When boarding goes right
I sometimes stop by this section of the Forum and feel so terrible for people who have experienced nightmare boarding scenarios. It almost makes me think we need some sort of a sticky thread here that's devoted to
a. Stories about what boarding looks like when it goes well; and
b. Contract language to ensure both BO and boarder are on the same page (I see a lot of threads asking for sample contract language, maybe we could just sticky this info?)
Anyway, I have a lot of work-related travel between now and October, and personally, boarding is a lifesaver for me, particularly when I have to be out of town. I would be lost without my amazing barn and BM.
The plusses (this is a barn with 12 horses, so I recognize not all of this is feasible depending on size/staffing):
This is all spelled out in my boarding contract....
-Horses have a consistent routine of turn-out, feeding, and being brought back in
-Horses are placed in appropriate herd situation or in individual turnout to meet their needs
-Clean water, and hay or pasture kept in front of horses at all times
-No charges for morning fly spray application, fly masks on/off, blankets on/off
-Hooves are picked in the evening when horses come in from the field
-BM or barn assistant willing to hold horses for farrier if needed and prearranged
-Barn, pastures, fencing, and arenas in good safe condition and well maintained
-Stalls thoroughly cleaned daily and stripped weekly
-Regular worming schedule of all horses on site
-BM is knowledgeable, friendly, and excellent with the horses- treats all horses as she would her own
Monthly boarding rates are comparable to other "pleasure" barns in my area and a little lower than show barns.
While it's a solid operation, it's certainly not perfect. These are the things I'd like to change, but in the scheme of things, I can live with these tradeoffs (others might have a different opinion...)
-Only one instructor on site, and no trainer
-Pastures are looking a little ragged but there's not really enough acreage to do a proper rotation of fields
-"Night" check doesn't happen as late as I'd like, meaning horses go for 10-12 hours alone overnight with no one looking in on them
-Have recently hired a couple of moody teenagers as barn assistants to replace a couple of stellar staff who left- in general, turnover for barn assistants is a little high
Most of the things in my "plusses" list above are things I simply can't do every day on my own given my work schedule; yet, even with my limitations, I know my horse is well cared for in my absence.
What would folks add to the above so that not everyone new to boarding ends up terrified about how bad it's going to be?
I love where I board, but I'm a pretty easy going individual.
For one I board at a private farm. It's gated and the gate is closed always (we have clickers to get in.) I like the security of knowing no one is going to drive in that shouldn't.
It's a safe place. It's double fenced all the way around to keep any escapees from actually getting off the property. The field horses have constant hay and run ins, as well as auto-waterers in the field. Horses are kept no more than 4 to a field but usually 2-3. They separate geldings and mares.
While we're welcome to bring an instructor, there is no lesson program and therefor the only kids around is the BO's occasional visit from her niece and another boarders 8 year old son that comes up once a weekend. I'm not a huge fan of watching someone else's kids, so the adult environment is nice.
My BO feeds an excellent grain made locally that my horses thrive on, and has several varieties should a horse need something 'more.'
I get to play with the foals and weanlings (She does breed, but only 1-2 mares a year.) I love babies!
My BO and I have turned out to be very good friends. We're similar in personality and age and just get along very well. Even though we're good friends, I don't expect any 'freebies' from her, and we have everything in writing including my work-for-board arrangement.
There's only 2 other boarders there, it's a small farm. I like small farms and low maintenance people. I don't think I'd go to a big lesson/training type barn unless I needed to for my riding/horses training.
The only cons really are:
No traveling on and off the property with a horse when new babies are on the ground. This lasts about 2-4 weeks and is usually in February/march so its not really presented a problem. This is to keep any outdoor horsie illnesses from being brought in while the newborn foals are strengthening their immune systems. She is very protective of her babies, and I don't blame her.
Small ring. They have two, but they're both small. I wish one was larger but it does the job. She does plan to expand and make it an indoor eventually.
No trails. I just have to drag her out onto them!
I wish the fields were bigger.
I board at a pretty large facility (76 stalls) and have had a largely positive experience, too. I'd like to one day have my horse at home, but even if I had the land to do so (which I don't) I also travel frequently for work and DH would not be happy taking on the horse chores, so it might be a while before that's realistic...
