Who's in charge? Barnowner or boarders?
This may turn into a bit of a rant, so I apologize. I'll try to keep it as concise as possible.
I have boarded at my current barn for a full year. I work off my board per a work agreement, and I'm at my barn every night for several hours, even when it's not "my" chore night. I enjoy working at the barn, as working with horses relaxes me.
Two people that board there take lessons with an instructor that we'll call "Mattie." This last winter, Mattie moved one of her lesson horses there. Mattie never does chores, as she has no work agreement with the barnowner. A few months ago, one of Mattie's other students came to board at this barn for the summer. This horse is BIG, and has been boarded there several times before. Usually short stints before taking off to go to a show (so, several weeks or so at one time). He has quite the reputation for having bad ground manners. Personally, I found that his owner, who we'll call "Amanda", an older(ish; maybe 60) woman with gobs of money, never tried to reinforce anything with him. If she doesn't get the response she wants, she stops trying. To make it worse, she only comes about twice a month to ride him in a lesson, and never comes to just see him. I've found that he's very smart, and once you get his attention by making him complete an action (though not with abuse, mind you), he listens up. So I have had no trouble handling him so far.
The other morning (at 6 a.m.) I went out to complete chores for the horses, and to put my horses out to pasture. Mattie, the trainer, failed to inform us that she had moved her lessons to early in the morning, to avoid the afternoon heat. No big deal- we just work around them.
I hurried to get my horse and another out before Amanda brought her big horse into the alley (it's a small barn, so there's no easy alternate ways to go other than through the alley). I found that my horse had had an accident, and ripped out a large portion of her tail. It really upset me, as we have a big show coming up. So it took me a bit longer to get her out of her stall, as I was assessing her for further injuries. Unfortunately, at that time, Amanda brought in her horse and tied him up in the crossties. I was unhappy about the tail issue, and said to Amanda, "I need to take my horse out. Do you mind moving him over a bit?" I said it in a fairly neutral voice. When she couldn't get him to step over, she decided to just walk him out, then turn around and take him back into the barn. Not a big deal. She didn't say anything else to me, and chatted with another lesson goer while tacking up her horse.
Later that night, I was confronted by the barnowner (an older woman) who said that I had been rude to Amanda. The barnowner wanted to emphasize the importance of being a lesson barn, where people come to relax with horses. So she wanted us to discontinue any chores, or turnout of horses, while others were in the alleyway. (Apparently the horses behind the crossties did not get fed, get their stalls cleaned, etc. until the lessons were over, which was about 2-3 hours later.) The barnowner stated that Amanda was "mentally and physically shook up" by having to deal with that situation (moving her horse), as she had a hard time handling him. (Her horse was being as gentle as a kitten at the time- I kid you not.) At that point, I was so angry, I couldn't take anymore. I laughed and said, "Well, she'll have to deal with it!" Then all hell broke loose. The barnowner told me that I wasn't respecting the other boarders, and I stated that they were not respecting anyone else as a boarder. I told her that I pay board just like they do, and that I should have equal treatment. I said that I was sick of people bringing out their horses and leaving them alone in the crossties for 20 minutes, while they chatted with friends in the tack room, then tacked them up in 5 minutes and left. I tried to emphasize the fact that I was sorry if I had offended Amanda, but it's common courtesy to move your horse aside if another is coming through. If the situation arises again, the barn owner wants me to undo an electric fence, go through one gate, go through another horse's run, and then another gate to get my horse out of the barn. It's far more complicated, and once classes start up, I'll be rushing everything! She said I could do it that way or move my horse's stall (which one of Mattie's students has asked me to have, as it has a bigger run). I told her I didn't want my horse moved, and she said something about eviction. Though she stated right afterwards, "Now, I don't want to do that..." At which I stated I didn't want to leave. I think she depends on me too much for chores, as the other guy that does chores is already overloaded, and we're the only ones that do them.
I really believe that the problem is Mattie. It's a very small barn, and over half of the horses and riders there are under her instruction. The barnowner tried to make excuses for them by saying, "If they were higher level dressage riders, they'd be even worse." In my opinion, they're inconsiderate enough as it is! The barnowner has also had a falling out with Mattie, as Mattie screamed at her after the barnowner asked about the type of hay to feed her horse. So the barnowner avoids Mattie at all costs, yet tries to please her at every turn. The barnowner blames Mattie's behavior on an old leg injury that Mattie sustained, that she is supposedly getting surgery for in December. (Though, and I quote, "She should be getting it now, but she's toughing it out so she can be with her students until the end of show season.") I've seen this woman walk absolutely perfectly fine when she thinks no one else is around watching, and I'm starting to think she's really bluffing it. Maybe a pain med addict? Who knows. With her explosive outbursts, I wouldn't put it past her... I just wish she wasn't such a problem!
I really do want to remain in this barn, as they give excellent care otherwise, and I can work off my board. That's not an option anywhere else. My horses and myself (for the most part) are happy there. The barnowner tried to joke with me afterwards and whatnot, and I was civil, but still wasn't happy about it. I put the blame back on Mattie (for not informing us of the lesson times), but I don't know how to get past this situation if it comes up again. They ALWAYS have lessons during chore time! The other guy that does chores has to be at work by 7 a.m., and I have to be there by 8. Neither of us can just sit around and wait until they're done. And we're both very tired in the evenings, and just want to get back home and out of the heat. Surely it's not right to sacrifice the health and happiness of the horse (what we're there for!) for the convenience of the rider?