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Winter Woes at Boarding Barns

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  • Original Poster

    #21
    Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post

    I just have to point out here that it's not possible to make a living wage (or to pay an employee a proper wage) if you are relying on boarding income from a small or medium sized facility. The numbers just don't work. I think it's not a surprise that such a facility would be cutting corners.

    There's no perfect solution because a facility that charges above the going rates is going to have trouble attracting customers. Customers looking for field or even stall board without a training program are typically very cost conscious when searching for facilities. OTOH, a facility that is economically healthy from having an active lesson/training/sales program is going to prioritize those horses over the field boarders (or non-training boarders) simply because that is where they are making their income. Over the past 10 years I think the boarding market has really changed and that high quality pasture / field board options are disappearing as people have realized that it is not a profitable service to offer.

    OP, please realize, I'm not blaming you. I'm simply pointing out some economic perspectives here. We are actually on the same side here as one of my least favorite things about running a boarding barn is that customers seldom value a lot of the expensive "details" that have a huge impact on their horse's health and well being. Things like well safe/sturdy fences, well maintained pastures, grading/gravel for proper drainage and prevention of deep mud/erosion, automatic waterers, and adequate high quality hay are crucial for the proper care of a grazing animal such as a horse.
    I don't know how they're making their living but what's interesting to me is that over half of the barns advertising in the area do not do lessons or training only boarding, so if they're not able to make a living off of that why are they open?

    The big training barns have problems too; throwing money at a super fancy barn isn't always the answer. I've actually toured and met people who left due to deal breakers in the horse's care. Most of these barns are off my list anyways because they only offer full stall care where the horses are in from 3ish until 6/7am in winter and that will never work for my horse. I also don't enjoy riding around a ton of lesson kids.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #22
      Originally posted by piedmontfields View Post
      OP, it sounds like you need a professionally run and managed boarding barn--no matter whether it is large or small. You will pay for quality facility, care and MANAGEMENT. It is worth it IMO.
      All except one of these barns were professionally run and managed by a full time barn owner/manager.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #23
        Originally posted by jonem004 View Post
        Barn staff often won’t call about small injuries or lameness because they know taking care of it odd going to be added to their workload.

        Making an effort to show barn staff that you appreciate and will pay them for the extra care shown to your horse can combat this. I’m sure you’d be happy to pay to have your house brought in and held for the vet. Tell them.

        Soooooooo many horse owners are misers, or just too poor to have horses. Make sure you communicate to that barn manager and staff that you are not one of them. I prefer a mixture of bitching and tipping and being East going about the small stuff. People will be a lot more interested in catering to your particularities and your horses special needs if you thank and compensate them for their efforts.
        I tip, I bake my barn owners cookies for Christmas, I thank them for their care regularly. I pay for any extras that are needed such as vet care etc. Usually I take off work and hold for the vet and farrier so that my barn owner doesn't have to worry about it. I don't text or call with issues/concerns if anything comes up, I definitely respect their evenings and weekends if they take off. I go to the barn when they're already there to talk to them. I pay my board ahead of time in full. I do not nitpick or ask for random small things that don't matter.

        If you'd rather watch a horse struggle to stand or walk then pick up the phone and call me because it *might* cause you a little extra labor that I would pay for then don't accept boarders. Period, end of sentence, this is animal abuse. If my horse is delayed from 100% necessary vet care because you don't want to call me and tell me he's injured we have a problem and yes I will pay you my 30 days and haul him out that day which is what I did.

        My expectations of a full field board situation is a decent field that will have some grass in spring/summer (I always look at the field he will be placed in and discuss any other fields he might move to to make sure they're all fine-you can move my horse without my permission no problem just tell me where he's at so I don't come out and panic that he's missing) Grain fed 1x a day (whatever the barn has that fits my horse I ask about this when touring). Hay fed in winter when the grass dies. In field board this is pretty much always a roundbale for every 4-5 horses. If it runs out occasionally and you can't put a new one out that's fine, if it runs out for a day maybe two every week or so that's fine. If it runs out constantly for long periods of time or there aren't enough roundbales for the number of horses that's not ok. Water that's not frozen constantly (haven't actually had any issues with this). Allowing the owner to blanket their own horse. And last but not least, if my horse is injured and needs to see a vet pick up the phone and call me. If it's a scrape, bump or anything minor no notice necessary I'll see it the next time I'm out. If another horse kicks my horse and he's injured I'm not going to go after the barn or the owner of the other horse, it's horses. I'll come out pay my vet bill and get him taken care of. Anything extra on top of this I would expect to pay extra or have a barn owner tell me no-which is ok.

        I think what this highlights is there's a pretty big disconnect between barn owners and horse owners which is sad. We're all in this situation hopefully because we love horses and want to be around horses. What more can I do to show my barn owners that I appreciate them? What as boarders do we need to do to prove we're not cheap, too poor to own a horse, a miser, or asking too much?

