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How to file a complaint?

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  • How to file a complaint?

    I have worked at hunter/jumper barns as a kid and young adult as a barn hand, so I know first hand about all the different personalities found at H/J boarding facilities. I have personally delt with the high-maintenance boarder who complains about every thing they can everyday, and I know how annoying complainers can be.

    I consider myself a great boarder. I follow all the rules, always pay on time, clean up after myself, I get along with everyone at the barn, and I never, ever complain. I have been at my current barn for about 5 years, and it is a great fit for me, I really like where I board.

    Over the last couple months I have been unhappy with the barn manager. I won't go into specifics, but the things I have seen him do, say, act, treat myself and his staff, and the drama he has caused is really bothering me. I want to bring my concerns up to the barn owner, and file a complaint against the manager. I want to do so in a professional manner that gets my point across, not in a whiney-complain-y kind of way. I love my barn and I don't want to cause any hard feelings.

    I am wondering if a phone call, in-person conversation, or a written letter (or email?) is appropriate. As I said, I love my barn. However, if the barn manager continues his current behavior I will find somewhere else to board.

    I need help! I know there are some barn owners on this board. I know no one likes complaints, but if you had to deal with one, how would you prefer the complaint to be presented to you?

  • #2
    My opinion: put the info in a letter to BO; bullet points covering the issues you have. Keep it concise, and professional sounding. Dates/other specifics to support your thoughts. I wouldn't do a full data dump; focus on the things that are most critical. THEN set up a meeting w/ owner, to review the letter w/ them in person.
    By having the document, you have a way to stay focused, avoid whining, and not get carried away You also have given the owner a paper trail as a result...
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

    Comment


    • #3
      It all depends on the BO's personality and your relationship with him/her. "Filing" a complaint sounds way too formal to me. Pick the right way and the right time and place based on what you know about your BO as a person.

      You may also need to consider just how much of a "right hand man" the offending employee is to the BO. No BO will take the side of one unhappy boarder over a treasured, git-r-done employee. They can't afford to.

      But do let your BO know that bothers you. Sort the "this would make me move" from "I'd like that to be different." If the employee is doing things so bad that you'd consider leaving, I think it is worth finding a way to let your BO know in a constructive way. You may not be the only one. And the BO certainly can't fix a problem she doesn't know about.

      I hesitate to suggest this, but do you have a sense of what other boarders think about the "problem" employee? I would *not* mention anyone else in the one-on-one conversation with the BO. (That "in person" conversation would be my way to do it.) But I would be more likely to speak up if I knew I weren't the only person unhappy with things.

      Good luck to you.
      The armchair saddler
      Politically Pro-Cat

      Comment


      • #4
        I wouldn't say anything. What comes around goes around and if he continues his behavior it probably wont go unnoticed.... If you don't want to make waves - - just do your thing and smile.... as long as it has nothing to do with hurting a horse or a child then - -

        But if there is a real issue - when the time is right speak from your heart and you will be fine....

        Remember if you bring up any issue you take the risk of being disliked or misunderstood or respected for it... you just never know... Good luck
        Live in the sunshine.
        Swim in the sea.
        Drink the wild air.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would talk to the barn owner directly if possible or by phone.

          You don't mention how much involvement the BO has with the barn but if they are not around much then the barn manager's conduct go unnoticed for a long time.

          Comment


          • #6
            You need to be prepared in case you are asked to leave, instead of anything being done about the barn manager. It might be that your complaints will be addressed, and things will improve. However, it is also possible that the BO will not take your side, or do anything about the barn manager, so you could be opening yourself up for retaliation against you or your animal. Unfortunately, when you try to do the right thing it can backfire.
            You can't fix stupid-Ron White

            Comment


            • #7
              I second the idea of doing nothing for now but taking notes UNLESS the behavior of the manager is immediately affecting the safety or health of the horses or of the people riding and training there. If that's the case then I would act now.

              Otherwise, I would look around at other barns over the next month so you have a place to move in case the problem gets worse or if the BO is unhappy if you eventually decide to broach the topic with him/her. That's what I'd spend your time doing so you have alternatives that you can fall back on if you need them.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you for the advice.

