Feeding Conflict at Boarding Barns

Question from a group member: “What does everyone think of a barn owner who refuses to feed according to the owners direction?”

My response: “I think this depends on the situation. What are these directions and what is the context? At boarding barns, it can be difficult if every owner wants a different feed or has multiple supplements, etc. They need to be able to feed efficiently. That means unless the horse has a special dietary need, they will likely be on one of the barn’s feeds. Supplements should be provided in SmartPaks or supplement baggies or containers, so that multiple buckets don’t need to be stored and scooped from.

A lot of times barns will include up to a certain number of pounds of feed a day. If your horse requires more than that number, expect to pay more. Additionally, if you want your horse to have a lunch meal but the barn provides two, expect to pay more for that service, if it can be accommodated at all. If an owner wants their horse on a particular diet that the barn owner doesn’t support, this enters more of a grey area. I have seen instances where the horse owner is more knowledgeable on nutrition than the barn owner and has a better nutrition plan in place. I have also seen some very sketchy diets created by horse owners that are well meaning but they would be much better off feeding the barn’s feed. So, it gets tricky when both parties think they are right. This may be a case where a nutritionist or nutrition advisor can step in with providing unbiased recommendations.

Do I think in general barn owners should try their best to accommodate their boarders? Absolutely. But I also have seen uneducated and/or difficult owners make demands and make decisions that are unreasonable or not in the horse’s best interest.

I think we also have to think about this from a barn owner’s perspective. They are running a business. They (or at least the good ones) want the horses in their care to be healthy. Otherwise, no one would want to board there. I don’t own a farm but if I did and a boarder came to me and asked me to feed their horse a diet that was not suitable, I would not be okay with this. I would not want a horse in my care to get a subpar diet because that will reflect poorly on me. I am not going to compromise on my standards of care for a paycheck.

Ultimately, the barn owner owns the farm and has control over the way the barn is run. If the boarder disagrees, they are free to leave. Just because barn owners are providing a service (boarding), does not mean they are obligated to meet every request made by a boarder. Have a conversation before you go to a boarding farm about what your expectations are and if they can be met. And know what is in your contract.”

A version of this post originally appeared on Equine Nutrition Education. Check out the link for further discussion! https://www.facebook.com/groups/equinenutritioneducation/posts/911083966230250/

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