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Being a model client

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    Being a model client

    There was a post yesterday about keeping horses at home vs. boarding them. Someone said they'd done both, prefer boarding, and make sure they're a model client at all times. This got me wondering....

    What makes a model client/boarder? There are the obvious things -- paying on time, being gracious and grateful, cleaning up after oneself, following the barn rules, staying out of drama, and not being unreasonably demanding. But what else makes somebody a good citizen at the barn? I don't know about y'all, but I'd certainly like to be the best client I can be!

    we have one horse who is a model

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      Not offering unsolicited advice, especially not of the "At my last place they did it this way" variety.
      "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
      that's even remotely true."

      Homer Simpson


        I've been both employee and client.
        Let staff know if you are/are not coming that day and if that changes, especially if they have to wait to turn your horse out, etc.
        Ask what can help get your horse ready for turnout if he will be going out when you are done. Put on his bell boots, ask what blanket he should have on for the night, that sort of thing.
        If you are experienced enough (& your barn allows), ask if they would like you to turn your horse out for them. I usually ride after work, so I turn mine out regularly & will take one of his paddock pals with me if they still need to go out too.
        Leave things the way you found them: latch gates, turn off lights, close stall doors, etc.
        Don't hog the wash rack/crossties!!! LOL
        "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"


          When I was a BO/BM, I had two ideal clients, though they were very different.

          Ideal client #1: Ultimate low maintenance horse and low maintenance rider. Almost didn't take them as a boarder because there was no potential for any billing outside straight pasture board. Would have been a mistake. Owner took no lessons, horse needed no training, owner did everything else herself, competently and well. Perhaps the only owner/horse combo it was possible to make money on straight board because they were so easy and low maintenance.

          Ideal client #2: Full service client. Horse was a perfect gentleman with excellent barn manners, and owner wanted everything done for him and didn't mind paying. Encouraged me to do whatever I thought necessary for the horse and bill her. Regular lesson student, regular participant in all barn activities.

          Commonalities between the two: horses with excellent manners, always paid on time/early, were at the barn on a regular basis, neat, tidy and considerate in the barn.

          Definition of a non-ideal client: some version of wanting the service level of #2 while paying at the #1 rate. There are the true whackadoos out there, sure, the ones you never let in the barn because the signs are so obvious; but most PIA boarders fall somewhere on the spectrum of wanting services that they're not actually paying for and being unhappy/vocal about it.
          The plural of anecdote is not data.


            when we had a horse at a training barn I had the horse buy her groom lunch at least once a week

            plus after seeing that the groom was buying apples and carrots as treats for my mare I sent the groom a monthly stipend (after first getting the approval of the barn owner)


              Aside from the (hopefully) obvious (be polite, clean up, follow the rules, pay on time, etc.) I would say the absolute biggest thing is:

              Accept that the barn program is what it is. If you can't accept the things that don't align perfectly with your own wishes, board somewhere else. Do not go in expecting that you can have your horse managed differently. If there are things that you can't live without that seem like they could fit in but aren't necessarily called out or apparent - ask before you sign that contract.

              For example: your horse needs a haynet overnight. You don't see any haynets in the stalls when you tour the barn. Do not assume you can have one - ASK. At my barn (I'm both a client and an employee) it's no sweat. We'll fill a net for your horse and hang it up. Is it a bit of a pain in that it takes more time than tossing night hay loose? Sure, but the way that chores and staff are organized it's totally doable. At some facilities it might really throw off their system.

              Or maybe you are very very particular about blanketing. Don't just look see blanketed horses when you visit a barn and assume your blanketing needs will fit in. Again using our barn as an example: During blanketing season, boarders are asked to do their best to look at the coming weather and dress their horse appropriately. If a horse is cold, or wet, or roasting (or if the owner is out of town or sick etc.) of course we will take care of them but there is no "blanket service" option for board. We are not set up to rush out and change your blanket at the slightest fluctuation in temperature. Or pull your cooler off in the morning and re-blanket because you didn't want to wait until your horse was ready for their rug. All that being said, there's flexibility and everyone is pretty happy to help out in a one-off situation. But don't come in with your blanketing chart in 5 degree increments and colour coded rugs and expect Dobbin's ladies in waiting to dress him every day.

              Basically: be clear with yourself about deal breakers, and make sure to board somewhere that meets those standards. If you can't find anywhere, or maybe just anywhere in your price range - it's up to you to re-evaluate your needs, not the BOs to adjust their programs.


                kashmere pretty much nailed it.

