A recent comment on Boarding Overview asked me if I had any suggestions for keeping drama out of the barn. I've thought about it a little and here are my suggestions:
1. Choose the right people. If you have a nice facility, you should be able to pick and choose your boarders. If getting the facility full is your first priority, make sure you spend time with the people coming into your barn. Most barn owners live on the property so ask yourself, do you want these people coming to visit you all the time?
2. Check references. I have been guilty of moving around, but I have stellar references. I pay my board on time, take good care of my horses, I am willing to pitch in and get along. What do previous barn owners say about this potential boarder? Have they never boarded before? Check work references, professional references, it doesn't matter. It may take you an hour or two, but as you know bad boarders take up WAY more of your time.
3. Enforce the rules. If you don't already have rules posted, do it NOW! And, be willing to enforce them. Is someone not picking up manure in the aisle way? Let them know they are to do so. I used to board at a low traffic facility and when I left manure in the arena, she would leave it for me. I didn't mind, I'm just forgetful.
4. Establish minimums. You must visit your horse 3x a week, your horse must be turned out, your horse must be in training, your horse must have lessons. Much drama is around individual horse behavior and the resulting human reaction. If I didn't do something I was supposed to, I got charged for it, so I remembered to do it.
5. Be drama free yourself. Let's face it, there are people in your barn you don't like. Keep it to yourself. Negativity is contagious, so stop spreading it around. If you hear others talking negatively about others in the barn say you don't want to hear it. They will be surprised, but will keep it to themselves. It is difficult to change this behavior, but it MUST come from the leader.
6. Establish times. I had some drama once when I was taking a lesson on a schooling horse and a girl kicked a big green ball out into the arena. Luckily this horse wasn't spookey, but that could have been bad news. Set times for jumps, obstacles, ground work, etc. This will help avoid conflicts.
7. Tack Lockers. I cover this in What every barn should have, but stealing and using of other people's stuff (without permission) is just bad news. Tack lockers, with locks, help alleviate this problem. Make the investment, it will save you many headaches in the long run.
8. Require supervision. Teenage girls with no one to help them drove me out of my last barn. A couple of them were good with horses, but for the most part, they didn't have help, didn't get lessons and just made me crazy. If parents won't participate, kick them out. Teenage girls are drama making machines, let them do it somewhere else (I apologize to all of those girls who are not drama makers, I have met a few).
9. Be honest and direct. When drama occurs, it is usually because people are unwilling to communicate. As the barn owner, you have responsibility to deal with it head on. I can GUARANTEE after you do this a few times (and I know, it is painful), it will simmer down. Drama machines don't like open and honest exchanges, so they will either leave or make less drama.
10. When all else fails, kick them out. Hey, it isn't a match. Usually 1 or 2 people will be causing most of the problems, so ask them to move. Hopefully you have an at will boarding contract, so you can terminate the relationship when you wish.
I hope that is helpful, for my fellow boarders out there, please post in the comments any other insights!