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Competent Boarding Barns?

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  • Competent Boarding Barns?

    Last edited by Maude; Jan. 13, 2019, 01:28 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Maude View Post
    I've found that the beautiful facility doesn't always go hand in hand with good care and knowledgeable people. And alot of times the quality of the trainer/facility don't jive either. I don't think there is an answer, so I guess I'm just venting...
    You're definitely correct that a beautiful facility does not guarantee quality care or a competent trainer. It's really difficult to find a really good barn. Some of it is boarders' unwillingness/ability to pay a monthly board that will adequately support the care/facilities they expect.

    There are good facilities out there, sometimes you just need to reset your expectations (need vs. want). I personally am not impressed by beautiful facilities because some of the worst care I ever had was at those barns. The hands down best care I ever had was in the most ramshackle barn with no real facilities, but the care was exemplary and my horses were so happy there.

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    • #3
      It is a case-by-case type of thing. But I have found better care in small to medium sized facilities where there is an owner-manager who is active with horses. The larger places often had more hired help with less knowledge, accountability, and flexibility.

      Of course it is important that you can get along with the owner and the basic horse keeping style in the smaller place since that isn't going to change, but if it is a good match I found that easier than dealing with a changing array of employees.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Gainer View Post

        Some of it is boarders' unwillingness/ability to pay a monthly board that will adequately support the care/facilities they expect.
        That's my experience for the few years that I took in boarders at my small private facility (7 stalls). Champagne taste on a beer budget. I gave each horse the personal attention and care that I would my own and of course people liked that idea. I have a nice indoor with carefully maintained footing, grass pastures that are not overgrazed, good electric fence, quality hay grown right on the farm, live on-site.

        BUT... they always brought up the places in the area that were bottom of the barrel on price (and often on care too). Some opted to go to these places. That's certainly their prerogative. For whatever reason, my place was not a match for their (limited budget) wants. Later they groused about the horses just being thrown out in a weedy field. (Grain was extra, had to keep the water buckets full themselves, no shelter from the bugs or sleet and snow, on and on...)

        Care=time. Time=money (whether that's to pay for help or compensate the barn owner for their labor.) They'd balk at a $5 or $10 charge to hold their horse for the vet or farrier so they didn't have to take time from their job in the middle of a day. They'd want extra bedding and hay to take to a one day show and expect it to be free. You get the idea.

        My prices were by no means the highest in the area either. I offered most of services and facility that much more expensive show barns in our area offered. Pretty much the only thing I didn't offer was an onsite trainer. (And yes, people balked when I required the trainer they wanted to bring in to be fully insured.)

        When I finally decided I was tired of being taken for granted and working for the privilege of supporting someone else's horse habit, I gave 60 days notice to all that I was closing. They still balked - couldn't they just still keep their horse at my place and hire so and so (inexperienced teenager usually) to care for their horse here. It would be so much work and stress to take care of the horse at home. Or the care at ____ place was crappy. Yaaa???

        Sorry, no. I am done.

        No regrets. I'm loving the peace and quiet of my lovely facility and don't mind having a few empty stalls down the aisle. They neither complain nor cost me money.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          I expect to pay well for what I'm asking. It just seems that even though you pay for that you still don't always get what you're paying for.

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          • #6
            This is why I bought my own farm.
            "The best of any breed is the thoroughbred horse..." - GHM

            www.mmeqcenter.com

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Maude View Post
              I expect to pay well for what I'm asking. It just seems that even though you pay for that you still don't always get what you're paying for.
              Sure you do - you get help that works for $10 an hour. If you are at a high end show barn and your horse is assigned a groom, you may get what you are looking for, because that groom is being paid more and may recognize problems with the horse when they first show up. But at most boarding barns, the people who are mucking stalls and turning horses out and bringing them in may not notice a problem at it's inception.

              And mmeqcenter has it right - if you want something done the way you want it done, you usually have to do it yourself. I have a wonderful farm sitter who unfortunately is not great with lameness, and missed a horse that was laminitic. She just assumed the horse was a bit footsore due to hard ground and did not alert me. Since I have a ton of experience and know my horses inside and out, I can spot an inconsistency instantly and be on top of it.
              "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

              Comment


              • #8
                @Maude have you tried Shadow Creek Farm in Chadds Ford? https://shadowcreekfarm.com/
                "A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good, just because it's accepted by a majority." Rick Warren

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Maude View Post
                  I expect to pay well for what I'm asking. It just seems that even though you pay for that you still don't always get what you're paying for.
                  "Dogs give and give and give. Cats are the gift that keeps on grifting." —Bradley Trevor Greive

