Should I renegotiate working off board or just move?

This is mostly a vent and perhaps a plea for someone to talk me out of making an expensive decision in a fit of pique. :smiley:

I love my barn owner. She’s a genuine animal lover who about 15 years ago decided she wanted to build a small farm in the middle of a horsey community, so she did.

I’ve kept my retired gelding there for four years now. BO is out of town frequently for travel, business, has a second residence out of town, etc. The basic agreement is that I keep her horses fed, watered, blanketed in exchange for board. She pays a handyman type of guy to spend about 6 hours a week (typically on one day) doing general property maintenance.

It’s been fundamentally an easy setup where the horses (three, including mine, plus one mini) have free access to their stalls and shelter, so I can literally mix grain, throw hay, give everyone a once over. I keep the feed room stocked, pick out manure from the area around the barn once or twice a week, meet the farrier and usually the vet, and sometimes pick up/stack hay. BO sometimes asks me to take a package into town to be mailed or some other general errand, but nothing major. She’s typically happy to feed when she’s at the farm so I coordinate being out of town with her schedule where possible.

We’ve always had a bit of friction in winter regarding when horses need to be stalled. I’m happy putting turnouts on everyone (except the mini, who is a beast to catch) and leaving them out unless there’s genuine inclement weather. No one is clipped, we’re in the mid-Atlantic with mild winters. But to keep BO happy I will also generally stall them and close up the barn when it’s below 25 at night, simply because it’s not that often.

Lately I would say the workload has increased significantly, mostly related to BO acquiring a second (semi-feral) mini that she will not turn out with the larger group. The minis now have no access to shelter and cannot be blanketed, so that means she prefers to have them stalled most nights in winter and just about any time it rains.

I’ve been considering trying to renegotiate the arrangement as it is. I pay someone to cover me as needed, so I know the going rate for what I do day-to-day is $40-50 a day. In our area full-care board at a barn with no arena/jumps is probably $600-$800. My other horse is on self-care at another farm nearby, with arenas and onsite professional, and with everything included I’m spending $650-$700 plus doing all care.

Should I ask for the difference in cash, given the added workload? I can’t decide if that’s actually reasonable, or if I was “spoiled” previously with how simple the situation was.

Or should I just accept that all good things come to an end and find a new situation?

I’d try to negotiate first, before just upping stakes. You are generally happy with the situation as I see it, and perhaps just a ‘yearly sit down’ with BO is in order to make sure horses/minis are still being cared for properly. Bring your problems forward along with the simplest solution to them for the BO to consider. Try to make it a give and take. After that, if needed, you can look for a place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. BO seems to be reasonable as you present them here.


So OP you are doing a $50 a day job every day in exchange for retirement board? So $1500 a month value? And you still have to go ride your other horse at another location?

This basic arrangement seems unfair.


LOL I was just thinking the same and doing the math wondering how I can find someone to do all my barn chores for me just by keeping their horse at my farm. :slight_smile: Feeding, mucking, blanketing, buying feed, stacking hay and holding horses???

My old horses won’t die, so no empty stalls here, but maybe worth hastening things along if I can find someone like the OP.

So maybe it’s not every day…how often is the BO home versus not home? I think your situation might be ok if it was something like 2 days/week. I would give someone free board for a retiree just to cover all my weekends and be on call in case I was away on vacation once/year. More than that and I think it would be asking too much.


Definitely try to negotiate before leaving, but maybe the easier remedy for the situation is to add a shelter for the minis.


$50 a day is what I pay for someone to feed when neither BO or I are around, but I’m not sure it would be fair to necessarily value a long-term situation per day as high as short-term farm sitting.

More often than not I would say hay gets delivered. That’s if BO orders it herself. There’s only space to store about 40 small bales, so we have to order it fairly regularly. If BO isn’t there and we’re running out of hay I’ll just pick some up since I have a truck and it’s easier than coordinating my schedule around the delivery.

I’m there twice a day every day. BO is usually there for long weekends, sometimes she’s home for two weeks at a time and gone for two weeks. It really varies. But even when she’s home I only occasionally ask her to feed.

There was previously almost never mucking. The horses are only stalled when the weather is really bad or it’s below 25. Otherwise they come in to eat and go right back out. There’s more mucking now that apparently the minis need to be in frequently… Where it sort of comes to a head for me is how that’s been communicated.