        Comment


        • #24
          these things would make me crazy too. Mine live at home. when they didn't it was a crazy full service high dollar situation with only 4 hours turnout.
          i think there are always compromises when you can't take care of them yourself. however not enough forage in the cold of winter seems really cruel. some barns with do a surcharge for extra hay. that seems fair.

          Anyone who is trying to make money boarding horses (including feed, bedding and labor) can't be making money unless board is over 1000k and probably closer to 1250 in places like california and florida (hay is crazy expensive). and that i mean for basic care. turn in and out and feeding. My point i suppose is that if you are paying less than this, expect corners to be cut imho.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #25
            Originally posted by EmilyM View Post
            these things would make me crazy too. Mine live at home. when they didn't it was a crazy full service high dollar situation with only 4 hours turnout.
            i think there are always compromises when you can't take care of them yourself. however not enough forage in the cold of winter seems really cruel. some barns with do a surcharge for extra hay. that seems fair.

            Anyone who is trying to make money boarding horses (including feed, bedding and labor) can't be making money unless board is over 1000k and probably closer to 1250 in places like california and florida (hay is crazy expensive). and that i mean for basic care. turn in and out and feeding. My point i suppose is that if you are paying less than this, expect corners to be cut imho.
            I am in the northern Virginia area so luckily hay isn't crazy expensive. I purchase really high quality hay for my ridiculously picky goats so I'm pretty aware of the price range in the area. We have had really bad hay years, this year and last year actually and I would rather pay a hay surcharge then see them go without hay.

            Comment


            • #26
              Depending on where you are in NOVA I know of a nice barn / facility in Maryland - Dickerson Boyds area that might suit you. It has miles of trails, great indoor, and lighted outdoor rings.

              I agree that some of the things OP notes can be deal breakers and reason to move. I was in a similar boarding situation and didn't know how bad it was until I went to other barns to visit friends. It was always a bit of a mosh pit getting from car to barn.. visited a friends barn oh my no mud from car to barn, no mud from barn to field. Oh my hay rolls and grass still available. Moved horse. The blanketing thing is not a big deal to me unless your horse is clipped. My horse, age 20, is happy as a clam being a nekid fuzzball. THe BM does put lightweight sheets on them in wet weather to keep them dry. They go out as much as possible. My guy manages to find any and every mud puddle but rare is the case that its a muddy near any of the gates and barn area.

              Comment


              • #27
                Originally posted by ThatBayHorse View Post
                I don't find any of these requests to be unreasonable, especially if you are paying for FULL pasture care. I have a 29 year old ottb that is very high maintenance/hard keeper that couldn't be stalled because he weaves and I feel the same way as you. I'm actually shocked that people are defending these "small time" boarding barn owners. Some of this stuff is bordering on neglect, especially in the winter!
                I agree with you, but posters are pointing out that there can be a big difference in a professionally run boarding operation and farm owners who are just trying to make a few extra bucks by boarding horses. Just because someone has enough money to buy a farm does not make him or her an educated horseperson.

                "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

                • Original Poster

                  #28
                  Originally posted by gottagrey View Post
                  Depending on where you are in NOVA I know of a nice barn / facility in Maryland - Dickerson Boyds area that might suit you. It has miles of trails, great indoor, and lighted outdoor rings.
                  Sounds fantastic but the location would be too far for me. Over the years I've moved further and further out and now I'm over the mountain in the county

                  A few places I boarded at while in college I wouldn't even consider now but back then I was very much constrained by my budget. I don't really have that issue now, though I can't afford the super pricey places.

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by jonem004 View Post
                    Barn staff often won’t call about small injuries or lameness because they know taking care of it odd going to be added to their workload.
                    That is never a reason to not mention even what you think is a 'small injury or lameness'. Unless you are a Vet and did a complete diagnostic exam, you have no idea what is 'small'.
                    Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014

                    http://notesfromadogwalker.com/2012/...m-a-sanctuary/

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by Angela Freda View Post

                      That is never a reason to not mention even what you think is a 'small injury or lameness'. Unless you are a Vet and did a complete diagnostic exam, you have no idea what is 'small'.
                      Certainly not a good reason, but humans are lazy. No point in talking about how things should be. Let’s discuss how they actually are and what we can do to get the best care for our horses.

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        I think the complaint about the small hole hay net is amusing, because there are all kinds of threads here where people are wishing their barn would use a hay net.
                        It sounds like in that situation the size of the turn out herd did not agree with your horse... not so much the hay net. Even with out a net the more dominant horses will not let the others eat.

                        So instead of asking if they use a hay net (unless you are against hay nets), ask how they managed herd size versus the amount of hay they put out.




