This search phrase “how to enjoy a barn with gossip and politics” brought someone to my blog recently. Probably they found me due to my last barn manager post, though I would like to give you some tips for those who might be in the same situation.
1.) Be prepared to move at any time and at short notice. If you are in a gossiping barn, things will go south. If the barn manager thinks you are involved or she/he becomes angry, you and others could be asked to vacate and to do so quickly.
It’s not unusual that barn owners will refuse you access to the tack room or even for you to remove your horse (even if you are caught up with board). When I have been in situations like this, I also store very LITTLE at the barn. I try to be in state that I could throw a few things in my car, hook up a trailer (or call a friend with one) and get out of there.
2.) Change your schedule. Try to be at the barn when the core problem people are not there. For example, I’ve decided that I will no longer be at my current barn on Saturdays. That is the busiest day and there is a situation developing that I don’t want any part of. Luckily, I can come out during the weekdays in the morning which is a time that most people do not come out. I’ve also decided that Sundays we will come out early (before 9 a.m.) as most folks arrive after church (after noon hour).
3.) Become a listener but not a commentator. Listen to what people gripe and gossip about and do a lot of hmmmm,wow!, I didn’t know etc… but do not offer an opinion or advice. It’s best not to have these converations at all but sometimes you can’t avoid it.
4.) Bring a guest to the barn during your visits. People are more apt to leave you alone or understand when you need to end a conversation if you are a host to a visiting friend.
5.) Avoidance will get you labeled arrogant and snobby. Been there, got labeled, when all I wanted to do was be left alone. Realilze that this is a no win situation. Stay out of it as best as you can but whatever you do, you will be dragged into it.
6.) Involvement means you have to take a side. As soon as you take a side, the others will attack you. Again, this is a no-win situation but what can you do?
7.) Keep lines of communication open with the Barn Manager/Barn Owner. All you can do is try to keep that relationship honest and up front.
However, it’s my experience that if a barn is gossipy and full of politics that is a TOP DOWN situation — meaning that even though the BM/BO seems innocent of being the instigator of the gossip, they are promoting an atmosphere of allowing it. Even if everyone were to leave tomorrow, as soon as they got new boarders, the situation would start all over again.
8.) Find stuff to do with your horse off the premises. The more you can just be gone, the less you have to put up with this.
9.) Keep physical proof. Make sure that you have reciepts, cancelled checks, emails etc… about anything that may later be called into question. Especially keep proof that you paid your board, a copy of your board contract, if you show or train under someone – a copy of that contract and payments etc…
The more hard core evidence you can have access too, the less likely things will get really, really bad (denial of accessing/moving your horse, taking your tack, etc…)
10.) Look for another barn – and move as soon as you find one. Nothing will stop the gossip from eventually hurting you and others. It’s inevitable that this type of situation will implode – and you have to protect yourself and your horse(s) FIRST… and having a backup plan and place is the way to do so.
Be prepared that when you move you most likely will lose that months board and there will be no pro-rating of your board for the month. You may not want to give an adqueate notice because fear of retaliation against your horse (yes, this has happened) and make sure you have removed all personal property (as much as you can) from the barn before you give notice.