I look first at condition of the horses and how the stalls are kept. By this I mean that if I walk into a barn and my eyes start to water due to the smell of ammonia and I peak inside a few stalls and they obviously haven't been cleaned recently (as in days), I will walk back out. I look to see if the majority of the horses are in good weight and look cared for. By this I mean I don't want to see every horse underweight with open wounds etc, understanding that a few may be underweight due to age, new horses coming in etc.
After condition of the stalls and horses, THEN I look at the overall situation. I live in Maryland so an indoor arena is obviously a must. How big is it? Large enough for several horses or is it going to be a one horse (so to speak) effort? Even a covered outdoor arena could suffice. Footing is negligible as long as it isn't something like stone dust only. Sand, a mix of sand/clay is acceptable as long as it is kept dragged and "fluffed on a regular (dragged at least every couple of days) basis. In an outdoor, how well does the arena drain water? Does it flood in the least little rain, turn into slop with no traction etc? An arena can be sloppy but if the footing is decent, other than getting splashed with mud, there is little danger to the horse slipping and/or falling.
Trails are nice but again, not a deal breaker..I don't go out on them on a regular basis as I have had horses that just weren't trail safe.
I also look at the barn staff and other riders. Is the staff friendly or standoffish? While I don't need a chatty person, I want people to at least have some level of simple courtesy. Same with other riders. I don't need chatty but at least have the decency to have some manners and courtesy.
A trainer is good but I lump that in to the staff. Any barn I have been at always had instructors of some sort but there is and was the option to bring in your own trainer so that particular point isn't a deal breaker if I find barn I really like that may not have a specific trainer.
The barn I am at now is not the most updated and beautiful palace some of these places are. The place is 30 yrs old, but, they have an excellent staff and take excellent care of the horses. I have two indoor arenas, two large outdoor arenas and trails. Out of 14 barns in the area I looked at, both less expensive and more expensive then the one I am at as well as more "pretty" on the inside, I chose this place and will have been there for 11 years come November. Why? Staff, instructors and care of the animals. The place will never be featured in House (or Barn) Beautiful but it is kept in repair. W ehave a wash rack with hot and cold water, are allowed stall fans, horses have good turnout time, generally in groups but only with horses with which they get along and new horses are introduced to all potential paddock mates under strict supervision and first turnout in the full group is monitored by two people. We have a special quarantine paddock for those horses new in to use who are automatically quarantined for 14 days. These horses are taken into an area of the barn to stalls that are set up specifically as a quarantine area unless their medical history and history of locations is well known. For example, we have a sister barn about 5 miles away. A horse brought to our barn from that location is placed in a regular stall as their history and location was known (only for horses that have been at either barn for at least 6 months) but they are not turned out in group turnout until the 14 day "technical" quarantine has passed.
Last edited by tlkng1; 09-07-2013 at 08:34 PM.