                        Originally posted by jonem004 View Post

                        Certainly not a good reason, but humans are lazy. No point in talking about how things should be. Let’s discuss how they actually are and what we can do to get the best care for our horses.
                        But in this case the barn mentioned the horse was sore.
                        Not as sore as the OP found the horse, but they did call the OP and say the horse was sore.


                        Comment


                        • #32
                          Originally posted by stargzng386 View Post

                          I tip, I bake my barn owners cookies for Christmas, I thank them for their care regularly. I pay for any extras that are needed such as vet care etc. Usually I take off work and hold for the vet and farrier so that my barn owner doesn't have to worry about it. I don't text or call with issues/concerns if anything comes up, I definitely respect their evenings and weekends if they take off. I go to the barn when they're already there to talk to them. I pay my board ahead of time in full. I do not nitpick or ask for random small things that don't matter.

                          If you'd rather watch a horse struggle to stand or walk then pick up the phone and call me because it *might* cause you a little extra labor that I would pay for then don't accept boarders. Period, end of sentence, this is animal abuse. If my horse is delayed from 100% necessary vet care because you don't want to call me and tell me he's injured we have a problem and yes I will pay you my 30 days and haul him out that day which is what I did.

                          My expectations of a full field board situation is a decent field that will have some grass in spring/summer (I always look at the field he will be placed in and discuss any other fields he might move to to make sure they're all fine-you can move my horse without my permission no problem just tell me where he's at so I don't come out and panic that he's missing) Grain fed 1x a day (whatever the barn has that fits my horse I ask about this when touring). Hay fed in winter when the grass dies. In field board this is pretty much always a roundbale for every 4-5 horses. If it runs out occasionally and you can't put a new one out that's fine, if it runs out for a day maybe two every week or so that's fine. If it runs out constantly for long periods of time or there aren't enough roundbales for the number of horses that's not ok. Water that's not frozen constantly (haven't actually had any issues with this). Allowing the owner to blanket their own horse. And last but not least, if my horse is injured and needs to see a vet pick up the phone and call me. If it's a scrape, bump or anything minor no notice necessary I'll see it the next time I'm out. If another horse kicks my horse and he's injured I'm not going to go after the barn or the owner of the other horse, it's horses. I'll come out pay my vet bill and get him taken care of. Anything extra on top of this I would expect to pay extra or have a barn owner tell me no-which is ok.

                          I think what this highlights is there's a pretty big disconnect between barn owners and horse owners which is sad. We're all in this situation hopefully because we love horses and want to be around horses. What more can I do to show my barn owners that I appreciate them? What as boarders do we need to do to prove we're not cheap, too poor to own a horse, a miser, or asking too much?
                          Everything here is just standard, bare basic horse care and horsemanship! You are right, if someone can't do the above, they have NO BUSINESS running a boarding barn.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #33
                            Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                            I think the complaint about the small hole hay net is amusing, because there are all kinds of threads here where people are wishing their barn would use a hay net.
                            It sounds like in that situation the size of the turn out herd did not agree with your horse... not so much the hay net. Even with out a net the more dominant horses will not let the others eat.

                            So instead of asking if they use a hay net (unless you are against hay nets), ask how they managed herd size versus the amount of hay they put out.

                            The haynets should have been told to me. This is the barn I moved to after my horse was only fed 1 flake per day in January. I told her he was underweight and we went through a whole plan to help him gain weight. I asked about the hay quality and she showed me the round bales. We discussed the grain he would get and blankets. She assured me she would not put more horses out in that field and there would always be 2 roundbales put out. At this point she should have said...hey I put slow feed nets on the bales.

                            But in this case the barn mentioned the horse was sore.
                            Not as sore as the OP found the horse, but they did call the OP and say the horse was sore.

                            The exact text I received was "Hey dobbin looks a little stiff" I actually asked for more details, is he moving, eating, drinking ok? Does it look like he's stiff from his hock arthritis? All answered yes that he's just a little stiffer than normal. She did not pick up the phone to call me and actually didn't answer the phone when I called her. She's owned horses her entire life so I believed her. 2 Days later when I show up and am loading him up she tells me yes he's been in a founder stance for over a week barely able to move. None of this should have ever been called a soreness or stiffness. It was an emergency hauling to the vet hospital with fingers crossed that he would be ok. No rotation but the vet said he was shocked that he was even able to stand with the amount of bruising and abscessing he found on xray. My farrier found bruised spots for almost 8 months afterwards.

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              Well I never really heard of a hay net that covers round bales but I just looked it up and Dover and some other of the usual place have them. Interesting idea and I can see where it would be useful having to slog thru a hay/mud mosh pit to get my guy (at the old barn). It's not uncommon for horses to colic because they often gorge on the new hayrolls at this time of year when grass is nearly gone. The vets I know, know when the hayrolls go out and the phone rings at 10pm it's a colic. So the haynet over the hayroll wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing IMO, and might be a good thing in terms of management. OP's horse could've been low in the pecking order and harder for him to get hay.

