Barn etiquette for newbie owner (sort of long)

I’ve been reading the threads about people who just inform you they will be coming out to ride your horse, and it got me thinking. I didn’t want to hijack that thread, so I am starting this one.

I have been riding at a barn for the last five years. My daughter started riding, then it was both of us, then my daughter didn’t want to ride anymore and it was just me.

I have honestly probably been a trainer’s worst type of student: erratic schedule, weeks without taking a lesson due to school (returning student at 42 who just graduated), illness, heat, flippin’ work nonsense :mad:, etc. I am clearly NOT my trainer’s bread and butter client. I have always let her know as soon as possible, and even though she tries to brush it off, I pay her for the lesson missed (it works out to about 50% of the time). My lesson time is the last one of the evening, so I’m not throwing off lessons for the rest of the day. The boarders are all very nice (BM doesn’t tolerate drama); the majority ride on the drill team, so DD & I understand staying out of the way when they are getting ready for a show, respecting their practice times, etc.

My 13yo DD will also be resuming lessons; I honestly think it was hard for her to be interested/get attached to any horse that wasn’t ours (we have before, and they’ve left/died (naturally)/etc.). We are prepared to make the commitment to be at the barn at least 3-4 times a week (more if she is into it), and learn as much as possible. I never hesitate to ask questions if I don’t know something, and when I hear something ~NEW and FABULOUS~ LOL, I always ask my BM, and she runs down pros and cons.

I like to say I know enough to be really dangerous :winkgrin: – to me, books are a good basis, but I am lacking in the hands-on, know-things-automatically that you get from working around horses day in and day out.

BM is always super kind, and helpful (I was in school for an equine science certificate) by answering all kinds of questions, allowing myself and my classmates to come out (scheduled and with owner’s permission, of course!) to do reports on the horses at the barn, etc.

However, I am making the jump to boarder in June, and I would love to know those little things to avoid that drive BM/BOs and boarders nuts!!

My horse is one that is already at the barn; I will just be taking over board on him. The horse’s previous owners were very condescending to my BM. They would roll up 15 minutes before riding and expected him to cooperate after no interaction for 1-2 weeks. (He’s a total people pony but a smart one, so ignoring him doesn’t sit well with him. Being a draft, there’s not a lot of energy put into his pouting; it’s just a lot easier and more pleasant all around to get him to work if he wants to.) They also expected her to work/train their horse for free, and got a wee bit pissy when they couldn’t pull him out of the paddock after 4 weeks and have him be pushbutton. Really?!

No shoes air-fern Percheron gelding with no real vices (can get a little pushy/nippy about treats) but otherwise a pocket Perch ;), no special dietary or health requirements. He does need some training - neck reining, etc. which I know going in, and am prepared to pay for. I’m tidy when grooming, my stuff isn’t all over the place, I don’t use other people’s supplies. I do tend to want to feed treats to everyone :tickled_pink:, but am very respectful about that (another story there).

I’d just like to avoid as much of the barn etiquette learning curve as possible, so we start off well and blend right in :slight_smile:

I do have a lot of friends (horsey and non) that can’t wait to come meet him. What is the barn etiquette on that sort of thing - re: BM and re: other boarders? I’m sure it’s a little different than if you are on your own property. One friend wants to take lessons on him (which is fine with me), and she will coordinate that with BM/trainer. But for those that just want to come and brush/love on him, what is the barn etiquette on that?

Any tips/thoughts appreciated (thanks for reading this far!)

you are already in the barn. There isn’t really anything different.
You have a problem with what is done to the horse, ask the BM, not the foot folk (or ‘us’ on COTH :winkgrin:)

pay board on time etc, but you already got that payment thing as well…

I don’t see anything you really need to to be told you don’t seem to already know. (maybe except curb the treat feeding in general, seems to cause minor problems with your steed, but that’s your option, not barn etiquette…)

Congratulations. :cool:

Honestly I think you will need to work really hard to become one of those boarders from hell. You are conscientious and polite. You are just one of those people who do kind things subconsciously because it is natural to you. Nay. I don’t think you need to worry.

As to your friends coming over to meet your new guy. The barn sounds like a low key, relaxed, pleasant barn. Just run it over with BM so they aren’t surprised seeing strangers on the premise. Pick a quiet time - not when a hundred lessons are going on - and keep an eye on all your guests at all time and make sure they don’t do anything dangerous around horses like running up to the butt of a strange horse and so on and so forth.

Since you are taking over board, I would sit with the BM and go over all the arrangements for this horse currently, and decide what things you would like to continue, and which ones you would like to change.

Vettings, wormings, farrier, etc. It would be annoying if a few months down the road you got all up in arms about how your horse was managed when the BM was just continuing to go by the same rules the previous owner had. BM may just assume that you know/understand the details and unless you say otherwise, she should continue.

