Boarding - when your horse is happy, but you're not...input?
I've boarded at my current barn for going on three years. Horse lives out 24/7 in a decent-sized paddock - it's not huge, but she seems content. She has some arthritis so I prefer to keep her out versus stalling. I've been fairly happy here - however, the barn and the atmosphere itself has changed quite a bit over the past couple of years. The BO is fairly uninvolved - which can be both positive and negative (i.e. it's nice not to have constant BO drama but at the same time, issues don't really get handled until they're at a head). We purchase our own feed/hay, which is fine, and for the most part it gets fed consistently, but there are some minor annoyances that go along with that. My biggest issue is the fencing is absolutely horrible - this has been something I've mentioned repeatedly. However, it's gotten to the point where for this and various other reasons, I'm extremely frustrated. I spend more time being stressed about it than I do just able to go out and enjoy my horse.
The problem is the horse herself seems pretty content.
However, I have the opportunity to move her to a full board situation - probably the biggest "negative" relatively speaking is that she'd be back on stall board, but pasture board around here is difficult to find (GOOD pasture board, that is). However, she'd have a good sized turnout. She'd be well taken care of and looked after - this I know for sure - which is a relief since I have to travel frequently for work. No issues with the fencing - the barn is clean, safe, and relatively quiet for its size. All the horses there, even those who have just moved there, seem to settle in nicely and be content.
I don't take moving lightly - but at this point, I really just need for things to be simple. I need to go ride my horse and just enjoy. I need to know that I'm not going to have to spend 20 minutes fixing fence before I can even get on. Or that I can leave for a week if I need to and not worry about whether someone will check her water or hay. I just hate to move her if she seems happy, but I think I matter too, no?
I'd say to go ahead with the move. There are no perfect boarding facilities, but issues like dangerous fencing and horses routinely not getting fed/hayed/watered are deal breakers. Safe fence and regular feeding and watering are basics of a decent board facility. Lack of those things could result in serious injury or colic. Can you imagine what a bad situation it would be if your horse got loose or injured herself on fencing or colicked while you were out of town--with just an "uninvolved" BO to manage things?
Again, there is no perfect boarding barn, but especially if you travel you and your horse will be safer at a facility with decent fence and reliable feeding and access to water, and also with a more involved BO who could manage an emergency in your absence.
I'd go ahead and move. Once you are settled you could look at paying full board but keeping her out 24/7 except in inclement weather. Obviously some places are not open to this because their pastures cannot support a horse 24/7 but many are open to the idea since it saves on shavings and labor 90% of the time.
I would move to where I have peace of mind. If you want to spend your time fixing fence you could get your own place. And she might just be happier in the new place so it's worth moving in my opinion. Sadly things change, and sometimes the perfect place just isn't perfect anymore.
I'm in the same boat my horse is happy where I'm boarding him now but the care has gone downhill and like Saidapal said about having peace of mind in huge for me. I don't get to the barn everyday and I need to have peace of mind knowing that my horse is being fed and is safe. Moving my horse tomorrow to a better barn.
Move, your peace of mind is important, especially if you are traveling a lot and depending on good care of your horse. I suspect your horse will be equally happy at the new place, maybe even happier since the quality of the care will go up.
I moved from a situation similar to what you're describing only he wasn't out 24/7 but out a lot. I was there for a long time, something like 7 years.
Boy was very happy there, but I got tired of the BS and watching lame horses being ridden. I was tired of how bad the barn stunk because she was so stingey with the shavings and how much weight my horse lost the last winter I was there because for some reason she stopped feeding free choice hay. Not calling me when his left front was blown up like a stovepipe because she turned him out with a horse that would beat him up after I clearly stated I did not want them turned out together. I had the same issue with the crappy fencing, then when she chased 3 of the horses down (2 that were not hers) with the 6 wheeler when they got out because SHE left the gate down, that was the last straw for me.
I'm pretty happy at the new place, although there are a couple of things that bug me sometimes, but I know my horse is safe, in safe fencing with a regular feeding schedule and the BO follows my feeding instructions to a T, and does not change them because he thinks he knows better than me. His stall always smells good because it's cleaned everyday with fresh adequate shavings added regularly. He is led to and from his field in a halter and a leadrope, not by his flymask and not let to run in/out on his own. He's not turned out with others (which I'm trying to get) but he's turned out next to them where they can touch noses and talk over the fence. I know he would be much happier with a couple of buddies but he's doing alright. All in all I'm glad I moved. I don't worry about him anymore.
Last edited by BoyleHeightsKid; Mar. 28, 2013 at 12:24 PM.
Boyle Heights Kid 1998 OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason "Once you go off track, you never go back!"
I have boarded places where my horses were happy, but I hated the idea of going to the barn to see what disaster we would have today. I couldn't sleep at night and my horses were no longer fun. I moved them to a different facility and they didn't miss a beat - they are just as happy here. Besides your horse knows when soemthing is bothering you and they can feel your stress - it can't be good for them either. I say move. I have a horse with arthritis and he is in a stall at night and gets turned out 8 hours a day and he is fine and still rideable. Horses are to expensive not to enjoy them!
If you went away for a week, and came back to find your horse got seriously
hurt on the unsafe/bad fencing ... you'd never forgive yourself for not moving.
Life is too short; I'd move someplace safer. Your horse will adjust fairly
quickly, and it's so much better for your own worry/stress level when you
know things are being taken care of properly. And perhaps come summer
your horse will be out more often than not.
I'm moving from a place that I have been for 8 years pretty soon. My horse is
pretty happy there, but there have been issues over the years, and too many
issues in the last 6 months. If my horse got hurt or sick because of someone
else's blatant, stupid mistake, I would never forgive myself. So, we're moving.
He is led to and from his field in a halter and a leadrope, not by his flymask and not let to run in/out on his own.
This is almost unheard of! I had a LOT of trouble at past barns from people just letting my horse gallop out of the field by herself and come tearing into the barn, knocking into stuff (and sometimes other horses) on the way to her stall for feeding time. My horse leads like a dream BUT you have to actually clip a rope to her halter to do so. This concept seems very difficult for people to understand.
OP, move your horse. You will sleep much better at night!
Consider that "full care" does not always mean "stall board." It can easily mean that the barn staff exercises the higher level of care that a given horse might need even if that care is given in an open field environment.
You don't note your location. Just how that "open environment full care" might be delivered can vary widely from an arid environment like SOCAL to the very wet environment of East TN to the hot and wet of FL to the frigid climes of ME or MN.
If you are uncomfortable then look for alternatives. Discuss the specific needs your horse has with potential keepers. You'll find a variety of responses from the "rigid" to "extreme flexibility." You pay the bills so you get to set the standard of care. But your horse has to be fit in with all the other horses. This means likely some compromise from both owner and keeper.
Like the old song says, "ya gotta shop around." Good luck in your shopping!