why are you moving ? If you want a show barn and lessons that go with that venue, then you need to look at show barns, which will cost more.
My primary motivation is for my horse's health. I want him to get more turnout time and movement. Yesterday he colicked for the 3rd time in the past 12 months, and while I can't say for certain that more turnout will prevent future colic, I do know that movement is a crucial element in horse health. This last colic seemed more severe than the previous two (though he responded well to banamine paste and I didn't need to call the vet out). It was pretty scary and was the kick in the pants I needed to rekindle my search for a new barn.
I only show a few times per year and already trailer out to lessons, so I'm not concerned with whether or not the barn is geared towards showing.
Do you know of anyone that has moved from that stable? If so, ask them why. It could be something as simple as finances or wanting to train under a different trainer, or you could hear about some issues the place has. Ask around to other horse folks you know and see if they have heard anything negative. Perhaps even consider asking the barn owner herself why the stalls aren't filled. Some folks look at running a boarding stable as a hobby and not as a business, so they aren't determined to fill every stall. I would also try to talk to the current boarders if possible to see how they feel about the place as well as what they may dislike about it.
I don't know anyone who has been there. It certainly doesn't seem like they advertise heavily, since I was looking for quite a while before their name ever came up, which I guess supports the theory that they are doing it more as a hobby than a strict business. The BO did give that vibe, but didn't specifically say anything along that vein. They currently have 15 horses there, 7 of which belong to the BO/her family, and they do all the work themselves/don't have hired help.
It sounds like you already made up your mind. The other barn sounds quite nice, but you have a comfort level that you naturally hate to give up. I also think the comraderie may be a bigger issue than you say. Valid concern.
I agree it's worth checking out, but you simply need to ask yourself where you would be happier. Relax and give it some thought.
My best to you.
I really haven't made up my mind
I've been at my current barn for nearly 7 years (almost all of the time that I've been riding, and the whole time that I've lived in this area)- first taking lessons, then leasing, then boarding a leased horse, and now boarding my own. It's not a perfect barn, but I know it. I'm kind of torn between the uncertainty of a new place (wondering if it's too good to be true!) and knowing that I need to do something to get my horse more turnout.