                I have only actually seen the barn owner out at the facility once, the manager is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the barn so the owner really has no need to be present. I have never even talked to the owner, but I do have her contact information, so a face-to-face conversation would have to be set up by phone or email if I went that route.

                No horses or people are in any danger. This manager is not negligent in his care of the animals or facility. He has poor people skills, enjoys gossip and drama, and says things and acts in ways I find completely inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable. He can't keep good barn staff because of his treatment of them.

                The last thing I want to do is cause hard feelings or have the BO and BM have a negative opinion of me. I didn't consider the BO reacting negatively to my complaint, but I see now how it could backfire on me. Leaving this barn would mean leaving my trainer, who I really like. But I suppose being prepared to leave on good terms is the best thing I can do.

                Thanks again for the advice

                Comment


                • #9
                  ^^ Another thing you may want to consider (after checking out other barns), is bringing some of the issues to the BO's attention, but sandwich it inbetween positive comments about her farm.

                  depending on her personality, she may take a general complaint as a slight against her barn even though it's the manager who's the problem. However, if you include some positive comments maybe she won;t.


                  Anyway, perhaps you could start the discussion by saying how much you love working with the trainer, how you love the care the horse is receiving, but that the manager is doing X, Y and Z which makes you and others feel uncomfortable (or whatever you plan to say). Then reiterate how much you would love to cointinue with trainer so and so and she's really an asset to the farm and you ,love what you've been learning and doing there.

                  Kind of like getting a dog to take its medicine by wrapping the pill up in a slice of deli meat.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Can you bring this up with your trainer?

                    And is it possible to flat-out point out this BM's inappropriate behavior to him when it happens? Sort of call his bluff...you are a paying customer & deserve to be at the facility and not feel harassed.

                    Or would that backfire?

                    I would think that the turnover in the barn staff would be detrimental to the consistent care of the horses...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I was also thinking perhaps bring it up with the trainer. Most places we've been, it's the trainer who has the most say over the staff, not the barn owner. Actually, I don't think we've ever been anywhere where the BO chose the staff, it was always the trainer working out of the facility.

                      Since you're not close to the BO, I would stick with the trainer and just mention that this person is making you uncomfortable and that you don't want to leave, but you don't know what else to do about it. Maybe someone else has mentioned it to the trainer too and you just don't know about it. The trainer might say something to the BM or BO on behalf of his/her clients if more than one of you feels that way.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by myfirstalter View Post
                        I have only actually seen the barn owner out at the facility once...

                        ...This manager is not negligent in his care of the animals or facility. He has poor people skills, enjoys gossip and drama, and says things and acts in ways I find completely inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable. He can't keep good barn staff because of his treatment of them...

                        ...Leaving this barn would mean leaving my trainer, who I really like.

                        Offhand, I think you are going to be out of luck with the BO. This type BO usually is not that involved with day to day operations, may not even be that knowledgeable about horse management. They often consider themselves lucky to get a competent BM that doesn't lie, steal and get drunk or wasted. It sounds like this BM is competent....and barn staff leave for all sorts of reasons-many blaming somebody like the BM when boarders are clueless about the real reasons.

                        Two suggestions. #1 talk to your trainer.

                        #2 speak up when this guy says something inapproprate. Let him know it makes you uncomfortable and give him a chance to realize what he is doing is coming off as offensive. Don't just go behind his back-you are both adults.

                        Of course a plan B is always a necessity when you board out, poke around and have a barn back up plan in mind. Sometimes things like this are a sign of things to come and they get worse instead of better.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You've been there 5 years and only been unhappy with the BM a few months? Is it a new BM or what do you think has changed over the last little while?

                          I agree with others that said you should have a back-up plan to move.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It will take one " I don't find that funny and am uncomfortable " to see if you need to leave or not. Approaching the BO is not going to help, most likely. Ask your trainer's opinion. I hope it works out for you. This is a good lesson in assertion. A firm response to his nonsense will hopefully help.
                            Come to the dark side, we have cookies

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I think that because a lot of your issues are "drama related," I would be very choosy about who I talk to about it. You don't want to talk to everyone about it so that you aren't involved in any of the gossipy drama you're avoiding!

