Choosing the right boarding stable for your horse

If you own a horse and don’t have a farm of your own, you know that finding the right boarding stable can be a challenge. While many equestrians look for amenities like an indoor riding arena or heated tack room, don’t lose sight of the most important thing – your horse’s needs.

Whether you’re looking at a year-round stable for your horse, or an indoor facility to ride in through the winter, there are some key things to consider when choosing a barn. To help you find the perfect place, here are a few tips and questions you should be asking:

1)     See it for yourself – Arrange a visit to the barn and tour the facility. Visit more than once on different days of the week. Make note of any health or safety concerns and pay close attention to whether the horses appear healthy and happy.

2)     Picture your horse there – Find out which stall or paddock will be allocated to your horse. Does it appear clean and safe? Will your horse be sharing turnout areas with any other horses? How will your horse be integrated into the herd?

3)     Meet ‘n’ greet – Speak to the owners, managers, staff and other boarders. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the care your horse will receive.

4)     Study the staff – Who will be providing the day-to-day care for your horse? Ask to meet them and, if you can, watch them do their chores and how they handle the horses. Find out looks after things when the regular staff is away.

5)     Surveillance – Are the horses monitored 24 hours a day by someone on site?

6)     Focus on food – What and when will your horse be eating? Ask to see their forage and feed room. If your horse has any special dietary requirements, can they be accommodated?

7)     Safety first – Is there an emergency action plan in place that covers possible scenarios like natural disasters or lengthy power outages?

8)     Fire prevention strategies – What fire prevention measures are in place?

9)     Be honest – Does your horse have some bad habits or special requirements? Be honest with the stable and ask them if they can accommodate your horse’s particular needs.

10)  Standard services – Be clear on what’s included with the cost of your board. For example, will they take blankets on and off, if necessary? Will they handle a veterinary appointment if you can’t be there?

11)  Horse health – Does the barn have a regular veterinarian and farrier? Do they have an on-call veterinarian to cover emergencies if their regular vet isn’t available? How far away are the regular and on-call veterinarians located?

12)  Biosecurity basics – Does the barn follow biosecurity best practices, such as quarantining new horses or isolating sick horses to prevent the spread of disease? Are there mandatory vaccines that all horses must have before coming onto the property?

13)  Hours of operation – When you can visit your horse. Many barns have specific days or hours when they are closed. If your horse is sick or needs extra care for a medical reason, are they willing to be flexible on those hours?

14)  Ask for references – Don’t be afraid to ask to talk to someone who keeps their horse at the facility to see what they like or don’t like about it.

Once you’ve found a stable for your steed, check in regularly. Even though you’re paying someone to care for your horse, you also have a responsibility to ensure your horse is receiving the care it requires.

The barn you choose doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be safe and offer proper care for your horse. By doing your research, keeping an open and honest line of communication with the barn manager, and putting your horse’s best interests first, you’ll be on your way to barnyard bliss in no time.