In an ideal world our horses would always be just a few steps away. We could walk out the back door and ride off into the sunset whenever the urge struck us. Unfortunately, in the real world, it’s just not always feasible to house your horse in the yard. Horses need space, and lots of it. As a result, a surprisingly high percentage of horses in America are boarded year round. Still others are boarded only for a short period of time while their owners are away on vacation. In either case choosing a quality boarding service is vital to the health and well being of your steed.
It’s definitely worthwhile to take a trip to the facility before you start any paperwork.
Is it clean? Obviously a stable isn’t going to be spotless, but things should be relatively organized. Equipment should be where it belongs and the stalls should be mucked on a regular basis. The smell can tell you a lot. Does it smell like fresh sawdust, wood, or does it smell like a refinery? How big are the stalls? Will your horse have room to turn around? Will he have room to lie down? Are the water buckets full? If not you should find out why, and how often they’re checked on. The stable might use an automatic watering system or they might fill them by hand. Find out and make sure you’re satisfied with the answer.
Next you should take a look at the pasture. Find out how long the horses are left outside. If they’re left outdoors for long periods of time there needs to be some sort of shelter that they can get under. If they’re in the stalls most of the day find out how often they’re let out.
Lastly is this the type of place you could spend time in? Does it have a bathroom for you to use? Does it have an indoor arena? What are the hours of operation? What style of riding is most popular here? Do other owners seem satisfied? Don’t be afraid to ask for references or to strike up a conversation with people on site. Be warned though some horse owners are sensitive about unsolicited conversation so if they appear busy just move on.
The staff should be friendly, but might also be busy so try not to take any offense if they can’t stay on the phone with you for too long. It probably just means they would rather be looking in on the horses.
You should be aware of the size of the staff as well as their individual duties. It’s worth finding out if training is available or a hot walker. Sometimes these services come at an extra charge.
You definitely want to know how far away medical help is and what the emergency medical procedures are at the boarding facility.
The contract is probably the most important part of a boarding facility. Read it carefully and ask questions before you sign anything. It will tell you among other things what happens if you miss a payment -- do everything you can to never miss a payment; generally these payments are essential and go directly towards caring for your horse. Most stables don’t make a large profit from boarding and need the steady income to run optimally.
Your contract might also detail any rules that you must abide by. These could include helmet rules, required vaccinations and much more.
Some stables will require that you pay extra for feeding, blanketing or medical care.
Choosing the right stable is essential for both your sanity and your horse’s happiness. Be sure to put in the required research and preparations, you’ll be glad you did.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.