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Is it possible to break a boarding contract?

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  • Is it possible to break a boarding contract?

    June 1st I moved my horse to a new barn. I moved him because even though he was very happy at our old barn it was about an hour drive from me, and new barn is only twenty minutes from my house. Since we moved my horse has not been happy at all. When I visited new barn barn owner promised full day turnout, and that she budgets for a bale of hay per horse per day. When we moved I told barn owner that my horse gets allergy meds, AM, and PM Smart Paks. I left everything in the grain room, labeled, with instructions. A few days ago I got a notice from Smart Pak that my auto-ships were getting ready to process. I went into the grain room and my smart pak package was unopened-- he hadn't received a single supplement since we moved nearly 3 weeks ago. I told barn owner and she said he would start receiving them. He also never received his allergy meds, which he has also now started receiving. The first two weeks we were there my horse was out for 2-3 hours of turnout, if that, but mostly he was left inside all day without any turnout. Then my horse got injured. One of the workers said he was fine the night before, when I went to pull him out of his stall the next day he was dead lame. Vet thinks a hoof abscess, which I am currently treating. So now he's on stall rest. While on stall rest he receives no afternoon hay. He goes from a flake in the AM, to a flake or two in the PM...no mid day hay. I also went up mid day the other day and he had no water. I have brought things up to the barn owner regarding turnout, water, and hay, and it's like everything is in one ear and out the other. This is a nice barn, with beautiful facilities, and I'm paying a great deal more for less care than I did at previous barn. Barn owner recently let go of her barn manager, so there are a bunch of working students doing chores, but no one consistently taking care of the horses. In the grain room there is no chart as to what each horse is supposed to receive in terms of meds/smart pak's etc. I do not feel like my horse is safe, or cared for well there. I don't want to attack the barn owner for anything, but I do want to get my horse out of there, preferably without giving 30 days notice. When I sent in my boarding contract last month, barn owner never sat down, went over it, and signed it with me. Has anyone ever left a barn without giving 30 days? My other option would be to give notice, and rough board him for the rest of our time there.

  • #2
    The BO was not under any obligation to sit down with you and explain the contract, you are assumed to have read it and understood it before you signed.

    What does the contract say? Are the supplements and medications listed in the contract?

    You know the horse world is a small one, and you might want to weigh taking the high road and not burning bridges.
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    • #3
      You can give notice, pay for the 30 days, but leave right away.

      What does the boarding contract say or promise with regard to turnout, feeding, etc?
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      • #4
        Definitely refer to your contract where it specifically outlines what horse care your horse will be receiving. Highlight the parts that you are disputing (ie, 12 hours of turnout, all medications/supplements fed daily if provided by owner, etc.) if you plan to breech the contract.

        Although it sounds like the care is not what you were expecting, it does not sound dangerous to your horse's health. It also sounds like you feel the worse part is you're paying more for location and facility, you're disappointed the care is not up to the perceived standards (which would be outlined in your contract).

        If you're willing to burn bridges, go ahead and tell your BO you're unhappy with the care, you've outlined parts of the contract where you feel they have not been fulfilled, you feel you've taken all the possibly steps to rectify the situation (ie, talking to management), and that you're making arrangement to move your horse out July 1st.

        When I wanted out of a barn fast but didn't feel my horse was in any danger, I simply paid for the month and then moved out when I wanted. I've never had any BO be offended or take issue with that.
        A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing

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        • #5
          It does depend on what is in your contract.

          I have left without notice when the boarding contract had been MATERIALLY and DEMONSTRABLY violated in multiple ways. The day I took my horse, I left a letter outlining the breaches of the contract by the BO. In that situation, I was more than comfortable that I would win if the BO attempted to sue me and I was also very comfortable that the BO would not try to sue me because she would not have wanted to deal with my counterclaims.

          But it is always safe to give notice, pay what is due, and move the horse without waiting out the notice period.

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          • #6
            It's your responsibility to thoroughly read any contract you sign and bring up and questions or concerns with the other party.

            It certainly sounds like the barn has several problems. If you'd like to try to stay there, I would set up a time to sit down with the barn owner and discuss your concerns in a non-confrontational way. A simple "I just want to make sure we're all on the same page--it was my understanding that x, y and z were promised and instead I'm getting a, b and c. Is there something different that needs to happen for my horse to get x, y and z, or is the plan for the barn to move forward with a, b and c from here on out?" may be very illuminating.

