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Whats Important To You? (in a small boarding barn)

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  • Whats Important To You? (in a small boarding barn)

    I'd really appreciate everyones opinions and ideas

    I have a small barn with a couple of horses and one boarder.
    In the spring I plan on doing some fixing up around the barn and property. I'd like to have 3 more boarded horses here. I realized boarding doesnt really MAKE me money for my time but it does definately share the costs for my own horses. So im not looking for anyone to tell me that I'm wasting my time or that its not worth it.
    What I am looking for if your opinions and ideas about what makes the difference in deciding on a barn. Now obviously I don't mean wether or not the barn has an indoor or bath stalls etc, I'm talking boarding at small barns only. What are the things that matter most to you, or could make a difference about where you decide to board.

    Some things I have been thinking about.....

    -deworming included in monthly board or seperate (buy your own or get billed for it?)
    -insisting on every horses having XYZ for shots or giving you the choice
    -having it be a mainly one displine barn or more open to anyone
    -having natural boarding and regular boarding. would i end up with parelli vs hunter boarder issues? natural boarding (ie, 24/7 group turnout with shelter) is wanted around here yet i would like to fill some of the stalls in my barn aswell. would i be asking for trouble to offer very different types of boarding.
    -having set price for board or more options, like $--- a month for board without grain and $--- with grain
    -having set rules such as all horses come in at 6 or giving the option of different turnout time such as all night turnout in summer or 24/7 turnout depending on weather but stalls are there for the option. would you think a barn seemed less organized with these types of options or would you like that you have more options for your horses

    Also boarding contracts for small barns dont seem that common around my area. I would like to have something simple arranged, just in case. Would you be turned off if some basic rules were included? This is my home and I would like to know there will not be people showing up and 12am to visit with Brownie just because or coming 5am to ride etc.

    What are some of the small deal breakers and important things for yourself? I get thinking about this a bit too much lately and wanted to know what others think!

  • #2
    For me, a small boarding barn consumer, here's what I would look for:

    1 - BO being flexible! My horse is usually out 24/7...but he has his own stall included in cost. That is HUGE to me, because if something happens (ie: abscess, colic, etc), I know he has a stall at no extra incurred cost to me. I also like that she is very open to changing his routine...we used to feed him outside, now he comes in for meals to make coming inside less of a big deal, so as not to stress out my ulcer boy.

    2 - Decent, safe turnout. My horse has been in a few turnout situations, and has done best in a mid-sized turnout with one other gelding. It was never a hassle to change his turnout around, and he gets what's best for him being a needy horse.

    3 - A knowledgeable BO who really gets to "know" their boarder horses. I feel like this should happen anywhere, but esp. a smaller facility with less animals. I like to know that my BO will notice immediately if something is NQR with my horse.

    4 - No extra charges for worming/dosing non-daily meds. I do provide wormer, but if I can't give it for some reason (left too quickly after riding...I don't like to give for awhile after a ride), BO does not charge me to administer. Also my horse was on 2 months of GastroGard which BO gave daily at the crack of dawn before breakfast.

    5 - I think they have to require some vaccinations (rabies, flu/rhino, strangles) but give options...for example I opted out of giving my horse Potomac this yr, we aren't near any water ways and he's gotten it 5 yrs in a row, didn't see it necessary.


    • #3
      When I was looking for a small backyard place the only thing that truly mattered was the safety and well being of my horse.

      None of the stuff you mention would have been a deal breaker for me one way or the other.

      I personally hate being nickle and dime to death by a BO so being billed separately for each thing probably would have been something I would have thought long and hard about. I like to know what my board bill is every month.


      • #4
        1 - Is pasture board available? I think barns that offer both stall and pasture board are wise to do so. I will not stall my mare (she weaves), so pasture board is a MUST.

        2 - Is water available 24/7, with trough/bucket heaters in the winter? If not, no deal. End of story.

        3 - Does the hay look decent? Mold, debris, straw-like, etc, I avoid. Also if the barn offers pure grass hay for my relatively easy keeper, that's a huge plus.

        4 - What grain is provided, and can I substitute my own if I so choose? If no grain is provided, does the board cost reflect that?

        5 - Do the horses already on the property look happy, good weight, friendly? Are they standing in nasty smelly stalls? Is there not a single piece of hay in their stall? Is their water bucket empty?

        6 - Ad lib hay or forage, for my mare with a history of colic this is a MUST. It doesn't have to be super duper high quality, but she has to have SOMETHING to snack on at all times.