- BO lives on-site and never seems to sleep. She does a night walk-through at 1 or 2 am, and her husband feeds first hay at ~6am.
- Horses are turned out on a consistent schedule, in closely managed herds to ensure compatibility. Horses can also be turned out individually or in small groups if needed.
- Variety of stall sizes, from a couple small ones built specifically for the resident minis, to larger outdoor covered panel pens for horses that have special needs. There's no difference in boarding rate for the different sizes and when one comes up free it's first-come, first-served unless there's a horse that needs it.
- Four arenas- a large indoor, a small indoor, an indoor roundpen, and a small outdoor.
- Wash rack with hot and cold water
- Washer, dryer, and clothes line
- Blankets on/off at no extra charge
- Fly masks on/off at no extra charge (would probably do fly spray, too, but I've never asked)
- Hay is fed 3 times, grain twice, and mash once each day.
- Trailer parking at no extra charge
- Farrier comes every week, and you can sign your horse up just by putting his name on the white board
- 3 trainers/instructors on-site, plus at least one other (that I'm aware of) who comes every other week or by appointment. They do beginner lessons English or Western, but only really do more advanced lessons in dressage.
- Surprisingly little drama, especially considering how many people there are.
- People who do all kinds of disciplines- English, Western, driving, natural horsemanship, etc.
- Vet's office is less than 2 miles away (cheap barn calls!) and one of the vets boards her horse here.
- Lots of people means you can almost always find someone else to split barn call fees for other service providers (chiro, acupuncture, saddle fitting, etc.)
- Turnout space is limited, so horses only get 3-4 hours of turnout per day, and pastures get overgrazed pretty quickly.
- Lots of horses rotating through the turnouts means lots of cross-contamination; somehow my horse has managed to always come up with a clean FEC, though.
- Herds have priority on the grass pasture; horses that don't play well with others tend to get turned out on the smaller dry lots where there's not as much room to run. (Luckily my horse is in a herd)
- Different people feed all the time, and not everyone measures feed the same way. Hay is fed by the flake, but they vary A LOT in weight. Most horses get 1 flake, 3 times a day, which could be as little as 9 lbs of hay when the flakes are smaller. I know of one feeder who actually splits larger flakes in half when feeding; the same feeder decided one of the horses was getting too much feed and would cut it in half when she fed :evil:
- Different feeders also means it's harder to get special requests honored (like medication in the feed). It would also be nearly impossible to have your horse's hay fed in a hay net if it were up to the feeders to fill it.
- Some of the stall cleaners are better than others; the one who usually does my horse's stall doesn't remove the pee spot. To my knowledge the stalls are never completely stripped and re-bedded.
- Barn farrier is mediocre and not good at communication; when I used him I tried calling him and never got an answer, and tried coming when he's usually there and wasn't able to catch him before I had to go back to work. I use a different farrier now.
I've gotten around some of the cons by doing some of the work myself.
- I provide my own grain, so I pre-measure it out into baggies labeled for each meal. No need to worry if my horse is getting the right amount or if all his supplements are being fed.
- I got a bunch of cheap small hole hay nets and fill them up myself. Instead of throwing my horse a flake of hay, the feeder takes down the empty net and puts a filled one up. This way I know my horse is getting his 20 lbs of hay each day, plus it lasts him a lot longer.
- I keep a close eye on my horse's stall and remove soiled bedding as needed when I visit.
I LOVE my boarding barn. My coach and I rent a few stalls and do the work and buy our own feed for our horses, but there are several people around who would be willing to help out in a pinch. Stalls are spacious and bright, there are two large arenas, one indoor and one outdoor, a round pen, a hot and cold wash stall, field turn out with a variety of options for lushness, paddock turn out for winter. There are only a few boarders, so it's quiet, but there are usually one or two people around to chat with or if you need help with something. Its very much a family atmosphere with most of the boarders being old friends of the BO, and they have barbecues and get togethers regularly. It's a really nice relaxed environment with excellent facilities.
