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Growing pains- preventing barn drama

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  • Growing pains- preventing barn drama

    what are some ways you have seen, either from the client side or the pro side, of trainers proactively encouraging a healthy, no drama barn culture? My show team program of more advanced riders has grown quite a bit in the last year and we have new riders and families to work into the mix. We had a small tight knit group previously who really enjoyed being together, parents and kids, and the new people, however wonderful they are, are going to change that balance. There had already been hits at drama over who gets to show a particular lesson horse, which we were able to squash. But I want to try to encourage healthy relationships and non- competitive support since a lot of her kids ride at the same level. And "firing" clients is not an option right now.
    Me: In a long-winded explanation of who GM is and why he is Important to the Sport
    Mr EmJ: So what you're saying is GM is so Important he could get Chik-Fil-A on Sunday?

  • #2
    Not at a barn, but in my son's athletic program, there is a strict "complain up" or "no gossip" policy which all the parents sign. Meaning, if you are going to gripe about the program, you only do so to a staff member. Not to other parents.
    Ive also been required to sign "code of conduct" for my kids sports outlining expected behavior at events, detailing who has decision making power, etc.
    hard to enforce if you aren't willing to fire anyone, but it at least establishes the general chain of command and expectations.

    Good luck...I remember the heartburn of childhood and the "show cliques" being the worst social part of horses.

    Comment


    • #3
      Treat them all the same.

      I board at a pony barn (and have for almost 25 years) and have seen a lot of kids go through the program. It always gets ugly when some kids (usually the ones who are paying for more showing) get the choice horses and attention. If you can treat the Meal Ticket Kid the same way you treat Miss Secondhand Breeches, that will be a great start in demonstrating that they're a TEAM and that everyone has value.

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      • #4
        And praise, praise, praise good sportsmanship when you see it--i.e.,when one of your students demonstrates it.

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        • #5
          Always be mindful of the tone you yourself set. Do you ever roll your eyes about a parent or another kid? Even when they are being dramatic or annoying or not listening, you really want to stay so super even keeled. And at shows, be really mindful of how you talk about other trainers/competitors etc. Do not disparage others or gossip, it just breeds the kind of behavior you are trying to avoid.

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          • #6
            I agree with the code of conduct - that's a great idea! I would suggest you post a copy on the tack room door/bulletin board/wherever you post things in a visible location, maybe as well as a mission statement for the group.

            Lead by example and make a big deal about watching each other compete. A friend of mine has been able to cultivate a great team feel among her students by making it an "event" to go to the ring and cheer each other on, just by talking it up. If you have a barn instagram and/or facebook, posting about the "team" and showing off their sportsmanship and support of each other would go a long way.. (Kind of creating the atmosphere by acting like it's already there lol). I see a lot of barns use #team(insert barn name here) on social media, and the clients pick that up and use it in their posts, as well.

            Also, I say don't be afraid to have a "come to Jesus" meeting with kids or families who cause issues, if that becomes a problem. Sometimes you just have to quash issues and make no bones about it.

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            • #7
              Address issues when they crop up, rather than wait until they're so huge they're hard to tackle. Lead by example. Don't allow yourself to tip into clique-y behaviour yourself. Make sure to point out the *good* in both your own barn and in others. So many barns seem to think that they elevate their own practice and demonstrate knowledge only by finding fault and critiquing everyone else - it makes me sad. I think if you have a positive, no-nonsense approach from the very beginning, it is much easier to maintain versus fixing problems later on.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ecileh View Post
                Treat them all the same.

