What to do?

There is a boarder who started boarding with us about 2 years ago. She’s a sweet girl, but clearly has some issues. She gets stressed easily and seems to worry about her horse more than necessary. She’s opened up to me about her anxiety and I’ve tried being understanding but I feel stressed whenever she is at the barn. She, on the other hand, has repeatedly told me how happy she is there.
Now to the most recent issue. It’s been brought to me attention (by this boarder) that one of our long term stable hands is making her “uncomfortable” and acting inappropriate around her. She says he makes comments about how he’s in love with her and sends her inappropriate messages and tries to touch her when she walks past him. She proceede to say that the barn was her safe place and that she feels she can’t go to the barn anymore without feeling anxious or worried the stable hand will be there.
I’ve spoken with this person and he denies he’s doing anything wrong. He says that in fact she is the one making advances towards him, not vise versus. I’m inclined to believe him as he’s been with us longer than the boarder and I have always trusted him and the care he gives to the horses.
I feel im stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I punish the worker and risk him quitting if in fact he hasn’t done anything wrong? Or should I simply tell this boarder that I feel she would be happier boarding elsewhere.
Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.


As a first step I would Ask the border for copies of the messages.
If she’s telling the truth, she shouldn’t have a problem with that.
If she’s lying, then she will have all sorts of excuses for not sharing them with you.


Yikes, that’s a tricky situation. I’m assuminf you don’t have cameras that could help? Are there other boarders or workers who could shed some light on the situation? Anyone whom you would trust talking with to see what they have seen or heard? And agree with previous poster, ask to see the messages- I assume that they are still in her phone. Or, if she has deleted them, ask her to show you before deleting next time. Good luck, that’s a tough spot to be in.


I would be extremely careful about assuming that the fact that this groom has been with you a long time and takes great care of the horses means anything about whether he is capable of sexually harassing someone. I can assure you from personal experience that you should not conflate the two.


This is a tough and touchy position for you to be in and I’m sorry. You need to be very careful to be fair to both your employee and your boarder while determining what’s going on.

I agree with mommy_peanut that you need to see any offensive texts. If none can be shown, ask to see the very next unwanted text she gets from your employee. Let her know that you want her to be safe.

I would not punish the employee but I’d ask him to do his best to stay well away from this boarder for a set time until you can clear this up. Let him know that you want to protect him from false accusations.

I’ve had a boarder with anxiety issues and she could be difficult to deal with. She would often set herself up for situations that fed her anxiety, which does make me wonder about your boarder’s interactions with your employee.

Example: My boarder would take a bucket of carrots with her into the pasture to catch her horse. Shouldn’t be a problem…except that she fed ALL the horses lots of carrots every time, and it took them about two times to recognise the carrot fairy and all come crowding around her when she walked in. Which then terrified her and she’d complain about the mean aggressive horses. And, yes, I did tell her NOT TO FEED ANY HORSE BUT HER OWN.

My long winded point here is that someone with an anxiety disorder is anxious without a viable reason, and may imagine or manufacture a reason to explain their distress.

Or, your employee may be harassing her.

You’re in the unenviable position of having to find out the truth, and give the one that’s lying the boot. I’m sorry, and really hope you can sort it soon.


One of them is lying. Here is where it gets difficult…if he is lying, it should be fairly obvious: those text messages, a pattern of behaviour that other borders have noticed. Her version may be quite different. There may be no proof that she is harassing him. I would absolutely not punish him unless there is clear evidence.
I don’t think grooms and boarders ought to be texting anything at all except horse related information.
But I also think that in this case the power balance is way over towards the boarder, not the man. I have somewhat complicated baggage on this question…I know all too well that men can be physically, sexually violent…but I have also seen how completely destructive women can be and how one comment, without proof, can destroy a man’s job and from there his life. Which, I hate to say it, is exactly what you are considering.
Get proof, go from there.


The circumstances will inevitably be far more complex than apparent from a question in a COTH forum but here’s my 2c worth.

The man is someone you have employed for some time, presumably you interact with him daily, you appreciate his work, trust him with your horses and have previously never considered him to behave in any inappropriate way to other clients, other staff or equine professionals. Why would you even consider punishing him for some unsubstantiated actions at the word of a woman whom you apparently distrust?

Your client pays you to care for her horse, and possibly you teach her also, so you see her for a only limited time, if regularly. She has already expressed general anxiety and fear to you which you apparently feel is excessive and unwarrented. Outside your horse connection you presumably have little knowledge of her character, her working life, her behaviour in other circumstances.

In this situation my immediate loyalty would be to my employee. I would insist on seeing the putative inappropriate messages. If she can offer hard evidence, take it from there. If she can’t, I would take steps to protect the employee even if it means sacking the client.

