ways, it's like what happens when your kids become teenagers. The bad ones are pretty unpleasant, and even the good ones can have plenty of thoughtless moments.
          ---------------------------

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          • #25
            Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post
            You put that very well, mps.

            Thank you.

            Or, people taking bags of shavings when they go to a show thinking that I would have had to bed their horse's stall anyway.

            ooh, ooh, ooooh, that is a Massive PET PEEVE OF MINE! People take whole bales of hay and put them in their trailer. Are you kidding me??


            it always seems to fall into the category of, "oh, I didn't think it was a big deal" or just general cluelessness.
            Yup. Hit the nail on the head.
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            • #26
              Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post
              =Or, people taking bags of shavings when they go to a show thinking that I would have had to bed their horse's stall anyway.
              I do think that boarders need to be realistic on how much is normally used on their stall and not take more than this amount with them on a trip, but is it taboo, from the barn owner's POV, for them to take shavings/hay with them at all? I do understand that most people will want to take "extra" to safe, so more than would be used on their horse at home, and they should pay extra for this amount.

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              • Original Poster

                #27
                Duly noted!

                Who knows, maybe when we do find the farm I won't want to share it with anyone! High fence, locked gate and all that.

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                • #28
                  Tough crowd!

                  "Many boarders have chosen to board because they do not want to care about the trivialities of farm keeping."

                  That may be. But many boarders have "chosen" to board because they have family, work, financial, and other commitments that make it unfeasible for them to own a horse property or do rough board. All the boarders I know (including myself) would absolutely love to have our own properties, but in this part of the country land is extremely expensive if within commuting distance of city jobs, and our situation requires that we both work in traditional jobs with an eye toward long-term retirement. We have commitments to older parents that prevent us from moving somewhere less expensive.

                  If someone is so rigid that they will be upset about someone borrowing their fly spray in a pinch or grabbing their lead rope that is nearest the tackroom door to grab a horse who's gotten out, etc., then that person is probably not cut out to run a boarding operation, or even exist in any sort of group environment. If someone is going to make a billion rules about things like manure in the drain, maybe they should factor that into their wash stall design. Horses poop. Come on, folks. Horses are dirty, smelly, messy, destructive creatures. So are their owners, and their owners aren't locked in stalls or paddocks. Things happen. Deal with it. Screen for like-minded responsible people, check references, etc., but if one is going to be upset by too many variables in any given day, don't impose that brand of neurosis on other people, unless they have the same neurosis. Being rigid and controlling and micromanaging is not necessarily the same thing as being a good barn owner/manager. Jeez. The vast, vast, vast majority of boarders I know _do_ treat the barn very well, because we all wish it were ours, and wish we could spend more time with our horses.

                  Try to remember, we are paying you alot of money to take care of something that is iconic and deeply emotional in our lives. When you say you do night check, we have to trust you. When you say you will be there to feed at 7 am and again at 4 pm, we have to trust you. When you say you're turning our horse out, we have to trust you. When you say you're feeding x flakes of hay a day, we have to trust you, even if the horses have no hay in their stalls and are pounding on their stall doors when we walk by with a treat for our own horse. When we fight to get out of work early and get to the barn at 4pm and the horses have obviously been in their stalls for awhile and you are long gone but you have left your usual note on the board saying, "Horses out until 4:30. Fed at 5," we are not amused. We are not amused when we find the occasional cigarette butt in the aisle and you are the only one who smokes. But do we call you on it every single time? No. Try to loosen up alittle on us, okay? We have had horrible days dealing with situations in the office that you yourself would refuse to deal with -- presumably that's why you run a horse barn and don't work in the city. When we get to the barn, forgive us if forget to clean up the occasional pile. Maybe work called and we had to run. Maybe an irate non-horsey spouse or child called and we had to run. I assure you, we would rather be cleaning manure out of the wash stall drain.


                  Nonetheless, since rules are important, just tell us upfront what they are. We might not like them, but we might have no choice but to put up with them if your barn is the best environment for our horse. We can decide whether or not we can fit in with your barn if you make rules like:

                  "Barn hours are X. Do not come here or call me after hours unless it is a horse-related emergency; I will charge you x for a non-emergency after hours phone call."

                  "Clean up after yourself. Any tack/grooming stuff left in aisle more than x hours will be put in the lost and found bin."

                  "Board is taken out of your account electronically on the first of the month. No exceptions."

