Boarder demanding horse off grain... (rant) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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Boarder demanding horse off grain... (rant)

I'm not quite sure where to start with this one... I know this will be long :(

A boarder brought an emaciated horse to us claiming that the boarding facility they had been at was only feeding her one flake of hay at each the morning and evening feed. VERY THIN horse. Apparently, the horse was "naughty", so that was how the people there (at that farm) chose to handle the situation. It has since come to light that the horse's owners think that swapping feeds is going to solve the horse's behavioral issues, and I suspect the other farm got sick of the demands to swap feeds around. It wouldn't be a problem, except that the boarders have no knowledge of horse nutritional needs.

I have sat down with these people 3 previous times, and said essentially "look; here is what we are feeding your horse. This is ALREADY not sufficiently sound, we are NOT going to reduce her anymore. The horse's behavioral issues are training issues that you should seek a trainer to assist you with. Here are some alternate feeds that I know are great for you to research, please let me know after you look into these (and any other ones you find), and we can further discuss it." I gave her a list with ration balancers, low starch feeds, etc... and explained that if the feed is actually what the horse's problem is (it is not, I'm quite certain), that the starch/sugar content is what she will want to look for when researching feeds.

Also, when we had a vet out (after the first 2 times they asked us to cut the horse's feed), the vet LAUGHED at them and said "Well, of course your horse will "behave" when she is too lethargic from not being fed enough to do anything, much less act up..." The vet then suggested they feed "omegatin", which I already had them doing!!!!!!!! Grrrr...

What happens while I am away? The boarder approaches my spouse and says "We'd like to cut her grain down... so and so does it and we'd like to try it..." My spouse told her we'd talk about it.

I'm thinking that we will offer to increase the horse's hay (at night... we turn out in herds during the day and can't guarantee the horse will get the extra, and I know the people won't pay extra for private turn out). I don't think they'll go for it because they'll have to pay the difference between our standard "maintenance" and the extra.

The best part? The woman disclosed to my husband that she feeds her horse upwards of 20 treats (just looked at the website to see ingredients) per day... this is over 1/2 lb of HORSE TREATS!!!!!?!?!?!??! And she thinks the grain/supplement is making her horse "naughty"?

To be honest, I am very frustrated with this situation. So, my thought is to tell the people that we will change their horse's feed after they have a veterinary consult (either in writing or us present) where the vet suggests feed. We have done this in the past with difficult boarders, and finally the "past" difficult boarders ended up coming back to what we suggested and being satisfied with it. My main concern is for the welfare of the horse... not to mention the fact that they SHOW this horse frequently, and take it out to trail ride off site frequently. We are well aware of how much "word of mouth" affects horse businesses. People KNOW where they board this horse. People don't always ask about it when they see a thin horse, they just form opinions... and without asking, they won't know the horse is thin (if she gets that way) because it is how the owners choose to feed her. After the way the horse came to us, and the story we were told, I don't think they'd own up to it even if she was thin... I just keep trying to throw the ball back into their court and make sure they know the responsibility is on them, and they back down... only to come back later and whine.

Opinions, experiences and thoughts? I know as the BO I have a right to flat refuse her, but I don't want to do that :/ I appreciate that it is their horse and they have the right to determine it's care, but I'm really concerned about the requests they are making and how the visible results will refelct on our farm! I'm know that whining here is the right thing to do, but I would truly appreciate opinions from other horse people... BO's and boarders alike :)
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post #2 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 02:04 PM
Green Broke
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Add more hay. Take away the grain. Keep feeding the supplement.

Their horse. Their decision.

Since you are the BO, you can give them advice on what they should do, but in the end, it is their call.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. --Epictetus
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 02:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Palmyra, Wisconsin
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As a barn owner when I get a new boarder in I ask them what weight they would like their horse at. Some like a chunkier weight, some more lean. Skinny is not an option nor is obese.
I would feed the horse what & how much it needs to be a healthy weight. Point out the other horses at your place & tell them that that is how a horse should look. If they disagree I would tell them to leave. A horse kept skinny so the people can handle it to me spells abuse & ignorance & no BO should be forced to go along with that.
Yes, it is their call but I would let them make the call somewhere else.

Last edited by natisha; 12-18-2011 at 02:21 PM.
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post #4 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 07:44 PM
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Do what you feel is best for the horse. I would not reduce the grain if the horse is thin already. Make them get a vet to say the horse needs its grain reduced. If they continue to be difficult, threaten to call Animal Control (or whatever the animal welfare association is) to report abuse and ask them to leave.
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post #5 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 08:44 PM
Green Broke
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Their horse their problem. You need to do what the owner says. If the horse isnt doing well report them for abuse.
It is also your barn, so you are free to tell them you dont like the way they care for their horse so they need to leave.
nuisance and Maple like this.
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post #6 of 27 Old 12-18-2011, 09:25 PM
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If they are asking you to feed the horse so little that it is in danger of becoming underweight and or malnourished, I would flatly refuse. It sounds like you have been very accommodating, and that they might need a wake-up call on what they really want you to do and what exactly that would mean (health issues, potential calls to animal control). If they won't agree to allow you to feed a reasonable ration of something, maybe cut all grain and up hay depending on how your prices work out, then suggest they find a 100% self care facility where they can have greater control on when and what their animal is fed. Emphasize that you won't deliberately do something that you believe borders on neglect or mistreatment of a horse.