                Accept that the barn program is what it is. If you can't accept the things that don't align perfectly with your own wishes, board somewhere else. Do not go in expecting that you can have your horse managed differently. If there are things that you can't live without that seem like they could fit in but aren't necessarily called out or apparent - ask before you sign that contract.

                I've learned that even when BOs agree to your 'special' requests initially, eventually they will fall by the wayside since those tasks were not part of their program. You want Dobbin to have a fly mask on during the day and removed at night but no other horses ever have a fly mask on? After one week, your horse will be sporting that mask 24/7 or not at all. Horse needs a shoe boil boot at night and removed in the morning? see above re: fly masks. You think Dobbin would do better on a different grain? enjoy that one bag lasting longer and longer as the BO keeps forgetting to feed your special grain and gives horse standard old feed mix that every other horse gets.

                Part of this is that the BOs need to be very upfront with what they allow and don't allow. They need to be clear with what works in their barn and what does not (yes, part of this requires acknowledging their own time and energy limitations) . Boarders need to accept this and not try to shimmy around it. People get discontented/ upset when gray areas occur. Being told "sure, we will feed whatever you want" only to have that feed ignored was a deal breaker that could have easily been avoided if the BO was just honest upfront.

                Even if you think you can grit your teeth and stick it out by doing the supplemental work yourself or buy your own supplies to supplement the barn's, some BO's take it as a slight it will eventually wear out your welcome. Accept everything you see at face value.


                  Oh, my favorite story about a very good client. She asked me to find her a certain type of horse at a certain price point. I do. Client takes horse on trial. Horse does not put a foot wrong, but client is not enthusiastic. Discussion ensues: Me: "If you don't like this one, and want to send it back, that's absolutely fine. But I really want to focus on what you DON'T like about this one, and what you do want, so I can refine my search." Some back and forth re: this horse's qualities vs. desired qualities vs. price point. Client: "Are you telling me that this is the fanciest horse I can get at this price?" Me: "Barring the extremely rare undiscovered craigslist wonder, yes. The trial horse is priced very fairly for what he is."
                  Client: "Oh, well, then. We need to spend more money."

                  We changed the price range and found something she was very happy with and did very well with.

                  I thought about that client and that exchange often while trying to explain to the umpteenth person that the amateur friendly 3' horse under $10K was a myth.
                  Last edited by McGurk; Dec. 4, 2019, 12:59 PM.
                  The plural of anecdote is not data.


                    The rule I try to live by is "be at least as helpful as you are crazy."

                    In different barns that might mean different things. In some barns it is helpful to stay out of the way and tip well. In others it is helpful to pick up a broom, scrub and refill the water trough, and wrangle the lesson kids before they accidentally get eaten or trampled by Landshark the Shetland.

                    So, know your barn's culture, know their expectations and the level of service they provide, watch, learn, do it their way, ask before you do it differently, and always, always, always, be gracious to the people who are catching your horse in the cold rain.

                    I'm not suggesting I'm a model client (I am at least a little crazy,) but I do not think you can go wrong this way.
                    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden


                      Come to see your horse regularly. Know the barn routine and follow it (turn in happens at 3? Go to the barn at 4, not 2). Be friendly to the barn staff and get to know everyone by name. Bring donuts for everyone a few times a year. Ask, don't tell. Say please and thank you. Hold your own horse for the vet and farrier as often as possible. If you're traveling, leave reliable contact info.


                        What makes a model client and not just a good client (a good client I think is someone who follows the rules and expectations of the barn/boarding agreement/program - pays on time, doesn't contact the professionals at weird hours expecting instantaneous replies, knows the barn schedule and doesn't make things harder for anyone, etc) I think is going to vary by client and program. In general I think if a client can offer more to the professional/program out of a desire to be helpful, they're working their way up the tree to model client territory (but again, what each professional/program considers helpful would vary).

                        At my current place, I will help water, feed, and turn-out horses if that is happening when I'm at the barn. No part of it is expected of me, but it's helpful to the staff and the BO, so I am happy to do it (as they both go above and beyond in the care of my horse, I am willing to go above and beyond to make their lives easier).

                        When I am at the barn I ride at: I will still help with turn-out, feed, blanket changes, etc. I know all the horses in my trainer's program and I have spent nearly twenty years working with my trainer so know her rules of thumb by horse. If she is on vacation I will "babysit" her personal horses (and supervise her client horses) for free. Likewise, if she's on her day off (or with clients at shows) and something happens, I am the "go-to" person (trusted to make the decision either to call the vet or if it's something that can wait/we can handle ourselves, if it's not a vet-immediately situation, I am largely responsible for addressing the issue).