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yup, this is so true. I worked in other people's barns for years when I was in university and law school. I am NOT trying to be snooty, but I was a lot different than my "lifer" barn worker coworkers. I was doing the job to make money during school and it was often a break from studying and sitting still all week, so I loved it. I also love horses and I am a super passionate learner. I worked with performance horses, stallions, broodmares, and foals. I got to learn the breeding world inside and out and then switched gears to show horses. I like to think I am a halfway decent horse person. So even though I was just a general barn worker/stall mucker, I would often notice issues--horse was lethargic, horse didn't eat their grain, horse pulled a shoe, whatever--things that my coworkers would literally walk right by. They just wouldn't notice, either because they didn't know what to look for (that type of education takes money and time to acquire, through riding lessons, etc) or because they just didn't want to do deal with it. Of course, it doesn't help that almost every barn is perpetually understaffed--there is usually JUST enough manpower to get the daily chores done, and if anything else comes up, people are staying late. That is the nature of horses, but when you are working for minimum wage in the cold/heat/rain/snow, the last thing you want to do is stay longer.

                    I was talking to a boarder of mine who has worked in barns for years while a student herself, and has also worked with her dad doing construction. She told me barn work is MUCH harder than construction--it's way more physically demanding and relentless, and of course you are also handling live animals AND often have to have a bit of customer service skill as well, if working in a boarding barn (I was always expected to be polite and helpful towards the boarders, I didn't get to just ignore them and do my own thing). Guess which one pays more and gets more respect as a profession? Construction, for sure. (And just to be clear, she doesn't have any specific trade skills, so she is doing general labour.)

                    So while I sympathize with not being able to find good care, I 100% understand why and how it happens. Unfortunately, paying people a true living wage to work in a barn would often make owning a horse unreasonably expensive for most people. I agree a smaller barn with fewer staff members is likely going to provide better care than a big barn with constantly rotating workers. You may also have to compromise on facilities to get the care you want. The barn I run is in a rental facility, so I am a bit constrained as to what I am able/willing to do in terms of improvements since it isn't my property. My indoor arena is small and the outdoor ring has a bit of slope to it. But we have lots of big pastures for turnout, safe barns and fences, and great hacking. The horses are all happy and well-fed. Every horse settles in and loves the place, and I have a great group of boarders, but have had some pass on boarding with me because the indoor arena is too small. It is a compromise, but one that could be worth it for your peace of mind if the horse can get better care at a less-fancy place.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Agreed, fancy and/or pricy does not equal Best Care.
                      I boarded at a showplace (with Country Club prices) where help failed to be concerned by hay stored in a separate barn - also used to quarantine the imported Sale horses - that smelled increasingly "Funny".
                      Only mentioned after the fact, when that barn burned to the ground before firefighters could get there.
                      Resident at the time were 3 pricy Sales prospects that were rescued resulting in 3rd Degree burns to Trainer who went in for them.

                      At another, far more modest barn, I once had to point out to the gal wheeling the grain cart down the aisle, that one of the boarders' horses was lying down & had failed to get up for approaching grain...
                      Yup, colicing.

                      Having worked in a couple barns & boarded at a variety before getting my own place, I promised myself I would NEVER buy into the Crazy that is some boarders.
                      So it goes both ways.

                      *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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I honestly think having your own place is the only way to keep some sanity, but I know that comes with its own problems. Some days I really appreciate being a boarder and being able to choose not to deal with horse things on any particular day. However the frustrations of having your horse fed improperly, not watered, left in a dirty stall all day, etc win out over the convenience IMO. I am hoping to buy or rent a facility soon.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Barn care is relentless and intensive work.

                          Costs for land, feed, and upkeep are high.

                          It is very hard to find barn help period let alone good barn help. Even if you pay them a bit better, they burn out.

                          The profit margin is slim.

                          If you want excellent care do self board.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've always boarded at places with fussy barn owners (who were occasionally also the barn manager, but usually not.) keeping their own horses at the barn. These were more businesses than backyard barns, with anywhere from 15 to 30 horses. For the most part, it's been a great experience; there are always things I disagree with, usually a tendency to "bubble wrap" the horses a bit more, since these have mostly been dressage barns. In one barn, the barn owner's horses got more individualized care than the boarders' horses, which was annoying, but the care provided to boarders' horses was still very good. An owner who is actively riding and participating in barn activities will (or should) catch problems more quickly.

                            In barns where there has been a non-owner barn manager, they have always been really good, conscientious people, who stay around. The rest of the barn help has varied widely in terms of skill, turnover, etc. but there have only been one or two I'd say were actually bad. In general, barns that paid a bit more got better quality barn workers.

                            The shortage of barn workers concerns me, and could well drive an end to private boarding barns. I'm in a position of needing full-care board, because my hands are still trying to quit on me, and I'm probably facing several surgeries in the next 18 months or so. I trust the care of the current barn -- they will do well by my mare regardless of whether I'm around or not -- but it's expensive ($1XXX per month), and all the hand problems mean I may be retiring my mare anyway. DH is encouraging me to keep her there (he is a gem!), rather than taking a chance on a new, less expensive place before surgery and then having a difficult time moving on if the new place isn't good.
                            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I prioritize what is important. I don't expect it all. I accept not deep bedding over the mat in his stall in return for amazing turnout and access to great trails. No arena lights at night but an adequate indoor. I pay someone who is there daily to check on him.
                              A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by mmeqcenter View Post
                                This is why I bought my own farm.
                                To be quite honest a lot of people could buy their own place for what they are being charged in board.

