Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Boarding

Courage mostly cares about grass
Some days, I envy those of you who don't board. Other days, it's 5f and icy (SUCKAS).

Anyways. I've been thinking about boarding lately. I've been at a growing number of barns and each one had pluses and minuses. Two I wouldn't go back to. The rest I would under the right circumstances.

What really makes a boarding place worthwhile? It obviously has to fit the budget, but when we're talking luxury item (horse), the budget is fuzzy. We can do cheaper board and more lessons or more board and lots of auditing. You know the drill.

or awesome ribbons. do those sway you?
There is certainly the "what is the board paying for" mentality--I'll pay X for standard board and X+2 for board with extra amenities.

And then there are non-negotiables like horse care. Except they totally vary from person to person.

And commute time. How far am I willing to drive give tn above list? How much time can I just slice out of my day every time I want to go to the barn?

Trainers on site? Trailer parking? Jumps? Trails?

What is your ideal barn and how close is your boarding barn to that ideal?


  1. I've been thinking about this a lot as I go to move.

    My ideal barn:
    - Indoor (or just covered)/Outdoor with EXCELLENT footing
    - Access to trails from the property
    - Acres of turnout available 24-7
    - Stable turnout herds
    - Minimal crazy people
    - Open at all hours (Some barns close. I know. Wtf?!)
    - Flexible feed availability
    - No required training/lesson package
    - Trailer parking available (will pay extra)
    - Someone lives on property
    - Private tack room for boarders, with locks.
    - Reasonably doable commute (under 45min, please? PLEASE?!)
    - Can bring dogs to barn (** esp. important)

    My current barn has:
    +/- Indoor/Outdoor with TERRIBLE footing
    + can bring dogs
    + trail access right from barn
    + acres of turnout available 24/7
    - kind of large and unruly turnout herds
    + flexible feeding options
    + someone lives on the property
    + tack room w/ locks
    + trailer parking
    + no required training package
    + commute under 45 min (most of the time!)

    If the footing was better, I'd be super happy.

  2. This is a very timely post, because I just became a first-time boarder 2 weeks ago when I bought Roger. I've ridden at numerous barns, both in NJ and in Texas, and when it came time to choose one for Roger and I, I had a few non-negotiables in mind.

    First, TURNOUT. Period.
    Horses need to be outside and be horses as much as possible, and luckily my trainer/BO believes in turning horses out every single day, unless the weather is totally miserable.

    Second, close to my house and/or work. When I was training with B and W, their barn was 45 mins from my house and at least an hour from work, which made my days long and pretty draining because I wasn't getting home until about 830pm on nights that I rode. Now, Roger lives less than 10 mins from my house and about 25 mins from work, which is a great improvement.

    Horse care and barn care.
    This is important to me, bc obv our horses are luxury items and we want them well-fed and well taken care of. For me, the barn also has to be in decent shape: I don't need a fancy-pants heated tack room and cutting-edge technology, I need a barn that isn't falling down around itself, is SAFE for horses and riders, and have decent footing in the arena. Oh, and obv the stalls and cross ties have to be safe for ponykins as well. My barn is actually pretty nice, IMO. While we don't have an indoor, my trainer has access to 3 indoor arenas within 10 minutes of our barn, and she trailers there frequently in the winter. We have 2 arenas, 1 stone dust and 1 grass, and both have wonderful drainage.

    This goes without saying, but affordability is my #1 priority, and I feel extremely lucky because in my area of "Horse Country" central NJ, I think my board is much cheaper than the average, yet the barn is nice and the horses are well cared for because my trainer lives about 1000 feet from the barn.

    Another important thing for me is minimal or no drama, and I'd prefer not to ride with "kids" all the time. Luckily, I'm one of the youngest people at my barn, and having all adults there is truly wonderful. Everyone is there to ride their horses and interact with each other, but there is really no drama at all.

    Do I wish I had an indoor? Yes. However, that's really the only thing I had to give up when I moved Roger to my barn, and I'm really happy there so far! :)

  3. If I ever board again (and I probably will, for the facilities), my #1 priority is horse care, including lots of turnout. Second priority is a covered arena with excellent footing. Third priority is an excellent trainer on-site. If I'm going to compete seriously, I need to be able to ride regardless of the weather. But that's really the only reason I'd go back to boarding is strictly for the facilities.

