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Am I just asking for trouble?

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  • Am I just asking for trouble?

    Background: I have 3 stalls and only 2 horses (my own). They are very healthy (knock on wood) and content. Until recently I had a large pony (SO daughter's pony who had to be given away after my SO passed away in August). My place is not fancy but is safe...2 stalls on each side of center concrete aisle, stall mats, one stall is used for feed/hay/bedding storage, water and electric (no hot water but frost-free spigot), 8 acres of pasture, electric fencing, 170' x 170' riding ring, (it's used as part of the pasture, too, but has decent turf, actually all the pastures could be used for riding areas), all high, well-drained land, rural area w/trails right off the property.

    I really miss the pony. Also, my SO was somewhat involved with the horses because of the pony, and I miss that interaction with someone else who has an interest in the horses. So just recently I've been playing around with the thought of taking in a boarder. On one hand, I would love to have someone to ride with and possibly help out with barn chores now and again; on the other hand, I wonder if I would eventually be posting one of those "HELP! My boarder's driving me crazy!" threads.

    Here are my specific fears:
    1. My seemingly wonderful boarder turns out to be a certifiable whack-a-doo in disguise.
    2. Boarder abandons horse and I end up with another mouth to feed while spending lots of time and $ to resolve the situation (I am not interested in paying for another horse; otherwise I would find one on the Giveaway Forum).
    3. Boarder ends up being an absentee (not what I want--again, the interaction thing).
    4. Boarder becomes a PITA because Dobbin isn't getting the standard of care (s)he expects.

    So.......
    I know some of you have wonderful boarding situations, both as boarders and barn owners. In many of the threads I've read here on CoTH, the most satisfied boarders seem to be those with small, backyard board situations. Tell me, barn owners, how do you find a boarder with whom you have a good rapport? And small, backyard boarders, what makes it work for you? And if you can speak more specifically to my particular fears, all the better!

    TIA for your thoughts!
    (P.S. I already have insurance for boarding)
    "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch

  • #2
    If you don't need the money, why not interview verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry thoroughly for the right person and offer reduced/board at cost? That way you can make sure the person understands the big reason you're boarding is for the company, and you can tell them what you want and be picky!

    Comment


    • #3
      Why not offer free board for a month to the person who rises to the top at the interviews so that they can keep their old stall while you both do a trial?

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Aubreyyy, as part of interviewing very thoroughly, would it be "over the top" to ask the potential boarder to jot down a list of their "must haves" and desires/expectations from the boarding situation? Or better yet, to fill out a questionnaire? My intention in doing this would be to find out the candidate's true expectations without being led by what I say I am looking for in a boarder.

        Sketcher, I like that idea.

        You can probably tell that I have never had a "real" boarder before, and I have only boarded my own horses twice in my life...once at a self-care facility and the other time at a partial-care facility. Therefore, I'm not too experienced at how to avoid all the pitfalls.

        Thanks!
        "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by seabreeze View Post
          Therefore, I'm not too experienced at how to avoid all the pitfalls.
          Well then I would recommend you start with a full credit check and complete psychiatric exam! That will weed out most of them right there.

          Comment


          • #6
            Word of mouth!

            Is the best way. In a way it is a built-in reference. So tell your farrier, trainer, anyone you ride with etc etc. I've gotten my boarders through my trainer, and another trainer in our town and when I posted a message to the regional Pony Club email list. That said, I've just done flyers for the first time to be put up an hour south of me, so I may get people without the built-in reference. In their case, I'm planning to ask to speak to their trainer, or vet, or current boarding barn. And in return I will offer vet, trainer and current boarders as references.

            I've been lucky because I've either had people who know very little about horses, and know they know very little, so they don't second-guess me, or people who've cared for their own horses and know what's involved. The first type of people can have problems doing basic things, though, like getting their own horse out of a field with other (gentle!) horses.
            https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
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            • #7
              Well then I would recommend you start with a full credit check and complete psychiatric exam! That will weed out most of them right there.
              Sad, but true.....

              I'm with SMF11 too! The best way to find a boarder is word of mouth--good people tend to know other good people. Invite the person over to interview them and just get them talking--you might learn more than you ever cared to know about them! Make sure their ideas of horsekeeping is in line with yours--that makes it much more enjoyable and a lot less of a hassle (ask me how I know).

              Good luck, I'm sure there are some worthy people out there!

