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UPDATE Post 16! Taking the plunge into boarding. Its #3!

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  • UPDATE Post 16! Taking the plunge into boarding. Its #3!

    After 13 years, I've finally made the decision to seriously look into boarding. I've looked at 2 facilities so far, both close to home, and will be visiting another tomorrow. My requirements are an indoor, adequate turnout, and access to a trainer.

    I'm fortunate in that I'm not in a pressing situation, so I can take my time to check things out very thoroughly, and if it doesn't work out... well then I can just load them up and bring them home again!

    But what other questions should I ask? My current list:

    Feed - Type and how often.
    Frequency and quantity of hay? (I'm a hay in front of them 24/7 type, but I also realize that most boarding facilities can't realistcally do this.)
    Turnout - Field and group size, and how often/long?
    Bedding. Is it adequate for my 10 year old who loves to sleep in his stall.
    Contract of course. I'd fully expect to pay a deposit and have to give 30 days notice upon leaving.
    Access to lessons and/or a trainer who can ride my horse.

    The 3 places I'm interested in are very different and all have strenghts and weaknesses.

    Barn1: Busy H/J lesson/training barn. Mostly local shows but they also go to A's. A dressage trainer comes regularly to put the basics on a horse as well. Full board $530 with lessons at additional cost requred. Feeding program looks good, hay 4x daily. Option of 'maintenance board' for $720 to have trainer ride 2x weekly. Looks like a better fit for DD and her horse than mine, but it would be really convenient to have both our horses in the same barn, and everyone seemed nice.

    Barn2: Small private dressage facility. BO is certified Centered Riding instructor. Beautiful facility, great indoor. Loved the trainer, her philosophy, etc, but the board with 2 lessons a month required would be over $800. It was actually hard to pin her down to a hard number for sure Doable for me, but not for DD. Great fit for me and Rico from a training perspective, but the $$$ scares me, and they put almost NO bedding in the stalls. They're also very strict about the feeding program, I wouldn't be able to bring in my own hay, etc. It's their way or the highway as far as feed and bedding.

    Barn3: Small private facility, boarders only, with a nice indoor. Full board fee is market rate ($530) and there is also a self care option for about 1/2 the full board rate. Outside trainers welcome, and there are a few who come regularly as well. Feed program is flexible, but they also use good quality feed, and I can even bring in my own hay for a reduction in board. Haven't visited yet, but I like the flexibility here and if DD likes it, I can afford to do full board for my guy and self care for hers until she has a job and can pay full care on her own.

    I like all 3 places for different reasons. But giving up full care, custody and control of my boys is still scary. Having never boarded, I'm afraid I'll forget to ask a really important question or miss an obvious red flag, so any advice would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Trevelyan96; Feb. 5, 2011, 10:34 PM. Reason: Update post 16.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm

  • #2
    Good luck (meant in a non-snarky way). Barn 3 sounds like the best option to me for the two of you. I don't really have any advice on more questions to ask, but I will ask you: Have you heard that axiom about good fences making good neighbors? Locking up all your stuff makes for good boarder-to-boarder relations, lol. Things walk. A lot. Usually good-intentioned. I would see if I could go when a number of boarders were present and talk to them and see what they say, and of course let the horses speak for the facility. If they all look happy, healthy, and in good weight then you'll probably be just fine.

    ETA: And make sure you fill out a form and leave it with the BO/BM and your vet outlining what kind of emergency medical care is allowed for your horses in the case that you can't be reached, ie colic surgery or no, emergency euthanasia, etc.
    Last edited by Mosey_2003; Feb. 4, 2011, 02:31 PM. Reason: Forgot something
    It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


    • #3
      Something I would look at is water buckets. I find that the cleanliness(or lack thereof) of the buckets is a very good indicator. Of course there are going to be bits of hay or grain occasionally, but if they're grody nasty with water marks on the side that wouldn't make me feel good about leaving my baby there.

      I would make sure the BO knows without a doubt that NO ONE is to train/ride your horse without your expressed permission. You'd be surprised how often I hear about someones horse being ridden without their knowledge.

      Make sure the contract is idiot-proof(don't mean to sound insulting) and protects both you as the boarder and the barn owner. Everything needs to be spelled out specifically, leave no gray areas that are open for interpretation and get EVERYTHING in writing. I hate to sound so suspicious and untrusting, but it's for you and your horses protection.

      Personally, I would go for the first or third barn. Cost aside with the second, what if your horse has special dietary needs? What if they feed ultra rich alfalfa and your horse doesn't do well with it? And I'm sorry, if my horse is going to spend any amount of time in a stall I would much rather have an overabundance of bedding than the opposite.