        EDIT!: Forgot two!

        7 - Is the fencing safe and appropriate?

        8 - Does the BO make sure to pay attention to herd dynamics? ie, if my horse is getting the crap beaten out of her by a bully horse, will the BO do something about it?
        Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


        • #5
          First of all, do a contract. It covers your interests and theirs. No one is going to be offended, and if they are, you probably don’t' want them anyhow. Be sure to include wording about their responsibility for any fees associated with collections - those can be VERY expensive. When someone contacts us wanting to be a boarder, they get a packet that includes ALL rules, rates, etc. We want to make sure that everyone knows exactly what they’re getting with no surprises.

          Second, you will have to decide what you're willing to do. Do YOU want to do various turnouts, etc. or not? If not, determine what your schedule will be and the potential boarders can decide if it fits their needs. At our barn, we know the horses are fed about 7, turned out about 8 and brought back in about 4. We work around those times. Not a big deal. If someone does want their horse left in (like the one who rolls immediately, and owner doesn’t want to come to the barn at 8:30 only to find a freshly rolled and muddy horse who was JUST turned out) they leae a note on the board and Horsey stays in.

          As for having different perspectives, that is a whole can of worms. The barn I'm at has everything from A circuit hunters to DQs to trail/NH types. We coexist, but there is conflict at times. However, because everyone knew the rules up front, it isn't a big deal. If you offer different types of boarding (pasture v. stalls) make sure to spell out clearly what they will get in each situation. We offer 4 different types (pasture, pen, self-care stalls, full-care stalls) and are very up front on what will be provided in each, such as feeding, supplements, etc.

          For shots & other vet work, you should make it mandatory that they get specific vaccinations, worming and such. Then arrange that the vets come and do them on a regularly scheduled appointment time. We just get a notice that the vets will be there on ___ day, and we get the bill shortly after for their shots. That way, I know, without question, that my horse isn't going to get something that Backyard Betty's horse brought in when she wasn't vaccinated for it.

          As for hours - YES! If you live on site, you probably don't want people out there in the middle of the night or the crack of dark. That said, boarders who show may need to be able to access their horses early or late when they come and go, but as long as they let you know, it can work.
          A proud friend of bar.ka.


          • #6
            Absolutely not turned off by rules. In fact, I'd look askance at any place that didn't have rules....Deal breakers would be someone who insists on my horse/myself being in a training program ("we do Parelli here, and will treat your horse in that manner" "uh no, screw off."), insisting on a certain type of feed or refusing to feed/charging more to feed something I supply, not feeding supps or charging to feed supps, that type of stuff.

            If you have enough property to have pasture board AND stall board, then by all means go with what is in demand in your area.

            As for deworming, I would enforce that everyone be on the same rotation for pasture/manure management. As for shots?? Well, some need more if they show, others may not, ie influenza. As a boarder, I'd like but not insist on a place to keep tack, I'd like a warm-water washrack and I'd like a lighted arena.
            COTH's official mini-donk enabler

            "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


            • #7
              Forgot to add, barbed wire and the like is a deal breaker. Safe fencing and buildings are a must. Weird how more than one of us forgot the basics like that...
              COTH's official mini-donk enabler

              "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


              • #8
                I personally like a place with rules. If you don't have a firm sense of direction there will be one boarder who will try to take over and do things their own way.

                Of course that will only be the beginning of your problems.
                "Your best can be worn at any length"- Jason Mraz


                • #9
                  I board at a small barn and I really do love it. The barn offers both stall and field board with a different price for each. We buy our own grain, but the farm provides hay and bedding. We do clean our own stalls but there's a kid who will clean stalls for $5, just have to get in touch with her day before or morning of.

                  Some of the important things that I really like are:
                  - laid-back atmosphere, you don't HAVE to be a H/J rider or a Western rider, or what not, but they don't think you're a snotty H/J rider because you do show
                  - barn manager is happy to help. My horse has been dealing with an almost five month injury and BM has done morning wrapping, daily meds, alternative t/o, feeding tons of extra hay, etc. to give me peace of mind.

                  - close-knit barn family, there's only a few of us and we're always happy to help with barn chores, organize a work day (most recently re-painting the barn), and pitch in when things are needed on the farm (watering chickens, moving cows).

                  - space to store my stuff. I like having a locker PLUS space for a trunk and tote bin(s).

