There is in many areas an increase in people having horses who don’t keep them at home. Boarding stables are a means for having a horse without owning property.
Boarding stables can vary from sparse to luxurious. It’s important to look at this choice from several aspects. Your horse’s very life depends on this.
Although it doesn’t take a fancy stable to take good care of horses it should be SAFE. Stop in and request to see the barn. There’s many things to take note of – all important. Look at the barn from a horse’s point of view. Some things to look for:
1. Are the aisles clear? While a working barn will have equipment out during working hours note where barn equipment is stored. Is there a place for forks, shovels and other cleaning equipment? Is the barn reasonably clean? Are there a buildup of cobwebs? (keep in mind some are hard to eliminate, but a lot of them can be a fire hazard) Are the aisles wide enough and safe enough to quickly evacuate animals if need be?
2. What are the turnout facilities? Are there loose horses in the arena as others are trying to train? This is VERY dangerous. Are there safe paddocks? Do pastures have garbage in them or barbed wire fences? How many horses are turned in together? Are horses fed together? The more horses together and the more hazards the higher the chance that a horse will get hurt.
3. What is the feeding schedule and what is fed? Are horses given individual rations or do all horses get a scoop of oats no matter what? How often and how much hay is fed? What kind of hay is fed? Where is the hay stored? How is the hay stored? Remember – poorly stored hay can lead to mold which can lead to colic for horses. It can also lead to barn fires.
4. Is there heating in the barns? Fire sprinklers? Are the sprinklers on the same electrical circuit as the rest of the barn? Where are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers located? Are no smoking signs prominantly posted and do people abide by it?
5. How is feed stored? Ideally a locked door or gate between horses and feed, in addition to stall doors. If a horse were to get out and simply walk down the aisle to a half ton of feed the results can be disastrous. Feed stored in a manner that mice and rats can get at it can lead to disease…and feeding rodents can also increase the chances of chewed wires, an increase in barn fire risk. What is the condition of the horses? An occasional horse too thin might be excused but a barn full of them is cause to keep looking.
6. Are halters and lead ropes kept on each door? Who will be taking care of your horse? Will you be doing self care (you must feed and do stalls) and are there barn requirements about when this must be done? What happens if you can’t make it to the barn? Are there charges for putting on blankets, turnout and other things?
7. What fly control and rodent control is used? If poisons are used where are they placed? Are dogs and cats allowed free access to the barn? What vaccinations and other things are required? Is a farrier called on a regular basis? What about veterinarians?
8. Watch the owner and handlers as they handle horses. Are they too soft with discipline or too strict? Are the horses afraid of them? Do they use safe practices? Is there gates between the barn and the road and are they locked? Are there hours the barn is closed? Keep in mind while 24 hour access can be convenient it also leaves the building open to thieves. How experienced are the workers at the barn?
9. Where is the riding area? Are there trails and how are they maintained? How is the arena maintained and how often is the footing worked?
10. Where is the equipment kept? Is the tackroom locked? What safety measures are taken and what theft prevention practices are done?
11. Where is bedding kept and what kind of bedding is used? How often is the stall cleaned and how is the stall cleaned? Is there community use of such supplies and what is the limit on bedding? Where is manure dumped when stalls are cleaned? What about turnout paddocks – are they cleaned regularly? Are pastures mowed and dragged? What is the use of herbicides and the policies of turnout during that time?
12. What other things are of benefit in the barn? Are there community activities, clinics or other things happening that might be a benefit if boarding there? What is trailer parking available and security? What is the policy for payments? Remember – when boarding if you miss a payment in some states the stable can take ownership lein of your horse.
These questions are important to get answers to. If you can’t get or see an answer move on. Here’s an example:
Barn A you pull in and see landscaped flower beds out front and an attractive barn. You go in to find a group of horses that are lean and act nervous. When the groom opens the door the horse jumps to the back of the stall and snorts. You watch as the next four horses do the same thing, each walking on eggshells to the turnout area. The owner meanwhile is smoking and you don’t see any fire extinguishers. There is hay in an end stall with twine strings scattered about. This barn, despite an attractive look tells you several things – it’s a fire waiting to happen. A fire can smolder for hours, breaking out when no one is around. The horses themselves are telling you they are uncomfortable with the groom – one horse might be a problem child – if every horse acts the same way you could be looking at the results of someone who abuses the horses.
Barn B is a basic barn – the aisle is clean with a steel securely locked gate across the feed area. There’s a smaller storage barn separate with hay and bedding storage, and the horses are friendly and seeking attention. The stalls are clean but you don’t see a manure pile out back. There’s an arena outdoors with minimal footing, two turnout areas and a small roundpen corral in back of the barn. What could be – and bears investigting – although the arena issue and footing might be better this could be a good barn to investigate further. Feed is locked up, hay and bedding in another barn reduces the fire risk. Clean stalls and no manure seen means it’s either hauled off site or is kept well away from the barn – which reduces flies and other pests from bothering the horses.
Fancy exteriors aren’t always accurate – look at safety and value. Safety includes security as well as management practices. If you find a clean, well run barn with a safe place for your horse to be at a reasonable price talk to other boarders and find out more details about moving in.