Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Hey, would you mind..." Part 1

Hey, I'm a boarder, and I've certainly asked a barn worker to do something special for my horse. Do you do this too? Have you ever wondered if you should be paying them for certain kinds of special treatment? I know I have. Something to consider before you ask your next favor...

Barn worker compensation
At barns where boarders can make requests of staff, it's good to be cognizant of what and how the workers are paid. General pay is pretty modest, which is understandable, but also ironic considering the value (monetary and personal) of the animals they care for. If you're making special requests, it's good to know whether it's an an hourly rate, a flat rate, or something else.

What's the difference?
  • Hourly pay: Hourly workers make more money when little extra  tasks extend their work day, so they may welcome special care requests. The question is how do barn owners/managers feel about these boarders giving chores "on their dime."  To keep everything on the up-and-up make sure the barn manager (or whoever pays them) knows what tasks their staff  may be doing for  you.
  • Flat rate pay: More often, barn workers are  paid a flat rate for set tasks.  The flat rate pay is easier to calculate and ensures a predictable for the workers. There can be a downside, though. In my own experience, flat rates tend not to favor the the worker.  When I was paid a flat rate I had to really hustle to keep my pay rate at $8/hour.  If someone asks you to help load their horse, or horses aren't turned out (twice as much to muck), or a horse decides he doesn't want to be caught in the pasture, suddenly I don't make enough to cover the gas I used to get to the barn.
So the moral is, try to have an idea of what your workers are paid, and how  they're paid. It can help you decide whether you should slip'em a little cash, but it also helps keep your expectations realistic. No one is living large from mucking stalls.

Coming up next: What is a fair "tip" or payment for special treatment?


  1. I always tried not to ask for special favors if there was any way to avoid it. I knew too well how hard the work was to start off with.

  2. Really good things to think about! Little requests add up, for sure.

    Depending on how relaxed the barn is, I like to trade little requests with other boarders I trust. That way, I can ask them, they can ask me, and no money changes hands but we are all happy to help each other out (within reason, of course:) It works so far!

  3. You may also want to consider the liability issue. If you make an arrangement directly with the worker and not through barn management, you have pretty much excluded yourselves from the barn's insurance coverage and the liabilty, either way, is all yours.

  4. I've been following the posts about boarders and boarding with fascination. Maybe it's a regional thing, or maybe it's a money thing, but I've never encountered owners as entitled as the ones you describe. There's a general understanding in this area that barn workers don't follow complex instructions and if you want them to follow simple ones, you better tip generously. The dollar amount depends on the age and status of the worker.

    The most essential tip you can give anyone is a "please" and a "thank you." Since these words have a written form, they can be written on any surface, including a whiteboard. I feel pretty sure that if someone had written asking for two and three quarters hours turnout on the white board at my old show barn, there would have been a humorous, not-flattering caricature of that person drawn next to the instructions next time they visited.

  5. My boarding contract has a charge for all extras, like blanketing your horse, holding for the farrier, etc. This keeps special requests at a minimum. But if your horse is in need and you are not there, they are right on top of it, like the time my horse jumped out of his paddock and walked into the barn "early" for dinner (how did he do that?).

  6. I´m a stableworker in a rather big stable. We have loads of work to do and not quite enough workers. We get payed by the hour but only for the 8h we are sposed to work. If we don´t manage to get done in 8h no mather what may be the reason (frozen water in winter, frozen sailage, broken padocs ech...)we don´t get exstra pay. We are exstreamly easy to get irritated. So if some of the boarders who we dislike (respekt the worker and she/he will respekt you) asks us to do something exstra, we get mad. if some of the boarders asks something nicely we are usually willing to help her. No mather if we are running late.

    A stable/barn worker usually exspects no more for a special favor than to be treated as an human being. A kind word ofthen has more value than money. (But a bottle of wine, or few bottles of beer can make one really happy :D )


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