                I board at a pony barn (and have for almost 25 years) and have seen a lot of kids go through the program. It always gets ugly when some kids (usually the ones who are paying for more showing) get the choice horses and attention. If you can treat the Meal Ticket Kid the same way you treat Miss Secondhand Breeches, that will be a great start in demonstrating that they're a TEAM and that everyone has value.
                This is the best piece of advice someone can give! As soon as a trainer starts playing favorites because Meal Ticket Kid is yep the meal ticket, the drama starts to unfold. and most of the time that one client does not pay the whole barn's bills.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by TSWJB View Post

                  This is the best piece of advice someone can give! As soon as a trainer starts playing favorites because Meal Ticket Kid is yep the meal ticket, the drama starts to unfold. and most of the time that one client does not pay the whole barn's bills.
                  This works until you find out that you are paying for service that other people are getting free of charge because "trainer wanted to treat everyone the same." As the person who was charged for some services that others were not, I can tell you this is not always the right solution, either.

                  A better solution is to provide the services that are paid for while treating everyone with equal dignity and respect.

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                  • #10
                    One of the things that we always required at one of my old barns was the idea that, if you have a problem with someone, you need to speak to them yourself. Don't go complaining to the instructor, or the barn manager, or any of the other staff. The staff were specifically taught not to engage with this, and to require that people speak to those they have a problem with.

                    Another thing we had was that - if you see something you feel is unsafe or unethical, we expect people to speak up about it. We also had a general barn expectation that it was the responsibility of people on the receiving end of these comments to say, "Thank you" and do something about the situation. If they disagreed, then it was usually a good time for staff to get involved, and we could make judicious decisions based on what our standards and policies were. These were usually good learning opportunities for our kids.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by atl_hunter View Post

                      This works until you find out that you are paying for service that other people are getting free of charge because "trainer wanted to treat everyone the same." As the person who was charged for some services that others were not, I can tell you this is not always the right solution, either.
                      but this is the opposite of treating everyone the same. If you charge client x for service a, then you charge every client x for service a. Contrapositively, if you don't charge client x for service a, you don't charge anyone for service a. That is treating everyone the same.
                      Let me apologize in advance.

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                      • #12
                        My trainer also has a conversation with families on social media use, and has a zero tolerance policy for any sort of barn drama down that avenue. I'm unsure of what happens if a child does start something that way because as far as I know none have. They (the trainers) also nip any sort of attitude/drama quick. If a child has time to be gossipy they have time to help sweep the barn. They also keep a close eye/ear on the kids as much as possible.

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                        • #13
                          Another way to get them to mimic your behavior is at shows, complement competitors you dont even know, and encourage your kids to clap for the other kids when THEYRE in the lineup. As those names are being called, you're clapping for all of them, regardless of who they are or what barn they come from. Have them wish eachother good luck as they enter the ring together, have a big tent to each lunch under together, have each family bring something to eat, hold barn activities besides just lessons/shows, etc. Those are all good bonding moments.

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                          • #14
                            I'm dealing with this now, except the assistant trainer has decided to join in on the gossip (and believe in the gossip) rather speaking to other adults. I understand it is hard for young professionals, but you are a professional nonetheless.
                            My advice would be to keep an open door policy with the parents and kids. If a kid or parent comes to you, never make them feel as if they are the ones at fault. Offer solutions and try to act a mediator. While it sucks and you aren't being paid to play psychiatrist, it will benefit in the long run. I've been in plenty of barns where parents and kids are afraid to talk to the staff because they don't want the blame. Usually, they leave the barn because of the resentment.

                            Staff should always be neutral. ALWAYS. Any staff member that is involved in gossip/drama should be fired immediately. At the end of the day it is a business. It needs to be treated as such. Yes, there will be disagreements, but the quicker they can be squashed with fewer opinions especially from staff, the better.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ladyj79 View Post

                              but this is the opposite of treating everyone the same. If you charge client x for service a, then you charge every client x for service a. Contrapositively, if you don't charge client x for service a, you don't charge anyone for service a. That is treating everyone the same.
                              You and I actually agree. I was referring to the post that called a child "Meal Ticket Kid" vs "Miss Secondhand Breeches." It is simply a fact of life that Meal Ticket Kid will get more services, based on fees, than Miss Secondhand Breeches. You can be equally kind to them, but you can't exactly treat two people equally if they aren't paying the same. If so, there would be no VIP services at events, no Penthouse/Club level access at hotels, first class level for transportation, etc... Sure, everyone delivering the service is nice to everyone, but the frequent users of a service do generally get the priority.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by atl_hunter View Post

                                This works until you find out that you are paying for service that other people are getting free of charge because "trainer wanted to treat everyone the same." As the person who was charged for some services that others were not, I can tell you this is not always the right solution, either.