The man is your employee, part of your team, you are his boss. The woman is only a client, you are neither her mother nor her therapist.


First, yes, get some evidence before you act.

Second, IME there is anxiety and then there are more substantial mental health issues that present to the world as anxiety but in fact are much more serious. And they can spiral. If you meet the person in a “good” phase they can just seem anxious, but then they can spiral into much worse things.

I honestly wouldnt trust either person, but I would want to see these text messages before I said anything more to the barn worker.

My experience with people who are having mental health issues, is that they can be in a place where their emotions are so much out of alignment with what’s actually happening, that they need to create narratives to account for their feelings. If they are afraid of everything they can create a narrative about being persecuted. It feels real to them.


What others have said.

The idea that you would jump directly to “punish the worker” is concerning. You need to find out the truth first.


I’m sorry that you are dealing with this. I suggest contacting a labour lawyer for advice. I also wonder if it would be helpful to bring in a counsellor of some sort to talk to each of them to try to sort it out? Then you may be able to either resolve it in a way that makes everyone comfortable, or identify the liar and send them packing.

as a male, this is why I would never work alone with a female as there is no way to prove a claimed verbal or causal assault did not occur

even back in the 1990s when I was regional youth director it was my policy that no adult was to be alone with any youth other their family members, it was for both the child and adults safety


I would never assume that someone with an anxiety disorder is a liar. If there is documentation I would ask if she feels comfortable sharing those screen shots. My default is to always believe the victim until I have something to support a different narrative. The idea that knowing a male for a long period of time makes him safe or not a predator is the exact reason why so many victims never say anything.


I would recommend talking to some other boarders and ask if they’ve ever been on the receiving end of or witnessed even moderately questionable behavior by the staff person or the boarder.

I’m a really thick skinned person of an age where I’ve had to learn how to let things roll off my back. Things that I probably should have been more offended over, or which really were inappropriate, wouldn’t rise to the level of me mentioning them to a barn owner. However, other people have different filters, and that isn’t unreasonable.

By asking a few other people, a different pattern of behavior by one of them might appear that no one really thought to report or think about, but taken with what you’ve now heard, could be seen in another light. I’m not suggesting you tell anyone about the accusations, but it could help in your information gathering.


It has nothing to do with being a male. As a female teacher I made sure never to be alone with students of either sex. Always made sure the door to the room was open when giving extra help. Did not stay after hours with a single student. Never ever got on the elevator with students of either sex if it was just the two of us. (Students who needed special access were given “elevator passes”, e.g., sprained ankles, pregnant, etc.)

Now that I think of it, most of the above also applied to coworkers, unless we were very good friends.


The boarder should be willing to share the alleged messages your groom sent to her.

With the information we have my gut says trust your groom. I think this will blow up on you if the boarder does not get the desired outcome she wants from you.

Good luck going forward.


This. Except I can’t think of any reason for her to not “feel comfortable” sharing the texts so, I would absolutely expect to get them as proof.


What a sticky situation. Best of luck getting it sorted.

I would want something more substantial than verbal allegations before firing a long term employee.


What a situation.

Is it possible for you to eavesdrop on their interactions? Or surprise them in the middle of an interaction?

Or, to avoid unnecessary drama and getting in the middle of an even stickier situation (asking to see someone’s phone, being accusatory, or not acting on the situation at all), is it possible that this employee leaves the barn while the boarder is there? Ask him to find chores to do away from the barn, or take a break while she’s in the barn. Explain to the employee that the situation could not turn out good for him, so it’s best to avoid the situation all together.

Good help is hard to find. But abuse (or whatever you want to call this) is taken very seriously these days. I would not want your employee to end up in a very serious situation.

Yikes. What an hard corner to be in. Based on the info given, I would either want to see the texts and witness some interaction between the two.

I wouldn’t ask other boarders as they will look at both people in a different light.

All honesty, I would try to find boarder an all female, low key boarding spot where she could be safe and have her peace.

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I’m another that would want proof of the texts.

A story I read in a magazine written by the female party.

She met up with an old friend that she hadn’t seen for a while and was invited to stay at their farm.

She was absolutely horrified when they proudly gave her steak for dinner. Apparently she couldn’t tell them she was vegetarian before getting to that stage.

She let it fester and in the middle of the night she went and opened the gate to let the cattle out of the paddock to save them.

The male barn worker heard the noise, got up and asked her what she was doing and said the cattle would get on the road and get hit. He started trying to put them back in. She was screaming at him to stop and trying to shoo them out while he was trying to put them back in.

The owners awoke to the commotion and went out to see what was going on, why were the cattle out?

She said she accidentally let them out trying to get away from the worker as he was trying to rape her.

She proudly wrote that her friend believed her and fired the worker.

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