                  - plenty of muck buckets and pitchforks. I did like the way a previous barn had a ramp built to the level of the manure spreader - wheeled the wheelbarrow up and dumped. At current barn you have to lift and dump the muck bucket. Not a big deal... I have great arm muscles now.

                  Some things that could use improvement
                  - I don't mind that we have a small ring, since we can also work out in the fields. But it would be nice if the ring were maintained with better footing and on a regular basis. But that's a BO thing (who's very hands-off with the horse aspect at our farm), and after we had to move the cows into the ring for the nor'easter he noticed how bad the footing has gotten.

                  - Shaving storage. Unfortunately the dump truck cannot get it into the storage bin, so when scooped up by the front-end loader rocks sometimes get mixed in. Also, rain can blow into the shavings storage which wastes shavings.

                  Deal Breakers (Previous barns)
                  - BM would not feed hay according to horses' needs, only according to the rules (2 flakes per day). If you bought your own hay they wouldn't feed it, you had to find someone else who would. Half the time it would get stolen anyway.

                  - Turnout was inflexible. All mares went in one herd, all geldings went in another; never mind that each herd had a dangerous bully that would attack herdmates. If you wanted your horse turned out individually (even if on vet ordered lay-up) staff would not do it, had to ask a friend to do it while they were there. And those put out by their owners (or friend) could not stay out unless supervised.
                  "Beware the hobby that eats."
                  Benjamin Franklin


                  • #10
                    We're a small barn and we have a contract and rules. We only offer full care board (which may or may not work for the area you are in). We don't nickel and dime for extras. Worming is included in board as well as free choice hay (grass or grass, timothy mix), up to 8 lbs of Nutrena Safe Choice or TC Senior (quite frankly, we're moving away from the Safe Choice and right now everyone is on the TC Senior.) Can be flexible with feed, but would have to charge a surcharge if it's not available locally. Supplements must be bagged or Smart Paks. Blanketing, holding for farrier and vet, no charge (unless horse is extremely difficult, which did happen with one horse. Then we do ask owner to hold or charge an extra fee). We offer group or private turnout. Heated buckets and troughs. Night check, light grooming, picking feet, applying topical meds, etc. all no charge. Will even give a quick bath if they are really disgusting and owner is out of town and/or unable come to barn. Don't have an arena yet, but are working on plans for one.

                    We do allow boarders to use their own vet, farrier, but they must arrange, catch, hold and clean up after.

                    The main rules are for safety. Helmets required, etc. We do request that boarders leave before 9:00 p.m. We do not have a lit arena or indoor, so feel this is entirely reasonable. Very early morning or late evening visits are disruptive to other horses in the barn. We try to be flexible, which I think is a plus. I do believe if you treat horses like your own (assuming that your horses ARE well cared for), you will be successful.

                    I haven't been impressed with self care from a BO point of view. Too many friends (BOs also) that complain that boarders just don't show up for chores, don't supply enough hay, etc.
                    Last edited by LauraKY; Jan. 5, 2010, 07:06 PM. Reason: Explaining 9:00 curfew


                    • #11
                      OP I think the more universal you "Let" your barn be the better atmosphere you will get.

                      I feel a boarder should have the right to go with your worming plan or their own.

                      I think you have good say to tell boarders what shots their horses should have while boarded at your barn.

                      Set price for board, you will be making things harder then they need to be with different prices for different boarders, keep everyone happy is the key - human and horse.

                      I don't think your barn should be only english or only western. We all ride for the same reason and if anyone is going to start whatever over a discipline that's just silly and a boarder you do not need at your place. Again universal is the way to go for a small barn.

                      Barn hours are a must
                      Helmets are a must
                      Whoever is the last one out check every door/horse etc.
                      Be aware of all the horses, not just yours.
                      Turn off lights ... sounds simple but it is not for some!


                      • #12
                        I think it's important that all horses be on a similar de-worming schedule. I was at a barn once that required all the owners to de-worm their horse with the same type on the same day, otherwise they didn't get turned out until they had been properly de-wormed. It was an honor system, and it worked. I would set dates to de-worm far in advance so people can plan ahead, and if they aren't going to be there then give the dewormer to the BO so they can do it (if horse is sane about it). If horse isn't sane about then the it has to stay inside until owner comes back as does it. I'm frugal and I buy my de-wormer at a discount so I'd hate to have to pay extra for the BO to do it.

                        Same thing with vaccines, offer a vet "clinic" or the owner can do it themselves by the same date of the clinic if they don't want to pay a vet to do it. I'm frugal and it is cheaper for me to do them myself, but I like knowing that all horses are vaccinated.

