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Boarding barn deal-breakers--what are yours?

We’ve probably all seen those posts on how to be a good boarder. But how about turning it around to how to be a good boarding barn owner/manager?

Besides basic horse care standards and facility safety and maintenance, deal breakers for me are: lack of communication; lack of respect for a boarder’s concerns; lack of professionalism; lack of boundaries (i.e., a chore person sending aggressive, confrontational texts to a boarder); and going back on what was said/agreed upon/stated in the boarding contract.


Well, yeah. BSC or dishonest management is generally a deal breaker in any business or organization.

On the other hand, some red flags for a BSC barn manager are: over promising, under charging, seems too good to be true, immediate vacancies, and barn jobs being done by work exchange for board.

If you encounter multiple BSC barn managers in your life, either your spidey senses need tuning up (your Craydar) or you may be part of the problem…

No boarding barn is perfect, and we all have different needs, so somethung that might be a deal breaker for one horse or owner might delight another (options for turnouts, blankets, grain etc).

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I started typing out my own list, then I realized my list was nearly verbatim to yours!

It’s not easy being a barn owner. But at the same time, there are way too many of them that are lacking in professionalism.

The older I get, the easier it is for me to view boarding as merely a business transaction. 2022 has been interesting because I have ended up short term boarding with old friends on several different occasions. A couple had terrible communication, another was struggled with professionalism and boundaries, etc. These are people I love and have known for years; I had to remind myself to separate the boarding from the friendship.


Be a professional adult. Have a clear and comprehensive contract and rate sheet and do what they say. Feed my horse what we agree you will feed him, and don’t make changes without discussing it with me first. Don’t talk smack about other boarders or their horses to me and don’t talk about me or my horse to other boarders. Fix your fence. Be crazy if you want, but only in ways that don’t affect your business.


What does BSC stand for? haha

There are red flags I wished I’d paid more attention to…such as a BO giving me a litany of grievances with previous boarders, full of details that were frankly none of my business. Yet she stoutly maintained they were a drama-free barn…it seems any place I’ve been to that says they are drama free, are always the ones who create the drama themselves…


This phrase is an automatic :triangular_flag_on_post: :triangular_flag_on_post: :triangular_flag_on_post:

If you hear it…. RUN!


Yes, not easy being a barn owner/manager…I’d NEVER consider it. But I’ve run across BOs who shouldn’t have considered it in the first place.


New reader here: What does BSC stand for?


Absolutely, I couldn’t have said it better!


HA! Yup. Wished I had!

To this I’d add: don’t turn my horse out with a different group of horses without consulting me first.

(I get that sometimes certain herd dynamics don’t work, but at least give me a heads-up…there is nothing that upsets me more than to arrive at the barn and find my horse is not where she was yesterday).


Bat shit crazy.


— Make it clear to all — boarders, lesson kids, staff — a few expectations from the moment they’re a part of the barn. “We say, ‘Gate!’ as we approach the indoor. It’s OK to pick hooves in the aisles so long as you sweep and dispose immediately. We coil hoses when done with them. We allow/don’t allow others to observe private lessons without the student’s consent.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I saw new kids or parents or even boarders unfairly chewed out by Barny McBarnypants, the self-appointed cop who seems to be a presence in so many stables, because the “offenders” didn’t arrive knowing how a particular place operates.


Having safe and solid fencing, I’m a stickler on this as well as maintenance of the fencing.

Any barn saying they have no drama, they are the drama. I get it, every place probably has some degree of drama and frankly the big component of this is how it gets handled/mitigated. If a barn can take care of it professionally and minimize occurrences, then that’s fine but those places don’t usually advertise as drama free ironically.

Not randomly changing the horse’s feed/turnout situation/stall without mentioning or discussing first with the owner makes me a bit nervous. Quite awhile back but there have been a few times where I went wandering around trying to find my horse.

Iffy about barns being negative towards other disciplines, riders, other barns in the area, etc.
Not a huge fan of training/lesson requirements although I 1000% understand why since boarding is not very profitable. So if a place will just let me pay the requirement without having to do it, then it’s not a dealbreaker and I don’t care too much.




Good items above.

Another fast deal-breaker is a BO knowing and tolerating a boarder who constantly “borrows” without permission – from other people’s fly spray to other people’s tack. Never has her own stuff because she uses stuff that doesn’t belong to her and thinks she’s entitled to it. It is hard to be the BO who must set boundaries and handle a boarder’s unacceptable behavior, all the way up to asking her to leave. But it has to be done.

Yet another is not managing a situation where someone’s horse is not working out in a turnout group, and it’s heavily affecting my horse. Especially with when the behavior is constant. A horse that constantly, frantically runs and keeps the herd always agitated and moving. Or aggressively bites & kicks the other horses, so that the others are always covered with bites and have become shy about accessing the hay or the shelter. Even a gelding mounting mares.

The horses are not going to ‘learn’ better manners on their own in pasture. No one is standing out there in turnout teaching them. Humans put these horses together. Humans have to make some hard decisions for the best welfare of all of the horses.

It is not fun to be the BO/BM who has to let a boarder know they can’t stay. Or that they need to pay extra for managing special circumstances (such as keeping the aggressive horse in a paddock where he can’t reach the others). But it’s part of the job. It’s not just picking up board checks.


Boy is that ever true!

It just blows my mind that this occurs in many instances. Then we wonder why our poor horses can’t perform for us.

My mare was recently in a group of horses in a paddock/pasture that was way too small. She was low on the totem pole. I doubt she rarely, if ever, felt safe enough to lie down to sleep; she was always on the lookout for other horses coming in to her space. The longer we were there, the more wired she became. It got to the point that I could not do anything with her except spend undemanding time out hand-grazing.


Making sure that someone qualified and who can read the instructions is dosing the medications so that they don’t almost kill someone’s horse probably shouldn’t be to hard to ask.


Oh gosh. I’m sorry if this happened to you!