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Barn searching

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  • Barn searching

    Where do you look when you're trying to find a new farm for your horse? Craigslist? The Equiery? COTH? Are there some resources that you like better than others when it comes to finding a new boarding barn?

    Along the same lines, what are the first things you look for/at when you go to check out a new barn? Is there anything that's an automatic deterrent?

    Any advice would be awesome- thanks!

  • #2
    Things I have found useful are local organizations for whatever sport or discipline you prefer. Usually they have classifieds or links on their websites. Asking Vets and farriers for advice also can be useful. Word of mouth referrals are the best, if someone you know is at a particular stable and speaks well of it. Also, drop in to visit. Stables just like other places have certain 'vibes', and just seeing whether the horses look happy is a valuable clue.
    RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


    • #3
      Word of mouth is awesome. Then check the place out, talk to the BO, visit, etc.

      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


      • #4
        When I got back into the horse world after a 30-year hiatus, I didn't know anybody for word-of-mouth referrals and I didn't have a trainer, so I just did a bunch of internet searches, called up the resulting barns, and went out for visits.

        You should note the condition of the other horses, sniff the air inside the stalls, ask to see the hay, and make sure from the git-go that the turnout arrangements meet with your approval. T-post paddock fencing and lack of appreciation for manure management were deal-breakers for me.
        Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


        • #5
          In my area, there is a popular bulletin board that, one way or another, tends to get the word out on available stalls (there is a classifieds section, and also people ask about barns and get responses, though to some extent the "free advertising" is controlled).

          The first thing I _used_ to look for was large grass turnout, and lots of time on turnout (but now horse has Cushings, so, no more unlimited time on lush emerald pastures). "All day turnout" means different things to different people. Some BOs bring the horses in at the first cloud in the sky; others let the horses deal with the weather. Some BOs don't like to see the horses running in turnout and will bring the perpetrators into their stalls immediately; others consider it "being a horse" and welcome it.

          I personally insist on an on/out stall so my senior horse can move around, but, that's just me (and cuts the options down by 95%). I would look at what the BO/BM prefers to feed (this can tell you a lot about the barn culture), and whether she will accommodate me if I want to feed something else, and I ask how much hay the horses get, and I ask to see the hay. I ask what the feeding routine is, and what happens if staff member A calls in sick, what the schedule is on holidays like Christmas, etc.

          Are the other horses relaxed and friendly, or are they keyed up or pissy when you approach their stalls? Is the facility well-maintained? Are there other amenities that I want, such as trails, a wash stall, a large ring, run-in sheds or other shelter in the pastures?

          I personally don't get too fussed with what style of riding the other boarders do, or whether the other boarders are nice or not, as for me it's more about my horse being managed the way I want, and being able to enjoy riding because the facilities support having a nice time with your horse.

          Location is important, but in my area, you have to drive at least half an hour, usually more like an hour, to find a barn that has decent turnout. But, it is nice if the barn is actually close enough to get there easily. :-)


          • Original Poster

            Thanks for the insight as to what is important to you guys- I'm actually not barn searching myself, mostly trying to figure out how to make sure my barn is findable when other people are searching, and to make sure I'm addressing concerns that potential boarders might have when I'm showing the place around. Are there any giant no-nos you can think about? We're doing a lot of work to the farm, but the property would improve faster with additional income from boarders, and the horse areas are safe, just not gorgeous. Yet.


            • #7
              When considering barns I looked up every single boarding barn in a particular area online and read about them on their websites and any forums on which they were discussed. Just doing this reduced things quite a bit since my criteria includes having no lesson program and an arena without any jumps in it. As you can imagine, that excludes a lot of barns. I also never want to feel crowded or rushed, so having enough grooming stalls, adequate tack storage space, having a reasonable number of boarders sharing an arena are all really important. If I come in and see 5 riders in the arena at once I'm leaving. Then there are the basics like endless hay, grain at least 2x/day, daily turnout, arena turnout if outdoor is not possible, blanketing, boots, etc.