                        I am just fine with providing my own grain in pre-measured containers. It's easy for me, and I am still in control of my horse' grain intake. You can get containers at the dollar store for cheap!

                        I don't mind barn hours, as long as they can be flexible if I'm getting ready for a show, or if my horse is ill/injured.

                        SAFE FENCING!! This one trumps most other things... and plenty of hay. I'd pay more to make sure my horse wasn't skimped in the hay department....
                        Foaling Around www.facebook.com/foalingaround
                        Custom Equestrian Items and Bath Products


                        • #13
                          In addition to what has been written, let me add:

                          boarder dynamics. Barn drama, running children, DQ's or HQ's looking down their noses at trail riders, know it alls, etc etc would drive me away from a nice barn.



                          • #14
                            A schedule. And I mean one that does not vary. Feedings, turnouts, stall cleaning all done at the same time every day.

                            Good quality hay goes a long way. No sense touting "free choice hay" if the hay is all sticks and weeds.

                            Consistency in handling. Preferably the same person or people handling the chores and horses every day.

                            Well maintained fences and footing.

                            Pastures and stalls cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Buckets de-iced and filled 2-3 times a day.

                            Ability to choose my own vet and farrier, and worm as I see fit. (I worm aggressively. Now if someone is not worming at all, that's a different story....)

                            An awareness of pasture maintenance and rotation.

                            An awareness of herd dynamics.

                            A respect for each horse as an individual.

                            You'd be surprised how hard it is to find the above. So many places have all the bells and whistles but the above are severely lacking. I'll take a low-frills place with the above features any day....
                            We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                            • Original Poster

                              thank you! and please keep the replies coming

                              I have had my horses in a few different boarding situations and I do understand how important it is to have the right place for you and your horse. Nothing worse than having a horse somewhere thats not quite right!

                              All horse have 24/7 (or close to it) hay. anywhere from 'okay' (but never mouldy dusty etc) to really nice. Water 24/7 although I am thinking now that if I did end up with horses in the stalls PLUS horses in outdoor board I would need something better set up. Currently I have two that live outside 24/7 with shelter and one in the barn. The one whos inside is mine and shes turned out with the geldings during the day. The outside horses are a boarders horse and a horse I lease. Im really lucky to have such a good boarder. My lease horse has heaves so I built him a shelter (doing 78457498758Xs better since staying outside) and lucky for me my boarder was happy to have her horse live outside 24/7. Lucky because I was going to end up with another horse as my leased horse HATES my mare and would never share a shelter with her, which she needs since she has special needs, being why she in stall at night during winter.

                              Fences are safe, electric and wood, but not together, one paddock is electric, two and wood. Big fence changes in the spring, also added atleast one more turnout and turning one of the paddocks into a riding ring. Currently we just ride in one of the paddocks but having one cleaned up and sanded, and hopefully gravel to gateways etc.

                              Storage space for bigger tack trunks basically does not exist right now. That is one of the first things that is getting done this spring. Shed being built for bf! His ride on mower, 4 wheeler and snow blower are in the barn, loooots more space for things once thats moved out.

                              Deworming right now is just- I buy them and boarder pays me back. I administer them. I have no problems feeding extra feeds provided. I think I will be offering a price without feed and one with.

                              I try my best to get to know every horse as an individual, I have worked at barns that had large numbers of horses and always tried to get to know everyones quirks.
                              Pasture turnout in not an option as I dont have pasture pasture lol. My 24/7 turnout horses are in paddocks. I do know of people looking for natural boarding that cant seem to find places that will leave horses out 24/7 with shelter. They are okay with having them in something like a 'paddock paradise' type situation. Thats a possibility not a definate thing though.
                              Self care board would not be an option.

                              I definately have no issues with changing turnout situations if wanted/needed. Personally my own horses have always gone out together except in the case of one extremely agressive gelding. But I realize that most people would prefer small compatable groups which would be what I would aim for.

                              Some extras are not a problem, bandageing or giving supplements and meds are fine by me. Emergency situations I dont mind holding the horse obviously.


                              • #16
                                Also, while you are -- rightly -- asking what is appealing to potential boarders, also ask *yourself* what is important to you. I do small scale boarding, and forget about what everyone else wants, I do not want to be keeping track of every little thing, so I include worming, fly spray (many of my owners can't get out regularly), blanketing etc. I make sure everyone knows that the one board price pretty much includes everything for daily care. If supplements or medication are needed then boarders pay for those things.