My barns great and I love it! Aside from one incident with a boarder (that's been resolved lol) the barn's other boarders who rarely come out are good and my trainer/BO/boss is a good friend of mine. The place doesn't look like much and doesn't seem like much but it's home and always will be. I know my horses are taken care of no matter and even the horses who people abandoned are cared for as best she can financially afford and given homes if she can find a place. Our contract is very professional too and there as a safety net (though we haven't needed it yet knock on wood). It's a barn where horses are horses and even her show horses are out on pasture 24/7, running with the herds. I never go there even when we're training and get worked up over anything. A horse jumps into another horses pasture it's all good, a bucket of grain and a leadrope and the horse will follow you to the moon! During the summers I'm hardly ever home and am usually at her house for dinner and a drive in her carts. :)
Love my boarding facility, too. No frills but safe. Low-key and drama free, family friendly. Will often see small groups chit chatting over a beer or grilling some burgers. Around 40 horses at any given time, mostly casual riders but a few compete regularly. Good management practices are in place, as far as feed storage & quality, the appropriate separation of stallions/geldings/mares, the regular vet schedule, regularly scheduled farrier visits, etc.
Everything is spelled out in our boarding contract so I know what is expected of me, and I know what to expect for my horse. Owner lives onsite which gives me peace of mind, and I always receive prompt answers to calls, texts, or emails.
I like my boarding barn. Just this last week my BO called me, saying a boarder had called her and said my mare was looking sick. When I went out she certainly was! She was in the midst of a full blown choking incident. The boarder and her roommates had hunted down a halter big enough to fit her, haltered her up and brought her in. When I got there the woman who was walking her stayed with me the 5 hours I was there, stayed to help with her and the emergency vet, etc. If I wasn't boarding I may not have seen, because I was getting ready to go take a nap before cooking dinner - and as we all know choke is nothing to mess around with. Even had I realized later in the day she could easily have died.
So, I do really appreciate the amazing people I board with and my BO. She called me the next day after she choked again, saying she was sitting out in the pasture watching her eat to make sure she wouldn't have problems and had brought her back in when she started coughing. She really goes above and beyond what she needs to do. (she's currently letting me use a stall and her hay net for my mare).
Yes, it's farther away, but I know my horses are in good hands.
So encouraging to hear these stories. These are all great examples of both the big and little things that lead to a great experience.
Shoebox, what a scary story-is your mare doing ok or has she continued to have problems with choke?
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I'm a bit scared to put her back out to pasture, even though this is the first time it's ever happened! (Maybe if she wasn't a big fat hay hog, but hey, that's not something you can 'teach them out of')
Too, because she's boarded - I know that the people who helped me out when she choked the first time check on her when they go out. And just like they do for me if I saw a horse in distress I'd certainly let the BO know to call the owners. It's nice having so many eyes who care to catch whatever might go wrong.
I adore my barn! My horse and I were in a bad boarding situation previously and I didn't even realize how bad it was until we moved.
Lizzie has been at her new barn for 1 year (Sept. 1). It is a small, 14 horse but 9 boarders barn in the owners back yard. 5 of the horses are theirs. Within 2 months, Liz had gained almost 100 pounds just from changes in the quality of hay from the old barn to this one.
- amazing owners- they treat every horse like their own, which means that Lizzie gets spoiled rotten when I'm away at school during the week. If she's hot, they sponge her off, if she's cold, they blanket her, if the bugs are annoying her, they spray her and put her fly mask on
- excellent care, I never have to worry about Liz missing a meal or having dirty water or stall again
- tons of shavings
- in and out stall
- fans for hot days
- flexibility- they don't get upset if my board check is a day late, they're willing to try new feeds for my picky old lady, I can use their vet, dentist, farrier or my own
- constant awareness of how Liz looks- she got into it with her neighbor pony over the fence and he took out some of her mane. The BOs called that night to let me know and said they looked her over and couldn't find any other marks. Even if she just looks off to them, they call to let you know.
- no drama!
- some great boarders that I enjoy spending time with
- small rings
- small turnouts for the in and out stalls
- I feel bad going at night because they go to bed early and I don't want to disturb them
- some not so great boarders
And that's really it!
It's an amazing place. I never knew that boarding could be so stress free! They love Lizzie like she's one of their own and I never have to worry about her when I'm away at college.
It's nice hearing other people's happy boarding stories!
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