I am not a BO though, so I may not appreciate the pressures you're under. How much more important is it to keep these clients than lose potential future ones from the bad PR you'd get?
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post #7 of 27 Old 12-19-2011, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the input everyone!

Velvet and Joe: Again, I said that I do appreciate that it is their horse, and I really do. We are a facility that only offers "full board" as an option and do not offer self-care. As such, when an owner's "decision" regarding the care of the horse would cause the horse to be emaciated and/or undernourished when it is in my care and is my responsibility, I am NOT okay with it. The horse and it's health reflect my work; I am in business to care for and maintain healthy horses. While I am not an equine nutrition specialist, I do a ton of homework and research about it. If these people had come to us with a healthy horse and any knowledge at all of equine nutrition, I'd probably be more inclined to just do what they ask. They came to us with a thin horse and the idea that not feeding it enough is how to manage it's behavior; they knew that idea was wrong and asked us for help in getting their horse healthy again. As soon as the horse was healthy again, the people started with the demands to decrease her feed! We feed for health, and while I believe that you can modify some aspects of a horse's behavior with feed, STARVING a horse into submission is NEVER okay. As soon as the horse acts up, they want to not feed it (at least not grain... but they still feed the million "treats").

General Response: I basically had given the people an outline and some resources as a "jumping point" so that they could learn more about equine nutritional needs for themselves. I told them I'd be glad to change the horse's feed program as long as it is nutritionally sound and would maintain the horse. I told them this 3 times in the past. I have to admit, when I got home and my spouse told me of the recent request, I kind of flipped out (just ranting to my spouse). We already adjusted the horse's feed to a level where the grain itself (Strategy) is not being fed at an amount that meets the horse's nutritional needs, so we added a supplement (Omegatin) with lower starch/higher fat to help maintain the horse... in addition to feeding the horse as much hay as a horse 400lbs heavier would be eating for maintenance. This still leaves the horse with some nutritional deficiencies, but she is maintaining her weight well so we don't mind it so much. To drop the grain anymore would be to eliminate it almost completely... the horse would then be getting fed more weight in treats than what it gets in grain! We discussed telling the individuals that maybe they'd find what they're looking for at another facility because we are not willing to jeopardize a horse's health in place of a solid training background... but that is pretty harsh and we like the people, even though the repeated demands about the horse's feed are getting old. I guess I wouldn't mind the "demands" if they actually took the time to do the one thing I asked of them, which is "do your homework and come to me with a reasonable plan..." I forgot to mention that the recent "drop her grain..." demand was after a friend of ours mentioned (in the boarder's presence) that she dropped the grain out of her horse's diet and the horse mellowed out.

I guess I feel like we try to be reasonably accommodating, but in the end it is our name and reputation on the line and we aren't willing to compromise that. Our boarders know what we do here, what are goals are, etc... and if they don't like that our goal is to have healthy, happy horses, then they shouldn't be at our facility. I'm not saying that the horse has to be super fat, or that they have to feed it this or that... only that any decision made has to be an educated, nutritionally reasonable one.

Sharpie: I'm not willing to risk the bad PR for the sake of someone who wants to starve their horse into submission... and I guess that is where my dilemma is. If we weren't a full-service boarding facility, I wouldn't be so concerned, but we don't offer pasture board or self-care board. We take pride in the work we do here...

My spouse spoke to the people earlier, and I guess our clients decided to leave the feed as it is and said that they don't actually believe the feed is causing the behavioral issues... while I'm glad that they came to that conclusion, I would still like to see them do SOME research on their own, that way they'd have something to contemplate before demanding a change in the future.

Thanks again for everyone's input. I guess we resolved the issue (at least for now...) :)

Last edited by sillyhorses; 12-19-2011 at 01:56 AM.
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post #8 of 27 Old 12-19-2011, 03:27 AM
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I doubt the issue is resolved, it would be nice to think it is - but I doubt it. It sounds to me as if they are the type of owners who want to short cut a solution rather than get the right answer (trainer).

I am usually one to say it's not your horse, not your business - but it is your business, it's your barns reputation on the line. If I were looking for a barn, I would tolerate a new horse who is skinny but not prolonged - that would make me cross that barn off my list forever.

If this 'solution' you have come to with them works, then fine. But if not, ask them to leave - it is not worth the loss of future potential boarders.
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post #9 of 27 Old 12-19-2011, 05:07 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Nov 2011
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What about looking into a ration balancer like Nutrena Empower?

Nutrena: Products - Horses - Empower Supplements - Empower

Might be a compromise. Good luck. I couldn't stand the aggravation. Glad I have my own horses at home.
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post #10 of 27 Old 12-19-2011, 08:32 AM Thread Starter
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That was on the "jumping point" list for them to look into as an alternative... They never did the research :/ unfortunately, Alexs is probably right, they are looking for a shortcut solution.
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