A lot of activity goes on at a barn, and all manner of people come and go. That makes it important to establish rules to keep people happy and safe and allow the barn to operate smoothly. Posting rules makes it easy for all to understand what’s expected of them and to see that everyone is being treated equally.
The barn rules are not just about establishing order. Some exist for safety reasons, and that’s worth pointing out to boarders. Nobody enjoys sounding like the cranky schoolteacher, forever telling people that what they are doing is not allowed. But on the flip side, avoiding accidents by voicing your concerns should be a top priority.
To see how other stables establish order, I asked for input from Stable Management’s audience and kept an eye out in the barns I’ve visited recently in Colorado. Here’s a look at some of the more common barn rules and how stable owners make the rules known and enforced, to make sure that all the community space in your barn is one of respect and peace.
To Sign Or Not To Sign
It’s commonplace to see a set of barn rules posted for all to read. But how do you know everyone reads them? Many barns put the rules into their boarding contracts as well. Kelly O’Neill of GreenGate Farm in Battle Ground, Wash., lists the barn’s general rules in the “first section in my boarding contract that everyone signs.”
Linda Van Kirk, owner of Silver Glen Stables in Fresno, Calif., goes even further. “When a prospective boarder comes for a facility visit, we take the opportunity then to review our barn rules so that there are no misunderstandings. Then, every boarder signs a copy of the barn rules, and is given a copy of the signed document for their records. Our barn rules are posted on a public bulletin board and on our website,” she says.
Kids are a large contributor to many trainers’ incomes. To keep them safe, many of us give them a few rules of their own. Christina Catechis Buckner, owner of Reality Farm in Decherd, Tenn., says, “We teach lessons to children, so some rules are the basics—no yelling, no running, etc.”
Adult supervision is a requirement at some barns. JB, of Infinity Farm, adds via web post that Infinity’s rules include “Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.” Van Kirk’s rule goes further, stating, “Any child under the age of 12 must be under direct supervision of an adult at all times. Running, screaming, and fence climbing are not allowed, as well as playing in that wonderfully enticing but itchy haystack.”
In her barn’s rules, O’Neill states that “Children must be under the OWNER’S supervision at all times.” GreenGate Farm is strictly a farm for retired show horses, so there is no riding; O’Neill would have more rules regarding children if there were.
All of these owners also have rules requiring that helmets be worn by children when mounted.
Horse people are usually dog people, too. Many farm owners have dogs that live on the farm, and those dogs usually get along just fine with the horses. But not all dogs can behave around horses. As a farm owner you know that boarders’ dogs might chase a horse, bark and cause a spook/fall, attack or be attacked by a horse, snap, bite or knock over a person, fight with another dog, chase the barn cat, or generally scare your boarders and clients—among other things. All of that can be bad for business, not to mention be a huge liability.
Silver Glen Stables has a simple rule to deal with all this: “Dogs are forbidden on premises, whether in a car, truck, trailer, or your pocket.” Infinity Farms’ dog rule covers similar ground. “No dogs are allowed anywhere on the premises,” it declares. GreenGate Farm, as a stable for retired horses, has a slightly different take and asks, “Please do not bring your pets without prior approval.”
Clean Up Our Rooms!
We all have seen how far into disarray the barn can become when people don’t clean up after themselves. For this reason many barn owners feel it’s important to have rules about cleaning up.
Jackie Lynch, owner of Lynchland Stables, Fort Collins, Colo., describes specific areas that need attention. Her rule states, “Boarders are welcome to use the tack-up areas, wash area and arenas at any time. If your horse poops, it’s your responsibility to clean it up before leaving the area. Scoop poop before you leave the indoor arena, wash rack or hitching areas!”
At Silver Glen, the rules say, “If you or your horse did it, please clean the mess up before someone steps in it. This includes all areas, except the two arenas, turnout pens, and round pen. Please sweep up hair and pick up manure in the wash rack/grooming areas before your horse leaves the area. Hair and manure can be deposited in manure buckets.”
The stable adds, “Please help us recycle trash by placing all paper, plastic and glass in the white trash barrel labeled ‘Recycle’ by wash rack. Deposit all other trash in white trash barrel on patio. Dump bad feed in any available muck bucket.”
Infinity Farm’s rules simply state, “Clean up after yourself and your horse and return all stable supplies to their appropriate place.” That pretty much covers it.
It sometimes becomes necessary to remind riders what is and isn’t community property. The rules at Lynchland say, “Please don’t use anyone else’s tack, brushes, sprays or supplements. If you absolutely must borrow something, make sure you return and hang it up neatly where it belongs. Please label grooming supplies, halters and leads to avoid confusion.” Buckner, of Reality Farm, simply says, “No using other boarders’ equipment.” Silver Glen Stables is more broad-minded: “Please be respectful of our instructors, other boarders, and their property.”
Got a Light?
No smoking is a rule across the board. It’s too dangerous due to the amount of flammable material in a barn. So “No Smoking” signs should be posted.
Using Your Head
Helmets are not always a required element in a barn, as the different disciplines may or may not require them. Some barns only require those under 18 years of age to ride with a helmet. As a rule, wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet is safer than not wearing one, and as the farm owner, you can choose to make it a rule or not.
Part of running a barn is making sure all the horses are taken care of properly while on your property. That includes regular vaccinations and deworming. At Lynchland, the rules on horse health are posted clearly. “Spring shots—a minimum of 4-way, strangles and West Nile—must be given before April 1. Fall shots—a minimum of 5-way—must be given before October 1. A clinic will be arranged for your convenience, you may use your own vet, or provide proof of owner vaccination. Horses must be dewormed on February, April, June, August, October and December 1.”
Mary Fedorchak, owner of Horse Around Acres in Midland, Pa., spells it out a little differently. She states in her boarding contract, “Routine Horse Care Requirement: The boarded horse(s) must participate in THIS STABLE’S deworming, immunization and teeth floating programs, the cost of which shall be borne by the OWNER.”
Ever Hear of Houdini?
Close those gates! Horses are masters of escape. Worse, a loose horse can hurt itself or others in its sudden realization of freedom. At Infinity Farm, the rule is, “All gates/stall doors are to be closed and latched securely.” Lynchland also likes to keep its horses in their places: “Horses are escape artists—let’s keep them all on the property. Always keep gates closed and latched. When you go through them, close them. If you find them open, close them!”
Home Is Where the Horses Are
For those who own and live on the property, it’s important to remind boarders and lesson students that this is not just a barn, it’s your home. The rule at Silver Glen Stable is, “The residence on property is private. We ask that you respect our privacy and do not enter, unless invited.”
Lynch asks for a different type of respect as well. She confides, “this is my biggest rule—and yep, it’s cast in stone: ‘No Snobby People Allowed, Ever!’ As a barn owner that literally lives at the barn, it’s critical to me to be able to enjoy my home and the people around it. My boarders understand that when then they step into my barn, they’re also stepping into my home and life—and they take the utmost care in ‘being kind in Jackie’s world!’”
Most Common Barn Rules
- No Smoking.
- No Dogs.
- Clean up poop left by your horse.
- Don’t use others’ property.
- Close all gates and stall doors.
- Respect hours of operation.
- All children must be supervised.
- No speeding in the driveway!
- All riders must sign a release form before riding.
- Wear an ASTM/SEI certified helmet.