                  "Horses get X flakes of hay included as part of board. If you would like more hay/different hay, please see me to make private arrangements."

                  "Horses are turned out x number of hours in x types of weather. If they cannot safely be out in the paddocks, they can/cannot be turned out in the ring/indoor."

                  "Alcohol, smoking, and x,y, and z are not permitted in the barn at any time and are grounds for immediate notice to vacate."


                  Seriously. If you don't enjoy different horses and being at least mildly friendly to different people and if you can't manage the "I am a service provider" frame of mind to at least some pre-determined level, don't have a boarding barn. JMHO.

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                  • #29
                    Originally posted by SharonA View Post

                    If someone is so rigid that they will be upset about someone borrowing their fly spray in a pinch or grabbing their lead rope that is nearest the tackroom door to grab a horse who's gotten out, etc., then that person is probably not cut out to run a boarding operation, or even exist in any sort of group environment.
                    Well, let's think about that particular situation for a moment. If you have 20 boarders, and each day you have one boarder "borrow" your fly spray, that's a lot of fly spray. Just sayin.

                    If someone is going to make a billion rules about things like manure in the drain, maybe they should factor that into their wash stall design. I did. My wash stall drains well even with poop washed down it, the point is that the reason that that SOMETIMES happens is usually because folks are too lazy/in a hurry to clean it up properly.

                    Horses poop. Come on, folks. Horses are dirty, smelly, messy, destructive creatures.

                    True, which is why my barn interior and exterior is cinder block.

                    So are their owners, and their owners aren't locked in stalls or paddocks. Things happen. Deal with it. Screen for like-minded responsible people, check references, etc., but if one is going to be upset by too many variables in any given day, don't impose that brand of neurosis on other people, unless they have the same neurosis. Being rigid and controlling and micromanaging is not necessarily the same thing as being a good barn owner/manager. Jeez. The vast, vast, vast majority of boarders I know _do_ treat the barn very well, because we all wish it were ours, and wish we could spend more time with our horses.

                    We are not trying to say that all boarders suck. But how would you feel if it was YOURS? Would you still have the "suck it up" mentality? Also, just because we have rules does not make us "neurotic"

                    Try to remember, we are paying you alot of money to take care of something that is iconic and deeply emotional in our lives. In some cases, yes, you are. But try to remember in turn that just because your board is $475 a month, DOES NOT MEAN we are PROFITING $475 a month. Far from it.When you say you do night check, we have to trust you. When you say you will be there to feed at 7 am and again at 4 pm, we have to trust you. When you say you're turning our horse out, we have to trust you. When you say you're feeding x flakes of hay a day, we have to trust you, even if the horses have no hay in their stalls and are pounding on their stall doors when we walk by with a treat for our own horse. When we fight to get out of work early and get to the barn at 4pm and the horses have obviously been in their stalls for awhile and you are long gone but you have left your usual note on the board saying, "Horses out until 4:30. Fed at 5," we are not amused. We are not amused when we find the occasional cigarette butt in the aisle and you are the only one who smokes. But do we call you on it every single time? No. Try to loosen up alittle on us, okay? We have had horrible days dealing with situations in the office that you yourself would refuse to deal with -- presumably that's why you run a horse barn and don't work in the city.

                    Had to chuckle at this. Remeber what they say about those who assume.

                    When we get to the barn, forgive us if forget to clean up the occasional pile. Maybe work called and we had to run. Maybe an irate non-horsey spouse or child called and we had to run. I assure you, we would rather be cleaning manure out of the wash stall drain.

                    Seriously. If you don't enjoy different horses and being at least mildly friendly to different people and if you can't manage the "I am a service provider" frame of mind to at least some pre-determined level, don't have a boarding barn. JMHO.

                    Sounds like someone is a little bitter. Personally, I do enjoy different horses and am very capable of and do practice being of a service provider mentality, so much so in face that when "susie" texed me a 8:45 pm two nights ago to ask me if "buttercup" had her sheet on or not, I offered to go put it on, even though I was in my pj's, snuggled up on the couch with DH. Every boarder and every BO is different. But each party has to respect the other, or resentment grows.

                    Spoken like a true boarder.

