What to Look For in the Perfect Boarding Barn
Keeping your equine partner at a horse boarding barn is not cheap. If the facility is poorly maintained or has an unfriendly atmosphere, you’ll be paying good money to be unhappy. But with smart investigating you can find the perfect boarding barn for you and your horse.
Take this list on your barn trips to help you ask the right questions.
- Do the horses appear healthy and content?
- Or are they thin and dejected?
- Are any of them coughing? Do they have runny noses?
- Stall dimensions of at least 12’ x 12’ are preferable. Your horse will spend many hours in there and needs room to move around comfortably.
- Are the stalls clean with enough bedding? Make sure your horse can lie down without scraping the floor and that stalls are cleaned at least once a day.
- Can the horses see their neighbors? Being social creatures, horses like to see their fellow boarders.
- Is there a gap between the top of the outside walls and the roof to let air in? There should be no gaps in the walls themselves.
- Does the barn let in natural light?
- Is there dust in the air?
- Are the aisles free of dangerous items like pitchforks and wheelbarrows?
- Are they wide enough to pass through easily?
- How large are the pastures?
- Do they contain grass or are they overgrazed? If he has insufficient grass your horse will get bored and be miserable.
- Are there too many horses in each field?
- Are the horses compatible? Is there any fighting?
- Is the fencing safe and secure? Barbed or regular wire is extremely dangerous to horses.
- Is there broken fencing? This can cause injury.
- Is there debris in the field? It must be clear of anything which could harm your horse.
- Is there adequate shelter for horses on pasture board?
- What are the winter and summer turnout hours?
- Is turnout at least 8 hours a day? (Or whatever number of hours you’d like for your horse.)
- What is the inclement weather policy? Most barns don’t turn out if it’s raining. If the weather is bad for days on end, your horse will be stuck in his stall: you’ll need to exercise him more often.
- What care is provided if your horse is sick?
- If he’s on stall rest, will you have to pay extra? He’ll need additional stall cleaning and hay, so it’s not unreasonable to pay more, but you’ll want to know how much!
- Hay is expensive: here’s where unscrupulous barn owners save money.
- Is the hay of good quality? Is it musty?
- Is it the right type of hay for your horse?
- Are the horses given separate piles in the field to prevent bullying? Watch for bossy horses preventing the others from eating.
- How much hay will your horse get daily? If you have a large horse he will need more hay than the average.
- Clean water must be available AT ALL TIMES!
- Do the horses have 24/7 access to water in their stalls and in the field?
- Is there more than one trough in the paddock, so dominant horses can’t prevent the others from drinking?
- Are the water buckets and outdoor water troughs heated?
- How does the barn deal with the problem of ice in winter?
Feed & Other
- How often, how much, and what are the horses fed?
- Can you bring your own feed? You don’t normally get a break in price if you supply your own.
- Supplements and medication – Does the barn add these to the feed free of charge?
- Is worming included in monthly board?
- Are blankets put on and removed as necessary?
- Will a staff member hold your horse for the farrier or vet? At what charge?
- Security and safety – What type of insurance and security does the barn have? What insurance do you need?
- Must the horses be vaccinated? Do all the horses need a negative Coggins? If the answer is ‘no’ to either question, avoid the barn at all costs!
- Is there a riding arena? Does it have an all-weather surface?
- Can it accommodate the number of boarders?
- How often is it occupied by lessons? Do lesson times conflict with when you can ride?
- Is the footing too deep or shallow?
- Is the arena regularly graded to ensure a smooth and safe riding surface?
- Are jumps available, if you need them?
- Is there clutter in the arenas? Equipment left lying around is aggravating and potentially dangerous.
- Are there neighboring riding trails?
- Does the barn have a free style horse exerciser? This is extremely useful for those days when you can’t ride. A covered walker is even better, as it allows you to exercise your horse during inclement weather.
Storage and Bathroom Facilities
- Is there a locked tack room for your saddle and bridle?
- Is there storage for your other horse equipment, such as blankets and grooming kit?
- Is there a restroom?
- Must you use the barn’s instructor or can you bring your own?
- If you have to use the barn’s instructor, watch several lessons. Is he/she the right fit for you?
Hours of Operation
- What are the barn hours? Are you locked out on holidays?
- Can you come late, after work?
- Can you come early in the morning before work?
- Hang around the barn and soak in the atmosphere.
- Is everyone friendly and welcoming?
- Is this a one-discipline only barn?
- You’ll feel more comfortable if some boarders ride the same discipline and at the same level as yourself.
- Do the riders treat their horses with kindness and consideration?
You and your equine partner will spend a lot of time at the barn. You both need to be happy, so take your time and check out a lot of places. When you find the ideal barn, you’ll be very glad your research was so thorough – and so will your horse.