              Having a gorgeous farm helps. Of course it does. But I also decided against the most beautiful barn I've ever seen in order to stay with my trainer, not only because of the training part but because I know for sure that my horse is taken care of there. And a big part of that is that they don't just follow instructions about care, they are actually interested in it, offer suggestions, express concerns, give me updates, provide basic first aid if they spot any issues, etc. Of course there is a level of involvement that can seem invasive, but this is just the right kind of involvement. They consider going out of their way to be the norm. In my case that's been pretty much teaching me everything about owning a horse, monitoring what my horse and his turnout friend get up to, and managing his weight. For other, experienced horse owners it's listening to how they want their horse taken care of, even if it involves some seemingly overenthusiastic wrapping schedules and a very long history of supplement trials and tribulations. When people come to see your place ask them about their horse, show them you will care about both the horse and the owner.

              I guess that is a bit vague but one glaring policy that puts me off is charging for holding during emergency vet visits. I pay a ton of money for board, it's not about the money, it just seems weirdly cold to not have it be like "of course we hold when you can see the bone in your horse's leg, what else are we going to do?" rather than "that will be $20." I like flat fee boarding in general, but I can see why others prefer itemization.

              God, I just realized I like the girlfriend experience of horse boarding.


              • #8
                I, for the first time in years, find myself in the opposite position. I have a vacancy and have never advertised. I need to figure out what is the best place to get word out.

                I am thinking I will start with the local dressage GMO newsletter.


                • #9
                  I would tell everyone I know that I'll be looking for a boarder. Your farrier and vet, definitely, as they can comment firsthand on the care you give your own horses. Hay supplier, feed store, trainer, tack shop employees. Post a notice there, with photos and prices.

                  The horse world in any area is a small world, and word gets around, both good and bad. Everyone seems to know everyone else so you can also ask around about any potential boarders who show an interest. It works both ways.


                  • #10
                    When I've been looking for barns, I've checked:

                    (I would have checked the Equiery when I was in MD but I didn't know about it until after I was back into the horse world, LOL)

                    Local classifieds
                    Google searches (a nice website is a definite help. I'm more likely to go look at a barn if I can see pictures and information on boarding first and not just an address listing)
                    Craigslist (That's how I found my current barn, actually)
                    Bulletin boards at local tack shops and/or TSC (I always glance over them when I go)

                    Oh yeah, and I've asked people here about their suggestions for places to check out.


                    Giant no-nos for me:

                    *Unsafe-looking fencing. Barbed wire on smallish pastures (if you're out in Montana or something with like a hundred acre field, that'd be different).
                    *No turnout (my horse is actually out 24/7 on pasture board and I like it that way)
                    *Not allowing me to bring an instructor in (I take lessons, but there's no trainer at my farm since most of the horses there are basically retirees so the only way I'm going to get lessons is have someone come in to give them)
                    *Fees for every single thing. I'd prefer to have a flat board fee that covers whatever might come up (within reason, like routine blanketing, holding for the farrier, etc) so I don't feel like I'm getting nickled and dimed. (I don't mind some fees, I'm talking about a fee for every single "extra" thing.)
                    *Not allowing flexibility in feeding. (for example: my barn didn't use a certain type of feed before I got there, but that's what I wanted my horse to get. Since it was also available where they get their grain and it didn't cost any more than what they usually get for the other horses, they give my horse what I asked without charging me extra for it).
                    *No place to ride. I don't have a trailer and I can't go out to ride, so I need some kind of spot to do it, even if it's just a large open, reasonably flat area. I'm lucky that my current farm has a nice grass ring, some open areas to ride around the farm, and access to trails.
                    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


                    • #11
                      I asked the same question not long ago, the answer that made sence was ask farrier & vet, of course we are in a area with 1-3 horsevets and less than 10 farriers all around. So its easy to know who goes to all barns. So I asked the farrier he warned me away from a cheap barn becuase the owner makes drama, bad enough when boarders do it but BO no way!

                      Then you can figure out what you give up to get what you want cause believe me you will!
                      “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                      • #12
                        I found my current barn mainly through word of mouth. Some of the nicest situations and the best matches don't necessarily come through advertising.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SaddleFitterVA View Post
                          I, for the first time in years, find myself in the opposite position. I have a vacancy and have never advertised. I need to figure out what is the best place to get word out.

