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Handling the Stress of Running a Boarding Stable
(Other peoples’ horses and the owners themselves)
Ann S. Reilly, Ph.D. is a sport psychologist and author of
“A Sport Psychology Workbook for Riders,” available from Questions for Ms. Reilly’s column can be
addressed to
Photo by Ina Bachman
By Ann S. Reilly, Ph.D.
The frst key to successfully managing a boarding
stable is to maintain a professional attitude toward your
boarders. Although you cannot always treat each boarder
in the same manner, because they are not all the same,
you want to try to maintain fairness toward each boarder.
Maintaining a professional attitude means keeping your
relationships with the boarders consistent and fair. In
order to do this, you have to refrain from being buddies
with some boarders and not with others. Fairness is also
achieved by upholding your barn rules for each boarder.
Selecting Boarders
While your economic situation may require that you keep your
barn as full as possible, your goal should also include selecting
boarders who will make a congenial, cohesive group, and board
with you for a long period of time. Carefully selecting boarders
will help you achieve this goal and reduce your stress in the long
run. It is helpful to interview your prospective boarders carefully,
present your services and rules to the prospect, and use good
judgment as to whether your prospective boarder will be happy
with your services and rules. If you get the feeling that the
prospective boarder will not ft into your program, it is best to not
accept them, rather than accept them and live with the stress
of the wrong match, which sooner or later leads to the boarder
leaving, usually with drama.
Establish Clear Boundaries
In the interview, present all of your services, contracts, rules
and expectations to your boarders. Do this in a formal manner,
when you have the time to spend with the prospective boarder.
The time you spend explaining to the prospect how your barn
operates, your rules, and expectations will pay off in stress
reduction for you. A clear understanding of your services, contract
requirements, barn rules and your expectations of the boarder is
a major management tool. Try not to worry that your barn rules
and expectations may scare a prospective boarder away, it is
better to have them go elsewhere than to have to deal with the
consequences of boarders who will not respect your rules and
Your barn rules should be very specifc and frm. They should
include safety rules, handling emergency situations, barn hours,
your personal boundaries, sportsmanship and courtesy toward
other boarders’ expectations, neatness, your policy on outside
trainers, barn guests, and acceptable behavior in the barn.
Stress is greatly reduced by establishing and maintaining your
personal boundaries. Clearly state when boarders are permitted
to call you on the phone and how long they can talk to you. Make
sure they understand when the barn is closed, and that there
are NO exceptions to the rule, unless, for example, horses are
returning from competition or an emergency situation with a horse.
Good Barn Help
You must also manage your stable staff. Let them know the
expectations and boundaries you have for them also. Explain
to your staff the boundaries you expect them to use with your
boarders. Hire the help that is most experienced with horses.
It may cost you a bit more, but the price of excellent grooms
and staff save you lots of headaches and helps keep the horses
healthy and happy.
Take One Day Off a Week
This day is important for your mental health and well being. One
personal day a week helps keep your attitude positive, lets you
rest when you need it and helps prevent burnout. Also, take either
mini vacations (long weekends) every few months or a weeklong
vacation twice a year. Again, this is for your mental and physical
health and well being.
Awell run barn with a pleasant staff and happy boarders is a joy.
We all know what the opposite is!