No matter your reasons for wanting to explore boarding for your horse there are some critical questions to ask yourself prior to sending off the first email or picking up the phone.
Selecting a barn to keep your horse at is hard – these people will likely become your barn family and you are entrusting a very precious part of you to them. Choosing well is important. Moving barns is a pain in the neck but making your selection wisely and carefully can make it easier.
Questions you should know the answer to include (only 1 and 10 are in specific places):
1.What is your budget?
Costs to keep horses in a boarding situation vary enormously – there is no point in calling a place without calculating what you can afford.
2. How do you want your horse kept?
Indoors, outdoors or a combination of both? What will suit you and your horse best? (For example if you can only ride after work having a stall your horse is already in can make riding and getting ready much more pleasant, some individual horses are much happier out)
3. What do you want your horse fed?
Are you OK with feeding what the barn feeds? Are you OK with arranging your own hard feed and dragging it to the barn? What you want may include supplements you provide – is having a barn willing to feed them important to you?
4. What facilities matter to you?
Of course we’d all love everything – realism rears her head here though and you will likely need to prioritize – tack locker? Wash stall? Grooming stall? Human kitchen/ bathroom/ change room? Indoor arena? Outdoor riding ring? Round pen? Hacking? Cross country fences? Jumps? A place to keep your trailer? Get a clear picture of your musts and wants sorted out before you start looking or you may need to increase your budget with every shiny nice thing you see!
5. How far a drive can you manage?
Finding the balance point between a barn you love and a drive you hate is tough. Seriously think about the time you can spend driving to and from your horse in all seasons!
6. When are you going to ride? When do you want to access your horse?
If you can only ride Saturday afternoons and after work a busy lesson barn may not suit you. If you leave for shows at 5 am in the morning a barn that doesn’t open until 10 am won’t do you much good.
7. What kind of coaching/instruction do you need or want?
If you have a trainer will they be welcome at the new barn? Is the instruction available at the barn going to help you? Do they bring in clinicians who interest you?
8. Do you have a vet you know you want to use?
Some barns have working relationships with vets that they want everyone using. Some vets have barns they will not go to. Determine what you want then you can find out if it’s possible at the places you visit.
9. Think about your farrier needs and wants – are you open to change? Do you want to use the same blacksmith as the barn does?
A good blacksmith matters. Think over your needs and wants to – are you open to change? Do you want to use the same blacksmith as the barn does? There’s an old expression "For want of a nail a shoe was lost for want of a shoe a horse was lost" ... you'll see or use a farrier many more times most years than you will a vet.
10. What are your main priorities?
Do you need a place to ride? Learn? Keep your horse safe and happy? Of course you want all of these things but life is rarely that simple and odds are very good you will need to make some tough choices once you get out there looking. Working through this list ahead of time will help you make the most of your search.
(I suspect another post or two on this subject –finding a perfect barn for you and your horse is a tough thing to do)