  4. Oh my goodness I could go on about this for days LOL. Basically turnout is my big one. I absolutely positively CAN'T do barns that only turn out when the weather is perfect. My horse needs to be out everyday. Period.
    Location is also pretty important to me because I go everyday. It gets to be quite expensive in gas if I have to drive super far everyday.
    In Ohio, you have to have an indoor. That's all there is to that.
    Trainer and quality of feed don't matter too much to me because I bring my own anyways.
    Finally, I have been at barns before where I questioned how my horse is being treated when I wasn't around. Old school cowboy type workers. Never, ever again. I lose too much sleep over it...

  5. Like Emily, I could write a whole post about this. In fact, with your permission, I may. I've almost lost count of how many barns I have been to in the last 10 years.

  6. For me, my first priority is care, second to facilities and finally staff. In my opinion, one of the reasons I board is because I don't have the time to dedicate to caring for my horse day in and day out. So ensuring that I'm able to trust that my horse is being well cared for in my absence is paramount!

  7. Gah. I'm struggling with this right now. I'm realizing that there are a few things I *must* have in order to ride and be happy.


    * Usable all-weather arena! This is the big thing getting in my way right now, and it's turning out to be a deal-breaker.
    * A barn, including a tack area and a feed area and stalls for laid-up horses
    * Turnout or pasture board available
    * Jumps available or okay for me to bring and use my set
    * Reliable care - stalls cleaned, horses fed, and no shenanigans in feeding, medicating, etc. You know what I mean.
    * Knowledgeable care - there's a difference between having had horses for years in a backyard and actually being educated about horse care and management
    * Safe facility for horses and riders - no barbed wire, no dangerous barn employees, etc
    * Plentiful, clean water available to horses 24/7
    * Good communication between BO/BM and owners
    * Respect between boarders - nobody messing with my horse without my permission and knowledge. I have nightmares about overenthusiastic kids deciding Apollo is so nice they just have to try riding him.
    * Ability to use my own vet/farrier, not the barn's

    Less than Must but more than Good to Have:

    * Someone living on site and alert/aware for/of problems with horses or facilities
    * Lights for arena to allow evening riding
    * Reasonable distance from work

    Good to have but not required:

    * Indoor arena
    * On-site trainer/teacher that I like
    * Automatic waterers/bucket heaters
    * Trailer parking

    I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.

  8. Boarding really buys me two things: time and freedom. Things that are absolute must-haves for me: good footing, good care, turnout. I don't want to drive further than 35ish minutes either. I really like the small barn I'm at now... if it had a covered ring it would be perfect. It's a small barn with a jumping ring and a dressage ring, trainers come to us, and we have access to fields and roads for hacking.

    1. Spot on! That's the same for me, time and freedom.

  9. After just going through a barn fire, losing 18 horses and having my critical injured, I think my priorities have totally changed. I've been to several different farms and this one is our home. We have been with this family almost 3 years (in June) and we are lifetime residents. Right now we are in a tent with temporary stalls. But the horses are SO happy. And together we are so strong and happy and it's made me realize that the facilities don't matter at all. As long as Olivia is somewhere that she is happy and well cared for, then I'm peachy. These guys care for her as though she were their own and I can't ask for anything more.

  10. My current boarding facility is damn near perfect. The things I would change are: I'd love a bigger arena (we have an indoor and an outdoor, but neither are particularly large) and I wish it was closer to home. But I shouldn't whine too much because on a good day it's only 25 minutes out there.

    Otherwise it has all day turnout on giant pastures, beautiful box stalls, friendly people, good footing in arenas, trails on the property, flexibility (my pony goes in a dry lot in the morning and on grass the rest of the day), indoor plumbing for humans with heat and hot water, hot water wash rack, matted grooming area. Plus, someone lives in the apartment over the barn where my pony is, so I know he's looked after in the wee hours.

  11. Ooh this is a good one!

    Must haves: Indoor and outdoor rings with good footing (doesn't have to be fancy material, has to be rideable); Daily turnout in groups; Knowledgeable & reliable care, preferably on site; Willing to feed what Tucker eats (I'm ok with buying my own grain as long as they'll feed it); Good quality hay; Barn hours until at least 9pm every day.

