Old barn falling apart. I could use some suggestions.
So I have been going out to this farm for 17 years and it's never been the classiest barn with the perfect white fences and the perfect stalls, but my trainer is a good woman who feeds her horses before herself. She bought a barn about 15 years ago and we build all of the fences and stall from hand. A few years ago Florida was hit with 5 hurricanes in 6 weeks and we lost a lot of our fences and half of the roof of the barn. Since then she has been going down financially. She can't build any more stalls because there is no roof and she can't afford to fix the roof. Our fences keep needing redone and we just keep fixing them the best we can but we need more. There are 25 horses our there and only 5 are boarders because her barn doesn't look the nicest. Our jumping and dressage arena are in one of our pastures and all of our jumps are homemade with tires, barrels, poles, bowling pins, and anything else we can. Almost every horse she owns are rescues that people just keep dropping off at the farm because they can't take care of them and she just has such a big heart she can't say no so she makes room. The horses are all well taken care of physically but the barn itself is falling apart. My trainer is growing older and she just doesn't have the energy to teach so many lessons so me and a friend of mine go out there and teach for her as often as we can. My trainer is very old-fashioned but is trying to step into our generation and market herself but she seems to be struggling. There are parents who have helped raise money for the farm but they spent all the money on building a new tack room instead of using the money for what needed to be done, like building new stalls and fences so more horses could be happier. It's only a 20 acre farm so it isn't the largest but we do the best we can. My trainer has rescued so many animals from goats to dogs to pigs to ducks and a couple minis that were being abused at a petting zoo but her primary thing is training horses and riders.
I am submitting this post because I have tried creating a website for her and trying to market her without stepping too much out of my bounds but she just needs help. She is a wonderful, christian woman who wants to share her knowledge of horses and God with her students but financially everything keeps going wrong and her farm is falling apart. I am not sure what else to do. She has a 4-H group out there and I have offered to get them more out in the community but the parents of the children won't do anything unless it affects them or their personal horse and it really upsets me. This barn needs help and I am not sure what to do.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do or how to turn this barn around?
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this long post!
Well, I don't know much about owning or running a barn, but I'll give you my two cents on the situation. She needs to stop taking in animals. I know, it's hard. But there are way too many animals that are being starved, beaten, or abandoned and she just physically, emotionally, or financially take them in. It's fine if you make sure you have feed for your horses but there is a line and if you start putting your house and self into jeopardy over these animals, you're making a mistake.. what if you end up in a box on the side of the road because there were a few sick horses? It's not easy, but if she can get into a more stable position then she can start taking in animals.
It would probably help a ton to sell some of the horses too. Just until she can get enough money to raise money to fix the barn and pastures and start getting a steady income. She needs to practically restart the barn from scratch. You could do a fundraiser, make the barn look "pretty" with good jumps and fences.
But honestly if your trainer is getting tired, I don't think there's much you can do.
Forget trying to involve the boarders since they're unwilling.
Are there places to do lessons safely? Relaunch the lesson program, make fliers and make a schedule for the time frames and days during which you will offer lessons. Give everyone one 30 minute lesson free - lets them try it out and let's you see where they are.
Lesson horses should be separated by ability and are forwards compatible. Meaning, Alfie the horse who is beginner safe is also good for intermediates but Sara the mare needs a strong rider and not a beginner. Make schedules that limit the number of lessons per day and per week.
Advertise advertise advertise. If there are any horses that can be sold without harming the lesson program, sell them. See if there are comparable feeds that are cheaper but nutritionally the same.
Can you guys host a clinic or something? See if there are clinicians who would come. Do you have safe ponies? Consider pony parties. Host lesson days where people can spend a half day learning about horses and tack. See if you can have informational seminars, pasture walks, whatever.
Just rattled off some stuff off the top of my head. Sorry for any typos as I'm on my phone.
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Didn't she have insurance on her buildings? I can't imagine owning anything, especially a business, without having insurance.
She needs to stop taking in stray animals, especially if the money she's spending on them could be used to fix up her barn and fencing. It's a liability she doesn't need if her fencing isn't up to code and any of the animals get out. If they get hit by cars, she's liable for any and all expenses.
I'm sorry she's in this pickle, but I wouldn't ride or board with an instructor who didn't have safe housing or fencing, and who was constantly trying to preach religion to me.
Thank you so much you guys,
Blaze.. I will absolutely talk to her about that and tell her not to take on too much. I do think she should sell some of her horses and I need to sit down and talk to her about it.
DancingArabian... those are great suggestions! Very positive and I have already begun racking my brain on ways to do all of those :)
SpeedRacer... I understand the religious thing, and don't worry she doesn't shove her beliefs down anyone else's throat. What I meant when I said that was she doesn't like confrontational and doesn't want to do anything shady but always does it if it's christian policy. She isn't a "bible-thumper" :)
Well, a few questions...
Did the woman have insurance at the time the damage was done? Did she apply for federal or county disaster assistance? If she did, she could have pocketed the money. I would have to be hard pressed to keep my horses there if she did, and after you say you paid for fencing and helped her build the barn.
If I were you and wanted to get involved I would find some investors/borders to invest in the place. Especially since you are already helping with so much. Set up an LLC, the LLC would own the barn and property, not her home, and each investor would put up the funds and receive shares respective to the amount of money invested. There would have to be strict guidelines on how the money was used, each investor getting a vote, the woman having the first option to buy out if ever sold. It's complicated, I've done some deals like this and it can really help out a struggling business owner and everyone involved.
She sounds like a very nice woman, but without more details I'd struggle with finding her money or taking the time to fix the place up.
You know, I never wondered about the insurance thing, but I will definitely look more into it.
(sorry I must admit I am ignorant to policies of owning an operating a barn but I am interested in learning more)
Doing her christian "duty" by taking in all those horses means eventually she will wind up in court when her money runs out and she can't feed them. Why wait until that happens? I've had people want to dump their dogs on me. I tell them I'll take the dog for the cost of feeding plus projected vet bills-$500 and that was 20 yrs ago. It's funny how they suddenly lose interest in dropping the dog off. If she send the horses to auction, it is not necessarily a death sentence. Many people shop for horses at auctions as many can be seen in one day rather than running all over the countryside to look at a few. The kill buyers pick up the derelicts no one wants and sometimes that is the kindest option for the horse.
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