Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time to find a new barn?

Finding a boarding barn is akin to finding daycare or a nanny for your child, I tell my non-horsey friends. Horses are perennial toddlers, and barns are essentially a daycare. Managing a barn isn't an easy job, especially now with escalating costs, scarce hay and sawdust, and lagging horse sales. No one I know makes money just boarding. The added services such as training, instruction, and horse sales are the BM's bread and butter.

Considering a move?
Thinking of changing barns? Some advice from someone (me) who has champagne taste in horse care but not the income to match.

  • Don't change barns on a whim or because of one bad incident.
  • Do make a change if there is a pattern of poor/careless management or if you feel the program has become unsuitable for your horse.
  • Consider whether you will do better for the same, or similar money, or if you'll need to upgrade to a higher board rate.
Sometimes personality clashes are a factor in deciding to move. Barn drama can get out of control. If you dread going to the barn and there are no prospects for salvaging things, maybe it's time to go.
My own experience
I've boarded at co-op barns, barns with strong managers, and barns with hands-off managers. I've pasture boarded and done self-care. Over time I worked up a checklist to address the things that matter most to me. This is an "anxious mom's list," and it's probably overkill for most folks. At the bottom of this list, you'll find Web links to other resources written by less neurotic people. In the end, it's all about what is important to you and your horse.  

Some advice: use discretion in how you approach getting answers! If you pelter the barn manager with all these questions, they’ll think you’re a big pain. If you want to use this entire list, face it, you probably are a big pain. At any rate, they don’t need to know until after the contract is signed. Good luck!

PDF version

NOTE: Feel free to share these files or this list, but please link back to my blog.  

  • Distance from home
  • Distance from work
  • Monthly board
  • Typical yearly board increase
  • Other fees and charges
  • Copy of contract li>Barn hours & holiday closures
  • Discipline (hunter, dressage, other) li>Stalls available vs. waiting list
  • Accessibility and parking
  • Parking for car?
  • Parking lot lit?
  • Keep trailer on premises?
  • Barn Lighting indoors and outdoors
  • Electrical work and outlets
  • Fire extinquishers (recently inspected?)
  • Condition of structure/roof (signs of leaks?)
  • Drainage/water runoff around barn
  • Hay & bedding storage
  • Lounge area
  • Aisleway and flooring
  • Tack room
  • Wash stall (hot water?)
  • Heated areas?
  • Restroom
  • Stall Dimensions
  • Flooring
  • Safety (exposed nails, etc.)
  • Ventilation
  • Overhead clearance
  • Lighting
  • Door opens/closes easily? Horseproof?
  • Water buckets vs. auto waterers
  • Tack storage Space
  • Security?
  • Blanket storage
  • Indoor/outdoor/roundpen
  • Ring Size(s)
  • Footing
  • Ring proximity to barn
  • Mirrors
  • Jumps, poles, etc.
  • Pasture Acreage/No. pastures
  • Grass available?
  • Water available outside?
  • Fencing
  • Drainage
  • Soil (rocky, sandy, etc)
  • Trails Rules/guidelines
  • Maintenance of trails
  • Deer, coyotes, other nuisances?
  • Roads/traffic hazards?
  • Owner on premises?
  • Barn help/horse ratio (10/1 is ideal)
  • Blanketing/boot practices
  • Stalls cleaned daily? Holidays?
  • Stall bedding
  • Clean, fresh water?
  • Fly management/manure disposal
  • Night check?
  • Turnout 7 days/week? Holidays?
  • Turnout is day, half-day, other?
  • Shelter available?
  • Horses per acre
  • Water available?
  • Inclement weather practices
  • Individual turnout?
  • Leave in on request?
  • Introducing new horse
  • Hay fields in winter?
  • Feed Supplements
  • Feed choices
  • Special diet
  • Type(s) of hay?
  • Amount of hay?
  • Extra hay (charges?)
  • Can owner supply hay?
  • Communication w/boarders
  • Phone?
  • Whiteboard/blackboard?
  • Written barn rules?
  • Injury notification
  • Lesson program/schedule
  • Ring availability/sharing
  • Ring rules
  • Footing maintenance
  • Adult or child-oriented
  • Boarder turnover/longevity
  • Barn and aisleway appearance
  • Use own vet?
  • Owner need to be present?
  • Vaccinations
  • Use own farrier? Who holds horse?
  • Dentist, chiropractors, other?
  • Fees for emergency care?
  • Emergency transport avail?
  • Medications administered?
  • Other specialized care?
  • Quarantine on new horses?
  • Coggins on new horses?
  • Worming practices
  • Instructors
  • Indiv. or group?
  • What disciplines?
  • Cancellation penalty?
  • Outside instructors okay?
  • Horse show coaching fees
  • Transport
  • Braiding, clipping, other services?
  • Cleanliness/organization
  • Manager experience/background
  • Communication w/boarders
  • What are other boarders like?
  • Maintenance of facility
  • Condition of horses
  • Professionalism/reliability
  • Individualized care/flexibility
Choosing a Boarding Facility from Daily Equine articles
Boarding Barn Checklist from Equisearch
Selecting the Right Boarding Stable from Horse-and-horse-information.com
How to Pick a Boarding Stable from eHow
Finding a Boarding Stable: 12 Considerations from Associated Content
Boarding Stable Checklist from Acreage Equines


  1. Excellent post!

    The "Barn Drama" is but one reason why I am so much happier having horses at home, where I can provide the care.

    Not everyone can do that, but I count my blessings every day and say a Thank You that we can!

  2. AaaaH! Actually I posted it by accident -- not truly "done" yet, but I'll just add in the pdf file.

    Boarding at home must be wonderful, but I also know it's hard work. Kudos to you for having the gumption to do your own care.


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