    Preferred: Access to trails or at least a big field to hack in; Trailer parking; Minimal blanket changes; Water bucket scrubbing (some places I just do this myself once a week); Night check; No barn hours (so I can come whenever); Mostly adult/teenage boarders, instead of lots of little kids taking lessons.

    Can't do: Limited turnout; Board over $800; Location over 30 minutes from home; Lesson barns where the ring is tied up all weekend long in the winter (learned this one the hard way).

    I have been at a few different places myself, and this is a pretty set in stone list at this point!

  12. My situation is about 90% perfect:

    Barn is less than 10 easy minutes from my house
    Four horses, two of which are mine.
    Private home owner who lives on site.
    I can park my truck and trailer on site at no additional charge
    Board is $215 per horse
    Large, shady barn
    Open air stalls with attached paddock (24 x 36)
    Stalls cleaned daily
    Full service (blankets, feed, supplements, occasional turnout, phone call/text if a problem - I don't blanket and I do all my own non-hay feed/supplements)
    Mostly ample alfalfa (although we're bickering over how much new horse needs - but I have free access to the hay to feed if I want to)
    Large arena
    Access to limited "trails"
    Large shared tack room (three people share)
    Cross ties, wash rack, lots of trees and grass
    I have the run of the place and even have a key to the house
    Trainer is next door

    no electricity (no lights in barn or arena, no plugs for clippers)
    I have to lug sprinklers around to water the arena

    1. Other than the electricity, so very jealous. And our barn is seriously run on extension cords.

  13. I really like my current boarding facility, but I'm also not terribly picky about what I require:

    -Horses must be fed every day: hay, feed, and supplements
    -Horses must have access to clean water
    -Horses must have at least half a day of pasture turnout
    -Facility must havae somewhere for me to ride that isn't in a pasture with other horses
    -Facility must have safe fencing

    My current place is totally awesome, except for the outdoor arena not having any lights. The indoor is super small, so sharing it in the evenings is next to impossible! This is pretty easy to work around, though, as long as I get my ass out of bed early.

  14. My ideal barn is...

    - Trainer on site
    - 10 hour turnout (roughly)
    - Semi private/private turnout
    - Lighted jump arena
    - Covered ring
    - Hot water access / wash stalls
    - Tack lockers for boarders
    - Clean facility with bathrooms
    - Training rides available
    - Trailering to shows available
    - Right next to my house

    My barn is pretty close to that, minus tack lockers and a covered arena. Also mine is far!

  15. I'm looking at barns right now (a bit prematurely) to try to decide where to put the baby horse when I buy him. With Rico, having large paddocks and good footing were most important, I like a covered in the winter. Obviously good care, but I was available to go out to the barn every day so it was okay if it was just the minimum. Now I'll be working full time so I can only get out 4-5x per week and it will sometimes be at night.

    So for TC:

    - pasture board with GOOD fencing, he likes to throw himself against fences (wtf stop)
    - lit area to tack up
    - lit arena (preferably covered)
    - decent footing (doesn't have to be perfect)
    - ideally access to trails or at least a large enough property so it isn't pasture-tack up-arena-untack-pasture.
    - a dry/secure area to put my tack that is ideally private
    - within a 30 minute drive from home and/or work, prefer 20 minutes and reverse commute getting there buuuut let's not be picky

    Unfortunately around here, pasture board with good fencing and decent arenas is quite rare. Luckily I don't need a trainer or that would complicate everything!

  16. 1. Trustworthy barn managers and caregivers.
    2. Quality feed.
    3. Safe facilities (including good barns, safe arena footing, good lighting, etc).
    4. My trainer can teach me there.
    5. Affordable, price-wise and time-wise (commuting).

