Bad experiences with barn managers... grr!
I just went to check out a boarding stable in my community. It's less than five minutes away, which is awesome, but upon my arrival, things weren't looking so great. If I were to describe the entire facility with just one word, it would have to be unprofessional.
There are two boarding stables that are less than ten minutes away from home. This is the closer of the two, within walking distance. It's cheaper by about $150, so I was leaning towards this stable rather than the other.
I pulled into the driveway to be greeted by two barking dogs, mutts, by the look of it, that weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. I sat in my car waiting patiently for them to quiet down a bit and stop leaping up at my door so that I could get out. Five minutes passed, and then ten, until finally the barn manager came out of her home and pulled the dogs away from my car. She appeared to be in her late sixties, and as we headed down to the main pasture, we discussed board rates. Yes, she was incredibly cheap, but her services were limited. No, she would not feed my horse the food I supplied; that was my job, apparently. No, she would not blanket my horses at night - who did I think I was?
The pasture was about an acre and seven or eight horses were grazing near the gate. They looked healthy and well fed, if not totally overweight, and as we approached they ambled over to say hello. I asked if these were boarders and she shook her head dismissively.
"These are my babies," She told me, sticking a hand out to pat a fat chestnut pony's neck. Figures.
We headed down to the barn and I took a good look at the stalls. They were in horrible condition. I had to breathe through my mouth rather than my nose, because of the stench. These poor horses! They looked as if they were standing knee-deep in manure. Ah... so these were the infamous boarders.
I'd seen enough, and by now, I was ready to file a complaint against animal cruelty. Luckily I had the patience to confront her and ask her why these animals were being treated so poorly.
"It's the owners fault," She told me matter-of-factly. "I'm not a slave. I put a roof over their horses' heads; the least they can do is look after them!"
I was incredulous. Hadn't she ever heard of working late? I pictured a woman in a suit, typing away at a secretary's desk, with no idea that her horse was in an unhealthy environment.
I checked to see that each horse had water, and, satisfied that they did, I checked the hay nets. About half of them were filled, and the rest were empty.
I was so appalled, I didn't even bother being polite. I stormed off to my car in a huff, ignoring the dogs that chased after me, nipping at my heels, and slammed the door shut behind me. I wheeled out of that place so fast that a few horses startled in their enclosures and galloped to the other side of the pasture.
In the end, I filed a complaint with the local sheriff, who drove out to this woman's property to see that the horses weren't suffering from animal cruelty or neglect. I haven't heard a word from either, but I do hope that those poor horses have found better homes. I might drop by again someday, to see that no horse - or any animal, for that matter - was without food, water, a clean and safe place to stay, and fresh air to breathe.
Can you believe some people?
Well, it sounds like it was a self care or partial care facility. In those cases it is up to the boarders to clean the horses.
I don't buy the excuse that the 'secretary' has no idea of her horse's environment. If they don't take the time to go out and actually check up on their horses they don't need to have them. There is ZERO excuse for a boarder not to know the conditions their horse is in on a very regular basis.
Are you certain the hay nets weren't empty because the horses had already eaten that meal?
What was cruel to you - that they were standing in unclean stalls? I guess I'm not understanding why you contacted the Sheriff. Were they thin? They did have water and some had hay.
By the looks of what I was seeing, the horses hadn't been looked at in a while. I agree with you about how a boarder should be aware of her horse's environment - maybe I was a little put off earlier when I wrote this. But the fact that the board manager didn't muck stalls, blanket the horses, or even have the slightest concerns for her clients was disturbing to me. Through email she'd been boasting about the "quality care" she gives her clients' horses. She claims to "treat them as her own", and that was something that bothered me when I saw how dirty and run down the barn was compared to her horses in the pasture. There was a major difference.
If the horses could barely move around in their stalls because no one was cleaning the stalls, shouldn't that be a cause for concern? I mean, there were at least ten boarders there. Why would none of their owners come and look after them properly, unless they were told that their horses would be looked after while they were away?
I'm sorry if I'm not making any sense. =[
You made a good point about the hay nets. I suppose that I was just so surprised at the stall conditions that I jumped to conclusions.
Our BO doesn't blanket horses unless they boarders pay for it (we are a full care facility). In self-care/partial care facilities it's not necessarily the BO's responsibility to muck to the stalls (if that's how the contract works).
Many BO's go that route so they can have the business but not have to do the work and it's often cheaper for the boarders than full care. I'd think someone would clean the stall if the boarders weren't coming out just for the sake of the horses. But not always the case.
At our barn we have 20 horses. Out of those there are probably 5 owners that come up regularly and that's pushing it. Like I mentioned ours is full care but I can see that happening under partial/self care circumstances too.
The good thing is the horses are getting fed. The bad thing is, the BO should be getting after the boarders for not coming out to care for the horses.
Another question you might have asked was if the horses were stalled all the time. Maybe they are turned out in the pasture and only in their stalls for a small amount of time and the boarders don't come out daily to clean stalls. I looked at a partial care facility with mostly turn out pasture but the boarders were expected to come out 1-2 times a week to clean up the stall the horse used when they came in for feedings.
Horse people are weird. I've been at this barn for 10 years and still have not figured out why a person would own a horse and just send the board check in and never ever come out.
We don't blanket our horses and don't leave hay out all the time. I've not seen a BO around here that does that. I assume that might be done at some of the large, fancy places.
If a person picks self care they have to do the feeding themselves. You were talking to the barn owner, not the boarders' mother. Personally, I tend to like the small, homey type places. They don't have fancy trainers and lessons but you do tend to get the home like atmosphere.
