Boarding Your Horse: The Barn

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the interactions between boarder and barn owner/manager, and what makes that interaction easier or harder from both ends.

So in this first post I’d like to talk about what I expect from my barn owner/manager. Next time I’ll chime in on what I think a good boarder does and does not do.

I know some of you have boarders, some of you keep your horses at home, and some board your ponies, so I’d love to hear your perspectives! Especially those of you who have dealt with boarders- do you think my list is reasonable? What would you change or add?

Must haves:

Communicate regularly and promptly. If my horse comes in from the field missing a shoe/with a giant cut on his face, I want to know. If my lesson is cancelled or postponed, let me know. If Barn Manager (BM) is going to be out of town, I want to know who I can contact if need be. I don’t want to get to the barn and be surprised.

Be upfront about costs. This ties into communication- I never want to see my monthly invoice and be surprised. I understand there can be errors and I’m very happy to work those out, but I don’t want to be quoted one price and then see a different charge on my bill.

Be clear about barn rules. Whether it’s dress code, rules about ring usage, what supplies are communal use, or whatever else- make these rules visible and accessible. I’m happy to follow rules, I just have to know what they are.

Be open to discussions about feed/vet care/farrier care. As the owner, I want a say in every aspect of my horse’s care. I like to have a  BM that can offer guidance and knowledge in these areas, but I also have to be able to make the final call.

Maintain turnout. I’m a big believer in max amounts of turnout for my boy. I expect him to have a place to run around that has safe fencing in good repair, clean water, and decent drainage.

Maintain my horse’s stall. Plenty of clean water, frequent and generous hay, and clean shavings. Any broken boards or hazards should be dealt with quickly.

It really comes down to two main categories: make sure my horse has safe facilities, and COMMUNICATE.

Of course I also have the “nice to haves.” These are the things that I can do without, but definitely make my life easier:

A decent sized indoor. Virginia can have harsh weather during the winter and I can’t often get to the barn before it’s dark out. I know plenty of people that make it work without an indoor, but I reeeeally like having access to one that’s big enough to jump around in.

Track my farrier and vet care. Currently my BM makes sure Frankie is on the appropriate shoeing cycle, reminds me when I need routine vaccinations and vet care, and covers deworming. I LOVE this. It makes my life so much easier knowing that there’s a pro keeping track of my pony’s feet and health.

Training services. I like working with a trainer. I know plenty of people that choose not to take lessons/take less frequent lessons, but weekly lessons are my jam. Having an onsite trainer(s) that I like is big for me.

Currently I keep Frankie at a “show” barn- I have all of my “must haves” plus all of my “nice to haves” and more. I really like that I have a BM I can trust to help me track Frankie’s fitness and overall health, and who builds a program to fit that in with my competitive goals.

Your turn: what are your must-haves and your like-to-haves?

17 thoughts on “Boarding Your Horse: The Barn

  1. Jenn 11/15/2016 / 10:14 am

    Definitely an excellent, realistic list! I’ll add one that ties into communication: I also like BMs to be proactive. For example, if your horse throws a shoe (not that I know ANY horse that does that…), it’s fantastic if my BM not only tells me that my horse threw a shoe, but also tells me when the farrier is coming out to put it back on. That may sound a little spoiled or high-maintenance, but for us working ammys that probably can’t get out to the barn because we work full-time, I fully appreciate when the BM takes care of the phone calls and scheduling of the farrier or vet or whatever. My trainer/BM lives on-site and gives impeccable care, and is very proactive about thrown shoes or cuts and scrapes or if a horse is acting weird…..she just does stuff like that as soon as it happens, and keeps me in the loop!


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:14 am

      Yes, agreed! Taking the initiative to take care of the minor mishaps makes life a lot easier for us ammies 🙂


  2. Centered in the Saddle 11/15/2016 / 10:20 am

    Completely agree! Some of the must-haves you mentioned slowly started changing at my old barn, which was part of what spurred me to make a change once Drifter was put up for sale. It can be tough but overall it was the right decision for me and I’m much happier now!


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:15 am

      I’m so glad to hear that!!! Your new place sounds fantastic, I can’t wait to hear more and more about it as you keep learning 🙂


  3. Hillary H. 11/15/2016 / 10:57 am

    For me care is first and foremost a priority then I want to have a well maintained place to ride. There either needs to be arena lights or an indoor.