  17. My barn is perfect for me -- literally the only things I would change are so minor they can hardly be considered issues. We have:
    - outdoor and indoor with decent footing, frequent dragging and watering, and biennial-ish footing additions
    - lots of jumps, full dressage court
    - 4 acre turnouts in small herds (2-5)
    - lots of grass
    - lots of hay
    - good price
    - BM lives on site, trainer available
    - grain, blankets, turn out, meds done at no additional cost (which I seriously am constantly astonished by)

    The only thing we don't have is locking tack rooms, which I had never really thought about (we're pretty out in the boonies and we're a small barn so when anything goes missing it's found quickly). The stalls were built to an odd size for stall mats so some stalls have mats that are warped and sticking up -- which I realise is more of a problem for some than others. I wish my horse had a better neighbor, that the horses were turned out in inclement weather more (for me the risk of injury to M in turnout is lower than the risk he injures me because he wasn't turned out.... but I realise that it's not always safe to turn horses out in the pouring rain/tornado winds) and that our barn owner wasn't quite so persnickety/whimsical, but honestly, I NEVER want to leave.

  18. I am boarding pretty close to ideal:
    -- indoor arena
    -- trail access
    -- trailer parking
    -- use any trainer I want
    -- feed is tested
    -- locked tack room
    -- on my way home from work

    What I would add:
    -- wash stall with hot water

    The make or break for me is the management, however. If I don't get a call when my horse is injured or not eating, if there is no response to reasonable requests, if my horse is not safe, then I am out of there.

    I am also very happy that I am no longer stuck using only the trainers associated with the barn.

  19. Sometime in May I will begin a new boarding stable hunt. I know that I will have to compromise on many things because the area I am moving to is super expensive as much as $300 more a month than what I am paying now. Ideally I'd like an indoor and outdoor with good footing and jumping equipment, good turnout, access to trails on the property, manager on site and hopefully a good trainer close by. Good care is the only absolute. It will be interesting to see how close I get to this list.

  20. My ideal is good trainer, lots of turn-out w/ full pasture board option, lots of people/on-site around to check on horses 24/7, arena, somewhere to ride in the pasture, tack space, decent number of cross-ties, place to bathe, close to my house, and affordable. My current situation pretty much addresses all of my "wants" with a couple of exceptions: it is 40 minutes from my house and not in a super easy to get to location (I can't just swing by to check on him) and my only choice is pasture board due to $$. I would love to have the option to do stall/lots of turn-out board plus lessons/training, but stall board is double pasture board. I think in the big picture my horse is happier in the pasture, but he definitely gets more raggedy out there.

  21. As a barn owner who is considering taking boarders (I have one currently) this is very interesting to read. I have the dreaded barbed wire around the top of my fence since it has doubled as a cattle farm, but none of my ponies mess with it really. I do intend to change it in the future though. The boarder I have now has only seen her horse twice in the last 12 months, so it is basically like owning an extra horse and getting paid for it.

    I only do field board though. Ironic that I also posted about where my horses live today, but it was about owning my place, not boarding.

  22. Really interesting to read everyone's, as there seems to be some common themes.
    For me:
    -option to live outside 24/7
    -trainer on site
    -within easy driving distance for riding
    -easy access to shows and clinics
    -good footing
    -lockable tack room
    -heated water for winter
    -quality hay
    -other adults to ride with
    -reasonably priced
    -indoor arena
    -bathrooms or changing area on site (I come straight from work a lot of day)

  23. My current barn is one that (somewhat ironically) I swore I'd never board at! I knew the farm quite well, as I have friends who boarded there, and rode a few horses for the owner too. They had great facilities, but the organization (and as a result the care) was just not there. Plus, they were a lesson barn! The horror. However, they got a new BM in and she's fantastic- turned the place around. Plus, they cut down on the lessons ;)

    My requirements are:
    Lots of turnout time in quality field (for indoor board)
    Must be willing to feed my grain
    Quality hay that has been tested
    Indoor arena
    Outdoor or grass ring
    Knowledgeable barn staff
    Must be willing to boot & blanket for turnout
    Must allow outside coach/vet/farrier
    Convenient location
    Reasonable price

    Even though I don't normally list it as a criteria when I'm looking for a barn, I also need an arena that's not jam-packed with people 24/7. It's just not safe to do a 4' jump school with 20 kids on ponies careening around the arena. Also, I can't have my schedule being messed up by people "booking off the arena" for "closed lessons". I'm a working university student- there just aren't that many opportunities to get out to the barn, so when I'm there I need to be able to ride.

