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?
It would seem that Mattie, as well as the other boarders (aka her clients) see you as the "hired help" rather than another boarder. I can see how that could easily happen given the snobby mentality of some horse people and the way they treat anyone who mucks a stall or sweeps an aisle. I would have a HUGE issue with that, as well as the lack of support from the BO. However, if Maddie has brought several boarders in, there is a financial reason for the BO to please her. With the BO acting so spineless, it sure makes it difficult for you. I sure would be looking elsewhere......
leave if you are unhappy. I allowed a boarder to do some training and lessons out of my barn for a small while. Lets just say she was asked to leave on bad terms shortly after. Its my barn. :) Ive found many of these trainers take too much ownership and try to run things Just my .02
From what I have read I feel the boarding facility is not really set up very well as a lesson barn. No boarder should have to struggle to get their horse out of a stall, or wait for one to get off the cross ties. If she has a small barn maybe talking to her about setting up outside grooming areas, so that it frees up the isle for work to get done as no boarders horse should have to wait till lessons are done to get fed. Or a possible injured horse to get treated in a safe space. A outside grooming area can easily be achieved by placing 2 good solid 4x4 posts in the ground and attaching cross ties.
As for the lady who thinks all should bow to her needs, she needs to get a grip. I don't care how much money a person has you get respect when you give respect. As far as her xlarge horse some barns do not allow certain size horses when the facility cannot cater to their size. Wether it be stall sizes pen sizes food rations.
As for you, you need to decide when you had enough with messing around with such snotty people and move to a more relaxed spacious barn. There are a lot of barns that offer work in xchange situations. Better ones if you ask me.
Actually, I do feel like the "hired help" some of the time. I get along with some of Mattie's students/clients well, but not as well as those people that aren't her students. I have pretty good relationships with the other boarders that aren't affiliated with her. Sometimes I get the impression that she's waiting for the old barnowner to drop, then swoop in and buy the barn. It definitely wouldn't suit her standards, and if that happened I'd be gone yesterday.
I thought about introducing a sign to set outdoors that lets people know when chores or turnouts are taking place. Then, they can expect to move their horse. We do have a bathing station outside that has crossties, but I'm sure they'd all complain about having to haul their tiny dressage saddles that distance (I love dressage, but they are just those type of people!).
There used to be a number of barns in our area. Poor management has forced me out of one, another shut down with 4 weeks notice and its 40 boarders were left scrambling to find a place for their horses. So everything is very full up right now. My other option would be to take them home, but that is my last resort only.
One thing that really made me angry is that the barnowner said that "Amanda" was upset about how I treated her. As an adult, I would expect another adult to come to ME to talk about it. Instead, she went to the barnowner and complained to her. It just seems very immature, especially for a woman that's 30-40 years older than me. Expressing my anger is very rare for me, so the conversation between us would have been very civil.
For now I'm going to see how things play out. I will set my foot down again if needed, and will definitely move if needed. The barnowner was very polite and nice to me afterwards, and I think she understands where I'm coming from. Let's hope it stays that way. She even said that she'd be glad when Mattie's lesson horse was either moved or sold. I do believe you all are right- they are a large chunk of her income. So if she ousts Mattie, she puts herself in jeopardy. Although with the number of people wanting a stall (she has a waiting list), they may not be hard to replace...
I guess if I was the BO, I would be calling a meeting of all involved - that includes all "staff" and Mattie to get things ironed out by assessing what's happening and how it can be handled more effectively. However, I don't think that's not going to happen as the BO may have confidence issues with herself as well as lacking in negotiation skills -- and you need both of those when you're going up against a dominant personality. So that means, for you, there's probably not a lot you can do - you might be able to get the BO to commit to putting up a scheduling board and that may or may not help. I think you might want to start scouting out other locations just in case. Good luck.
Actually, we have a lesson/vet/farrier scheduling board... But Mattie expects everyone to "check her website" to view the lesson times. Somewhat difficult when some of us don't have internet at home or on our phones! :P Hopefully the barnowner gets a little more serious about writing down appointments and lesson times. Some people don't like their horse fed within an hour of a lesson, so it's difficult to know when to feed them if they don't write it down.
Maybe suggest cross tie rings be installed in the stalls. That way the aisle is left open all the time. Easy to add or remove a cross tie rope.
Or, try a bluff & tell the BO that you don't want to do the chores anymore because you can't do the 'hurry up & wait thing.' Be prepared for her to say fine though.
Why the cross ties? We used to carry the saddle and bridle to the horse even if in a standing stall. The only time the aisle and crossties were used was for braiding a mane for a show as the light was better. A horse could always be led out the other end
I'm going to offer a different perspective.
Mattie and Amanda bring in bucks. Money always is the boss.
I doubt Amanda was upset at you specifically. However, this lady comes twice a month to deal with her horse who has a rep for being a jerk. She probably was upset that she had to move the horse because she's a little scared of him and knows he's a jerk. Imagine having to move a horse that you know has your number? The lady was probably scared out of her mind.
You, trainer and BO need a better system for organizing the barn lessons and chores. Maybe she can text or email her schedule? She could probably even make a mailing list on her website tied to her calendar so that you could subscribe to that and all she has to do is update her calendar.
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