              I wouldn't necessarily say you are looking for a hassle. Interview carefully and have a very good contract that spells everything out. Make sure you can jetison someone at your discretion and make plans ahead of time in case someone does abandon their horse at your place. Just be prepared for most (if not all) eventualities before you get in that position.... In other words, think this idea through to cut any losses!
              "I'm not much into conspiracy theories but if everyone thinks alike you don't need a plot!" ~person from another bulletin board whose name has been long forgotten~

              Comment


              • #8
                Check references! There's one woman in my neck of the woods who's crazy (and dishonest). She comes across as almost completely normal. I only found out about her because she wrote a bad check to my farrier. Then I mentioned her name to my hay guy and he had a few stories of his own.

                When I moved into a co-op barn they gave me a two-week free trial so that I didn't have to give up my stall. It gave us both a trying out period and I know I really appreciated it.

                We have a co-op barn and I"ve found people both by word of mouth and through ads.

                Finally, make sure you have a clear exit strategy in place if the person doesn't work out. In the eight years that I've been part of a co-op there's only been one person who didn't work out but it was a pain in the neck to get her to leave.
                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by SMF11 View Post
                  In their case, I'm planning to ask to speak to their trainer, or vet, or current boarding barn. And in return I will offer vet, trainer and current boarders as references.
                  I definitely would check references, and I like the idea of offering my contacts as references.

                  Originally posted by Cherry View Post

                  Make sure you can jetison someone at your discretion and make plans ahead of time in case someone does abandon their horse at your place.
                  Originally posted by Bogie View Post
                  Finally, make sure you have a clear exit strategy in place if the person doesn't work out. In the eight years that I've been part of a co-op there's only been one person who didn't work out but it was a pain in the neck to get her to leave.
                  Can anyone offer some specific suggestions on how to move someone out quickly if they don't work out (legal/contractual and practical steps)? I know that having a lawyer look over the contract would be in order. What sort of built-in plans do some of you have?

                  Any advice welcome! Thanks for the ideas! Keep them coming! I really want to have thought this through carefully before I move on it.
                  "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've had the worst boarders and now have the best boarders-apparently, I do learn from my mistakes-unfortunately, I make alot of mistakes!
                    Not specifically needing the money is key because you can be really picky and take your time instead of having to take what's available to make ends meet.
                    1. References are a must and ask around once you find a candidate you are considering. That being said, make sure you know well and respect the person who gave you the reference. I took someone in who I got a funny feeling about because of the good reference. The reference was a local trainer who was friends with this woman(big red flag-why didn't this woman board at the trainers then?)-this woman was a @#%^$ on wheels and it was a huge mistake! The other bad boarders? Totally could have been avoided if I checked not only their references but also asked around on my own.
                    2. If you are pretty good at reading people-go on your gut instinct!!! Most of my mistakes in life have been by ignoring my gut instinct. As others have said-let the potential boarder do the talking-you learn a ton about other people just by listening!!
                    3. Make sure their ideas on horsekeeping and yours are in line. I've actually sat down and written out everything that I do-how much I feed and when, hours of turnout, how often water buckets or troughs are cleaned, etc-it sounds petty, but if the boarder has a good idea of exactly how you do things, there is less "surprise" once they move in. And if you have a certain ways you do things that work for you, explain that it probably won't change-that way you don't resent being told how to do things. I welcome suggestions, but I no longer promise to change unless it works better for me or my horses.
                    4. Sit down and figure out exactly how much it costs to feed, bed and whatever you offer in board in the most expensive month. Then figure how much time you spend on barnwork per day-and charge accordingly. My board "pays" me minimum wage. If you have a boarder that helps around the barn, then pay him/her minimum wage(or whatever you figure that you earn) by reducing the boarding costs by that much.
                    5. The easiest people are usually the ones that have worked at horse farms or done self care because they know all that is involved and appreciate it. They are often willing to chip in and help because it's in their personalities to be work and help out. These people are truly a joy to have in your barn and your life.
                    If you'd like, I'd be happy to send you a copy of my boarding specs to give you some ideas.
                    My boarders now? One of them a great friend that has retired her competition horse at my farm, one I know from a business relationship, and one came up the driveway one day and introduced himself. You never know how you'll find people or how they'll find you!
                    Good luck!
                    http://thepitchforkchronicles.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Have a board contract and REVIEW that contract clause by clause with the prospective boarder BEFORE taking them on. It will help eliminate confusion and false expectations.