    Communication is definitely key.

    I don’t expect my BO to schedule things for me but definitely appreciate that they do. That said for one offs like a shoe popping off they tell me but I generally just communicate with the pro in question myself.


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:16 am

      That well-maintained place to ride is a huge one- I seem to be one of the only bloggers without a trailer, so I need to have something workable on site!


      • Hillary H. 11/16/2016 / 5:56 pm

        Yeah I have a trailer but I still don’t want to have to haul out for every ride. Having a trailer rocks but it’s nice to stay put too!


  4. M 11/15/2016 / 11:19 am

    My new barn has really bad communication. I couldn’t find my horse since he wasn’t in his pasture and they had brought him up since he was colicking and didn’t tell me. It was good it was mild but that really doesn’t work for me. The owner is nice but never there-always out of town competing and the BM and the rest of the barn staff aren’t good at communicating. I don’t expect much but telling me when he’s sick or injured is one of them.


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:16 am

      Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that. Hope your guy is feeling better!


  5. Monica V 11/15/2016 / 12:23 pm

    FWIW, I have found the BO scheduling the farrier and vet to be commonplace around here, especially with a barn as large as ours. It helps everyone to have one point of contact and split vet/farrier visits calls so they aren’t there 3-4 times a week for multiple people when it would have been easier to have them come out ONCE for everyone. I love it, one less thing for me to worry about and I know my BO has my boys best interest at heart by making sure they are getting the care they need on time. I just write the checks, HA *cries*. Granted, I will communicate with the vet/farrier about certain issues/questions but the scheduling is what BO does.


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:17 am

      Good point- especially with a bigger barn, it makes the logistics way easier for the vet/farrier if they have just one person arranging the calls. Also crying about the checks. Dead.


  6. Heather 11/15/2016 / 12:41 pm

    This is something that has been getting some really serious thought for me lately. At minimum I need:

    Turn out. I have a hot OTTB, and he’s a very good boy, but the more time he spends out the better it is for everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it has to be safe, have water, and if there’s not much grass, there needs to be hay available. I’m ok with a round bale, as long as it’s from a reputable source and I can assume there won’t be dead things in it.

    Safe stalls that stay really clean and fluffy, preferably wood. But he’s not a kicker, and I’ve never seen him get cast so concrete can work.

    An attentive BM or worker who will notice if something is wrong like a missing shoe or a gash, an upset tummy, whatever.

    Flexible training schedule. I do like to take lessons and things, and in the right program I’d take more than I do now, but I also like to do a lot of my own work, because it’s as important to our learning at this point as lessons are. We need some time to just work on feel and communication.

    An arena with decent footing and at least lights for when I have to ride in the evenings during winter. If there’s no covered arena, the footing needs to drain well. I prefer other areas I can ride as well, like trails, a field, or just more than one arena, but that’s not a deal breaker.

    I’ve got a few other things I look for, but those are the definites.


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:20 am

      I agree wholeheartedly with all of those definites- especially the turnout. Frankie honestly doesn’t seem to care one way or another about it since he really doesn’t care about anything ever, but I for sure do.


  7. Micaylah Strukelj 11/15/2016 / 2:32 pm

    Maintenance of facilities is key. I used to do chores at my barn (this is my first time with a horse at home!) and it irritated the crap out of me when I saw turnout fences down or the arena was never dragged.


    • hellomylivia 11/16/2016 / 9:21 am

      Absolutely! It’s one thing to have the facilities, but the facilities need to be usable and maintained.


  8. Tracy - Fly On Over 11/21/2016 / 2:17 pm

    I think communication is the big one here — and I will say too that I think boarders need to be able to LISTEN and ASK for this to work well. I don’t own a barn, I’ve never had horses at home and I’ve certainly never had boarders… which means there’s a lot that I don’t know. Sometimes something I think should be simple and easy, isn’t… and that’s okay. I just appreciate the time to be heard, and the time it takes to give me an explanation for something.


    • hellomylivia 11/22/2016 / 10:11 am

      You’re so right! There’s plenty I don’t know, so having a BO take the time to explain it makes all the difference in the world


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