Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why I left Riverview Stables

Last year, right around this time, I moved Tucker to Riverview Stables in Hillsborough NJ.  I had a friend boarding there already, and while the facility was a very "no frills" place, it was adequate for my needs and the care (at the time) seemed really good, based on what I was told when I toured the place. The footing wasn't great in the rings, but it was rideable, and since the board rate was so affordable (for our area, at least), I figured I would make do.  As my readers know, we had a great group of boarders and we had a lot of fun.  On balance, it was a good place for us for the better part of this year.  In hindsight... well, that's another story.

At some point this fall, a few odd things happened that made me a little concerned.  A horse was left out until late one night because they "couldn't catch him."  You can imagine by that time of night, all by himself, the poor thing was frantic.  A horse was found at night in his stall with a halter and lead rope left on him, the chain still over his nose.  A horse that was on stall rest wasn't getting wrapped and getting meds as promised.  I walked in one day and our barn manager was smoking a cigarette while he was mucking stalls.  (The idiocy of that. I just can't.)  I could go on, but you guys get the idea.  (Note that I'm only reporting what I have first hand, eye witness knowledge of.  It is not my intention to spread rumors.)

These little things (along with a few others) start to add up, and while none of them had happened to Tucker or me personally, I felt like maybe it was time to start looking around.  Then the bedding started getting skimpy, free choice hay turned into a hayloft with a padlock on it (nope, not kidding), the barn was a mess all the time, and my request to do something about the footing in the indoor went ignored for weeks.  I don't know what caused the change in care, I have no idea what's going on in the personal lives of our barn managers, and it's none of my business.  But, in my opinion, my list of complaints was too long for me to reasonably ask barn management to fix, so I found a new place and gave my notice at the start of this month.  

I had planned to leave on good terms.  I sent a very polite text when I gave my notice.

And this is where our story takes a turn.

Since Tucker is a bit of a special snowflake in the feed department, I pay for my own grain. Historically, the barn was buying my grain with their grain order and billing me for it.  I usually texted the barn manager asking for the cost each month and then left a check at some point during the second week.  Sometimes she had to remind me to leave a check, cause I get distracted when I'm at the barn and on pony time.  (These details will become important later.)

This month, the barn manager (we'll call her Kelly, because that's her name), gave me the total for grain, and I forgot to leave the check, so she reminded me again.  Then I got a text mid-week that Tucker was out of grain.  At which point I surmised that they had decided not to pick up grain for Tucker this month until they had my check. Whatever, I'm leaving and they want to make sure I don't owe them anything when I go.  I get it.  There are other horses in the barn on the same grain, so there's really no emergency.  Just replace whatever we used for Tucker for a couple of days.  No biggie.

So, last Friday morning, I was able to go into work a little bit later and I picked up my grain, and stopped by the barn to drop it off.  When I creaked open the feed room door, I was met by a roaring chorus of whinnying.  I looked around and saw the horses' breakfast buckets still stacked in the feed room.  It's now 9:30 a.m.  I had to get to my office, so I dumped my horse's grain (I still feel horribly guilty for not feeding the rest of them, the thought comes back to me all the time during the day and I will probably always regret that), and sent the following text:


At this point, acceptable answers would have been: "Sorry, at the emergency room, I think they may have to amputate" or "I am at [insert loved one's name here]'s funeral and [insert name of responsible party] was supposed to feed the horses" or possibly, "I've been kidnapped, please send Liam Neeson to help." Instead, this is what I received:


Okay, so my response was less than measured.  But what other possible reaction could I have when I learn that the only reason my horse hasn't been fed is because it's cold out?  Now, at this point we know two things:  1) There is absolutely no good reason the horses haven't been fed; and 2) Given the reaction wasn't even a measly, "oh man I overslept I'll be right there," we know that this probably happens all the time.  OMG.  We were told they feed around 6 or 7 am, and yet my poor ulcer prone horse was getting fed hours later.  That's not breakfast, that's BRUNCH, PEOPLE.  Let me ask you something.  When you're cold, do you stand around doing nothing to keep warm?  Do you deprive yourself of food for hours on end?  Does that keep you warm?  No?