                    I don't mean to offend, just offering the other prospective.
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                    • #30
                      I though of this thread during a conversation the other day. A friend of mine has a super-nice, big place that's set up to be very easy to run. She also has a husband working full-time and traveling, a (singular) toddler, and two horses in a 10-stall barn. She decided recently to take on two boarders, both of whom she knows well and who are 'good' boarders.

                      She commented a bit ruefully how she'd forgotten what it's like sharing your barn. Before, she was able to do everything around her child's schedule and have things set up for her sole convenience. Now, for example, it was 35F, 8 pm, and she was home alone with a toddler, and had to figure out how to power-wash the layer of sludge out of the bottom of the wash rack left by both boarders bathing horses that evening, before it could freeze overnight.
                      Last edited by WildBlue; Nov. 1, 2012, 12:20 PM. Reason: forgot a word. derp!
                      ---------------------------

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                      • #31
                        It's an interesting topic. I have a little hobby farm which is nice enough equipped for boarders but I chose not to board. My husband and I work full time and have 4 horses. I can't tell you how glad I am I chose not to board, as I had considered it and was asked by a few people if I would.

                        There is nothing better than coming home on summer days and having a beer in my bikini while turning out the horses. I can sleep in a little bit or change turnout to the weather everyday because no one is going to mind. On nice fall days I leave them out longer if I'm not riding. I get to choose when I do stalls. It's pure horse owner bliss.

                        On the contrary, my close friend has a boarding stable, and works full time. She has for the most part great boarders, but there are a few you just want to smack. Even the good ones can be a major pita. She uses all her free time upgrading and working on the property. She said as soon as her arena is paid off - no more boarders.
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                        • Original Poster

                          #32
                          Originally posted by WildBlue View Post

                          She commented a bit ruefully how she'd forgotten what it's like sharing your barn. Before, she was able to do everything around her child's schedule and have things set up for her sole convenience. Now, for example, it was 35F, 8 pm, and she was home alone with a toddler, and had to figure out how to power-wash the layer of sludge out of the bottom of the wash rack left by both boarders bathing horses that evening, before it could freeze overnight.
                          Ugh that sucks...

                          Still reading this thread with interest!

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                          • #33
                            I boarded a friend's horse when I first built my barn. She was my best horse friend, I knew her well and loved her and her horse. It still drove me nuts. Don't underestimate how irritating it can be when someone else's horse damages the barn you just paid a small fortune to erect...and the owner just shrugs and says "oh well". She only stayed a year because I was injured and had to hire help and she didn't want to pay more to cover that cost. We're still friends, but it was touch and go there for a while.

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                            • #34
                              Saddleup, it isn't reasonable for anyone (friend or not) to expect a BO to accept a boarding rate that doesn't include a fair wage for the labor involved, it doesn't matter whether it is you doing the work or a paid employee! When someone discovers that the only reason their business is functioning is because they are working for free that's a problem and a setup for a lot of resentment.

                              Of course, it can be tough for small places to compete price-wise with larger places that have their income supplemented with training and sales and can afford to offer boarding as a "loss-leader" to attract a pool of students and sale horses. It can also be hard to compete against the places out there that offer very low cost boarding but then cut a LOT of corners to make it work out. People complain about those places, but still use their prices as a comparison when barn shopping.

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                              • #35
                                I have to say I'm in shock at the comment about boarders "borrowing" the fly spray. I pay around $16 a bottle for fly spray, so I totally understand the BO's dismay (shall we say?) at people thinking nothing of using her fly spray. And taking a bale of hay? At $20+ bucks a bale? I don't think so. I am a boarder.

                                The thing I don't get is the finances of boarding. When I ran the numbers in my little dream scenario, I could barely break even with only the boarding income. The only way I got it to work out on paper was with lots of services. For instance, if I had a boarding business, I would provide a tack locker to boarders but rent out larger tack rooms, and hope for a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses atmosphere. I would especially do this after reading on Coth, over and over again, how many boarders need more room for their stuff. Why don't BOs do this?
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                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by PeteyPie View Post
                                  but rent out larger tack rooms, and hope for a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses atmosphere. I would especially do this after reading on Coth, over and over again, how many boarders need more room for their stuff. Why don't BOs do this?
                                  Because you need the room for horses (or no need for the tack room!) and then taking space for large tack rooms costs money in lost revenue. In other words, that 12 x 12 space could be a stall, or it could be a tack room. Which generates more money? more profit?

