Sunday, September 14, 2014

Surviving Barn Drama (or even better, Avoiding Barn Drama in the First Place)

Unless you and your horses live under a rock, it's likely you've experienced barn drama at some point in your horse experience. It's virtually unavoidable, but there are some tactics that can help avoid major problems in the first place, and also get through conflict with (hopefully) less damage.

#1 Communication is Key

Seriously, this is the most important part. If, as a boarder, you fail to communicate your needs to management, other horse owners, or, if you're the manager, your boarders, then the whole system is doomed to failure. As a boarder, it is your responsibility to be honest and upfront about you and your horse's needs. If Fluffy needs turnout boots put out in the morning, and her blanket taken off at 2:00 in the afternoon, and all you do is sit boots in front of your stall as a clue, there is bound to be some sort of miscommunication. No barn manager is a mind reader, and you can't expect them to anticipate what you expect to get out of your boarding experience. Also, as management, if a boarder is wearing you down with expectations above and beyond what is offered at your facility, that is your responsibility to communicate with them that they're asking too much and may need to consider moving to a different barn offering more services. There is no shame in admitting that the barn/horse/owner isn't a good fit since everyone has different values and desires. There are plenty of facilities out there, keep looking until you find what fits you best!

#2 Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Boarding facilities are the perfect environment for gossip to run rampant. It's important to remind yourself that there are two sides to every single story, avoid forming judgements until you can hear everyone's vantage point. Try not to spread stories that don't affect you, especially if it can hurt someone else. Another point; if you have a problem with someone, GO TALK TO THAT PERSON DIRECTLY. Don't complain to other people about how difficult Suzie is to deal with, they can't do anything to fix it anyways. The Universe helps those who help themselves.

#3 Just Because You Do Things One Way, Doesn't Make It The Only Way

Horses, like people, are each individual, special little snowflakes. Just because Tony the trail horse can live outside 24/7 with only a sniff of grain to keep him fat, doesn't mean Sparky the TB can follow the same lifestyle. This goes for management, nutritional needs, farrier work, number of vet visits, riding styles, etc. Don't judge another horse owner's methods, just because they're different than your own. That being said, if you see someone being dangerous with their horse, there is a chance they simply don't know any better. Try to find an understanding and kind way to educate them for safety's sake.

#4 If There's No Contract, Head For The Hills

Major red flag! If you do business with a barn manager, horse seller, etc, and they don't want to sign any sort of contract stating the exchange going on, RUN. FAST. There's most likely a reason for them not being interested in a binding document, and none of those reasons are good. Another place where contracts can really come in handy, are when exchanging work for board or lessons. If it's on paper and both of you have signed that you understand the exchange of goods and services, people are less likely to get hurt in the end.

#5 It's A Small World, After All

The horse world is tiny. If you badmouth someone, it will get around and most likely get back to the person you were talking about. Even if it's true, eventually it will only make you look bad for talking negatively about people. Also, since there are cases where you're really just done and want nothing to do with a person or situation anymore, be 150% sure before you burn a bridge with someone. Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.

#6 Stay Mobile

There is nothing worse than being in a bad situation, and literally not having transportation to get yourself out. If funds allow, own some sort of small horse trailer, even if you very rarely use it. If you can't own a horse trailer, make friends with someone who does. Communicate with that person, that they are you emergency contact for evacuation or even emergency vet visits. Be sure to offer them gas money and tips/free dinners for helping you out, especially if it's at short notice.

Happy picture to signify end of rant!

Barn drama happens, but if you try to use as many tactics to be a good boarder or good barn manager, you can try to avoid major conflict as much as possible!