            If you'd like to get out now, whether or not you have to pay for 30 days depends on your contract. If the contract outlines the care your horse was to receive, and he has not received that care, the contract has been broken by the boarding barn and you are free to leave.

            If the contract does not outline the care, and there is nothing in there that the barn has breached, you're likely better off just paying the 30 days and getting out ASAP.

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            • #7
              Sure you can break it. How much it will cost you depends on how determined you are to get your horse out of there, how determined she is to enforce any penalties, whether either or both of you are willing to drag it to small claims court and whether or not you can prove she was in breach of the contract by providing crappy care.

              Given the situation you describe I'd get my horse the hell out of there pronto and suss out the details later. Skimping on/skipping feedings, not giving turn-out, ESPECIALLY not giving meds/needed supplements would be deal-breakers for me. And mystery lameness on top of a BO not overseeing care of her own barn letting working students do everything? Hell no.

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              • #8
                The short answer to your question is

                1. Yes, any person can break any contract they have signed.

                2. If they want to accept the consequences of doing that.

                So what do you want, exactly?

                Do you want to know if you are morally right? I suppose that depends on whether or not the BO's agreement with you specified parts of your horse's care that aren't getting done. In this case, she broke the contract first.

                Do you want your money back? If so, you probably need to leave the farm, document all you can and then do the PITA small claims court thing.

                Do you want to be able to leave now and not owe her for July? I think you'd need to be able to show her that you can prove to anyone watching (like a judge) that she has materially screwed up. And you need to look like someone who does not screw around.

                Do you want the BO to like you? That depends on her personality and your diplomatic skills.

                Do you want to be able to bail on the full care contract but go to self-care board? Again, that depends on the barn's options and your tact.
                The armchair saddler
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                • #9
                  I had this issue myself with being promised turnout and coming to the barn and NEVER seeing my mare outside. My mare has arthritis and without turnout, she was literally crippled. Because of this, in three months I probably got about 7 rides in total because she could barely move.

                  I also rarely saw her with hay in front of her, and when I did, it was a sparse single flake (she's a big mare - so she needs a bit more than one flake 2x/day). She is an airfern who was portly on 4 flakes a day and a 1/4 scoop of senior feed per day at the old barn but in just 3 months at this new barn, she dropped about 150 pounds. Turns out, she stiffed the hay supplier and on his last delivery, he left her a note saying he was not going to be able to supply her any longer and she would have to find a new source for hay. This on one of the worst years we had seen for hay supply in a long time. She was skimping on feed because she didn't know where she was going to get the next load.

                  She had meds that were not given as prescribed, which included a loading dose that needed to be redone because they totally botched it which cost me $$$. I was paying double what I was at my old barn to have her closer to home but was receiving horrible care.

                  I left without 30 days and told the barn owner that should she desire to pursue it, I'd be happy to take my information to court and have the lack of care be documented in public record. The way I saw it, she breached the contract first for now providing care as outlined in the contract and as agreed upon.

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                  • #10
                    Lots of good advice here. If it were me, I'd move my horse immediately (as soon as you can find someplace better.) I would both read any future contracts carefully AND I would get references for the barn from existing or past customers.

                    BUT you probably should pay your 30 days. But move as soon as you can, if things are as sloppy at the barn as you say.

                    It is no one's job but yours to understand the contracts you sign before you sign them, and to obtain a sense of whether a barn is going to honor its obligations before you sign a boarding contract. And you often have to insist on getting a signed copy of the boarding contract. Not like most barns have a copy machine in them. ;-)

                    I don't know really how often any barn is going to sue for not giving 30 days notice for departure, if there are no other outstanding obligations. Most places I know would rather have you gone if you are that unhappy. But you don't want to have a reputation as a flake, regardless of how valid your reasons.

                    And for now, if the barn's so close, get over there and make sure your horse has water, hay, & supps. And note all deficiencies in a written log for your own reference, in case things go to hell in this situation.
                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

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                    • #11
                      Move now, work out the rest once your horse and your stuff aren't there anymore.
                      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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

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                      • #12
                        The beauty of horse contracts is that they can be worded to include EVERYTHING you want and the BO agrees to. However, if you didn't put these things into the contract, you don't have any hope of using that for leverage. Most barns have a 30 days notice OR payment of one month's board clause, which is done to give them an opportunity to fill the stall on your departure. However, you may leave at anytime after that payment. If you are in a hurry, then pay the board and leave. Be sure you aren't on the hook for any other fees/charges.
                        Laurie

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