Were the stalled horses underweight? If they were adequate weight, I'd assume they are getting adequate food. Many places don't leave hay out all the time.
I wasn't there but I do think it may have been a bit much to call the authorities. You have to be careful as you can easily get a reputation as the horse world is usually a tight knit community depending on where you live. We all know of places that are not the best to board and it becomes common knowledge pretty quickly. Sounds like this is just a place that offers a stall and pasture but the rest is up the owners. If they come out there to feed their horses they must see the conditions of the horse's stall. If its up to them to clean the stall that is their fault. Now I agree if I were the barn owner I would get after boarders who don't do their stalls, but she can only do so much.
As for the dogs, yes they sound obnoxious but it also can be a good deterrent to having strangers come around the barn when no one is around. I gather this was your first and only visit. Who knows maybe the boarder barn owners only can come clean stalls a few days a week (not ideal) and this was the day they get cleaned. (hadn't been done yet)
If no horses were underweight, they all had adequate water and were not showing any signs of distress I would say calling the authorities was not warranted. It is the owner's responsibility to take care of their horse at a board only barn.
At our barn most horses are on 24/7 turnout and no stall. The barn owners horses are usually stalled at night. The stalls are cleaned once a day. However some of the pastures have shelter and those are not cleaned out. My horse has a shelter and shares it with another horse. The other horse's owner only comes out a few times a month. She completely cleans the shelter out at that time. I usually clean about half the shelter once a day. (the other horse normally won't let me in all the way to clean the rest) My horse spends lots of time in the pasture but usually poops and pees in the same spot in the shelter. I clean it out every day unless I am out of town. However in the summer it gets pretty nasty pretty fast. I do my best but it can at times smell pretty bad after only a day of not cleaning. It is worse when it rains and its get muddy, etc. Then I will spend $6 a bag of pelleted pine to dry it out. In other words I work really hard to keep my princess happy.
One day I had a teenager who wanted to help out at the barn. She had helped out with a few things and on about her third visit she came down to the shelter where my horse was. She said it really stunk. I agreed and continued cleaning the shelter. She then said she thought maybe she ought to call the authorities because the shelter was so bad. I was shocked. I told her she ought to think before speaking at that I clean shelter all the time but horse urine stinks, thats the way it is.
I shovel fresh dirt and rake it, etc, as well as use the pellets. So sorry to me sounds like you were jumping the gun on this one. Also if it was so cheap there is a reason.
Just my little story... sorry its so long :)))
P. S. I appreciate that you were concerned about the horses, I hate messy stalls too and hate that my horse is ever standing in muck in her shelter, but she has to sometimes... my point is be careful don't jump to conclusions too quickly.
Not sure if it was a full care or partial facility, what the boarders are responsible for. However, the stench I'm assuming was a combo of urine and manure and that to me is unforgivable if it was that strong. Those poor horses cooped up breathing that foul and harmful stench can't let themselves out into the fresh air.
Yes , we are late sometimes to get to the barn to clean the stalls, me included, but for the odor to be that strong.....well that's more than a few late nights. And why should all the horses have to suffer breathing in that air? If the BO was responsible for cleaning shame on her, if its the boarders shame on all of them because it sounds like it was all the stalls.
walkamile I agree, but I do think calling authorities was a bit much, but I wasn't there. I know that in the am after all the horses are in at night it can smell quite badly, especially when its hot humid and damp and little breeze. (and we clean stalls daily and twice for any horse that has to remain in) so without a smell o meter its hard to say. I know my horse's shelters stinks, she insists on peeing inside in the same spot even though she has nice big grassy pasture.
Unfortunately lots of boarders don't know any better and if everyone is lax about then they think its okay not to clean stalls every day. If you aren't willing to do it the horses are better left turned out all the time to me.
Lovemyponies, I agree that if you don't have time to properly take care of stall kept horses that they would be better in a paddock or pasture setting with a run in.
What really hit me with the OP was the "knee deep" reference to the amount of manure/urine they were standing in. Not only is this a health risk for their lungs but hooves also.
Would I call the authorities, don't know wasn't there. I do know that when I volunteered at a barn of 14 stalls I had never encountered the overpowering stench of manure and urine that the OP described. The stalls were cleaned once a day and yes when I was out sick a day, they didn't get done. Still not that stench. Granted I live in Maine, but our summers are becoming quite humid, though I'm not sure where the OP is from (forgot to look).
My horses are not treated like hot house lilies, but there are certain standards and criteria for the animals health that should be met. Good basic care is not that hard to achieve.
As far as boarders not knowing any better, well I guess birds of a feather will eventually flock together as it seems at that barn. I guess in today's world where there is so much info at the tip of your fingers, I just don't understand a "had know idea" attitude in basic horse care.
Not upset with anyone on this thread, so please forgive me if I sound a bit fanatical, I just really get upset when a situation like this is just brushed off. Personally, not knowing the full extent of the responsibilities of the BO and boarders I still feel that as a BO, the woman has a responsibility to set certain health standards.
If it is too much for the BO to handle, me being me would have perhaps offered to do certain amount of work for a further reduction in board. May or may not have gone for it but it is always an option.
Okay, stepping off the soap box now :oops::lol:. So glad my horses are home with me.
And lovemyponies, good for you for putting that teenager in her place! Urine does soak in and it is very difficult to cut that smell in a dirt bottomed shelter. We had to scrap once a year and put new down, that was on top of liming and cleaning during the year. Thank goodness we love our horses, they are a lot of work and $! :lol:
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