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...) :)