                              I think your best idea is to talk to the BM if any uncomfortable situations arise so that he knows that it bothers you. If it doesn't stop after that, you're going to have to think about someone who has authority over the BM and make a complaint. I think that person would be the BO, but you know the dynamics of your barn so it's up to you. A letter/well written email with an invitation to further discuss the issue (if needed) is what I would submit.
                              a horseless canuck...

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by myfirstalter View Post
                                No horses or people are in any danger. This manager is not negligent in his care of the animals or facility. He has poor people skills, enjoys gossip and drama, and says things and acts in ways I find completely inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable. He can't keep good barn staff because of his treatment of them.
                                I don't put up with any of that crap when I am footing the bill for a service, whatever that service is.

                                I, personally, would find another place to board and take my money with me. Let the BO know, in writing after you leave, why you decided to leave.

                                If more people do that, the BM will be fired in short order. I know from first hand experience that business owners will absolutely fire any employee that is costing them business.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Eh, if the horses are fine, whatever. Ignore him. (Honestly, to get good care, I can put up with all sorts of weird interpersonal. If the horse care isn't there, that's a problem.)

                                  If you don't engage with these people, this stuff becomes a nonissue. Go to barn, ride horse, ignore the riffraff as long as the horse is well cared for. A good barn is hard to find.

                                  If you "file a complaint" with the BO, chances are nothing is going to improve. Best case scenario, nothing happens (what are they going to do? Fire the BM? He is good at his job so not going to happen. Give him a talking to? What's that going to do? Have you ever known someone respond WELL to such criticism?)

                                  Worst case, BO says something about it to BM that IDs you and he takes it out on you, or your horse, or you are asked to leave. No good result.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by mildot View Post
                                    I, personally, would find another place to board and take my money with me. Let the BO know, in writing after you leave, why you decided to leave.

                                    If more people do that, the BM will be fired in short order. I know from first hand experience that business owners will absolutely fire any employee that is costing them business.
                                    Ahhhh, true but...many, if not most, trainers do not own the barns they train at, they lease the stalls. The trainer is the one who will lose the business that makes the money. Boarding is little better then break even and BO can get another boarder alot easier then OP can get another trainer at the level she seems to be at.

                                    A BO may very well ask a complaining boarder to leave and end up trainerless as well, the trainer has no say if it's not their barn and boarder's contract is with that barn.

                                    Speaking to the trainer is the best option here. As well as speaking up when the objectionable behavior/remarks come up. Not a big deal, just say you don't appreciate it.

                                    Trainer needs to know it might cost HER business and they can deal with the BO if it does not stop. They actually probably know already anyway-maybe they need to move.
                                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Well much of it has to be the nature of the BM behavior; and I'm not sure that sucking up and not saying a thing is really the right thing to do. I say this now after hearing tale and tale of boarding situations where some of us are expected to accept bad business behavior. I'm not sure why none of us speaks up. I just had a long conversation yesterday w/ a fellow boarder who's trainer ripped into her young daughter at a show etc. She had a nice chat w/ trainer basically telling her that was never to happen again. Trainer at show called her kid a F***ing idiot in the schooling ring at rated show Nice huh; another trainer/BO bills a client for shoes for school horse apparently "to test her to see what she can get away with" Really; another barn sends out bills for all kinds of "supplies" but yet brushes, fly spray etc are never around yet clients are billed $100+ per month for them? HUH and we're not supposed to say a word because we might get tossed out? A friend of mine is a head trainer at lesson barn -their GM is a control freak who constantly threatens to dock their pay (and has which is illegal in our state); is more often abusive towards them than nice (they are female, he's male and walking a fine line on the hostile workplace line)

                                      I agree w/many of the posts that this situation can be a bit touchy. If BM says or acts inappropriately towards OP then they should speak up right then and there (and document it) If OP witnesses a similar situation towards staff or other clients - then document it. If the behahvior continues then I would write letter to owner and bullet point the various incidents - just make sure they aren't petty; and also state the positives about the BM as well as negatives.
                                      Chances are w/ your documenting various situations and they happen to coincide w/ people leaving you've proved your point.

                                      Comment

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