It sounds like you are a courteous boarder. It’s annoying when people suddenly change their behaviour and attitude because they are now “owners.” I’ve watched it happen.

If you don’t know, ask. I am more than willing to answer any newbie questions if they came to me and asked. As I have told more than one new owner/boarder, “Nobody started out knowing everything. We all started somewhere.” There’s no shame in not knowing.

If you’re planning to have people out to groom your horse when you aren’t there, please make sure ahead of time it is OK with the barn manager. I had to stop my ride once because somebody random to me pulled into the parking lot and went skipping off into the barn. When I asked them if I could help them, they said “Oh we’re here feeding the horses treats. Amy-Boarder told us we could stop by anytime her car was here and we could see the horses.” I had the unfortunate experience of telling them that yes, her car was there, but she was on an all-day trail ride and they could not be unescorted on barn property.:mad: And we had more than one horse that couldn’t be fed treats, so please make sure your friends ONLY feed YOUR HORSE treats. Get liability waivers signed and keep them on file for each person that may handle your horse. This is for everyone’s protection.

Yes, you need liability waivers for friends…you just never know.

I would say be careful with the people coming over randomly, especially if you aren’t going to be there. If you’re going to be there then it’s not a big deal but having strangers around a lot if you aren’t there can become problematic.

I would make sure you know what the rules/thoughts are regarding riding on your own around the farm and/or during ongoing lessons. Are you able to ride on your own not in a lesson or will be it be all lesson time?

I agree with everyone who says you’ll be a great boarder!

I do want to put my $.02 in about guests at the barn after being at a barn with a ridiculous amount of them.

  1. In my humble opinion, people should not be at the barn brushing, loving on, or feeding your horse alone until they’ve been there enough (with you) to be recognized by the BO, staff, and some boarders.

  2. If your friends know nothing about horses, bring them out to see and groom and pet and graze him, but don’t plan on that being a riding day. This can depend on the layout of your barn a little bit, but I have found that friends who are clueless about horses can really get in the way/get into trouble while the owner is riding. This isn’t their fault, they just don’t know.

  3. Guests who are familiar and safe with horses can be given more leeway but should still be reminded of barn rules and supervised by you.

If your guests are going to be regular barn visitors, introduce them to everyone you see while you’re there. This will make everyone feel more comfortable and help reduce any confusion down the line.

What everyone else said – including that you sound like you are going to be a great boarder!

I will just add: I wouldn’t bring out all your friends at once. Your fellow boarders sound like great people too, but the best of boarders can be really irritated when the barn suddenly starts being “overrun” with guests (horsey or nonhorsey).

Not saying you’re planning on doing that, just a suggestion not to. Some boarders don’t like a lot of kids around, for instance. I am not a kid person (except at barns where I suddenly turn into a kid-liking-wanting-to-help person); one day getting ready for a lesson I was really pestered by a horse-crazy little girl (who reminded me very much of myself at her age) whose mother seemed to think her daughter needed no parental supervision at the barn and it got to the point where I had to go interrupt the child’s brother’s lesson to tell the mother that I really didn’t think her daughter should be hanging around in the wash rack while my horse was in the cross-ties and I was off in the tack room getting his tack. Etc.

Have fun, and enjoy your new Percheron!

(Non horse aware) guests should be treated like 5 year olds- you can instruct them but you have to keep an eye on them at all times. You are responsible for them.
It’s just to easy to get into a dangerous situation.

Heck I still catch myself with a loop of a lead rope wrapped around my hand. It seems like such a nit picking thing, until a horse bolts and your hand is on the end of a thousand pounds of pulling force.

Definitely find out the barn policies about non-client visitors first. Make sure any guests are scheduled, waivers signed if required, and that they know all of the rules. That visitors don’t come expecting pony rides, or to feed other horses, or even interact with other people’s horses. Make sure they know the rules, and don’t show up with a couple of extra friends, a bunch of kids, or pets running around loose.

I’m not a BO, but I do host parties at my farm for my totally non-horsy friends.
Of course everyone wants to go down to the barn and visit with my 2: 17h+ WB and Hackney Pony.

Fine, I love showing my boys off, but, from my experience, just let me say it can be exhausting keeping an eye on the ones who think of horses as big dogs.
All are well-intentioned, but the Don’t Get It curve can be pretty high.
Stopping them from getting themselves into physically bad places, feeding tons of treats and things you (as a horseperson) instinctively know to avoid is like herding cats.

Re: your horse-savvy friends.
Make sure BO is okay with them visiting if you are not there.
And she will probably require anyone interacting with your horse to sign a waiver - just sound business practice.

You sound like you have things well thought out already.
Hope you & DD have a wonderful time with your new horse.

And the barn dogs if their are any, I was out at the barn after dark one night and one of the barn dogs came at me challenging me until he heard me talk. Im glad he knew me, Hes pretty big.