      • #4
        Check out who is BM - it makes a difference in their attitude towards the horses.
        I personally chose the type 3 barn. Lots less drama!!
        The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
        H. Cate


        • #5
          Barns 1 & 3 sound like a decent fit.

          Remember that lesson barns with a lot of teenagers in them spell DRAMA.

          After you visit each barn and narrow down your choices, go back unannounced to each one and take a good look at it on your own terms. Watch the staff interact with the horses, take a look at the fencing in the turnout areas, check the water in the tanks for cleanliness, etc. Are the horses happy, miserable or bored?

          Is there enough space in the turnouts for safe play without many horses ending up injured? How much turnout do they get each day? If you won't be riding each day, they will need plenty to keep sane. I personally love to see them get at least 12 hours outside a day, but some places only allow 3-4 hours outside, which puts your horse in the stall for 20 hours a day. If you're not riding each day, that's a lot.

          What are the hours? Are there days off each week when the barn is closed to everyone but staff? For some folks that is not a problem, for others it is a deal breaker. Is there a night bed check?

          I would also run your final choices by your veterinarian and farrier to get some input from there as well.

          Good luck!
          "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



          • #6
            One thing also to consider with lesson barns is the amount of lessons and the amount of ring options they have. I hate riding around lessons. I work, so I ride in the evenings when lessons take place generally. It was really important for me to find a barn that would have an option for me to ride somewhere winter or summer if there were lessons going on. I would be more likely to ride and would get much more out of my rides if there were no lessons going on!

            On the other side, the thing about barns with lesson programs that I generally like is that that is another form of income. That means that the barn isn't depending only on boarders for money and if things get tough for the BO on the boarding end (can't fill stalls, dead beat boarder, something huge breaks maybe all at the same time!) they have money coming in elsewhere and are less likely going to have to tighten purse strings or start compromising your horses care.

            How long has the current BO/BM owned/been in charge of the barn? If it has been a long time and generally you really like the care and set up of the barn, then they probably have figured this whole owning a boarding stable thing out. If it is new and there are some questionable practices or financial skimping to me that is a sign that they are in over their heads and a red flag.

            I just left a barn falling down hill boarding situation so I am very sensitive to that!


            • Original Poster

              Thanks all!

              Jacksmama - great point about the water buckets! Barn#2 has automatic waterers and I did take a peek at them, they were sparkling clean. Didn't check them in #1.

              Just to clarify, board at #2 is $650/mo for full board with 2 required lessons or training rides at $75/hr monthly, so not much higher than barn #1, and there is an option there also for DD to work off some board and/or lessons for her horse. They use what I feed my horse, but I'd have to change DD's. I think the care would be excellent. The big draw for this facility is the trainer and the quiet atmosphere. The big negatives are having no control over hay or bedding. DD had a lesson with trainer yesterday and loved it.

              I am leaning more towards #3, but I haven't visited yet either. I do know at least 1 person who boards at both #1 and #3, and they both recommend their respective barns. I might consider boarding at barn #3 and trailering to barn #2 for lessons if she'll go for that.

              One concern I have about #1 is the size of the lesson program and the turnout fencing looked a little flimsy, and I wonder how high a priority turnout has. I like mine out as much as possible. But I also think there's an advantage to a busy barn in that it exposes the horses to a lot, and there are enough good riders around that I might be able to find someone who wants some extra free saddle time on one of my guys if I don't have enough time.
              Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
              Witherun Farm


              • #8
                Give a serious look at the fencing. NO HIGH TENSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fencing needs to be the kind that CAN NOT wrap around legs. HT is VERY popular in MD, from my experience.

                Good Luck

                I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

                R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed


                • #9
                  Good Luck ...and I DO say that in total *snarky* mode.!

                  I did self-care for years, then the farm sold, and since -its been a real eye-opener!
                  Details...well, you name it, its happening..

                  Stupid people doing stupid things.. claiming to be experts.Not. Dont let the aura surrounding them fool you.

                  I've witnessed 2 horse deaths..(luckily not mine).. due to total ignorance, facts of local horses dying of colic cause BO's dont know how to care for ottbs'; (or really any other horse),others running up huge vet bills to save others, bad care, cheating, lying... you name it.
                  Example: just off track, never out, BO turns in lush field, didnt recognize 1st or 2nd or even 3rd signs of colic! cost to owner? $1700 --- SOL said the BO. "he was only out for a *little* while" instructions were explicit! "not at all--dry lot only". (unfortunately, not written).