Side note.  I was voluntarily outside in this same weather dropping off my grain, dressed for work. It was cold, but definitely not Antarctica-too-cold-to-go-outside-or-risk-hypothermia cold.  Definitely cold enough to cause colic if the horses are standing around with empty bellies for hours, however.  I just couldn't help myself, I had to ask:


Okay, so I exaggerated here a little.  The sun had been up for two and a half hours. It was an estimate.


Now this is where it gets interesting.  Kelly stops responding, and I start getting texts from the other barn manager, whose family owns the property.  We'll call him Randy, cause that's his name.


Now, I take full ownership of the fact that I was absolutely livid at this point so I wasn't being very nice.  There are definitely more mature ways to handle this.  You all might have handled it better than I did.  My horse hadn't been fed, no one seemed to care, and I was angry.

The check he's asking about is the check for my grain (don't worry, my board was paid on time as always).  As I explained above, they usually picked up my grain for me and billed me.  In case you're having as much trouble following this as Randy apparently was, this is the very same grain I had just dropped off.  But he wasn't about to let that go.


First of all don't tell me I'm not "responsabile!"  Second of all, don't ask me why I was even explaining it to him.  Like I said, I was angry.  Stick with me here, things are just about to get good.


Okay, I know, you're right.  I started name-calling and that definitely didn't help matters.  But can we please just for a second acknowledge the fact that Tucker the Wunderkind was just called a "piece of shit horse"?  I'm pretty sure this guy deserves the moniker I gave him. 

(If you need to take a moment to let your anger subside, I totally understand.  Tucker is basically an internet celebrity, and you love him.  I totally get it.)


Once again, I take full responsibility for the fact that I had to be reminded about my grain check twice.  I totally did!  I was there the prior weekend and I definitely forgot!  Now, if someone could please explain to me how that somehow excuses not feeding a barn full of horses, I would absolutely love to be enlightened.  I have to tell you as much as I try, I can't seem to get the correlation.

Also, I haven't heard "waaa cry about it Marissa" since at least 4th grade.  Thanks for the throw back!

Now, at this point, I decided that the other boarders at my barn had a right to know what was going on.  I thought that if this had happened to another boarder, I would want to know.  And I would want to see management's responses for myself.  So I sent this, to every boarder in the barn, along with the screen shots above:


Here's where Randy really goes bananas.  


Just in case he wasn't unprofessional enough before...  He went ahead and took that extra step:

I blocked out the other two boarders' names, because they really didn't do anything wrong.  I'm not sure why he singled them out to be honest.  The conversation deteriorates from there. I asked for my board back because I was now being evicted, his response was predictably offensive and ridiculous.  I haven't decided if it's worth pursuing.  

So, that's the story of how I ended up shipping four horses out last Friday night.  I've been told more boarders are leaving or might leave, and I'm happy to hear that because I genuinely cared for each and every horse on that property and it pains me to think of them standing there hungry for no reason other than the fact that the people charged with their care didn't want to leave their warm cozy beds.

And just so we are clear.  I know how hard it is to be a barn manager, and I know getting up early in the morning in the freezing cold day after day all winter kind of sucks.  The days are long and tiring and sometimes it feels like a thankless job when you do a lot of work and there's no one there to say thank you for it.  I know this because I've done it.  I've worked in barns for almost my entire life. And I know that what gets you out and in the barn aisle when you don't feel like going is the fact that there are helpless animals counting on you for their happiness and well being.  If that doesn't motivate you to get out of bed, you're probably in the wrong job.  

32 comments:

  1. Ugh, what a hideous situation! And I can't believe how unprofessional the barn managers were- even if you WERE name-calling and being rightfully angry, they didn't have to choose to respond so poorly!

    Sounds like you made the right move.

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  2. My brain just exploded. I... have no words, except THANK GOD YOU GOT TUCKER OUT. Thank God.

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    1. My exact response as well!!! Wow!