                                A better solution is to provide the services that are paid for while treating everyone with equal dignity and respect.
                                I don't think anyone was suggesting a business owner gives services away for free to some people because they can't afford it. I think the suggestion is not to treat anyone as better or less than anyone else. (Like you suggested at the end of your post, above. I think that was the intent of what she was saying - at least, that's how I read it.)

                                Kids can pick up quickly when there is a disparity in the way they are treated. So for instance, if there is a fancy horse that trainer can offer a hack on, try to make that opportunity merit-based instead of "value of client" based.

                                I think there are definitely trainers who have their pets, and it's usually the "meal tickets", even if it isn't their intent to behave that way. So if a trainer can be watchful for that tendency, I think it will only benefit the barn atmosphere.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by CPL713 View Post

                                  I don't think anyone was suggesting a business owner gives services away for free to some people because they can't afford it. I think the suggestion is not to treat anyone as better or less than anyone else. (Like you suggested at the end of your post, above. I think that was the intent of what she was saying - at least, that's how I read it.)

                                  Kids can pick up quickly when there is a disparity in the way they are treated. So for instance, if there is a fancy horse that trainer can offer a hack on, try to make that opportunity merit-based instead of "value of client" based.

                                  I think there are definitely trainers who have their pets, and it's usually the "meal tickets", even if it isn't their intent to behave that way. So if a trainer can be watchful for that tendency, I think it will only benefit the barn atmosphere.
                                  I'm not trying to create an argument. We are actually mostly all in agreement. All I was saying is that I have been in a barn where a trainer attempted to make things "equal" by giving some people free services and other people not. We all recognize another type of equality, which is giving people the services which are paid. There is a fine line here over what equality means and how it is implemented, and that is all I'm saying.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by atl_hunter View Post

                                    I'm not trying to create an argument. We are actually mostly all in agreement. All I was saying is that I have been in a barn where a trainer attempted to make things "equal" by giving some people free services and other people not. We all recognize another type of equality, which is giving people the services which are paid. There is a fine line here over what equality means and how it is implemented, and that is all I'm saying.
                                    Oh, I didn't think you were trying to argue, so sorry if I gave that impression.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by CPL713 View Post

                                      Oh, I didn't think you were trying to argue, so sorry if I gave that impression.
                                      Sorry, I didn't mean argument as in two people arguing with each other because they don't agree. I meant argue a point. We are all good in here

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        In addition to all the other good suggestions posted here, if you do offer a la carte services (extra services not included in the board rate but charged separately) it helps to have those services and fees price posted at the barn so everybody knows what's offered and what the charges are.

                                        It sounds obvious, but parents new to showing may not 'get' that the boarding fee covers certain things but not others (even if it's spelled out in your contract). A posted list makes it clear that the extras are available to everyone for the stated fee.

                                        I only have adult boarders, (kids and parents can be a whole 'nother thing!), but my trainer and I make it very clear that every horse and every owner/rider is equally important to us. Every horse gets the same quality of care and every rider gets the same quality of instruction, although specifics can certainly vary according to individual requirements. We also are very clear about what we do and do not offer, we have no secrets and want no surprises.

                                        This takes not a lot of effort and makes for a happy barn.

                                        IME, clients who are unhappy with this approach are the ones who believe that they deserve to be treated 'better' than their barnmates, for whatever reason. The few of these we've had have moved on when their expectations were not met, which is better for everyone.

                                        Last edited by Hej; Sep. 6, 2018, 04:39 PM.

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