                  I've been through 4 barns recently ..just doing self-care... watching paying boarders get ripped off, lied to... their money simply pocket'd... horses neglected. ...not being fed. !

                  If you become absentee, or routine..you can be sure shortcuts will occur!

                  I even did the show/lesson barn...NEVER once in a month did I get to use the indoor...I was out.
                  Careless handling, cruel handling, abusive handling, callous demeanor to boarders... with a *deal with it* attitude.. barn drama...oh my!!!

                  Maybe Pa. should have the same regulations as Md and this might change. As it is...any idiot can hang a shingle saying (*open for business*) .... and they do!

                  My personal suggestion:
                  * No wire, saw one die in it...horrible.
                  * Be there, at feedings, assist... with stalls, turnout...
                  * Ask to talk to other boarders...privately.... they are probably there tolerating *some* issues, you can decide whether they are tolerable to you or not ..every place will have its drawbacks of some sort.
                  * Review that boarding contract carefully -- especially that waiver that states they Arent responsible for your horse... BS!
                  and dont be afraid to adjust that contract adding your specific requests and needs. If they wont sign that, then, theres reason to move on.
                  *Attach an exact care plan to your boarding contract when you decide on a place, copy to everyone, with a clause open for adjustments as needed. Always in writing.
                  ps: and for the pricing you're stating, horses should be knee-deep in straw!
                  Last edited by SwtVixen; Feb. 5, 2011, 07:26 AM.
                  Its not in someone elses backyard anymore....... your Pres brought it home.
                  Racing>Business As Usual @PN


                  • #10
                    I'd go for number 3. Borders only = no lesson kids = less drama and more riding time. Does #1 have 2 arenas?? As someone said, riding around lessons constantly is annoying. If DD enjoyed the lesson at #2, maybe ask if trainer will travel, something to take into account if you end up at #3. If you care about trail riding, ask about options for that. If you need somewhere to park a trailer, ask about options/cost as some barns charge extra. Also ask about dogs - are they allowed? Will this bother your horses? That's all I can think of atm...good luck (meant in a non snarky way!). You seem to have found places at reasonable costs for being close to DC.
                    "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                    "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


                    • #11
                      Speaking from a personal perspective I think #3 is your best choice. I own and operate a small (8 stall) stable with three of my own horses here. The five boarders I have with me now have all come from large full service barns (or barns that had active riding schools) and I believe appreciate the quality of individual care and no stress enviornment that we can provide while still offering the same ammenities (even better then most with full day individual turnout provided, ability to bring whichever coach you like, no extra charges for blanket changes, boots, holding for vet or farrier etc.) I know that we are priced very low for all the services we provide but it is more important for me to find boarders that I can consider friends rather then a group of people that just come here to ride and gossip all day. Nothing so nice as having a nice cup of hot chocolate in the heated lounge on a cold winters day after a wonderful hack in the fields with everyone and watch stallion video's on the big screen TV.

                      I think that if you can find a smaller private place with all the services you require you and your horses will probably be the happiest there.


                      • #12
                        My best advice is to find a Barn Owner/Manager you trust absolutely. I've had BOs/BMs that I've loved before, but my current BO (who also serves as her own BM) is incredible and I trust her to a fault- I trust her to not only take care of my horse and the facilities but to be thinking about things even I'm not thinking of (and I'm neurotic about my horses).


                        • #13
                          My suggestion is don't stress and enjoy the opportunity

                          I have boarded and kept horses at home on and off for the last 30 years. Currently am doing both. I have largely had good experiences boarding and never the type of horror stories I see here on occasion. Living with horses is unpredictable under all situations and bad things and good things happen under both scenarios. And there are always compromises -- at least in my experience -- I can't control everything when I keep them at home either.

                          I think because one is much more likely to be motivated to post when you feel strongly about something (and a terrible boarding experience would be one such thing) -- and negative stories often have greater impact than positive -- if you spend too much time on line reading those stories they sound typical. But they haven't been typical for me or most of the folks I know that board. I have never witnessed alot of drama or felt the need to participate in any. I enjoy having an opportunity to spend time with other horse folks as no one in my family or my work participates. Some places fit better than others or things change and it is time to move on -- but that is life.

