Questioning a board price increase - yes, I understand inflation

Let me start with saying, I understand inflation, commodity increases, labor economics, etc. My whole career has been in consumer products (currently in food), and most of my gray hairs and high cortisol levels are from passing along price increases to customers.

With that said, I was on a group text with everyone in my barn (7 people) over the weekend. The BM/BO said board was going up the same amount for everyone. Which I 100% agree she needed to raise rates.

My problem is that I am on pasture board. My horse gets fed 1x a day, no hay, no shelter, field gets mowed 3x a year. I do not have access to the barn for tacking/ grooming. Our field might be 2-3% bigger than the other fields, so I’ll grant that there may be additional taxes, but those haven’t increased recently.

So why is my board going up 16% versus someone who is boarding in the barn whose board only went up 8%? Aren’t they the ones using more of the commodity based items - grain, hay, diesel, labor?

If my board went up 16% and everyone else’s did to, I would have 0 complaints. If she didn’t put me on the same text as the barn boarders, I wouldn’t have known, and would have 0 complaints. It just feels insulting to think that I wouldn’t notice this.

This is coming on the heels of being grossly taken advantage of at another farm, so I am very sensitive to people dismissing me, but I am fed up it with horse professionals just doing whatever they want and not having to be fact based in their decisions. I have had my own farm, I have managed farms, so I know this is her prerogative, but I just wish she would understand/ acknowledge the disparity.

If I challenge this, there is no question I will be asked to leave. So do I say anything? At this point, I am considering selling my horse just to be out of the industry.

Talk me off the ledge.

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For clarity’s sake: did the barn owner say something on the text like “everybody’s board is increasing by $50?” (Or substitute the accurate amount)

Meaning stall boarders paying a higher rate only have an 8% increase yet you see a higher percentage because you are paying a lower field board rate?

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After reading your post, I think you do have a leg to stand on in a discussion with your BO. Certainly, your argument is valid. A calm, rational conversation with your BO/BM laying your concern and your willingness to pay an increase commensurate with how much your horse/you use should occur. Be prepared to pay 16% more, just like the other boarders. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I am totally on your side-- if you are not using the same amount of feed and labor, why are you paying the same as those who are?

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If you say something in the same tone as this post I would be sure to have a plan on where you might move your horse.

I personally do not think the barn owner owes me a concrete example of all the pennies, nickels and dimes associated with the number they picked for the board increase.

Look at this way, someone on stall board is probably saying ‘this is not fair, Dobbin only eats one quart of grain and two flakes of hay per feeding, but Sparkles eats six quarts of grain and four flakes per feeding, I should not be paying the same’.

I would guess your barn owner said "wow, my expenses went up a lot. The number is X. I have Y horses so X divided by Y equals the amount I am going to raise board.

If you want to discuss it with the barn owner I would bring it up more of a question than a confrontation of how unfair it is. “Did you intentionally include me on the board rate increase text you sent? I thought maybe it was a mistake since Dobbin is on field board not stall board.”.

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Uhhh… they own the place. They don’t need to be fact based in any of it. You’re not being held there at gunpoint - if you don’t like it, leave.

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Totally fair - her place, her policies. But leaving doesn’t solve the problem under that logic.

That’s why I think it might be my time to bow out for a while.

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Leaving solves the problem if you find another barn that has prices that are more agreeable to you.

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There is no problem.

It’s her place, her prerogative. You’re the one with the problem. And whether or not it’s based in logic or not, it being a problem for you doesn’t make it a problem for the owner.

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You can certainly ask for clarification and try to negotiate. Keep in mind there may be other things influencing the board like property value reassessment by taxing authorities on top increased rates. Thats a huge reason so many barns are just unable to stay in business and, honestly, its their decision based on their finances and they don’t need to disclose every dollar of business operating costs to justify raising prices.

Boarders tend to look at costs for feed and such then divide by the number of boarders to establish costs and don’t include things like property taxes, insurance and BOs needs income wise.

So, by all means, try to negotiate but think “ challenge” the increase is too strong a term based on incomplete information of actual costs.

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I want to add, it might truly be property taxes. With the crazy housing market assessments are going thru the roof. I was shocked at what the town I live in says my tiny house is worth now. Our property taxes went up quite a bit.

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Needs more information.

Just because your horse is field boarded doesn’t mean it costs the BO less than the stalled horses or that costs are uniform across the board. You may be unaware of the true cost of the field board (including property taxes). Perhaps the field boarded horses eat more hay than the stalled horses due to the lack of quality of the pasture and the need to feed more to make up for being out in the winter and burning calories. Perhaps upkeep of the pastures is more costly than upkeep of the stalls (if I had to pay someone to walk several acres and pick manure I know I’d have to pay more than to pay someone to pick stalls which are less spread out etc.) Perhaps you’re forgetting the costs of maintaining the pastures which require more seeding, fertilization, etc. when horses are on them 24/7. With the info given it’s impossible to tell if there’s a direct correlation between the cost increase in board and the actual cost of boarding your horses.