Personally, I do not allow “friends” of boarders to be at my farm without the boarder present. Everyone must sign liability waivers and children cannot run all over the place. Lord, one “friend” of a boarder pulled up to visit with her (she was not here) and had 6 kids jump from the car at a run (looked like a clown car). Can’t happen. Guess I am just a hard-ass.

How to be a good boarder… Their barn, their rules. Don’t buck the system. If you don’t like a rule, either comply or move. Don’t expect extra things ie: special food, blanketing, turnout. Have a backup plan in place for the times you are too busy to make it out to the barn to do something that needs to be done. Don’t ask for favors. If you need extra’s, ask if it’s possible to get them for an extra fee. Treat the barn as you would if visiting someone’s house. Even though you are paying “rent”, it’s not the same. And lastly, avoid barn drama! Make friends, just stay away from anything that’s brewing related to being mistreated by the barn owner/manager. Lastly, check in from time to time with BM on how your horse is doing (behaving when you aren’t around). Sometimes people will have a comment to make, but will only say it if asked… Until the “problem” becomes so big they tell you in frustration, anger, etc.

What everyone else said, but relax and enjoy! You’ve graduated to owner. Big congratulations and wishing many fun years of ownership for you and DD.

You sound like you’ll be a nice boarder. The only red flag for me was the “friends” part. Please remember that this is a business. I don’t mind the occasional guest but I don’t permit them to do more than visit and observe. You are the client. You are paying board for the privilege of using the facility. Your BO has insurance coverage to cover her clients- she can screen them, interact with them so that they remain safe. She has no control over the guests.

I agree with what others have said about the guests. I can’t have well-intentioned but clueless people wandering around my barn. Get permission before you bring anyone out and just bring one or two people at a time. Take 100% responsibility for supervising your guests and make sure they follow barn protocols and don’t get in the way or touch/handle/feed treats to any horse but yours. This is MUCH harder than you think. Guests should probably not be going to visit your horse without you present, because that puts the responsibility of supervising them on your BO.

As far as allowing anyone else to ride the horse, definitely discuss this with the BO/trainer. Keep in mind that owners are responsible for the actions of their animals, so if you have guests out and they get stepped on or fall off and are injured, you are responsible. If you allow others to handle or ride your horse it might be wise to look into horse owners’ insurance.

Otherwise, you sound like an ideal owner and I’m sure you are going to be a great boarder!

Thanks everyone! :slight_smile: I really appreciate all the advice!!

I think to shorten up my initial post, I shortened up a few things (b/c I knew what I was thinking LOL). To clarify:

  • Non-horsey family/friends would never go without me (they are all 1.5-5hrs away, and directionally challenged :wink: ). Everyone has to review the “barn safety rules”, largely based on the worksheets that go with tapes 1 (disciplines and safety) & 2 (handling) of the In The Stable series (yes, still have the VHS tapes my daughter got when she was 4!) before heading out. Kids have to watch the videos; most adults accompanying their kids will end up watching, too (I hope); they are short, but cover the basics.

  • Fortunately, our stall and corresponding tack area is at the far end of the aisle, so hopefully we won’t get in anyone’s way with visitors.

  • I don’t think any of them will want to ride; he’s pretty tall :wink:

  • My one friend N (who was in my equine science classes with me and has owned/ridden/shown for 10+ years) will have to come out, meet BM and come to a lesson arrangement, who has lesson horses available as well. I am fine with N riding my horse for lessons; she’s a much better rider than me, so the only downside may be her frustration in bringing him to her level.

  • Insurance is required in my board contract + it seems prudent. Which leads into my next questions…

I’ve known him since he was 18 months old (now 7). He was diagnosed with pretty severe anemia when he arrived (was a bit of a rescue by the asst BM at the time); she put him on PowerHorse and then Red Cell, and he recovered quickly, and subsequently only really needed it in the spring. He was on turnout (not receiving any supplements) for 3 years out of state on 25+ gorgeous acres in small (under 10) herd until last September when he was purchased by someone back her at the barn, who just decided to sell him back to owner last month (6 months later). He is not currently on anything.

I would like to run a full workup on him to get a baseline reading + check and see where his anemia is (does he need PowerHorse again (have read the thread on RedCell on COTH and will stay away from it) or did he grow out of it)? What would that cost me (approximately, of course); what should it entail (physical external exam, blood draw for CBC, …?); and what should it tell me?

It would also seem to provide information valuable to deciding how much insurance (and what kind) to get as well.


I second (or third?) the advice to make days you bring guests to the barn non-riding days. This strategy has worked well for me at any barn I’ve boarded at as it allows me to supervise my guests and make sure they aren’t making any well-intentioned but potentially upsetting or unsafe mistakes.