By: Darlene M. Cox
While the perfect horse ownership scenario would have your horse happily ensconced in his pasture or barn right outside your backdoor, many horse owners do not own a farm or other sufficient land and find it necessary to locate a boarding facility to house their horse. But how do you go about selecting a boarding facility and how do you know if it is the right one? Before any consideration or selection of facilities is made, you must remember this one key statement: There are no perfect boarding facilities-- period. If it was perfect, it would be on your own land. Keeping this very important statement in mind will help you when it comes time to choose the facility that's right for you.
It is important to make personal visits to several boarding facilities to evaluate them for safety and suitability. Pastures need to have safe fencing and be clutter free. Go into the stalls and check out the water buckets; are they clean with fresh water? Evaluate the stall flooring and the type of bedding that is used. Is it suitable for what you like used for your horse? Are there any exposed electrical wires hanging down in the stalls? Any exposed nails? Talk not only to the barn managers, but also to any boarder who may be there to get their opinion of the facility. If the barn manager bristles about your talking with another boarder, consider that a bad sign and mark that facility off of your list. Ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions. Will the facility be responsible for providing grain and hay? Inspect the quality of the grain and hay. Will they do the feedings, or will you be responsible for feeding? How many times a day will your horse be fed? Will they feed your supplements or feed additives? Who will have access to your horse? How many people are on staff? What is the experience level of the boarding staff? Does the management share your vision of acceptable/accountable horse care? What is the contact procedure for any emergency that may arise? Will they call your vet or use the vet that comes to the barn? In the event of injury, will they provide the daily care for your horse? Will your horse be stall boarded or pasture boarded? Will your horse be turned out? Does the barn arrange for vet and farrier visits? Is there room for you to park your horse trailer (if applicable)? Does the facility have individual tack storage areas? Are the pastures safe and clutter-free? How many horses will be turned out on pasture together? Are the horses segregated based on gender (i.e., mares, geldings, stallions)?
What are the rules of the barn? Some boarding facilities may be lax on their rules and others may be over- bearing; you need to choose which will better suit your tastes in being told what to do and when to do it.
What kind of facility is it? Does it offer lessons? Does it have indoor and outdoor arenas? Does it have other amenities that you like, or dislike? What type of boarder keeps their horse there? If you are strictly a trail rider and the facility houses mostly show horses, you may not find the atmosphere conducive to garnering friendships with anyone there or you may feel there is no connectivity between you and others.
How will your horse fit into a boarding facility? Is he one that is used to being turned out with several other horses or is he used to being alone or with only one other horse?
If a signed boarding contract is required, read over the contract carefully and then re-read it. All of the rules of the facility should be listed in the contract. Everything that management expects from you, the boarder, should be spelled out in the contract. If no boarding contract is required, it may be best to go elsewhere. Get references from the barn manager. Phone the references to get their candid opinions of the boarding facility, its operation, and its management. Inquiries can also be made from local vets and feed stores of area boarding facilities.
If the above questions can be answered to your satisfaction, then finding the boarding facility right for you and your horse just got easier. If the questions cannot be satisfactorily answered, you need to continue your search or find a good realtor who can sell you a prime piece of farmland where you can put your horse right outside your backdoor.