                                I know it depends on your region, but the price to board is outrageous ( from the many boarding threads here) and in a majority of those places they won't even supply all the hay your horse needs.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by candyappy View Post

                                  To be quite honest a lot of people could buy their own place for what they are being charged in board.

                                  I know it depends on your region, but the price to board is outrageous ( from the many boarding threads here) and in a majority of those places they won't even supply all the hay your horse needs.
                                  And then they have to either totally re-organize their life to accommodate all the chores associated with having a horse at home or pay someone to do those chores for them at home....

                                  Which for many people is not really an option.

                                  In my part of the world, where an indoor is needed to accomplish anything during the winter, I know I can not afford to build an indoor or to buy a place that had an indoor. That is another reason many people might not want to make the leap to not boarding anymore.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by trubandloki View Post

                                    And then they have to either totally re-organize their life to accommodate all the chores associated with having a horse at home or pay someone to do those chores for them at home....

                                    Which for many people is not really an option.

                                    In my part of the world, where an indoor is needed to accomplish anything during the winter, I know I can not afford to build an indoor or to buy a place that had an indoor. That is another reason many people might not want to make the leap to not boarding anymore.
                                    I've never found horse keeping at home complicated, but I know other people live a totally different life than I do.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I've been lucky to find a self board barn close to where I live in the suburbs that has an indoor and outdoor lighted rings, and my work schedule is flexible enough that I can do self board. I can't imagine giving that amount of attention and etc to a whole barn full of horses, though.

                                      In our region, five acres is going to cost at least $5 million (a condo costs $500,000), so buying land is not an option.

                                      Our barn is a club that gets land in a park free from the municipality.

                                      When I consider other sports, I am always surprised that horse back riding is the one sport that has remained firmly within the private sector, because of its agricultural ties. Every other expensive sport is subsidized to some extent, including tennis, swimming, skating. They aren't expensive now because the civic government provides the facilities that otherwise would be very expensive to build and maintain! Even sailing has some nonprofit access aspects to it.

                                      The cost of land is driving agricultural business further from the cities, which includes horses. The fact that virtually all riding stables are private business means they have to not only cover their costs, but also provide an income for the owner. That may not be sustainable in many markets, if land costs are high but income of clients is not that high.

                                      It is a conundrum for sure.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                                        I've been lucky to find a self board barn close to where I live in the suburbs that has an indoor and outdoor lighted rings, and my work schedule is flexible enough that I can do self board. I can't imagine giving that amount of attention and etc to a whole barn full of horses, though.

                                        In our region, five acres is going to cost at least $5 million (a condo costs $500,000), so buying land is not an option.

                                        Our barn is a club that gets land in a park free from the municipality.

                                        When I consider other sports, I am always surprised that horse back riding is the one sport that has remained firmly within the private sector, because of its agricultural ties. Every other expensive sport is subsidized to some extent, including tennis, swimming, skating. They aren't expensive now because the civic government provides the facilities that otherwise would be very expensive to build and maintain! Even sailing has some nonprofit access aspects to it.

                                        The cost of land is driving agricultural business further from the cities, which includes horses. The fact that virtually all riding stables are private business means they have to not only cover their costs, but also provide an income for the owner. That may not be sustainable in many markets, if land costs are high but income of clients is not that high.

                                        It is a conundrum for sure.
                                        Costs are rising and the input of new participants is falling. If a kid can't do it on device it doesn't get done. So the "new blood" supply is not very strong. This puts pressure on across the board (boarding, hay production, tack sales, etc.).

                                        When we moved to the TN Valley in 1990 there were north of two dozen barns within a reasonable distance (say 30 min.) of the house. Now I can count not more than half dozen and some of those seem to be "in business in name only." There were 3 or 4 tack shops plus the co-op. Now there is one feed dealer with a tack section and the co-op.* There were at least three feed dealers, maybe more, in that same 30 min. time line and now there is one. Vets are down by about half. Fewer farriers, as well, and no one new has tried to enter the business around here in a couple of years.

                                        The is, maybe, one hay seller around here that still deals primarily in horse hay. I'm not sure if he grows it or buys it for resale.

                                        The long term future of the equine art is not looking so bright right now.

                                        G.

                                        *I've not followed it in any detail, but it seems that there has been some consolidation in the on-line/mail order tack world as well. One of the big mail independents, Libertyville Tack in IL (this is the generic name) is gone (or taken over).
                                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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