                                  Also, many (most?) people want to pay as little as possible; I know there are barns with a "keeping up with the Joneses" atmosphere, but a) would I want to be around that?? and b) those places (where people are willing to pay a lot for extras) are fairly few and far between -- and I'm not convinced they make more money as, while the boarders pay more, they expect more.
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                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by PeteyPie View Post
                                    For instance, if I had a boarding business, I would provide a tack locker to boarders but rent out larger tack rooms, and hope for a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses atmosphere. I would especially do this after reading on Coth, over and over again, how many boarders need more room for their stuff. Why don't BOs do this?
                                    Honestly, I don't think this would work. Charging for services is a good idea, but you have to be careful when charging for a la carte extras because it can come across as nickel and diming. Honestly, I think if you have extra storage space people might be offended that you charged for it, they would expect it to be included in the boarding fee, it's just the psychology of it and I don't have a better explanation than that.

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                                    • #38
                                      I currently board in a situation like the one the OP is thinking about. It's the best place I've ever boarded. The care is fantastic, but both the BO and myself have realistic expectations.

                                      BO has her own four horses, and mine is the fifth. She did have one other boarder for a few months (that was a fruitbat), but she quickly left and we both breathed a sigh of relief. That woman was expecting something like a full service training barn while boarding at and paying the rate of a backyard barn.

                                      I think you just have to be very specific about what type of boarders and horses you're looking for. State your hours and what you will provide upfront and in the contract. If you close at 8pm, don't want to do blanket changes 3x a day, won't keep layup or show horses in stalls 24/7, whatever. Be upfront, and be fair, but firm.

                                      I also ditto the retirees/semi-retirees if you don't want to be overrun with people. I'm at the barn one or two days a week...sometimes I ride, sometimes I just groom. My old mare is happy with whatever and spends the rest of the time out with her friends. We're easy from a BO perspective.
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                                      • #39
                                        I've boarded at several small residence barns and currently at one that has a dozen horses but only 4-5 boarding horses. The owner is also the trainer and she doesn't rely on boarding fees to pay for upgrades like $30k footing that went in this year. She does make money on training and selling horses.

                                        She does board FFA cattle and sheep too (separate barn) as this helps keep a farm exemption on her property. The FFA kids feed, clean, turn-out their own animals and purchase and keep their own feed and hay but the parents pay a boarding fee for use of the stalls and property. If I were considering a boarding barn, I'd add a cattle barn just to keep the farm exemption - they are cheaper to build and maintain than a horse barn.

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                                        • #40
                                          Wow, I was with you there at the very beginning...but then...not so much.

                                          Originally posted by SharonA View Post
                                          "Many boarders have chosen to board because they do not want to care about the trivialities of farm keeping."

                                          That may be. But many boarders have "chosen" to board because they have family, work, financial, and other commitments that make it unfeasible for them to own a horse property or do rough board. All the boarders I know (including myself) would absolutely love to have our own properties, but in this part of the country land is extremely expensive if within commuting distance of city jobs, and our situation requires that we both work in traditional jobs with an eye toward long-term retirement. We have commitments to older parents that prevent us from moving somewhere less expensive.
                                          The above, I agree with. I loved having the horses at home. I loved leasing a farm and having it to myself. But that just isn't feasible for me at this time.

                                          If someone is so rigid that they will be upset about someone borrowing their fly spray in a pinch <snip> I can't really think of a situation that is a fly spray emergency. Buy your own. I do. And I don't enjoy coming out to find that mine is gone because a boarder like you and 5 others of like mind think it's okay. Borrowing something implies 2 things: Asking PERMISSION to borrow first, then GIVING THE ITEM BACK. I've never had a new bottle magically appear after one disappears or gets used. That's not borrowing. Technically, it's stealing.

                                          or grabbing their lead rope that is nearest the tackroom door to grab a horse who's gotten out, etc., <snip> That IS an emergency. But grabbing my lead because it's close to go catch your horse and then not returning it? Not cool. I have lost many a lead rope in the last few years this way. And bridles, and gloves, and crops, and grooming tools.

                                          If someone is going to make a billion rules about things like manure in the drain, maybe they should factor that into their wash stall design. Horses poop. Yes they do, but we have brains and opposable thumbs so how hard is it, knowing that manure, hair, etc will clock up a drain and knowing SOMEONE will have to clean it up, to clean up after yourself?

                                          .
                                          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                          Might be a reason, never an excuse...

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