Good horsemanship is built on solid basics…so is good business!
In part 1 of this 3 part series, we looked at Scenario 1: A boarder's horse kicks another horse and the injury requires a vet call and stitches. Let's look at Scenario 2.
Scenario 2: A boarder's check bounces and they say that they have no money at the present.
Okay, so in this scenario you must once again remember to keep your cool. And once again, you are smart to have something in your boarding contract that addresses this very situation. Laws vary from state to state about the procedure for dealing with taking possession of the horse and selling it to make amends for money owed. Be sure that you know what it is in your state as it can be complicated, with, for example, postings being required of the sale and excess funds going to the horse owner. When preparing your boarding contract, you really hope never to have to enforce much of it. But you do really need to know the nuances and be prepared to enforce it as needed.
Some facilities add an administrative fee for late payment of bills. This provides an incentive for people to be on time with their payment. But there are still circumstances that arise that this fee won’t fix. What if someone suddenly just lost their job. Or there is a family crisis of some kind. These can be bona fide circumstances that put people in tough spots. On the other hand, if someone is living a lifestyle beyond their means, that is a horse of a different color.
If you have known this boarder for a long time and this is unusual for them, the first step is to ask them to explain their situation to you so you can see what has caused this change in behavior. Then you can probe gently about when they see the circumstance changing. If it is going to be short term, you may want to work out payments of some kind – perhaps they can afford to pay something each week; they know that in a month things will be better and they will be able to catch up on the remaining balance. Their loyalty as a long term boarder can be repaid in this way. If the problem is going to be a long term problem, then it may be time for a very frank conversation about needing to remain current with their board. You may have alternatives for them to help them: perhaps leasing the horse to someone else, or using the horse in your school if you have one and it would be a good lesson horse. Providing alternatives helps the person not to feel cornered and without options. It also keeps them part of the decision making process in what might be a tough decision for both you and them. And if they are reluctant to see that these are options, that this is a situation that needs to be dealt with now before it piles up deeper and deeper, then you may want to remind them about the worst case scenario which is what your boarding contract lays out. Be clear that this is a step that you don’t want to take, that you want to resolve this in a way that works as well as possible for them, the horse and yourself.
If this is a new boarder, you will want to have the same conversation with them in terms of finding out why they have no money right now, and when they expect to. You may not feel like extending the same option of paying something weekly for a month or two because you don’t know them well. If you do extend this offer and they aren’t able to stick to it, it will be time to ask them to leave. They are demonstrating that they are not the kind of customer that you want long term if you always have to fight for your money. Some boarding facilities do reference checks with previous facilities that they have been to and/or credit checks prior to accepting a new boarder. Both these practices can alleviate financial uncertainty headaches before they are created.
Stay tuned for the third scenario and tips for handling conflict that will come in the final post of this three part series.