Your Horse’s Home Needs to Make You Both Happy
by Theresa Rice
Sometimes life circumstances change. You move off of property, buy your first horse, or are new to an area. You need to find a place to keep your horse. But how do you choose a place to board? Whatever the reason for your search there are some important considerations as you look for a boarding barn.
I got lucky with my boarding facility and have never considered going anywhere else to board. It’s the closest one to my house and the largest in the area so I signed up without much thought. Four years later I’m still there and feel fortunate to have landed at such a barn. But rather than depend on luck, take a little time to consider the following items before signing on the dotted line.
Care – The first order of business is to assess what level of care you are looking for and what the facility offers. Many places offer full care (feeding, cleaning, turn-in and out, and watering, every day) as well as partial care (you feed and clean every day and they give morning feed). If feed is included, is the feed offered what you want your horse fed? If you are going to do partial care, is there someone who can fill in for you when you’re not able to make it? If you provide your own feed, how much hay and grain can you store at a time?
Riding Areas – If you plan to ride through the winter in the Pacific Northwest you will need an indoor arena. The days can be wet, windy, snowy, (or all three) so you’ll need a covered arena for safe riding. Ask the boarding facility how often they work the footing in their arenas. The barn where I board works the arenas every single day. However, there are 150 horses boarded and ridden at that facility. If you are looking at a facility where only a few horses are ridden in the arena each day, working up the dirt may only be important every few days. Whatever end of the spectrum, the footing quality will impact your riding and you’ll want to have clear expectations of how they care for their riding surfaces.
Turn Out – I believe in the importance of horses having the chance to just be horses, to be silly and buck and fart and gallop. Does the facility allow you to put up a hotwire enclosure outside? Is there a large pasture for turn out? Are geldings kept separate from mares or are there turn-out groups? A constantly rotating herd will mean a constant vying for herd position. Vying for herd position can look pretty brutal, so if you don’t like the idea of your horse getting kicked, bitten or chased around some, you’ll need to take that into consideration.
Outdoor Riding – Suburban sprawl has encroached on many riding facilities. If trail riding is important to you, finding a facility that has access to trails or maintains on-property trails will be another important feature to inquire about.
No Drama – You’ll never find a boarding facility where everyone gets along and everything is rainbows, unicorns and laughter. To assess where on the “drama meter” a barn falls, ask to talk to the long-term boarders. If the facility can only produce someone who has boarded for a year, consider that a red flag. You can also get a sense for how conflict is handled by asking the office how they have handled past arguments between boarders. Did they let them hash it out themselves or did they facilitate understanding? Or did they kick both arguing parties out? My preference would be the mediation to a solution. A boarding barn is a business; they want to foster an environment in which people are content. Having boarders move in and out costs the boarding facility money. They should want to work to keep the peace.