                          The barn where my one of my geldings is right now has been wonderful and I love going there. I have had much more fun riding the past three months than I have for years here at home alone. I never have felt the need to know every detail -- general routines and recommendations from others I know and trust are tops for me (vets/past and current boarders/trainers) -- but if the horses look fit, in good weight, and happy -- I don't have to know every detail about feed or feel the need to control specifics on diet if there is a BM that is competent and I trust.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SwtVixen View Post
                            * Review that boarding contract carefully -- especially that waiver that states they Arent responsible for your horse... BS!
                            Not BS. Nearly every barn where I've boarded has a clause like, "ABC Farm is not responsible for any illness or injury to your horse no matter how catastrophic". Sux, but that's the way it is.

                            Boarding and all the BS that goes with it is the #1 reason I no longer have horses.


                            • #15
                              I've been in a couple of different kinds of barns and the problem with bigger barns that allow people to work off board is you don't know who is going to be handling your horse.
                              It's very important to me that someone who knows horses and knows MY horse sees them every day. If you can go out every day it's less of a problem. I also like BMs who I can trust to give meds or wrap legs or give shots as required. Again, who do you want handling your horse in these situations?

                              If Barn number three doesn't look good, I'm not sure I'd even look at #1 or #2 again. #1 is going to be CHAOS (been there, done that, have the t-shirt) and #2 sounds like money is going to rule and not the horse's needs. Not to mention...OMG they REQUIRE lessons FROM THEM. I've always considered that very presumptuous.
                              "The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"

                              "...you'll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x


                              • Original Poster

                                Its Definitely Barn #3

                                Well, everyone's instincts (and my own) were right on the money. Barn #3 is definitely the winner. I really liked the place, the BO, the policies, the atmosphere, and the flexibility. Horses all looked well cared for and quite content. Owners are not looking to fill the place up and make a huge profit, they just want a nice facility for their own horses and taking in a limited number of compatible boarders helps pay the expenses. I saw an invoice from my farrier on one of the stalls, so that's a huge plus. I can always ask him for his opinion on the facility, LOL, he's definitely never shy about expressing it!

                                Good board fencing with semi-private turnout in nice sized paddocks.
                                Indoor and outdoor arenas.
                                Regular visits from both a jumper and dressage trainer, or I can bring in my own.
                                Facility was nice, but not scary perfect. Heated lounge/observation area for the indoor. Wiring all housed in conduit. Outlets w/switches at every stall for fans/heated buckets.
                                Flexibility in feeding.
                                Full or self care option, which means that if I have the opportunity to cut back work hours, I can still afford if I switch to self care.

                                So we're shooting for mid-late March or April 1st. I was hoping to move by March 1st, but DD can't commit to self-care for her horse by then, and I can't afford full care for both. I don't want to move just one and leave the other home alone, so its either self care for hers or she'll have to start generating some real income to pay his way for full care.

                                I'm a very hands on owner, and the place is close to home, so no worries about care deteriorating. If things don't go well, they'll just get loaded on the trailer and come home.

                                I'm looking forward to it in one way, terrified in another, but I think at this time, its something I should try, so I'm making a huge list of all the positives and reminding myself that if there are any dealbreakers, I have a perfectly good facility in my back yard to come home to.
                                Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                                Witherun Farm


                                • #17
                                  Sounds like a lovely barn - I'd sign a contract now with the BO if possible!

                                  I was hoping to move by March 1st, but DD can't commit to self-care for her horse by then
                                  Who is caring for the horses now? or do you mean cashwise?
                                  if DD is not working, why not put both horses on self care starting Mar 1 & DD can do the work ...


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by alto View Post
                                    Sounds like a lovely barn - I'd sign a contract now with the BO if possible!

                                    Who is caring for the horses now? or do you mean cashwise?
                                    if DD is not working, why not put both horses on self care starting Mar 1 & DD can do the work ...
                                    Cashwise, I can pay for one full board and 1 self care. Same barn. The issue is that DD is currently committed to an unpaid WS position and a few different short term temp assignments over the next sevearl weeks while she waits for her full time position to start, so she's both time and money poor at the moment. She'd be spending more on gas running to 3 barns and a few temp assignment than she'd be earning. The WS position is really important to her, so I'm happy to wait until her real job starts, at which time she'lll give up the WS thing. The BO she's working with is already aware that she's going to have to stop once they call her in. We're hoping her clearance goes through in the next month, at which time she'll have a little better control over both her time and budget. Meanwhile, horses are in the back yard, so care is easy. Its the riding that's not getting done. Luckily the BO is aware of our schedule and I'm being warmly welcomed whenever we're ready to move in! It was 'love at first sight' with the facility and I think I'm going to make some wonderful horsey friends there.
                                    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                                    Witherun Farm