                          I am thinking I will start with the local dressage GMO newsletter.
                          Hey neighbour, my horse is not too far away in Great Falls. I was just talking with my barn manager the other day about smaller barns putting the word out about an opening without getting bombarded with calls. The best places are the hardest to find. What is the local dressage GMO newsletter?


                          • #14
                            The barn I just moved to, which is by far the best place open to public (or even semi-private) boarding in the area, ONLY advertises by word of mouth. I was very close to picking a different barn, which wasn't ideal but would do in the short term, when a friend asked me if I had checked out this place. I'd never even heard of it. Lo and behold, it's darn near perfect - the only downside is that it's farther away than I would like, but for the level of care and amenities, I can't complain about a 20 minute drive.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TBPONY View Post
                              Hey neighbour, my horse is not too far away in Great Falls. I was just talking with my barn manager the other day about smaller barns putting the word out about an opening without getting bombarded with calls. The best places are the hardest to find. What is the local dressage GMO newsletter?
                              GMO is a Group Member Org. of USDF so VADA/NOVA, PVDA or possibly CDCTA are the closest options for us.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by poniegirle View Post
                                Thanks for the insight as to what is important to you guys- I'm actually not barn searching myself, mostly trying to figure out how to make sure my barn is findable when other people are searching, and to make sure I'm addressing concerns that potential boarders might have when I'm showing the place around. Are there any giant no-nos you can think about? We're doing a lot of work to the farm, but the property would improve faster with additional income from boarders, and the horse areas are safe, just not gorgeous. Yet.
                                Well, in that case, I would suggest getting a nice, clean, professional website together. It wouldn't need to be fancy, just a few nice, non-fuzzy photos, a blurb about your barn philosophy, and a list of prices, services, and amenities. Your location and contact info should be on the front page. Preferably without flashing unicorn graphics or multicolored text. Ideally it would give an accurate representation of your vibe and weed out many of the undesireables and bad fits before they even visited, saving time on both sides.

                                Agreed that some of the best situations are the result of word-of-mouth, but when I was looking for a barn, it was incredibly frustrating that so few of them had a decent internet presence. It's 2013!
                                Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


                                • #17
                                  Ask the farriers. they always know all about the farms.


                                  • #18
                                    If you're going to be in the business of boarding, not just taking in one or two horses, then a web site is an absolute must. I'm in the midst of a search for a new barn, and the internet has been my primary tool. Word of mouth has helped, but even when I get a suggestion from someone, I like to be able to look at a web site to get some basic facts before I call. On the site, you should clearly state your prices and what's included with the price, what your turnout situation is, what sort of fencing you have, and what you offer for riding facilities. If you have a trainer/instructor on site. their bona fides should be there. Include plenty of pictures, in all sorts of weather. And of course, your contact number. I also used Craigslist, and to some extent Facebook in my search. And having an email address or the ability to respond to inquiries via text can be helpful for those of us chained to a desk who just want to make an appointment to come and see the facility.


                                    • #19
                                      Yes, put your prices on the website! And as many details as you can about what is included, what the stable is like (number of stalls, bedding, type of hay, etc.) and I agree so much about the pictures. The more the better.


                                      • #20
                                        For a large, public barn, yes a website is nice. For the small, private operations, I don't expect a website.

                                        The reality is that small, private barns have a routine, and if you like the routine, you'll probably like the barn. If you have a list of "but I need XYZ services", you should keep looking.

                                        I don't even pretend that I will do anything different for a new horse. The horses are all treated about the same. If that horse gets cold easily, he gets a blanket more often, if he never looks cold, he obviously gets to skip. I feed for condition and in some cases, more energy, not by the bag, and in all cases so little grain that there is only one grain meal fed a day, unless it is freakishly cold, then there might be a dinner. Even straight off the track TBs gain weight here, on less than 4 lbs grain a day, because I prefer pasture and hay over grain.

                                        That eliminates my barn from most people's list. And I'm ok with that.