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?