My “Shout It Out!” For Tonight – We Need a Test

In the last couple of weeks I have been involved in discussions with 3 different horse people who have had to deal with clients that won’t pay their bills.  What is wrong with people!?!

One person had to deal with a man who quit coming to the barn, paying his boarding bills, and returning phone calls.  He completely abandoned his horses.  It was like they never existed.  Luckily, the owner of the barn was able to find homes for these horses but, to accomplish that, she had to go through several legal steps to prove that the horses were abandoned and ended up having to pay to feed and house them for the duration at her barn.

Another couple of trainers have both dealt over and over with not only people not paying their bills for months (not just paying a little late, but not paying for months), but ones who have refused to pay vet bills for emergency situations, citing that they were not called first to “okay” the treatment.  These were EMERGENCY situations, not a little cough or snotty nose.  The “kicker” is the fact that the stable owners who called the vet are the party ultimately responsible for paying the bill.  I thought this seemed very unfair.

What are these people thinking and how heartless can they be?  I understand that horses are expensive but, if they can’t afford a horse, then they shouldn’t buy a one.  Trainers or boarding stable owners, in general, are not independently wealthy and can’t absorb the cost of these horses easily.  Just because an owner acts like the horse isn’t alive or sick doesn’t mean that the animal  just ceases to exist or magically gets “well” on its own.  They still eat, drink and poop!

Sometimes I think horse owners need to pass some sort of a test before they are allowed to own a horse just to make sure they have enough common sense in their heads to handle the responsibility!

13 Responses to My “Shout It Out!” For Tonight – We Need a Test

  1. Mocha Mom says:

    I’m probably preaching to the choir on this site, but I couldn’t agree with Black Eye Beth more!

    About 4 years ago (maybe more, maybe fewer) I attended the AMHA convention in Boston. Instead of the Round Table discussions, they had a lecture series called Train the Trainer. One of the topics was Tips for Improving Trainer/Client Relationships presented by Bonnie Sogoloff. The thing that stuck in my mind from that lecture was the response to a question from the audience. The question was, “What can the client do to improve the relationship?” The immediate response was, “Pay your bill on time.” Now that I have trainers that I love and respect, I understand where that response came from.

    I think that a lot of owners just see the glamorous side of being a trainer, like the victory passes. Before I had a horse with a professional trainer, that’s what I saw. And I had heard horror stories that made me think that trainers were just going to try to take advantage of me and perhaps abuse my horse in pursuit of the blue ribbon. These people don’t see that there is a lot of hard work and compassion for the animals, mixed with a healthy dose of God-given natural ability that results in that victory pass. And it’s that compassion that leads them to treat the animals in their care like they were their own, resulting in vet bills, etc. If you don’t see these qualities in your trainer, perhaps it’s time to look for a new trainer, but don’t take it out on your poor horse. Owning horses is a responsibility similar to having children. (Don’t get me started on “It takes a village to raise a child.” See BEB’s Shout It Out! on Disrespectful Kids and Parents.) Do we really need to go down the road of contracts with hold harmless clauses and lawsuits in small claims court? Will trainers need to run background checks on potential clients before they accept a horse in training? That sort of wrangling will necessarily result in increased training fees just so the trainers can stay in business. Although I suppose that clients who find it necessary to neglect their horses and refuse to pay their bills, don’t care how high the fees are.

    Before I had a trainer I thought that the best trainers were those that made the victory passes at the Grand National and the other big shows year after year. Now I understand that the best trainers are those with a golden combination of talent,compassion, and work ethic which may or may not include those victory passes. And if you truly deserve your horse, that’s the kind of trainer you want and should be willing to pay for.

  2. erikarose says:

    So I might be slightly off topic but what the two of you are saying set a spark off in my head about trainers.

    I couldn’t agree more. I have experienced several aspects of training and showing. I have been with a trainer who let us down (I won’t go into details), so I took over as trainer. Well I had fair success with training my own horses, and then when my goals got bigger we went to a professional, I then worked for them over the summers and for a few years.

    At this point I couldn’t imagine having my horses anywhere else (aside from at home with me *grin*). They are amazingly talented, hard working, dedicated individuals. But most of all they are brutally honest and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They will tell you if your horse is capable of fulfilling your dreams of winning or not, on what level you can accomplish what you want, and what division your horse wants to be in.

    I really hate to think about trainers ripping off clients by giving them false hope that they can win even though when the horse doesn’t have the quality or by putting a hunter in English classes etc. just because that is what the client wants. In the end no one is happy.

    I would much rather pull a horse out of training to bring home and enjoy then “dump” thousands into trying to make it compete on a level that isn’t appropriate. Yes I am a client (we have 2-4 horses in training normally) but I still have 1-2 horses at home that I train and show myself. The horses that we can take to the big regional shows and OKC stay with the trainers, and the ones who won’t cut it on that level come home with me and I show them locally, and A.

    My goal is to eventually open my own training/breeding facility and talking about these issues is so important to me. I have a grasp on what I am getting myself into, with clients, but you can never stop learning or listening. I am still young, and only been involved with horses for 9 years, but have been lucky enough to be tossed in head first. I have dealt with 20+ clients hands on at a few facilities, and I would say the very most important thing with building a good reliable clientele is that they see they are getting what they are paying for. They must respect their trainer and the trainer must respect the client. I think honesty will get you further then any other trick.

