Editor's Note: In the spring of 2014 Nancy S. Loving, DVM, wrote a series of articles about the basics of managing a boarding farm, with some good tips for owners and managers no matter their years of experience. We have compiled some of the tips here along with links to the original articles for your convenience.
Running a boarding operation can be an exciting enterprise, but you should probably go into it armed with concrete information about potential costs. This enables you to set rates that compensate fairly for use of your facility and for the manpower required to keep everything running smoothly and safely. Boarders reading this might also gain a better appreciation for what a barn owner must go through to accommodate your horse and you being on their property.
The bottom line is that you need to help your owners understand all that they pay for, and share information on your rising costs when you need to raise your board rates.
While a boarding operation is obligated to provide safe shelter, quality food and water, many horse owners also like and expect other services. These range from feeding additional daily supplements and/or meals, putting on and taking off blankets, or leading horses to and from turnout. In some cases, the barn manager or help is asked to catch the horse for the farrier and vet, and even to wait while these procedures take place. In other instances, requests are made of farm personnel to deworm, apply leg wraps or boots, perform bandage changes or administer medications.
What horse owners might not realize is that these services take a lot of time--barn workers are paid on the clock, so time spent doing these chores is an added expense to the overhead of running the facility. So it stands to reason that there should be additional charges to the board bill whenever these kinds of extras are requested by individual owners.
If the requested service is that important to a horse owner, then they’ll be agreeable to paying the extra charges suitable to the task. If it’s not that important, then they’ll forego the request or come to the barn and do it themselves.
Legal wizards involved in the horse industry make one very clear recommendation: “Get it in writing!” A contract is a written agreement that protects both facility owner and boarder by stipulating exactly what one should expect from the other. An oral agreement and a handshake are nice in theory, but time often complicates memory, then the disagreements emerge.
So, whenever you bring your horse to someone else’s property or whenever you take over daily care of someone else’s horse, it is best to have the agreement lined out in writing and signed and dated by both parties so there are no misunderstandings.
Contracts are complicated and are best drawn up with the advice of a lawyer and tailored to each specific situation.
One of the most time-honored marketing tools for any service is that of word-of-mouth. The more you make your boarding barn an attractive facility to existing boarders, the more that good will circulates among horse owners in your community. This type of general good “gossip” generates more interested people looking to bring their horse to your facility for care.
Don’t be shy about marketing yourself and your facility. The more information you put out there, the more likely you’ll be to attract not only new clients, but new clients who are most compatible with the goals and philosophy of your facility and with your current boarders.
Some people are hard to please no matter how hard you try. In a boarding situation, these are the ones who are always complaining, or making unreasonable demands far above the expected provisions of your boarding operation. Some boarders are problems because they are discourteous to others; some flaunt the rules and upset the normal rhythm of the facility. Some create dangerous situations, while others fail to clean up after themselves. Some are consistently tardy in paying their board bill or fail to pay altogether.
So, what can be done about such problem people to restore harmony and peace within the boarding facility?