                      There absolutely must be termination language in the contract. Personally, I require 30 days notice from either party. Realistically, it is not that simple to move a horse to another barn, so I do like to be reasonable, particularly if I am the party terminating. I will waive or reduce the notice period if the boarder is ready to go and I want the boarder out.

                      Be sure to address the issue of non-payment. Late fees, leins, etc.

                      I have enjoyed having boarders for the company. It has worked well for me, but having the contract puts a valuable structure on the arrangement and promotes a good relationship.
                      Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule
                      http://www.ironwood-farm.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The biggest problem taking on a single boarder ot two is because the place is so small, they assume they can run it as they wish.

                        Think a specific contract with specifically spelled out horse care routine is a must. Incude the financial details including a firm late pay policy, right to sieze for non payments and a clause that allows you to say buh bye for any reason with 30 days notice.

                        Whatever you do, suggest YOU do all the feed and bedding ordering. My experience when I leased a small barn and then "sub let" an empty stall was the other person tended to "forget" to buy for their own and used mine. They also thought theirs needed more feed so doubled up on the grain.

                        Finally, when you call a maid service or carpet/drape cleaning service, you want references, don't you? Boarder on your home property is going to be there alot more then that cleaning company will.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Avoid any temptation to 'keep things informal' (!!) Any potental boarder or barnmate who uses that phrase should be setting off alarm bells and waving red flags in your brain.

                          Draft your contract and then review it as if you were standing in a court of law explaining it. Is the language and are the sections clear enough that a layperson would have little room for doubt as to the intention of what was agreed too?

                          Rule of thumb to live by; Contracts are not written for when things are going swimmingly--they are written as a protection for both parties should all h#ll break loose. Write them up accordingly.

                          Anytime there is a mutually agreed change or variation to the terms of the contract, document it and both parties initial it. If it's a big enough change, write it up as an amendment and both sign. Otherwise what can happen is that one or the other party can enforce the variation due to "usual and customary practice" at the barn. That goes for nice 'one-time/short-term' things such as waiving a late fee or allowing use of extra feed/bedding, etc.

                          Suggest some soul searching regarding how you view privacy and personal time. Get those parameters in writing, too, and stick to them--It will cut way down on your pool of potential boarders, no doubt--but you'll have a better chance of a match that isn't unintentionally driving you crazy just by showing up/being there.

                          Cheers,
                          Rev
                          To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. - GK Chesterton

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I wrote a blog posting on Keeping Co-op Barns Cooperative. I think many of the same principles apply given you are asking someone to share your barn on your property.

                            The two things that continue to surprise me are:

                            1. How many different ways there are to take care of horses and
                            2. How many people think their way is the only way!
                            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              From the boarders perspective (at least mine)

                              I have been fortunate to have boarded at small barns- one self care, the others full care BUT with very inexpensive board (family barns)

                              I like to think (and have been told) that I am a good boarder BECAUSE

                              1. I know I am getting a fantastic deal on board and I help out with chores whenever I can (even though it is suppose to be full board)
                              2. I ASK first before I change anything. And I automatically pay for any extras I want my horse to have (like extra hay, shavings in stall, MAY I store my saddle in the barn, where would you like it etc. etc.) I ASK if it would be possible to give my doodlebug this supplement or that. I ASK what they think about it.
                              3. I don't mess with anyone else's horse unless I have been given permission to do so OR it is an emergency situation. If it is an emergency l inform the owner ASAP what is going on and let them make the decisions if possible. If not possible to contact owner immediately, I let them know what happened ASAP.
                              4. I am respectful of other people's ways of management. I only offer my opinion when asked or when I see something dangerous/hazardous or totally out of line (like beating a horse- which I have never seen, fortunately).
                              5. I offer to hold horses when I can for vet/farrier visits.
                              6. I pay on time.
                              7. If feed or hay needs to be picked up, I offer to do so.
                              8. I don't complain if the ring is not dragged the day I come out to ride (I am paying very cheap board) or if my doodlebug only got 10 hours of turnout instead of 12 one day etc. etc. Since he is turned out in a herd, I ignore the inevitable small kick marks and bite marks-- it's just part of horse socialization. The one semi-major injury from turnout was a pretty deep puncture wound that the BO helped me treat and treated in the AM for me when I couldn't get there.