BO was recently out of the country for two weeks - she had a retired couple stay on the property with her dogs. I did not bring the minis in at all. We had a solid week of 70-degree weather, and it then cooled down to a more seasonable level, but not what I would call cold. This past Sunday it rained in the evening, still above 60 degrees and not forecasted to get into the 50s until the rain was over so I made the call to leave them out.

The day after the BO returned we had a perfectly nice catch-up chat about her travels. The next day I texted her around noon to ask if she could pull the horses’ blankets for the afternoon. I left them on that morning since was still around 20 when I fed — which was colder than forecasted, so actually only the minis were in that night and I left them in as well. She responded “Did that this morning” with the eyeroll emoji. I wasn’t sure how to interpret that, honestly. The morning after that I got a series of texts asking me when the pipes froze (if they did I was not aware), and that I call the handyman guy to bring the ponies in “if it’s cold and wet” and I can’t do it, and how she’s “not happy.” I responded as politely as I could and have heard nothing since.

That being the case I don’t even know how to start a conversation about perhaps creating a more balanced situation.

There is a separate decent-sized paddock with a run-in shed. They’ve been turned out there in the past but destroy every last scrap of grass after a few weeks. To the point that BO had to reseed and fertilize and leave it empty for two months. That’s when she roped off part of the larger field for the minis. Just “building another shed” might not be so simple - the first one is a gabled, stucco affair to match the house/barn, with electricity. It took months to build and was not inexpensive I’m sure.

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In most of the work-trade situations I’ve ever known of, both parties always feel like they are being taken advantage of and/or doing the other person a favor. And that’s what eventually ends it.

I would look for a new situation that suits my needs, especially based on the eyerolling and recent texting.


I don’t see why you wouldn’t try talking to then about it. Just a “hey we agreed Icould board her for X work and now there is Y work so I’d like to revisit the agreement”. Working off board seems to always end with BOTH parties feeling they’re beingtaken advantage of, but I also find most people never talk it out.


Based solely on the OP, I would have suggested you have a conversation with her, but with this added flavor, personally, I wouldn’t bother talking this out.

Scorched-earth of me? Perhaps, though I’d be polite as I left–give her 30 days (though I’d have somewhere to move the boy) and blame it on my own time constraints. But life’s too short to put up with this kind of passive-aggressive behavior, especially when she’s clearly getting a better deal from your labor than you are and isn’t even showing appreciation.

To be clear, her acquiring the mini with its commensurate extra care requirements and unilaterally not addressing it with you was not the behavior of a person who values what you’re bringing to the table, but it also wouldn’t have been enough for me to leave without a discussion. Nor are disagreements about blanketing procedures (though personally, I’m 100% on your side here–mine was perfectly happy in 17 degrees the other night without any clothes); if she’d said “I was surprised to find the blankets still on this morning; in future, can you pull the blankets when you feed even if it’s still chilly?” or “I noticed the pipes froze, so I guess you didn’t have water for AM feeding–I’m getting it fixed. In future, can you let me know?” or “If it’s below X temperature and raining, I’d like them to be in–please call the handyman to do it when you don’t have time,” fine. All of these are direct, clear communication with a specific request and no blame for not mind-reading.

But none of those are what you got.

Not worth it, to me. I’d bounce.


So basically you do all her work attending twice a day in exchange for retirement board that might be worth $500 a month.

Add up your hours and assign yourself a reasonable wage like $15 an hour (which is minimum wage where I live). Do you work more than 30 hours a month, that is one hour a day? If so you are ripping yourself off.


No need to take things personally and get all het up about it. Simply text her and say, “BO, I am really sorry if we had a miscommunication about the equines the other day. But maybe that was a good reminder for us to check in. The dynamic is alittle different with the additional two minis; can we chat about expectations and how this affects how I’ve been doing things?”

She can most likely afford to put in a basic shelter for the minis. I think she just doesn’t see the additional two minis as being a big deal. You may want to be prepared to explain, pleasantly and without making it personal, how the minis have added to your work, as in, “things take 25% longer now with the new minis, because of x, y, z.”

If you’re going twice a day and picking up hay in your truck, etc, she is getting a good deal. And if she says that the job is what it is, be prepared to be calm and nondefensive, and be ready to tell her, keeping things respectful and adult, your decision about whether you can stay or leave.


