Guest Author - Susan Hopf
The majority of people that spend their time with horses do so at a boarding facility. Choosing where to board your horse is a very important decision but once you have decided where, there are certain codes of conduct that will help to ensure that your horse is cared for as advertised. Contracts that list specific services and fees will also waylay any misconceptions about what should be expected from both parties. Minimally the facility should provide adequate food, water and shelter and the horse owner should be prepared to spend enough time with their horse to maintain civil behavior and whatever level of fitness is required in their equestrian pursuits.
First and foremost you must develop an honest, working relationship with the barn owner and manager – this is very often the same person. No one situation is perfect for each and every horse and person but keeping an open and positive discourse with all that tend to your horse can only make a good impression and one that will most likely serve your horse well. Start each day with a friendly hello for all of the barn workers and inquire as to their day. Running a barn is a very hard job – hard physically and sometimes emotionally – care as much for those doing their best for your horse as you do your horse and the respect and concern will be returned.
Too often people dwell on the negative. Stewing over a broken fence board, a stall that may have been left dirty, water buckets that do not meet their standards of cleanliness, thin arena footing, bad lighting, etc. is a non-productive waste of time. Gossip and whining to the other boarders is an even less effective way to correct and change whatever may be bothering you. Nor is it acceptable to take the matter into your own hands – except in emergencies and only if no one else is around at which time all and any experienced hands are appreciated. That said sometimes a helpful boarder is a godsend. As a concerned horse person if you happen by an empty trough just fill it. If this becomes a persistent issue then you have a justifiable gripe and a discussion with the barn personnel is in order.
If and when you do feel compelled to discuss a problem with the barn personnel please start with the owner/manager. Do not attack them just inform them, with the most positive approach possible, of your concerns. Make note of your discussion and what the end result is. If problems persist or the person to whom you speak reacts defensively it is time to consider a move and it would be best to do so without inciting a riot before hand.
Other courtesies include, but are not limited, to the following:
Respect others’ property – this includes the facility as well as other boarder’s possessions.
Always ask if you may pet, give a treat to or otherwise touch or interfere with someone else’s horse - ask only once and remember the answer. Barn pests can ruin the sanctity of your horse time and if you happen to run into one of these annoying types and get nowhere by speaking directly to this person this too is a reason for a discussion with the barn manager.
Never offer opinions, advice, instruction or training unless asked and only if the facility will allow you to do so. Liability and ethics with regard to resident trainers and instructors must come first in all professional as well as backyard type equine facilities.
Finally always leave the barn, arenas and barnyard just as you found it. Double check doors, gates, electric fencers, lights and heaters and make sure all is as it should be. Clean up manure, hair and debris that was produced by you and your horse while riding, grooming and/or bathing.
Lastly – enjoy your ride and give your horse an extra treat today – she or he deserves it.