                              Not to sound like I am saying how wonderful I am-- but I think that a perfect boarder would be one who knows already how expensive it is for you to keep their horse and how much work it is daily. If they know this, then they are probably more willing to help out in any way that would help you.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I also think that you have better luck in a small situation like this with a boarder who has done self care in the past and has some clue what it takes to care for a horse.

                                Someone who has been used to totally full service boarding and is looking for a cheaper alternative is IMHO, much more likely to be a royal PITA nazi about things like feeding schedules, stall cleaning schedules, turnout schedules, expecting you to hold the horse for vet/farrier or to medicate, etc--all as part of the low low price. And it's just NOT that way on a small farm.
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  OK, I have a related question

                                  So, everyone always says put in the contract what happens if the horse is abandoned or the owner stops paying board. If I take in a 25 year old retired horse which has no value (except to the owner, of course!) the "sell it at auction" option won't work since no one wants a 25 year old retired horse. Are there any other alternatives? The only ones I can think of -- bring the horse to the owner's house and leave it there, or take possession of the horse and put it down -- are both things I wouldn't do. I worry that I'll be stuck feeding someone's retiree for years if they stop paying. Any suggestions?

                                  (See above, I haven't had this experience at all and have had great owners who love their horses, but with putting a flyer out an hour south of me I'm worried about a Worst Case Scenario)
                                  https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
                                  Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/
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                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by IronwoodFarm View Post
                                    I have enjoyed having boarders for the company. It has worked well for me, but having the contract puts a valuable structure on the arrangement and promotes a good relationship.
                                    Agreed. Absolutely why I posted this thread because I knew the CoTH wisdom and experience would help guide me!

                                    Originally posted by findeight View Post
                                    Whatever you do, suggest YOU do all the feed and bedding ordering. My experience when I leased a small barn and then "sub let" an empty stall was the other person tended to "forget" to buy for their own and used mine. They also thought theirs needed more feed so doubled up on the grain.
                                    Definitely! I think my barn is too small--just for the reasons you said--to allow total self-care. Sharing chores, yes, probably, but not a sub-lease.

                                    Originally posted by Rev View Post
                                    Anytime there is a mutually agreed change or variation to the terms of the contract, document it and both parties initial it. If it's a big enough change, write it up as an amendment and both sign. Otherwise what can happen is that one or the other party can enforce the variation due to "usual and customary practice" at the barn. That goes for nice 'one-time/short-term' things such as waiving a late fee or allowing use of extra feed/bedding, etc.
                                    This is a very helpful suggestion. Thank you!

                                    Originally posted by Zipsmom View Post
                                    Not to sound like I am saying how wonderful I am-- but I think that a perfect boarder would be one who knows already how expensive it is for you to keep their horse and how much work it is daily. If they know this, then they are probably more willing to help out in any way that would help you.
                                    Okay, Zipsmom, when do you want to move to Virginia?

                                    Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                                    I also think that you have better luck in a small situation like this with a boarder who has done self care in the past and has some clue what it takes to care for a horse.
                                    This message is coming through loud and clear in this thread! I think I will weave this into my interview process.

                                    Originally posted by SMF11 View Post
                                    So, everyone always says put in the contract what happens if the horse is abandoned or the owner stops paying board. If I take in a 25 year old retired horse which has no value (except to the owner, of course!) the "sell it at auction" option won't work since no one wants a 25 year old retired horse. Are there any other alternatives? The only ones I can think of -- bring the horse to the owner's house and leave it there, or take possession of the horse and put it down -- are both things I wouldn't do. I worry that I'll be stuck feeding someone's retiree for years if they stop paying. Any suggestions?
                                    This is a good question.

                                    Thanks to all of you for your very helpful feedback. If I decide in the next few months to take in a boarder, I'll check back and let you know how it's going!
                                    "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Does your insurance cover boarders? I doubt it, mine doesn't.
                                      If I add them, the premiums are much higher.
                                      If not, you may not be able to cover the cost with what you charge and it will not be worth your time and effort.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        There is no solution to what to do with an abandoned retiree other then those suggested. No horse fairy to sprinkle pixie dust and solve the probelm.

                                        Might want to give some thought to abandonment in general...happening more and more when an owner needs to get out from under and it won't sell. Keep that in mind, you may find yourself with another horse you don't really want.
                                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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