Tips for Choosing the Perfect Horse Boarding Facility
There are many reasons to keep your horse at a boarding stable. Having professional staff around to keep an eye on your horse provides peace of mind that you don’t have if you leave your horse at home alone all day.
A horse boarding stable also can provide a supportive community of fellow horse owners and knowledgeable equestrians. And if you aren’t able to purchase horse-friendly land of your own, boarding makes horse ownership possible.
When choosing a boarding barn, look for one with the type of riding facilities you need, whether that’s trails, jumps or an indoor arena. From there, you can look at the types of board offered and what will fit your lifestyle and your wallet the best.
Types of Horse Boarding Stables
If you’re able to get out to the barn every day and feel confident in your horse keeping abilities, self-care is a good option. This arrangement provides a place for your horse to live—nothing more. It’s the most affordable option, and it allows you to be a hands-on owner, even if you don’t have a farm of your own.
You’ll be in charge of your horse’s daily feeding and stall cleaning, plus any other care he requires. Most self-care situations require boarders to purchase their own hay, horse feed and bedding, and to furnish their own horse stable supplies. Be sure to factor this in when calculating costs, and don’t underestimate the effort that may be required to find good quality horse hay.
If you travel frequently, have an unpredictable work or family schedule, or are a novice owner who could benefit from an experienced eye, self-care board probably won’t meet your needs.
Want to be a hands-on horse owner, but can’t commit to visiting the barn twice a day, every day? Then consider partial care.
Partial-care arrangements vary from barn to barn. It may be a situation where the barn staff feeds and turns out your horse in the morning, and you’re responsible for bringing him in, doing the evening feeding and cleaning your own stall.
Some partial-care barns form owner co-ops that share labor. For example, you feed and turn everyone’s horse out a few nights a week, and they feed and turn your horse out on other nights.
Make sure you fully understand what is required before choosing this type of boarding arrangement.
In a full-care arrangement, the stable takes care of all your horse’s day-to-day needs. This typically means feeding, stall cleaning and turnout. Blanketing and other extras may or may not be included in full-care board. Veterinary service also might be provided.
Full-care boarding is a great option for horse owners with busy work schedules, hectic family lives or who want an experienced set of eyes on their horse every day.
Some barns offer an option that provides full care, plus some extras. In a full-service situation, your horse will be groomed daily. The barn staff will take care of daily blanketing, horse fly spray, fly masks and blanket changes in case the weather shifts during the day. They will bring in your horse and hold him for vet and farrier appointments, which can be a big help for horse owners who work full-time.
The biggest downside to full-service boarding is the cost. These extra services come at a premium, so this is not the best option for penny-pinching equestrians. Because of the hands-on nature of the arrangement, horses in full-service board almost always are stabled for at least part of the day, so if you prefer 24/7 turnout for your horse, this might not be a good fit.
If you have a green horse or are working toward some competitive goals, having your horse in a training program can help you get where you want to be. Training board is typically paired with full-care or full-service boarding.
In addition to those services, a professional trainer will work with your horse a set number of times each week. It also might include a set number of lessons for you.
Some training barns restrict how much owners can ride their horses when in full training, because this could slow down or even reverse the progress of your horse’s training. Make sure you and the trainer understand each other’s expectations before putting your horse in a program.
Horse Boarding Tips: What to Look for When Choosing a Stable
Once you’ve determined what type of facilities and boarding arrangement you need, you can start looking at the details to find the right situation for you and your horse.
Horses do best with access to forage—either hay or grass—all the time. Take a look at the pastures. Are they crowded or weedy, or will there be plenty of good-quality grazing? If your horse will be in a stall or corral, will hay be fed at least two to three times per day?
Hay and Bedding Suppliers
For self- and partial-care situations, ask the barn owner if there are preferred hay, horse feed or bedding vendors who already deliver to the farm. Talk to other boarders at the farm to find out where they get their hay, what they pay for it and if they’d be willing to share hay and split the cost. You might have better luck finding a supplier who will deliver to the farm if you have a larger order.
Paying Your Bills
Dust off your checkbook. Most stables still take their payments the old-fashioned way, but be sure to get exact instructions on when monthly payments are due, where they should be dropped off or mailed to and what the penalties are for late payments. (Ideally, you’ll pay your bill on time every month, but it’s good to have this information ahead of time.)
Here are some additional questions you might want to ask before making your final decision:
- Are there procedures in place in case of an emergency, including an equine disease outbreak? If your area is prone to hurricanes, floods or wildfires, is there an evacuation procedure?
- Is there a required deworming program or is it up to you and your vet to devise a personalized deworming program for your horse?
- What amenities are available for boarders (bathrooms, lounge, heated/air-conditioned areas)? What kind of space will you have for horse tack and other supplies?
- What kind of horse supplies are you expected to provide? (Fly spray, water buckets, salt blocks, etc.)
- Are dogs allowed on the farm?
- Are outside trainers/instructors allowed?
- Would you be allowed to lease out your horse or have friends ride your horse on the property?
- What is the procedure and notice required if you decide to change barns or sell your horse?
Don’t be afraid to take a personal visit to boarding facilities to see what’s right for you and your horse. With enough time and research, you’ll find a horse boarding facility to call home.
Leslie Potter is the web editor for Horse Illustrated magazine. She has a B.S. in Equestrian Science from William Woods University and has been a horse owner—and boarder—for more than 15 years.
Featured Image: Via iStock.com/acceptfoto