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  3. I was somewhere in the middle of all of this and can vouch for every word said above. So grateful we got out safely and an enormous thank you to Marissa for trailering us out!

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  4. HOLY SHITBALLS!!! Those people are crazy!!! Thank god Tucker and the other horses didn't colic...

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    1. I didn't even see this comment when I was writing mine, but we had the same reaction!

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  5. Holy shit, you have balls. I am so impressed.

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  6. Well I'm glad you got out and were able to do so on such short notice.

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  7. Holy shit!!!!! First of all calling that big eared sweetheart a piece of shit is laughable but also makes me want to kick him in the throat. Wow wow wow!!! I cannot imagine being involved in that situation. Wait a second yes I can because I was involved in worse when LAZ foundered and I literally couldn't move him because he wouldn't handle a trailer ride and I saw the barn manager take a pitchfork to a sweet senior horse. There are some sick assholes out there and I'm glad you got Tucker out of there The day we left was the best day of our life too also I will say you've got some mighty big lady balls lol kudos lady-that texting war got cray!!!!!

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  8. ugh what an ugly situation, and so unprofessional :(

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  9. Been there, almost. When the care of the horses becomes an issue like that, there is only one answer. Get the heck out, fast. Lucky you had a place to take the horses that left. That's usually the problem with making a hasty escape--no place to go. Glad you, Tucker, and the other boarders/horses are safely away. Sounds to me as if that situation was likely to escalate into something dangerous.

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  10. That is completely mad. Glad you escaped. Swearing totally called for, imo.

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  11. Wow! That dude's a real piece of work. I'm glad that you were able to get Tucker and the other horses out of there so fast. Plus, what kind of grown man taunts a paying client with "haha", "lol", and "waaaa"? Despite what he thinks, part of his job is customer service and a true professional would have at least tried to handle the situation with tact. He should be fired, regardless of the fact that his family owns the property.

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  12. I am flabbergasted at the behavior of these so called barn managers. I am SO GLAD you and your horse got out of there. Did this man even graduate high school? Wow. Just .... unbelievable.

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  13. I am flabbergasted at the behavior of these so called barn managers. I am SO GLAD you and your horse got out of there. Did this man even graduate high school? Wow. Just .... unbelievable.

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  14. Know this farm - had equally as horrible stories and experiences - There's no lies said above

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  15. So sorry you had to go through this! I will say our horses are fed later in the winter because we feel it is too cold to turn them out in the early morning hours before the sun. But, they are used to this! And they are given time to adjust from the summer when they get fed as early as possible so they can get outside before the sun is too strong. I can definitely see how its frustrating that they don't have a steady schedule. It won't hurt them not to eat until 9:30 one day, but I totally get how it makes you question everything else. In light of all the rest, you did the right thing! Not buying his grain makes me sick and is so petty. The horse's well being should come over all else! Including money and staying warm.

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  16. This is insanity! I messaged you privately too. Insanity!!

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  17. In light of the situation, merely calling that person an "asshole" shows a great deal of restraint. Glad you left asap!

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  18. Holy smokes... No words. I can tolerate plenty of things but not taking care of innocent animals that clients have entrusted to your care is unforgivable. I dealt with some similar care situations and just now finally have my own trailer to be able to actually help myself and others in bad situations.

    People make me sick. Glad you escaped.

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  19. Woah. I... am so sorry. What a nightmare.

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  20. I've been in a similar situation (horses were fed hay with NIGHTSHADE in it and nobody seemed to care) and had to remove my horses immediately as well. When the care is in question, the only option is to leave and fast. You have NO IDEA what people are doing to your horse when you're not there, and any breach of trust like that is inexcusable. I'm so glad you got Tucker and the others out, and I hope your new barn is awesome. :)

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  21. Wow. Just wow.

    I've been in two horrible boarding situations. In the first one, I gave the barn my one month noticed and they STOPPED FEEDING MY HORSES. Both horses dropped noticeable weight. They also had the NERVE to ban me from their property, even though I never did anything wrong. I was just moving to a barn closer to my house.