Stop texting and have a real conversation. Texting is a terrible way to communicate when you really need to know how someone feels.

Having said that, she sounds passive aggressive and I would be surprised if this continues to work out for you. Still, it may be worth an in person talk before you call it quits.


Full stop.

If someone came to my barn 2x a day I would pay them for 2 hours. Because it’s not realistic to pay someone for 30 minutes, and even if you were only there 33 minutes, you are still driving to and from my barn.

So, at $15/hour, this is $900 a month. If you were at my barn I would pay $20, which is $1200.

The BO is getting one heck of a deal. Want to come work for me? :wink: My setup is easy and I would never expect anyone to be at my barn 2x a day if I were here.


I would quietly walk away rather than make a big deal because barn owner should but evidently does not issue a 1099-B for the bartered services

You must include in gross income in the year of receipt the fair market value of goods or services received from bartering.

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Ehh…neither do millions of other places. This is not the relevant issue for the OP - if there is an IRS issue it’s not her problem.


If your both unavailable, shouldn’t you at least split this?

I’d be training those minis to at least come in a stall for a treat. That shouldn’t be too hard, would it?

Honestly, if you board your retiree somewhere for $500, and use the hours you do this farmwork to offer petsitting instead, you’d come out way, way ahead.


Okay update!

I texted BO last night to indicate that I’d like to revisit the terms of the agreement, but that if she isn’t interested in that no hard feelings, I can find someplace else for my guy. She responded this morning acknowledging that the second mini creates more work (though I still get the impression she thinks it’s so very cute it shouldn’t matter), she understands if I don’t have the time any longer and she’ll find someone else by February. My heart is not broken at all.

I think her “boarding” situation could be more valuable to someone who trail rides, since it is a lovely farm in a great location with access to trails. Board in the immediate area tends to command $200-300 more than it really should otherwise. However I’m confident I can find pasture board with good care maybe 20 minutes away in the next county for comfortably under $500.

It’ll be a stretch for my budget, but I’m mostly excited at the prospect of reclaiming so much time.

BO has offered exactly once to pay the farm sitter - when I was gone for five days to get married - and she ended up staying at the farm that week.

I honestly don’t know how hard it would be to “train” the minis. They were both gelded very late, and the new one spent the first five years of his life learning that he can basically intimidate humans by charging at them.

The original mini has learned to associate the stall with being caught. When BO does catch him it tends to be either to bring him in, or for something highly involved like a bath, extensive grooming, cutesy photos for Facebook, i.e. things he’d rather not be bothered with. I think it would take a lot of consistent work to overcome that, which I have no interest in doing for free.

BO is actually not super involved with the horses. She may trail ride 5-6 times a year, occasionally gives them a grooming, that’s about it. So I was fairly certain when she started talking about getting the second mini that it would never get any kind of consistent proper handling.

She kind of waffled about getting him for a month or so. I think some friends convinced her he was a “rescue” because he was living in a trailer park drylot with goats and chickens. That’s certainly not ideal for any horse, but when he came his weight was fine, feet okay aside from one long-ish toe behind. From what I can tell BO and her friends basically guilted the prior owner into giving him up. The woman was apparently conflicted about it because the mini belonged to her adult daughter, who died under violent circumstances.

BO’s same friends visited to trail ride (with four of their own horses, accommodated on the same small property) a few weeks after he came and they were AGHAST that I don’t feed the minis grain. On the flip side these same women also had no idea what soaked alfalfa looks like (i.e. that it’s mostly water) or that a 22 y/o TB might need 8 WHOLE POUNDS of senior feed a day… Anyway I guess they couldn’t be expected to understand that a mini living on a drylot is far from the worst equine welfare crisis imaginable.

But now I’m really just kvetching. I’m glad I tried to extend an olive branch but find I’m relieved to be getting out of this and appreciate all of the insight and confirmation that maybe I’m not the one acting entitled in this scenario. :slight_smile:


Ah more and more information.

You are unpaid labor for a pleasant but uninvolved well off woman who keeps horses as pasture pets or vanity projects and has no idea about doing even the minimal work. What she needs is a coach house or double wide :slight_smile: to house a full time caretaker. Free rent and free horse board would indeed be fair for someone living on the property who could be there am and pm.


I almost feel badly for the soon-to-be former employer/barter-er. I think she may get a difficult reality check when she tries to replace the OP.