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    erikarose, Great comment! It sounds like your trainer’s philosophy is alot like that of Shirley O’Gorman (see post: “Interview with Shirley O’Gorman“). Communication is the key along with the good old “Golden Rule”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Black Eye Beth, I just read Shirley’s interview and it was impecably answered. I have seen her show many a time but have never met her. After reading that I feel like I’m having one of those blonde “oh!!” moments. I can definately put those words to what I have seen her do. I think you should try to get some more interviews with other trainers, I know I would LOVE to read them, and I’m sure many others would!

    Really, what is the Morgan breed without showing? Aren’t we all about exhibiting the best of Morgan versatility? Isn’t that how the breed gained popularity in the begining years?

    As with all breeds, some individuals can compete in several arenas, but some were born and bred for one purpose. I want to know why it is such a controvery within the morgan breed that individuals are being bred with a sole purpose in mind (and I think it is being proven especially in the latest Breeders Forum in the Morgan Connection that whatever the division the horse chooses doesn’t matter as long as it is a Morgan)?? Show breeders breed for show horses, Lippit breeders breed to support the Lippit’s, and Sport breeders breed for sport horses. The age old question is why can’t we all get along and support each other? We are dealing with such a young breed of unknown origins there are bound to be differences.

  5. erikarose says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize that I was no longer logged in for that last comment. And sorry that at this point, I am WAY off topic

  6. Black Eye Beth says:

    Don’t worry about being off topic… that is the beauty of discussion; it can go anywhere.

    It is funny that you mentioned the argument over breeding and “types” of morgans as I am planning on posting on this subject soon. I am waiting for an “ok” to post a letter that started a very heated thread in a yahoo group about this (you may be following it too–people are ruthless over there!). Hopefully I will hear back soon and I hope it starts some discussion here too.

    (ps Shirley and Tim O’Gorman are great people and trainers. I know them very well. If I ever have a chance to meet you I would love to introduce you to them. Also I am in the works on more interviews, too)

  7. Mocha Mom says:

    In response to Anonymous, in my experience, the people who own and show Morgan “show horses” are very accepting of Morgans who do other things. They know that not every Morgan is destined to be a show horse and are happy that there are other arenas in which those horses can excel. I have one of those horses. She has excellent Morgan type and conformation. She even has the ability to be a show horse, but she just isn’t happy doing it. Now she is a carriage driving horse and loving it.

    On the other hand, I know of a woman who breeds Lippit-type Morgans and belonged to a Lippit club. She decided that she would like to try a Lippit mule by crossing one of her horses with a donkey. When the Lippit club heard about it she was reprimanded. Now that is intolerance. What’s the big deal? It’s not like the mule could reproduce and dilute the Lippit line.

    I have also seen people who do carriage driving and/or dressage with their Morgans complain that they are made to feel like second-class citizens at all-Morgan shows. While I agree that Morgan sport horses should be represented at our Regional and Grand National shows, there are often financial and other considerations that limit what can be done. There are simply not enough of the Morgan sport horses attending these shows to give them much time in the main show ring or to be able to afford to hire judges experienced in their discipline.

    I think that a lot of people with Morgan sport horses feel that they can get better competition that is closer to home by attending the all-breed shows specific to their discipline. They aren’t complaining about feeling like second-class citizens. They are going out and cleaning up in a sport that they love. People with Morgan show horses are doing the same thing. They attend the shows where they will get the best competition, which tend to be the all-Morgan shows. They are not trying to exclude anyone.

    I also don’t think that AMHA is trying to exclude anyone. It’s just that the people who show up and volunteer tend to be “show horse” owners while others sit back and complain or file lawsuits.

  8. evamorgan says:

    The best advice I can give on slow/non paying clients was something Mike Goebig told Brad when Brad was his asst. If they don’t pay you the first month they won’t pay you the second. Don’t let anyone get into you for more than that, better to have an empty stall than have one in it that you don’t own but are paying for. That has stood us in good stead over the years. I have heard of trainers letting clients get into 5 figures of overdue bills. That’s just silly.

  9. evamorgan says:

    I also wanted to agree with blackeyedbeth(love the story of that) about Tim and Shirley being great people! They are what we need more of in our business. Just my 2 cents.

  10. Mocha Mom says:

    Sounds to me like someone needs to nominate Tim And Shirley for the Golden Reins Award. AND I think that someone who has received the award would know who is deserving and should make the nomination. :-)

  11. Black Eye Beth says:

    Well…I love that idea!!

  12. kad says:

    As someone that has been on both sides of the fence (payor & payee that is) I can tell you that I would never consider not paying my bill for my horse. I just don’t see it as an option and it blows my mind when other people do. What gives me the right to make someone else financially responsible for something that doesn’t belong to them?
    As we are all aware when we get into this, horses are expensive and time consuming so why do some people feel they are not responsible for there own bills? Why do expect someone to show up to work daily (and sometimes at all hours of the night when a horse is sick)only to find he/she is not going to receive a paycheck for their efforts? I’m sure that if they (a non-payer)show’d up to work only to find they may never be paid or paid when their employer had the money they won’t stay working there very long would they? It’s absolutely no different. Yes, most that making a living caring for horses do it because they truly love it but they too still have financial responsibilities of their own and need to be paid – on time!

  13. Black Eye Beth says:

    That is a good picture…the non-payer showing up to receive their paycheck at their job and not getting it. Maybe that is what “purgatory” will be for them!!

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