When you pull up to a potential facility, it should have a neat appearance. There should be good, safe fences and the entire pasture should not be a mud hole.. You should take a walk around the stables pastures and see what the horses in them look like. They should be in good flesh with healthy looking coats, bright eyes and trimmed hooves. Make sure the fence is in good repair and not sagging, broken or barbed wire. Take a look at the water tanks to see if they look reasonably clean and full.
When inside the facility, consider the condition of the stalls. Look for nails sticking out or boards missing. Also consider the bedding. Is there enough of the bedding and is it the type that you would like for your horse? One of the most important questions to ask is if the stalls are cleaned regularly. A build up of Uric Acid is very harmful to your horse’s lungs. Is the stall size adequate? A stall should ideally be 12 x 12 at least, though if there is turn out, a normal horse can get by with 10 x 12. Will another horse be able to reach over the wall and irritate your horse? Can your horse see other horses? This is an important aspect of indoor horse care. A horse who has a solid stall is more likely to crib, weave or pace. Also, what type of flooring is in the stalls? Rubber mats are nice but not necessary. Concrete floors should be avoided for the well being of your horse’s legs.
You should also take a look at the water buckets. If the buckets are dirty when you first see them then they are likely to only get worse. A barn should be well ventilated and have a lot of light. Even simple matters can have an impact on your horse’s safety such as the location of cross-ties and the ceiling height of the barn. If you have a seventeen-hand gelding he should not be kept in a barn with low ceilings.
Talk to the owner about the health schedules. Find out which vaccinations are required to board the horse and if the horse needs to have a negative Coggins test since this should be a very important requirement for the stable. Ask if the whole barn uses the same farrier and if boarders are able to split veterinary farm calls. If you want to use your own farrier, veterinarian and trainer, ask if this is allowed.
Consider the knowledge of the workers; it is important for everyone to know what they are doing including the stall mucker. The workers should be aware of when to call in a vet and when a horse doesn’t seem right. Look for a bulletin board or marker board with emergency numbers written on it.
Ask the stable if they can handle any special needs for your horse such as scheduled medicines or supplements.The feed and forage the stable offers is another important consideration. A maintenance ration may work for a pleasure horse, but you will need more if you have a performance horse. Find out what the owner will give to a horse on a specialty diet and how much extra it will cost you. Or perhaps your prospective facility asks that you bring your own feed. In that case, is the feed room well organized with a clear system for keeping each horse’s feed straight? Does the facility provide minerals or do you bring your own? Do you bring your own hay or use what everyone uses? Also look for the presence of rodents in the barn. Although some infestation cannot be helped, you really should not see them running around or an excess of droppings.
Inquire as to the policies about turn out. Some boarding stables set a certain schedule for each horse to have outside time. Some integrate a new horse into an existing group. Some require that the owners come each day to turn their own horses out.
Does this barn provide stall fans for your horse’s comfort in the summer or have electrical outlets for you to bring your own? Ideally all electrical wiring will be in rodent proof conduit and you should take note of exposed wiring. Does the place have a no smoking policy?
When looking for the right stable for your horse you should also remember to consider yourself. The tack room situation and security should meet your requirements. How is your saddle stored and would you prefer a individual locker or in a room with the other saddles? Do you prefer a full restroom or are you okay with a portable toilet. Are you allowed to keep your horse trailer at the boarding facility?
You may want to consider finding a barn that has riders with interests similar to yours. You may not want to board at a place with cutting horses if you prefer to show jump. A big-time show barn may not be the place, if you trail ride your horse. Are there trails available to use at or near this facility? Also inquire about the rules concerning the use of any arenas. Some places reserve them for the owner or lessons at a certain time and make them available to boarders at others.
Always ask to read over the contract and if the stable doesn’t have one that is a big mark against them. Everyone should be well aware of the rules through the contract. The contract should allow for the stable owner to call for a vet if the horse is ill or injured when the owner cannot be reached. It should have a clause stating how much time is given if boarders are asked to leave or how much notice a boarder has to give before leaving.
Once you find a stable that meets your priorities you should make some calls to make sure the place is reputable. A good way to find out is by asking the local veterinarians since they will have a good rapport with the better facilities. Talking to other boarders is another way of finding out about the barn.
Additionally, it is a good idea to show up another time to a prospective facility unannounced. This ensures that they have not cleaned up specifically to impress you. Do be courteous and try not to come during set lesson times.
Finding a terrific boarding facility is an process that can be quite time consuming and frustrating. Hopefully you have horse friends who can at least start you in the right direction!