Selecting a boarding facility doesn’t have to be traumatic. Here are our top 8 tips to help you through the process.
If you’ve been around the horse world any length of time, you’ve heard the boarding barn horror stories. The boarder who realizes her horse is never brought into the stall at night, or isn’t getting fed as much as promised…barn owners who aren’t quite your brand of crazy…staff errors… fellow boarder drama. It’s no wonder the thought of looking for a new facility to board your horse at might make your stomach turn.
While shopping for a new boarding barn isn’t always fun, here are some tips to help make the process a little easier.
1. Start with a phone call
A quick chat on the phone can sometimes tell you a lot about a barn owner/ manager, their communication style/skills, and whether or not you might hit it off with them. It will also help you answer some basic questions that may save you time in the long run. For example, if it turns out board at a particular facility is more than you have budgeted for, or you aren’t allowed to bring your own coach in, you don’t need to bother driving to the farm for a visit.
2 Check online reviews
The Internet can be a wonderful resource. The horse world is small – news gets around. Do a search on the facility you are considering and see what comes up. Keep in mind that anyone can post anything online, and unhappy clients frequently post much more than satisfied ones. So take what you read with a grain of salt. But do take from the posts some specific questions to ask, or things to keep an eye out for when you visit the farm. You can also post and ask for comments/recommendations from current and previous boarders.
Hint: Check out equestrian rating websites such as ratemyhorsepro.com, which also include boarding facilities.
3 Visit the facility
Make an appointment to visit the facility and meet with the barn owner/manager. Before you go out, compile a list of questions you would like to ask.
4 Take it at face value One of the biggest things I’ve discovered that’s important to do is to take the facility as it is on the day you visit. If they tell you about all the fantastic upgrades and improvements they are planning to make – great. But there are no guarantees. How many of us have moved into a facility banking on X or Y being done, and years later, it still hasn’t been done. Something else took precedent in terms of time and/or finances – the runin shed that blew down, the hay crop that got rained on, the tractor that broke. So I always move into a facility knowing that the way it is now is how it might always be. I never count on that new rubber crumb arena footing going in, or the fancy automatic waterers. I simply ask myself – can my horse and I be happy with it the way it is right now?
5 Talk to current boarders
While you are at the facility, talk to some of the current boarders if you get the opportunity. Not only can they offer insights on the farm itself, but it allows you to get a feel for what the community at the barn is like. After all, you might be spending quite a bit of time around these people!
6 Drop in
If you are serious about a particular facility, drop in unannounced at some point (during regular barn hours). See if there is any difference in the level of care and attention to detail when the staff did not know a prospective client was stopping by.
7 No barn is perfect
It is very rare to find a facility that meets all your criteria (and if you do happen to find one of those rare gems, never move!). So make a list of what is important for yourself and your horse, going from most important to least, and be prepared to compromise on a few things. As long as your core needs are met, you should be able to give and take on some of the other points.
8 Have a contract
Inquire as to the type of insurance the facility carries, what insurance they like you to carry, what forms you will be required to sign, and so on. Make sure they have a boarding contract, and look it over before you sign it!
Barn shopping can be a lot of work – you might feel like you’re interviewing people, which essentially you are! But if you do your homework and research, you will be one step closer to finding a great place for your horse to call home.
Boarding? Here’s What To Ask
1 What is the ratio of staff to horses?
2 Is there always someone on the property?
3 What are the barn hours?
4 How much turnout do the horses receive?
5 How many horses are there per field? What happens if my horse does not fit into the herd?
6 Do you offer individual turnout?
7 How is water offered in turnout? 8 How is hay fed in turnout?
9 In what weather conditions are the horses kept inside?
10 Are horses led to turnout individually, or does the staff lead two or three horses at once?
11 Do you remove halters for turnout?
12 Will you put on blankets, boots, flymasks and/or fly spray? Is there an additional charge?
13 W hat, specifically, does the board cover in terms of services and use of facility?
14 How often does the board increase?
15 Is there a coach/trainer on site?
16 What type of riders do you cater to?
17 Can I bring in my own coach & what are the booking rules?
18 May I use my own vet/farrier?
19 Will you hold my horse for the vet/farrier (and is there a charge), or do I need to arrange to be there?
20 What is your herd health protocol (deworming/vaccination)? Do you arrange this, or is it on an individual basis?
21 What is the procedure in the event of an emergency relating to my horse?
22 Do you have a trailer, or is there someone on the property who can trailer in the event of an emergency?
23 Am I permitted to keep my trailer on the property?
24 Is the staff able to deal with basic health emergencies? Can they take vitals, give IM injections, etc.?
25 What is the daily schedule?
26 How often are stalls, water buckets and feed bins cleaned?
27 What type of hay is fed, how much and how often? 28 What type of grain is offered, and how often is it fed?
29 Will you feed supplements?
30 How is staffing/chores handled on holidays?
31 If my horse becomes injured, do you charge additionally for stall rest? Wrapping, handwalking, giving medications?
32 What do you have available for tack and equipment storage?
33 How does the owner/manager handle boarder conflicts and problems?