But even if there isn’t-- I am not sure the BO needs to amortize increases in costs proportionally. Dobbin eats less than Star, should Dobbin pay less board? Spot makes a huge mess in his stall and requires more shavings and labor than Sparkly, should Spot pay more board? Does the BO need to calculate down to the penny what every horses/boarder costs and amortize the board? I don’t think so. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take the delta in increase costs and split it across all boarders EVEN IF not all boarders are equally causing the costs. I have never expected a board discount for having an easy keeper who is neat in the stall nor a surcharge for being out at night and turning on the lights. I don’t think it’s out of line for a BO to say-- my monthly costs have increased by $600, I am going to add $50 to the board bill for all 12 boarders. I don’t think she has to proportionally distribute the costs in some way. That would be maddening for her if it’s a big business with lots of variation in board. And, frankly, field board probably makes her little money and if some field boarders leave, so be it-- she probably wouldn’t blink.

On the other hand, if you don’t like how she’s dealt with the board increases, you’re free to go. You’re fully entitled to think that pasture boarded horses should absorb less of the increase than stalled horses. I don’t know, factually, how reasonable that feeling is but you’re entitled to feel that way. The beauty of boarding is that it’s contractual-- if you’re not ok with what you’re being charged you can give notice and leave.

I don’t see what’s the benefit from trying to convince her to change rates she’s already announced. To charge you less she’d have to charge the stall boarders more and she already gave them their new rate. She’d be pretty dumb to backtrack and ask them for more because you want to pay less. How’s that going to look?

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Good point - I changed my title.

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You certainly have the right to ask but the BO doesn’t owe you an explanation. Field board in my area is all but gone. Land is just too valuable. Where it is available there is less and less differential with traditional stall board. With the costs of fuel, fertilizer etc I’d anticipate even more contraction or folks just getting out of that business altogether. In this inflationary cost push spiral it’s only going to amplify and put the most palpable cost pressures on us non-billionaires.

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I would approach the BO on more of a fact-finding mission than a negotiation, at least the first meeting.

Do express you understand how the costs for everything have gone up, yadda yadda, but you’d like to better understand why your rate went up that 16% vs. the boarders.

There may be a very good reason (someone mentioned property taxes–I could believe that). But you have to approach the convo as “I want to understand better” vs. “I am here to give my opinion on what I think of this new increase/”

And keep us posted–I’m personally curious to know why the pasture board went up that much.

ETA:

I’d take this and edit it a bit more, but this is what the BO needs to understand. You’ve been taken advantage of before at other barns, and you’re hyper sensitive to changes like this (and are aware of this fact!) and want to be sure you understand what those changes actually are and why they’re being made.

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Your horse on pasture board needs fencing (that needs maintaining) that the stall boarded horses don’t.

Someone still needs to go feed the horse once a day. Maybe this person has asked for a raise to cover fuel costs. Sure, the person stays to take care of the stalled horses, but a trip would need to be made even if it were just your one horse.

Maybe it’s property taxes.

Maybe the BO decided he/she wants more profit.

Maybe the BO wants some people to leave in order to downsize, and this was the easiest way to get that started.

Who. Cares. The BO does not owe you an explanation at all. To quote Judge Judy - if you don’t like the steak, don’t eat it.

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Hey @endlessclimb–I am super curious here: what’s wrong with asking for more specifics around a price increase if done in a polite manner?

From my vantage point, it doesn’t seem unreasonable if approached in the right manner. What harm does it cause for a boarder to question? (I genuinely am asking)

FYI I totally agree–if at the end of the day, you don’t like the price of something, move along. But if someone just wants to better understand the rationale, I don’t see how that could be problematic.

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Because it’s really none of the boarder’s business. Boarding is an expensive, thankless job - then you’re going to have boarders nickle and dime you when you need to increase costs? Entirely rude.

Do you ask your grocer the same thing?

Do you ask the gas station attendant?

Do you want your BO’s breakdown of hay, grain, shavings, labor - so you can figure out how much profit he/she is making? Why is that any of a boarder’s business? Go find somewhere else if you’re unhappy.

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I guess the other side of the coin is, why do you (general) think you have a right to know what their expenses are?

If they are lucky and have a wonderfully cheap hay source because they spend their time helping to harvest it, does that make it OK for you to demand they charge less than the person who does not lift a finger to get their hay into the barn?

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For me, it’s more a “seek to understand” because I am not an expert, and I want to be better informed and understand the factors that go into that pricing model. I appreciate several other posters’ insights on what could go into that (I had completely forgotten about fence maintenance–total PITA and lumber is so expensive now. UGH).

I’m not sure the grocer or the gas attendant analogies are accurate because they don’t control the pricing–but a barn owner does have some control after the initial break-even.

To be clear: I want BOs to make a healthy profit, particularly since not all customers are… role model, grateful customers. But that said, in the industries I’ve worked in–and been a consumer in–if there’s a price increase, usually if you ask, you’ll get a justification. May not be one you like, but folks don’t shy away from telling you. Even if it’s simply “because I can, and the market supports this price now.”

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A boarder can certainly ask for clarification, and it’s best done in a truly curious tone. Just ask ‘do you have a second? I wanted to make sure I understood the increase in field board.’ and talk- either in person or at least on the phone.

If the response is ‘acceptable’ to you, then you had a nice conversation and nothing changes and all is well.
If the response is ‘unacceptable’ to you, then you might start looking to move but you didn’t harm the relationship.

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