I think we had a thread similar to this a while back but it didn't go very far, and I'm bored and was just reading the New Vocations adoption application to see what their requirements were (pretty reasonable looking, actually, not crazy like some rescues) and so now I'm wondering again and figured I'd start up a thread.
Assuming you decide you're ready for a horse, but you're going to need to board it, how does that process work? You can't get a horse without a place to keep it, but it seems like wasted money to pay indefinitely on an empty stall (since sometimes it can take time to find the right horse) - plus, you need to pick somewhere that you want to board to start with.
(I know some people will just automatically board where they take lessons, but that's not always an option or the best place for the boarding needs of the horse.)
Do you go and check out places and just tell them "I'm looking, so I don't know when I'll have a horse, but can you show me around?"
As a relative newbie to boarding, what do you look for? (If it's not where you've been riding, you're not going to necessarily know much about any barn drama, for example.)
Likewise, finding a vet and a farrier. How do you 'vet' them? There seems to be a small animal/large animal divide, so even if you have a vet for dogs, that's not necessarily going to do you any good. Will a vet and farrier add you to the books as a client even though you currently don't need the services?
(I know to some degree, the vet and farrier issues might be solved by the boarding issue, so that was what went first - if you board at a barn that has a relationship with X vet and Y farrier and they're scheduled to come routinely to provide care to all the horses, then chances are you'll probably start out with them, at least.)
Check out various boarding stables before you buy the horse. Tell them you are looking a horses and could be an owner in a week or a year, depending on when you find the horse you want. Checking out the stables will give you an idea of how easy it will be to find an empty stall. I don't know how many nice stables there are in the Pittsburgh area, and if they usually have vacancies.
Get a vet lined up before you buy the horse. When you talk with barn managers, ask who they use and if they like them. After you know which horse you want to buy, talk with the vet clinic you plan to use, and give them a copy of the horse's shot records. You want them to add you to their client list. Otherwise, if your horse has an emergency on your first night of ownership, they may refuse to come out because you are not a known client. This is for the safety of their veterinarians, not just the clinic being difficult.
Good luck horse hunting and barn hunting. Let us know how you do with the barn hunting. I have a daughter who may be moving to Pittsburgh in a year, after she finishes school.
For barns/vet/farrier, ask around for recommendations: your instructor, horsey friends, local feed/tack shops, COTH, etc.
Then go look at as many barns as you can. Is the property safe? Are the horses happy and healthy? Does it mesh generally with your idea of horse keeping? Can you compromise on the things you don't like (and there will be some; no barn is perfect)? If you're treated badly because you aren't bringing a horse in right this second, that tells you something about the barn. Find somewhere else.
While at the barn, ask them who they use for vet/farrier and if you can bring in your own. This gives you barn policy and also more names for your list to check out.
This is especially handy for farriers: you can see what their work is like and have an idea about whether or not you want to give them a chance. If you see consistent issues across several horses' hooves, you know that's a farrier you don't want to use. If they look consistently good, you might give them a try.
For vets, go with the best recommendation and use them for the PPE (if you are buying locally). While he is vetting the horse, you can vet him. I was unhappy with the vet who did my first PPE -- not a disaster, but the vet clearly wouldn't work for my situation. I tried a second vet for the next PPE and was very happy with him, and I stayed on with him after I bought the horse.
AKB's suggestion is good if you aren't doing a PPE or the horse isn't local to you.
Just remember that if things don't work out at one barn/with one vet or farrier, you can switch and find something better. In some ways, you're better off with this hunt than if you did go straight into your instructor's barn: you'll already have a list of options available if you need to make changes in a couple months.
I've been on both sides, buying a horse and as a BO. All of the above ideas are good. Be honest with the boarding barns when you're looking and keep them advised when you're getting close to finding a horse. Some sellers and adoption barns will board the horse for you for a limited period of time (expect to pay for this) while you wait for a stall to open up. I'm talking week or two, not months.
Our situation as a boarding barn was we use a particular vet and farrier. You are welcome to use anyone you want, but you must set the appointment, hold for vet and farrier and clean up after them. If you use ours and I schedule, I hold, etc.
So, check out the barns, check out their farrier(s) (big barns may have more than one) and their vets. Talk with the other boarders. Check their references and they will most likely check yours. They may ask you for a deposit if you've never boarded a horse before.
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant
Ask who the barns you're visiting use for vet and farrier, and if they take care of arrangements for those visits, or its something you do yourself, while they just have a preferred provider. I've been at barns that do both, and if you're a new owner, it might be nice to have things taken care of, so you don't have to worry about knowing when you need to schedule shots. A local vet here actually does an annual program where one yearly fee covers all the basic shots/worming, and most of my barn uses it, though its not required.
Think too about the kind of barn you want--somewhere with lessons, boarders only, several trainers, one trainer, one discipline, a lot of kids, all adults? It can make an enormous difference, and what works great for one person might not be right for you.
Oh, and most important. When you find that special horse, make sure you do a pre-purchase exam with a good vet and not the seller's vet (most won't anyway; it's a conflict of interest).
This actually reminds me of something - if there's a horse you know you're going to get anyway (like a rescue situation, that sort of thing) so a PPE isn't going to make a difference in the purchase, would you (general you) do one anyway?
I was thinking about it the other day and kind of coming down on the side of it makes sense to do at least a minimal PPE (even if it's really post-purchase) just so you know what you have - that way you know what level of work the horse is likely fit for, and also if you do any x-rays you have a baseline for comparison later on if an issue does pop up.
(I know a rescue isn't ideal for a first horse, so it's not too likely I'd actually be in that situation immediately personally, but I was wondering about it anyway. Basically, is it worth the expense of having the vet out to establish the state of the horse when he comes into your care, even if it's not going to change the fact that the horse is in your care?)
Also, thanks for all the great ideas. Keep them coming.
I'm not actually in the market YET for a horse due to family health issues, but I do hope to visit a few of the places around here - not just lesson barns - as part of research for my possible documentary project, so it does help to have an idea what to look for and keep in mind when I'm on site for that purpose - it'll help me make a shorter list of places to check out when the time does come.
(Unfortunately, I'm not sure my 'ideal' barn exists around here - full care but not ridiculously expensive board so I don't have to worry if I can't get out due to health or weather, plenty of turn out, an indoor - because there's just too much of the year when it'd be miserable riding outside, a trainer either there regularly or who will come regularly for training and lessons, trail access, and ideally also a cross country area if I get brave enough to try my hand at that. Oh, and room for learning to ride a gallop - not necessarily a track, but enough space with good footing.) (By full care but not ridiculously expensive, I mean someplace that provides full care, but isn't a big show barn type place. If the horse is in good health, gets fed properly, etc. then I don't really care if they keep him sleek and spotless at all times, or if the barn is always magazine-photo ready. I expect clean and safe, I don't really need to pay so they can pay someone to keep everything polished and gleaming, you know?)