We’re winding down from our busiest boarding season (winter) so it’s a good time to reflect on lessons learned, what works and doesn’t work, and how we can make things even better in the future (stay tuned for an announcement in that regard in the next few days!).
Doug and I have been thinking about what makes boarding work – for the boarder, for us, and ultimately for the most important part of the equation – the horse. We’ve concluded that it’s about a true partnership between the boarder and us. Here’s what I mean:
Trust and Respect
These two essential ingredients to a successful boarding partnership go hand in hand. Boarders need to know that their horse will receive top quality, consistent, careful management. For example, they need to know that water will always be topped up at bed time, there will always be lots of high quality forage and feed to meet their needs, and their horse will always be brought inside early when flies are bad, without them having to ask.
Barn owners need to know that their business/livelihood is in safe hands with the people most closely connected to it – the boarders. How does this manifest itself? Boarders treat the facility and equipment well (for example pick up their garbage, leave the arena clean and tidy) and take some ownership for the facility’s good reputation.
When there’s mutual trust and respect we’re happy as barn owners to provide extras and tailor horse management to meet very specific needs. When this is lacking, we’re better off without this person in the barn.
As with any relationship, good communication is one of the key factors in keeping the relationship working well.
As owners we have a responsibility to communicate with boarders frequently and through avenues that work for them. We text, Facebook message, email and also have a private Facebook page where boarders can share information. The barn has a message board and there’s a white board calendar where we share information about lessons and events.
Each stall has a card, easily edited, which contains owner/emergency contact information, feeding instructions, turn out information and notes.
Having said this, it’s a challenge to keep all of this up to date and I realize as I write this that I have new stall cards to prepare! 🙂
What do boarders owe barn owners? Barn owners deserve to be the first to know if a boarder has concerns about something. Gossip and unhealthy cliques can sour the happiest barn very quickly – in this case refer to the trust and respect section – the barn is better off without these ‘partners’.
Barn owners also appreciate knowing when boarders have booked appointments for their horse, when and where trips with the horse are planned, and of course barn owners enjoy seeing positive messages about their barn on social media if the boarder is so inclined.
In my opinion, barn owners have a responsibility to understand their boarders’ goals and to support those goals to the extent they can. This means helping them find the training, services and products they need. It may mean giving a helping hand with fund raising to get to an event, a sympathetic ear and a few dollars when a boarder is involved in a difficult horse rescue, helping to find a very special horse for a specific need, providing indoor arena turn out for a sensitive horse and being open to making changes at the barn as boarder needs change.
We’ve done these and many more things in supporting our boarder’s goals. In return we hope our boarders will understand that it’s a partnership that must work both ways to succeed.
We’re very lucky here at Five Fires to have some great people at the barn. At the end of the day, the barn should be fun. It costs too much time and money to allow it to be otherwise. For Doug and I, we’re just too old and been around the block too many times to allow it to be otherwise :). We hang out in the lounge, have potlucks, watch lessons together and support one another. This is what works for us.
Thanks for reading!