Leaving a Barn: The 30 Day Notice

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30 day barn notice


So, you have decided to leave the barn and move your horse(s). Maybe this is your first time doing so, or you could be a barn hopping veteran. For some reason, giving a 30 day notice can be one of the most complicated parts of owning and boarding a horse.

I’m not sure exactly what causes barn owners, trainers, and/or barn managers to take the 30 day notice so personally, but it happens.

To Barn Owners, Barn Managers, & Trainers:
I know there is a lot of work, money, and time invested in running a boarding & training stable and everyone thinks they run the PERFECT barn. There is no such thing as the perfect barn, because no matter how hard you try you are not going to make everyone happy. As a barn owner, trainer, manager; you probably can make every horse happy. But, if your goal is to make every horse owner or client happy….well, you are in the wrong business. There are so many layers to keeping horse owners happy and no matter how hard you try, how perfect you think you are running things, not everyone is going to be happy and people ARE going to move out. Some for legitimate reasons that are out of your control (moving, money, work, time), some legitimate reasons that might hurt your feelings or you don’t agree with (footing, turn-out, cost) and some for absolutely ridiculous reasons that CAN fall under legitimate reasons depending on the person. No matter what the reason, taking it personally is only going to cause stress and headache for everyone involved. So, just take good care of the horse(s) involved in the move out; treat the horse owner(s) or client(s) exactly the same as before they gave notice (NO MATTER WHAT) and stick to your contract.

I gave my notice. Two days later my horses were in a cow barn, in stalls they didn’t fit in, with no water, and obviously, hungry.

To Horse Owners:
Now, you might just be a neurotic freak and will never find a barn that you are happy with. You might even be a “barn hopper”, these people generally expect their asses kissed by the trainer, even though they don’t spend THAT much money, have THAT nice of a horse, and aren’t THAT good of a rider. But, if you just generally aren’t happy with the barn you are boarding your horse a,t then read your boarding contract carefully and follow the rules. Don’t tell ANYONE at the barn before you tell the manager/owner/trainer first. It will get back to them first, and that always leaves a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, and it’s just plain disrespectful. Be upfront, be honest, and don’t be defensive about your move, even if you feel like you have to.

30 Day Notice Experiences:
Personally, I’ve had MANY, MANY bad experiences when it comes to giving notice. I used to always stay true to the 30 days notice, or whatever required on my boarding contract, but sometimes following the rules has posed several serious problems.

One barn I boarded my horses at wasn’t all that great about feeding horses that weren’t easy keepers. If a horse didn’t get fat off air, it was skinny. 1 flake of hay, twice a day, and 2 pounds of grain twice a day for EVERY horse. The barn wasn’t always like this, there was a marriage, the wife “took over” the money management, and apparently, the allowed feed budget cut tremendously. My horses lost a ton of weight, and I tried to supplement with bringing my own extra hay and grain. Turns out, my grain and hay wasn’t getting fed; not to my horses anyway. So, I gave my 30 day notice. I had a long relationship with the husband and considered him a friend, and when I gave notice he asked “why?” I explained that my horses required more food than was getting fed, so I needed to find a place more appropriate for their needs. Well, that wasn’t a good idea. The husband and wife were angry at me for being unhappy with their care. They explained to me that I should have said something. Well, I did…when I brought them extra feed. The remaining 30 days were long, uncomfortable, and my horses lost even more weight.

Barn hoppers expect their asses kissed by the trainer, even though they don’t spend THAT much money, have THAT nice of a horse, or aren’t THAT good of a rider. As a barn manager/trainer/owner, if you don’t play ball, they move.

Another barn I boarded at was a small barn with about 10 horses. I had a few young horses there. The turnout was great, the feeding was perfect, the knowledge was questionable (but generally unnecessary), the facilities were good, the price was reasonable, but the barn was VERY far away. So, as the youngsters were growing, requiring me to handle them more than 2-3 days a week, I needed to move the horses to a boarding facility that was more convenient. I gave my 30 days notice. The woman took it incredibly personally. She explained her attachment to my horses and how I couldn’t move. I explained to her that there was nothing against her, her care, or anything besides the hour long drive one way to the barn. I went out to the barn two days later and found my horses, no longer turned outside, in a cow barn, in stalls they didn’t fit in, with no water, and obviously, hungry. I freaked out, called the barn I arranged to move them to, and we loaded up and left that day. The woman screamed at me the entire time I loaded my horses and drove down the driveway. I couldn’t understand why she was mad. I was the one who should have been screaming. Not only were my horses not being cared for, but she had a board check for the entire month even though I was leaving only 3 days into that month.

Now, two other strange experiences were moving across the country. You would think moving thousands of miles away would be enough explanation for leaving a barn without hurting feelings. Well, no, two of those moves were taken personally. It was strange and uncomfortable. The care of my horses was never in question, at least, but after I gave my notice, I was treated like a traitor! It was strange, to say the least.

Though you want to err on the side of 30 whole days, for the most part, you have to feel out the 30 day notice to see if it is necessary? If you think there is going to be some bad blood, personal issues, stress, or concerns for your horses, just skip the notice and fork out board for two barns. It sucks financially, but what can you do? Depending on the contract of course, if there is no contract, or no notice required within the contract, then just give a heads up before you move.

My suggestion is to make sure you fully understand the relationship you have with the barn owner, barn manager, and/or trainer. If you question their ability to handle the “news”, then make sure you don’t go into it defensive, scared, or sheepish. Be positive, understand that YOU may be treated differently for the next 30 days, and as long as you can be positive your horse(s) will be cared for, let the jest slide. Follow the rules in your contract, no matter what, and stick to your guns.

Conversely, don’t put off moving your horse just because you think the trainer/manager/owner will take it personally or create stress for you. I have seen too many people stay at barns far longer than they wanted to for fear of the wrath from those in power. You may get treated horribly for those last 30 days, but honestly, after those 30 days, you are done with them. Grit your teeth, give your notice, and move on. Just don’t go bad-mouthing people just to make yourself feel better. Be respectful, no matter how poorly you are treated, (unless your horses are treated poorly, of course), and kill ‘em with kindness.

In the strange world of horse people, sometimes taking the high road is the only way out.

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