How to assess and select the best facility for both you and your horse
Have you ever had to look for a stable to train and board your horse? Many of us have been in a situation at least once when we need to find a stable to train and board our horse(s). And if you have, you can attest that this is no easy task to find the right home for your beloved friend.
Any high-quality training and boarding facility will possess several key characteristics that will help guide you as you start your search. Today, we can easily research facilities online through a quick web search or a scan of social media posts. An online check of customer reviews is a good place to start before making an in-person visit to your top choices.
To begin, you need to know what your horse needs and what you want from a stable. Let’s start with the basic criteria:
- Does the stable have one or more suppliers of quality hay?
- Is the water clean, fresh, and in ample supply?
- Are the shelters solid, safe, and in good condition?
- Is the fencing solid, safe, and good condition?
- Are the gates easy to handle with quality horse-proof latches?
But what else do you need to consider? Lessons, training for your horse, arena riding time, outdoor riding space, indoor space that is warm and dry? These questions cover the basics, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes a stable the perfect fit for you and your horse.
This is a critical first point. A stable’s atmosphere─good or bad─has a huge impact on your horse’s well being. Whether the stable is competitive or non-competitive, a horse needs a calm environment. Human stressors directly affect horses. While a collegial, respectful, and positive atmosphere is a great social environment in a facility, a high-stress, demanding, and anxious atmosphere will most certainly be detrimental for a horse.
Take time to observe the horses at the stable. Are they relaxed and curious, or anxious and agitated? The facial expression on a horse will give you this information. Are their eyes soft and bright? Do they have tight facial muscles? Their bodies are another indicator. Are their backs, necks, and abdomens tight? How is their posture? Happy horses have relaxed faces, soft muscles, relaxed toplines. They are curious, but not demanding of attention.
Also, take the time to observe the people who are working and boarding their horses at the facility. Do they look happy and relaxed? That’s a good indication of whether you will be relaxed and happy at the facility as well.
Services, Lessons, and Training
Watch some lessons and training sessions online, observing how the horses behave in a quality facility. Happy horses will enjoy their time in lessons and training. Their bodies will flow with rhythm, and the sound of their footfalls will be subtle. Their breathing will be regular and deep. The interaction of people with their horses will be kind, fair, and clear.
A happy horse is a social horse. Outside time with plenty of space to run is critical to the health of any horse, with proper, secure shelter for any changes in weather.
The herd dynamic is also a key element in meeting a horse’s basic needs. An excellent horse management staff will monitor their herds, place the horses in an ideal social group, and will move them to another herd if one horse ends up not fitting well.
Feed and Staffing
Horses require access to plenty of quality forage to feed properly. Whether they are fed two or more times a day, a horse should never be hungry. Think of how frustrated you get when you are hungry and remember: a hungry horse is a stressed horse. Their GI tract requires a regular intake of forage in order to stay healthy.
Those that take care of the horses also need to be happy and content at their job. Details matter. The staff need to know your horse and closely observe the horse for any changes. Any shifts in personality, eating habits, the quality of manure, and social behaviours are all indications of horse health. Regular checking of the horses throughout the day, along with an evening check after 8pm, will increase the chances of catching any problems early.
Communicating anything unusual or concerning to the horse owner is important to building a trusting, fruitful relationship for any top-quality stable facility. On the same note, it is also lovely to hear good things about your horse as they occur.
Facilities, Arenas, and Barns
Fresh and clean is the way to go. Good footing in the arena is paramount to preventing unnecessary strain or injury on your horse’s limbs and body in general. Clean stables are critical─open airy aisleways, nonslip floors, and fresh stalls are important to keep your horse healthy, especially over the long term.
Additional Care Services
If you are away for a stretch of time, will the management take extra care of your horse in your absence? Will training be given to your horse? Will you be able to ensure your horse is groomed or taken on a trail ride while you are on a trip─either as part of your boarding or as a value-added service?
Vet, farrier, dental, and bodyworker visits are also important to ask about. The right team of professionals should never be overlooked. Make sure the facility prioritizes a holistic wellness approach with reputable practitioners who can extend the healthy life of your horse.
One final point: be sure to bring a trusted friend with you to visit the facility. They will have the opportunity to see the environment from another point of view and can give you the honest, unbiased feedback you may need to hear.
Using the guidelines above, you can more confidently review and choose a quality stable and ensure your horse is healthy and happy for years to come.