Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Burden of Boarding - What Makes a good Boarding Facility?

I will tell you straight up - I hate boarding my horse. Unfortunately I do not have a choice right now do to income, and the price of housing in the city I live and work in. I grew up with my horses in my backyard, minus a few years in between when my parents split. My mom always did all the work taking care of the horses, and my sister and I helped out by doing what we could at a young age. We started with just a 2 acre paddock and an old chicken coop converted into a run in shed. It was more than enough for my sister and I who just did pony club and schooling shows.

When my mom re-married we made the decision to either move right downtown into the city, or buy a small hobby farm in the country. We all agreed on the farm, and they purchased a cute, but rough little farm. My step father turned the old cattle barn and storage garage into our current Stable which has 6 spacious box stalls, a pony box stall, and room for a couple more stalls that is used for hay storage. Their barn is an Z tetris shape, and has one side open to our 25 foot run-in shed.

In highschool I did my best to help out my parents with the horses. My mom usually did mornings and I did afternoon's after school and in the summer. I would do night on and off also, however I wasn't the best teenager and I know at times my mother was left to do a lot of it herself. Thank you mom!! From years and years of being able to cater my horse care exactly how I wanted it, I have become completely spoiled. I would bring the horses in according to weather, temperature, if the flies were bad, etc, etc. In result our horses were always comfortable, and happy.

In addition to controlling their turn-out and stable time, I could ride whenever I pleased, do whatever I pleased, have whoever I pleased there, and stay in the barn as late as I wished! Does it really get any better than that? My dogs were always welcome, my friends could ride over and park their horse in a stall for the day and no one would care - it was our place afterall. No one cared if I went on an interior tack room decorating frenzy, or plastered my horses stall with ribbons and pictures. I could give my horse unlimited hay, bed his stall as deep as I liked, and give them all stall guards with massive fans blowing in their faces in the humid summer. I quickly realized once I moved to the city I would never find that freedom anywhere I board my horse. It is a very, VERY, hard thing for me to adjust to, when I have become so particular in my horses care.

I will admit I am really picky when it comes to horse care. I like it that way though, blame my mother and Pony Club. So what are some things to look for in a good boarding facility? A lot of depends on you and your horse.
First, you have to ask yourself some questions;
Most important is budget - What can you afford? There is no point in looking at a place that you can't afford. If you find yourself lost because of cost, you may need to work some extra hours like I do. It's tough, but worth it.
Does your horse need indoor or outdoor board? Do you require a stall?

How much turn-out does your horse require? Can your horse be turned out in a herd, or individual? Is turn-out amount and quality important to you?
What type of facility do you require? Do you need an outdoor ring? An arena? Miles of trails? A dressage arena, a cross-country course? Do you simply require a nice turnout area?

Are you looking for a competition barn? With lessons, coaching, trailering and support at shows?

Do the barn managers and employees hold the same values in horse care as you? Are they knowledgeable and experienced? Can they handle emergencies?

Look at the overall picture. Do you feel comfortable leaving your horse in their care? Are you able to not be at the barn for periods of time and not worry? Does the barn feel like a "good fit". These are all very important questions you must ask yourself before you start to look for a place for your horse.

Once you have a few places in mind, start making appointments to view them. Always bring someone with you for a second opinion. Once you are at the locations, there are a few things you must check out before making a decision.

Where would your horses stall be? (If they are going to be turned in)

What is the feeding schedule? How many feedings do they do a day? What feed do they use? Ask to see their hay to check the quality. Are boarders free to feed extra hay if they feel their horse needs a bit extra from time to time? Or, do they keep hay locked up in a mysterious place only employees know about. That is not a good sign!

How is the water supplied in the barn and in the paddocks? Is it fresh, it is always available? What do they do to prevent freezing?

Where is the turnout, and how long do they get turned out. What hours are they turned out? Do they offer booting, fly masks and blanketing if neccessary?

What type of fencing do they use? Is it properly maintained?

Find out about arena time (if they have one). What happens when there are lessons? How often do they drag the ring (indoor/outdoor)? Check the footing, how does it look? Is it dusty, or lumpy? Is there a noticible track around the edge?

Look around the barn, how clean and tidy is it? Are there enough cross ties for a few people, or will you be forced to tack up in your stall? Is there room in the tack room for all your tack and trunks?

Ask what the barn hours are. Are there times when they do not allow boarders on the property like holidays or Sundays? When the quietest and busiest times? What type of people board/ride there?

It is a lot to ask, and think about, but these are all things to take into consideration. Some of these things might not be important to your situation, so weigh them accordingly. If you make sure you do a good check you can ensure your horses - and your own happiness.

I'm in the process of finding a new place for my guy, so I am doing this myself right now. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. It is a burden these days for me to find the right fit. I am particular as well and have become pretty savvy on needs for the mare I own. People and the lies they tell you to get your money is what I have a ptoblem with..I qam around so much due to a self amployed schedlue that I see all they do and don;t do for the board I pay and it becomes difficult to take lsight handed owners! I am on 6 barns in 4 years...never wanting to leave but having to for the ultimate good of the mare!
    I do wish you MORE than LUCK!


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