    The second place...the care was impeccable, but the BO was crazy. She once came down totally drunk and screamed at a girl who was moving out of the barn to go to college. She constantly talked crap about me and her other students behind their backs. And, when I left, I gave her my one month notice to her face and she insulted me and my horse. Now she makes passive aggressive posts on FB at times directed towards me. It's sad :( These people are supposed to be professionals!

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  22. Hollllllllllllllllly crap. Just, WOW. So unprofessional, so passive aggressive, and just plain rude! Glad you were able to escape.

    Makes me so thankful that my horse is always fed between 630 and 7am (regardless of how cold/hot/rainy/snowy it is), and then turned out for the day by 730am because my BO/trainer lives about 100 feet from the barn.

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  23. What the WHAT!? I'm dumbfounded. How is that acceptable behavior from the BM?

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  24. Horse people can be so weird, but this is a new level of insane. I would have been livid as well if I learned that my horses were getting such awful care, specifically because nobody cared enough to do right by them.

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  25. This is straight out of a f****** nightmare. wow.

    You know, boarding barns rely on word-of-mouth reputation. If I owned a boarding barn where you know, I promise goods and services in exchange for money, if I don't provide the expectations made by the people GIVING ME THAT MONEY, then the LAST thing I'm going to do is get defensive. I need people to board at my barn in order to survive financially. I don't get that by being rude to my customers. Randy is a dick and a super awful businessman, so is Kelly. At the very least, forgetting animal welfare, they are running a business and bad attitudes and poor business practice will sink them. How hard is it to provide the very BASIC services you agreed to? So what if you had to be reminded to write a check; you obviously haven't been delinquent for weeks on end!

    It's so sad and infuriating that they'll never ever learn. I am so impressed that you managed to stick to the issue (not feeding till 9:30) in the face of his extremely inane asshatery. "Because it's freezing"--????? since when are winter clothes suddenly removed from her closet? UGH.

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  26. WOW. That's all there is to say about that… But the fact that you only said "asshole" makes you a much better person than I. Holy shit. So glad you're out and hope the other boarders leave ASAP!

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  27. Wow. That is unbelievable. Way to go sticking up for your horse and letting all the other boarders know. What an unprofessional way to run a business!

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  28. I felt my blood boiling on your behalf. I know we all have horror stories, but rarely have I seen the manager be so brazen about being called out... or stupid enough to be responding via text. What shit. Grateful you guys are someplace else!! That sort of anxiety is the WORST anxiety.

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  29. Wow, I was given 5 days notice because I had been thinking out loud about testing the water at the barn and the hay for high levels of Iron so I could create custom mineral supplements. I had been told by the local feedstore that all the well water in the area had a lot of Iron. The simple fix is adding more copper and zinc. But good to know that your horse actually needs it before the test. Well the boarders who were already a mean girl posse told the barn manager I was going to test for LEAD. Of course no one included me in this conversation. They all apparently stood around debating if I should be allowed to test for lead. Then the barn manager then finds me in the arena and rips me a new one telling me if I ever touch their hay or water I will out of there that day! I tried to explain that I was only thinking about testing for Iron and not lead and it was merely for custom supplements and had been done at other barns and was a modern way to find out what your horses needs are. She then goes on to say how dare you insinuate that our hay and water might KILL your horse. Then my trainer calls me to tell me I am really stepping over the line wanting to test for lead! Yet last week we had a conversation about possibly testing for IRON and he thought it was a great idea since my horses hooves were falling apart. What could have been an interesting barn science project turned into a mob scene and they did not even get the mineral correct! After I explained that I was only thinking about it and that it was just Iron and that high levels of Iron are not illegal etc. I thought the barn manager might apologize for screaming at me based on false info she was told. But nope, the next day I had 5 days to vacate. Not as bad a situation as " have to move that night" as some posters were told. But it has shaken me. I no longer trust barn owners or the managers to be rational people. And I was not able to find a great barn in 5 days so now stuck wondering what will happen when I give notice there as care has fallen flat in just one month. Riding seemed a lot more fin when I was a kid! Were barn owners nicer then or did we just not see it???

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