                        Be helpful, basically. Figure out what the needs are of the people and the place and then figure out what you can offer that is a good match for those needs. My version of being a model client is different than another client of my trainer's based on experience or body of knowledge - but that doesn't mean they're incapable of being a model client, it just means them being a model client will take a different shape.


                          Oh, and teach your horse some gosh darn manners.

                          At the very least he should lead quietly on a rope shank, stand quietly, tie in some fashion (cross tie, straight tie, ground tie is great,) move forwards, backwards, left, and right when prompted, and not run people over to get to food. If he's a feral pig at turnout and drags the staff into the field, that's yours to fix. If you don't know how to fix it, pay your trainer for some groundwork lessons, or read some books. Nobody but you thinks it's cute when he kicks the door for food, so stop reinforcing it. Nobody but you thinks it's cute when he steals and drinks out of people's water bottles, so stop teaching him to do it.

                          Barn chores are 100% harder when the horses have no life skills
                          "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden


                            Make caring for your horse's needs as easy as you possibly can - to be determined by you AND the BO/staff. Ask if they can accommodate X, then ask how you can set it up so it will be easy for them to do.

                            I worked at one place where one of the boarders used to hang her blankets in weird places and then get upset if I didn't play hunt-the-blanket in the morning and instead used one of the (many) other blankets on the stall door.

                            I fed one boarder that had five supplements. After checking with my BO I put mine in containers (one per day) and don't have to worry about making changes. No one should have to open/scoop/close that many supplement tubs for one horse.

                            I had to deal with a number of blankets who's owners couldn't be bothered to get them fixed. Seriously - don't ask anyone to deal with a jury rigged blanket for more than a day or two.

                            If your horse needs a blanket inside then figure out your turnout blankets so that it goes on top of the stable wear. Think one on, one off per day - unless the barn management wants separate stable/turnout blankets.

                            A friend with a horse needing extra warmth had a chart with daytime temperature/blanket insulation. Each blanket had a tag with the horse's name and the blanket insulation. And there was a place on the chart that said "I am wearing ___g" so the staff could grab whichever blanket would add up to the needed insulation - no guessing. Before anyone has a fit I think there were four temperature zones. The staff loved it.

                            Which reminds me - put your HORSE'S name on the blankets, NOT yours.

                            My BO is awesome and will bend over backwards to look after my boys so I try to find the easiest way to set things up. We talk about options, try things, and adjust.

                            Some things are always going to be a PITA. But if you can make something easier, do so - even if you're told you don't have to (check to ensure that "you don't have to" isn't polite for "stop making my job harder" first).



                              The Chronicle article ;


                                Originally posted by skydy View Post
                                every time I see the photo in that article I want to reach in to strengthen that fence line...


                                  Originally posted by clanter View Post

                                  every time I see the photo in that article I want to reach in to strengthen that fence line...
                                  What about it needs strengthening. Four board fence looks pretty good to me.


                                    Originally posted by trubandloki View Post

                                    What about it needs strengthening. Four board fence looks pretty good to me.
                                    that S wiggle in the left foreground


                                      When I was boarding I made sure to help out whenever possible. If something needed repaired (we were a self service barn), I would fix it myself. I often made myself available (at the time I wasn't working, so it worked), to help fill in for people. I would keep an eye on the other horses, so if one of the horses was acting colicky while I was out there I would call the owner, then the BO, to make them aware. More than one time I walked a colicky horse or held a horse that had gotten injured etc, until the owner could arrive.

                                      I kept my stalls clean, my water buckets scrubbed, and always picked up after myself (and other boarders). I would sweep the barn aisle even if I hadn't used it. Just different things to show how appreciative I was for the low board bill and the beautiful grass pastures the BO let us use.

                                      I also made things as simple as possible when I had to go out of town and had to have someone care for my horses. If it was something I normally did but wouldn't be necessarily a big deal, I would just have them skip. Perhaps leave the horses out 24/7 instead of worrying about stalls, if the weather was good, etc.

                                      The problems occurred when people started taking advantage of my generosity, so I eventually moved my horses home once I had the pasture and stall finished. Everyone was super bummed I left, but I was not even having time to ride because I was doing everyone else's chores (and not compensated for them). I didn't mind helping them out, but it was starting to really get to me, and eating up my time. So I left


                                        Originally posted by clanter View Post

                                        every time I see the photo in that article I want to reach in to strengthen that fence line...
                                        Me too, especially if it was me who hit that post, maybe while mowing.