by Nikki Livermore, Horsecity Staff
Not everyone can keep their horses in the back yard or have a farm of their own, and as the saying goes "the grass is always greener on the other side". Finding the perfect boarding facility for your treasured equine partner is not always easy.
Checking them out very carefully before making a transition is the key to making the right decision for both you and your horse.
When you find a place that you would like to visit, always make an appointment with the farm owner or barn manager. Showing up unannounced will give you a clear vision of what the barn is like “unprepared” but it is not courteous and might actually be a safety risk for yourself or the animals, not to mention, unlawful if you are trespassing.
Ask a lot of questions about the routine, hours of operation, type of feed, type of fencing, turnout options, size of stall, cleaning schedule and other daily things that will matter to the health management of your horse. Bring a notepad and pen to write things down if you think you might forget the details or write your questions prior to your appointment. It’s good to have a “checklist” in your mind that make you and your horse most comfortable.
While you are on the appointment take your time and look around. How clean is everything? Does it look well taken care of? Take a peek at the buckets and water troughs. Do the horses look healthy and happy? Is there adequate, safe storage for feed, hay, tack and other barn-related equipment? Does anything look like a health risk to you or your horse?
One great way to find out about the perfect boarding facility is to ask someone you know and trust, this could be your farrier, vet or trainer. Then check it out for yourself and see if you truly like it. Consider how long the facility has been in business and the capabilities of the caretakers. Is someone on the property 24 hours a day? Do they handle the horses with safety and care? Are all the horses on the same vet and farrier services? Are they up-to-date with deworming and vaccinations? Can you use your own vet or farrier?
Be sure to ask exactly what services are provided for the price of board. Many facilities are unable to provide extra help with medicating or treating your horse, holding for the vet or farrier or blanketing during winter months. Some provide those services, but charge an extra fee. One farm that I boarded at had a “buddy system” for boarders that wanted blankets taken on and off – it worked out great for everyone – at no additional cost. Some facilities require boarders to use all their own grooming supplies like fly spray and shampoo, others have a “community” supply and there might be an additional use fee.
Consider your training options at this new facility as well. Will your trainer be there for you or will you need to make a change? Is the new trainer suitable for you, your horse and your training goals? Do they have adequate riding areas and good footing? What are the rules and requirements once you are in the saddle? Do they offer clinics, competitions or trail rides at the facility?
See if you can visit at a time when other boarders are using the facility and riding to get a feel for what a normal day is. Do you feel you and your horse will fit in well? Let’s face it, a lot of us like boarding facilities based on the friends we make and relationships to the people we want to ride with. If there is no one to ride with, will you enjoy your time there?
Be sure to ask what the normal procedures for emergencies are. If you or your horse gets hurt, is there someone to call the vet or make decisions on your behalf? Is there a liability release for the facility? A boarding contract?
I hope these thoughts help you down the right path to the perfect place for you and your horse. Only you can truly know what makes you both happy and a great boarding facility is a treasured asset in horse ownership.