  24. I was never happy boarding, and that's why I have my own farm. I am super OCD about my horses care and the farm. I want to take over when I board, it's not good lol. For me the horses are not just about riding, taking care of them is as much a passion for me, even when it's below 0 lol.

  25. My barn is my absolute ideal and I'll be even happier once I can move Katai to a stall. If I had to change one thing about stall board it would be to have them turn out for another couple of hours but I can understand why they do what they do and there is always some compromise.

  26. Lots of good lists already. There's things I guess I have to admit to, like I think good workers who care outweigh BO with poor management skills. Apparently my trainer and barnmates outweigh good footing or trails (I do miss trails a lot). I'd love turnout service as I'm 30 min away at non commute time. There's a variety of stabling options available and at least my trainer has pretty good sway with owner (frankly she knows more of what's up than owner), and my barn mates always and I always check each others ponies so its like family but less dysfunctional lol.

    I'd love to be closer but I can't afford to live near my horse and there's no where nice to board her near me. So I wait until I win lotto or move to the country.

  27. My barn is pretty ideal, it's a 10mins walk from where I live (and new place ftw), has 3 indoor riding rings, a large outdoor with lights, a smaller lunging ring, a walker & has 24/7 turnout for 6 months of the year aka "summer" (1st of May to 31st Oct). There are two trainers on site & a good WS programme.
    Downsides for me are price and lack of winter turnout (although I am beyond blessed thanks to awesome neighbours/school friends letting me lease land they own between farm & awesome trail riding!
    I am super lucky that my two negatives are manageable especially given the proximity to where I live and the awesome facilities ☺

  28. I have always done self care. I NEED free choice hay (whether included in my board, or supplied by me) and 24/7 turn out with access to a stall for emergencies. Paddock must have a run in shed. I need someone to live on the property just in case. Fencing must be safe. Water must be clean. I must be allowed to come any time day or night. I don't do barns with hours (or that are closed on Mondays).

    I want hot water, a ring, a round pen, and trail access. I like grassy pastures and electric fence. I prefer my horses be turned out with each other and not anybody else.

    I have been on every end of the budget spectrum, though I tend to pay less than most people I know.

    Now I have my horses at home (FINALLY!) and I can't imagine going back to boarding them. Yes, it sucks to slog water out there and break ice in negative temps. No, I can't go away on a whim and not think about them. But I'm a control freak and I want it MY way. I want my own farm that I can set up the way I want it, so I can combine what I need with what I want.

  29. Ideal:

    - Lots of turnout
    - Well bedded stalls
    - Excellent quality hay and food
    - Access to fresh, clean water at ALL times
    - Good footing
    - Good size of arena/s (indoor and outdoor)
    - Hacking trails
    - Excellent care and attention to detail
    - Access to excellent instruction (this should be much higher up, actually!)
    - Good jumps
    - Safety protocols
    - Wash stall with warm water
    - Safe tack room
    - Walker

    My current barn ticks a vast majority of those boxes. Things I would change include having more turnout and better turnout areas (ours are okay, but if the barn stacks up then the horses get out about 4 hours a day max in good weather only, which annoys me... but welcome to any show barn anywhere, basically) and they use these stupid pellet things for bedding and I wish they used shavings instead. The trade-off is they have the Soft Stall system, so apparently they don't *need* a ton of shavings, but I just find the stalls get wetter etc. more quickly and I don't like that.

    But, the training is amazing, the care is excellent, the attention to detail is good, and I know I can call the barn manager or assistant BM any day at any time and have them address any concerns I have. Plus, my BOs are *amazing*. Basically the staff are all excellent, and that makes up for a great deal.

    We have tons of hacking, good size stalls, excellent footing, three arenas, lots of good and new jumps, three wash stalls (one with warm water,) good tack rooms, good access to just about anything we need, grooming stalls, blanket storage, good hay and food, etc etc. and can kind of go our own tour if we want to. There's more drama than I'd like, and I'm not sure why that is, but it exists... that bugs me, but every barn has drama, so what can you do?

    I'm pretty happy with my barn. It comes at a price, but it's worth it.


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