                              If I were the OP I'd look for a field boarding situation where there was plenty of property with large pastures as often there is still grass so horses can graze on winter grass and hay which helps with the weight. Also -not sure where in NOVA the OP is but I'm in Mongtomery County MD and several of the horses at our barn lost weight this winter/early spring - grass was late coming up and my barn is gives out plenty of hay. IME horses will opt for that 1 new single blade of grass over the hay and that's when they drop weight.

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                My worst favourite was a barn with huge grass turnouts for summer, and multiple small sacrifice paddocks for winter. I asked " how many would you have in one of these?" And the answer was "Depends how many have".

                                Turns out that meant however many they have, that's how many go in one of these little paddocks. All fifteen or so geldings together sharing two roundbales in a space half the size of a 20x40 dressage ring. They would move the whole group to a different one when it got too muddy.

                                Luckily I was on the wait list for another barn and got out of that place after only a month...

                                Comment


                                • #36
                                  So horse had been in founder stance for over a week, meaning owner hadn't been to see him for over a week.

                                  As the saying goes " the eye of the master fsttrne the cattle."

                                  It's unfortunate but true that the horses of absentee owners tend to get less attention and are valued less by barn managers because they figure you don't care that much. Also the less you visit the fewer chances you have of catching warning signs and shortcuts in care that might be developing especially as seasons change or care team evolves.

                                  I also expect that conflict averse barn managers might say "he looks a little sore' and if you don't respond by immediately racing to the barn they feel well, they've done their bit you must not really be that concerned.

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                                    I think the complaint about the small hole hay net is amusing, because there are all kinds of threads here where people are wishing their barn would use a hay net.
                                    I thought this was an interesting comment too. My own horse should NOT be put on a round bale without a hay net or having his time managed on it. It's all relative to the needs of each horse.

                                    OP, to answer your question: perhaps you should be asking BO/BM's "how do you manage different horses with different needs in a group setting?"

                                    It also sounds like your guy has not thrived in group or pasture turnout. He may do well with a stall for the night to get the extra calories or shelter he needs, even if it results in less turnout during winter months. Some things are unavoidable, at a prior barn we HAD to start turning horses in at 3PM (during winter) as leading horses in the dark, before dinner can get so dicey.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #38
                                      Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                                      So horse had been in founder stance for over a week, meaning owner hadn't been to see him for over a week.

                                      As the saying goes " the eye of the master fsttrne the cattle."

                                      It's unfortunate but true that the horses of absentee owners tend to get less attention and are valued less by barn managers because they figure you don't care that much. Also the less you visit the fewer chances you have of catching warning signs and shortcuts in care that might be developing especially as seasons change or care team evolves.

                                      I also expect that conflict averse barn managers might say "he looks a little sore' and if you don't respond by immediately racing to the barn they feel well, they've done their bit you must not really be that concerned.
                                      I did say some of this earlier. I usually go out to the barn 3-4x a week, that does not make me an absentee owner. In this scenario my company had just gone through a merger. I work in accounting and we rolled out new systems to both large companies about 2 weeks before this happened. I was working extremely long days, basically just going home to sleep and shower and then head off again and was only making to the barn on weekends.

                                      When the barn owner said that it looked like he was more stiff in his hock I told her that he already had a follow up vet appointment that following Monday and she said great. Saturday morning is when I got there and hauled him off to the emergency vet.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #39
                                        Originally posted by Displaced Yankee View Post

                                        I thought this was an interesting comment too. My own horse should NOT be put on a round bale without a hay net or having his time managed on it. It's all relative to the needs of each horse.

                                        OP, to answer your question: perhaps you should be asking BO/BM's "how do you manage different horses with different needs in a group setting?"

                                        It also sounds like your guy has not thrived in group or pasture turnout. He may do well with a stall for the night to get the extra calories or shelter he needs, even if it results in less turnout during winter months. Some things are unavoidable, at a prior barn we HAD to start turning horses in at 3PM (during winter) as leading horses in the dark, before dinner can get so dicey.
                                        I'll say this just one more time and won't keep repeating myself. My current horse cannot be on regular stall board due to vet instructions because of hock arthritis. He cannot spend half a day in a stall because it makes him significantly stiff.

                                        These examples are from 3 horses I've owned over the past 13 years so this is not a case of my one horse can't do pasture board. This is a case of barn owners not providing the service I'm paying for. It just seems that winter brings out the issues I was just trying to vent some general frustration not get into a debate about what my current horse needs. I've already found a new situation for him that should work well.

                                        Comment


                                        • #40
                                          I'm glad you found something! Jingles that it all works out for you!

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