                                While I do have an outdoor ring, I am not at all keen on people I don't know riding here. I have no problem with people I've known . . . In other words, it is your private barn -- what do YOU want?
                                Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by FraggleRock View Post
                                  Some extras are not a problem, bandageing or giving supplements and meds are fine by me. .
                                  Your place sounds really nice! Extras are fine, but do charge for them. If you have owners like mine who can't get out, and the horse has an abcess, SOMEONE has to soak/wrap, and since the owner can't it is me. One horse had white line disease and I ended up wrapping twice a day for two weeks -- when I added up 30 min. a day for 14 days and realized it came to 7 hours or almost a full work day, I decided I had to charge for that!

                                  A full service barn, with grooms on staff at all times has the labor for extras like that there and paid for already. If it is just you, then you don't. Those full service places charge high board prices b/c of their high costs -- a boarder gets what she pays for, in that sense. If a boarder is not paying for a full service barn, they need to pay for the additional care that is not standard.

                                  Paying for extra care is also good so if a boarder is capable and can get out she can decide to do the care and save the money. But if you end up doing it trust me you will want to get paid for all the extra time you spend.
                                  Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                                  • #18
                                    I've always had my best luck at small back yard barns.

                                    Offer heated water tanks in the winter. I know this is hard for the big barns, but if you could make it work, that would be a plus.

                                    Summer time? Offer to switch - outside at night, indoors during the day with fans.
                                    Some barns charge extra for the electricity, which I'll gladly pay.

                                    Hay three times a day. Make sure someone is on hand at lunch time to feed it.

                                    Paddocks picked several times a week.

                                    Safe fencing, (no hanging wire, boards or protruding nails) that is a turnoff for potential boarders.

                                    Safe stalls, again, no nails or other hazards.

                                    Good luck in your new adventure!
                                    MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                                    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Wow! I was so writing my reply that a couple more posts got in before I posted mine!

                                      Deworming must be all at the same time, non negotiable! I don't see any point in deworming my own horses if your horses don't get done.

                                      Fences are safe, buckets are clean and de iced.

                                      Vet and Farrier is you choice as long as it gets done I'm happy.

                                      I ride english and western. I don't care who does what, just curious to others opinions of that. This is my home and I will not be putting up with any bull, no matter who you are. I want this to remain and nice quiet place for anyone who is here.

                                      No problems with some one coming after/before hours due to horse shows etc.

                                      I trim my own, would you be put off by a place that didnt already have a current farrier coming? Boarder uses natural trimmer that I used to use. But I don't give a * whats on your own horses feet

                                      I handle all the horse stuff except my bf feeds breakfast during the week. He has many years of experience and is quite capable yet does not rough handle.

                                      Stalls are cleaned daily, bedded as needed. Paddocks being cleaned, funny that is something that I don't know of ANY boarding barns (big expsensive ones included) that do that. Perhaps there are some around that do that I'm not aware of but its certinally not the norm. My paddocks while not rolling acres are larger than average turnouts. I clean up paddocks regularly in summer, winter is slack but also I currently have 3 horses loose in all three paddocks so very spread out.

                                      This is quite helpful


                                      • #20
                                        The only thing that would be different for my criteria for a small place as opposed to a larger barn would be the people- one of the bazillion reasons I love my current place (5 boarders) is that I really really like the people. With only 5 boarders and a couple of people leasing the BO's former competition horses, it is harder to avoid barn drama if there is any than it would be at a larger barn and one jerk can ruin a small operation when at a larger place it is easier to avoid the bad eggs. If this were my home and I only had a couple of boarders, my primary concern would be the people and whether they were a good fit.
                                        As for the rest, my criteria is the same regardless of the size of the operation and it may be different than other people's.
                                        A BO that had the same philosophy towards horse care as I do and is knowledgeable is probably the most important to me- right now, I do not worry about my horses because I trust the owner 100% with respect to my horses' care and what she may decide to do if she cannot reach me or I am out of town.
                                        I could list hundreds of criteria and things that I consider perks but not everyone may look for that and it may not work for you to provide it (i.e., I love the fact that I can switch back and forth between partial field board and full board month to month- not everybody can do that or would want their horses on pasture board, and while I do not need to ride at midnight, a 9pm closing time would not work for me with my work schedule although I sure as heck understand an owner living on the property setting a 9pm closing time).
                                        There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)