Let’s Discuss: What’s in a Boarding Barn

Often I have to remind myself that the reason I have bounced around to 8 barns in the area is not because I am that boarder.. Or at least I hope not. Two of the barns closed down entirely while I was there, two I left because they were either no longer a good fit for either myself or my horse, and the other three I left because the care was less than acceptable.

This place- peaceful, and you know, great for engagement photos

This place- peaceful, and you know, great for engagement photos [PC: Robyn Van Dyke Photography]

I’ve come to realize that no boarding situation is ever perfect (although if you’ve found the magical perfect boarding barn, do tell!). So it’s up to us as the boarders what compromises we are willing to make. Personally, these compromises tend to be about my actual riding time. For instance, I would rather share a small arena with a couple other riders (a facilities compromise) than compromise on how much hay my horse is going to be fed. (true story)

[PC: Robyn Van Dyke Photography]

Foster and I loved this place. [PC: Robyn Van Dyke Photography]

So if there was such a thing as a perfect boarding facility, what would that look like? Since we’re dreaming, I would love for it to have the following:

  • An excellent barn manager
    • who knows his/her stuff
    • who alerts boarders to any unusual behavior/physical nuances
    • who genuinely cares for the horses
    • but does not micromanage boarders
  • 2 arenas
    • one jumping
    • one for flat work
    • both with great footing
    • that I don’t have to share with kid lessons
  • Tip-top care
    • Good hay
    • Good grain
    • Good pasture
    • Safe facilities
  • A good atmosphere
    • Happy, friendly boarders
    • Peaceful, not-chaotic
    • Bathroom available for boarders (made this mistake at the last barn)
    • Zero drama

It’s a long wishlist, and still there’s plenty else I’d probably add to the list in due time.

We all have horror stories. Horses losing tons of weight, unnoticed blood running down legs, barn management trying to ride your horse… you get the deal.

What are your priorities in a boarding barn? What are your must haves, and what are you willing to compromise on?

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24 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: What’s in a Boarding Barn

  1. My priorities are on horse care & horse happiness. I’m willing to compromise on training, facilities, etc… but luckily right now I board with a good mix of everything. Like you said though, nothing is perfect!

  2. I haven’t boarded in years since I own my own place (and am starting to board). I don’t have rings really, which is #1 on the list of future improvements, but I do pride myself in taking care of all the boarders as if they are my own. No drama is a big deal with me.

    • Boarding for the first time after growing up with horses in the back yard was definitely an adjustment at first! It’s always a relief to find a barn manager who cares about the horses- and I bet your boarders really appreciate that!

  3. I’m pretty lucky in that I have boarded my horses with the same barn for a really, really long time. And I haven’t even been there the longest! The one thing the place is lacking in is pasture–we have dry lot turnouts instead. I make up for it by hand grazing my horse frequently.

    • If you find a great place to board, you don’t move for the heck of it! Pasture or not, it sounds like you’ve found a pretty good place 🙂

  4. I recently found an excellent barn which meets all of our (Kenna and I) standards.
    My favourite part is that it’s simply a barn where you board and ride. You can have your trainer come and coach you as long as you have your horse there but it isn’t a lesson barn where there are people that just go to take lessons.

    (It’s always been something I’m touchy about as at my first barn, some of the boarders didn’t come to see their horses and the owner would use their horses in their lesson programme. There was also a case where a girl was on a horse who no one was supposed to ride and broke her collarbone so all of that just made me worried about keeping a horse there)

    • I like the scenario you describe as well, having a coach come to me rather than being at a barn where the boarder horses become lesson horses. The girl who broke her collarbone sounds like she learned that lesson the hard way! Ouch!

  5. i have yet to make any decisions about my own boarding situation – but the place where my lease mare lives ticks off a lot of my biggies. i think the care is great (i should hope so, since i work there too haha), the horses are happy, and i can’t argue with the proximity (definitely a biggie for me too).

    the riding facilities tho… really not great. our 100’x200′ arena is definitely mediocre at best… and can’t be used for 3 months out of the year. plus we have to share with all the many lesson kiddos and trainers.

    • I admit, I’m not great about sharing the ring with kiddos. Trying to school canter lengthenings in an arena where chaos, nerves, and lack of steering rule (depending on the age of the kids of course) is just a tough situation!

      At least with you working there you know exactly what is going on at all times- that’s a pretty good bonus! 😀

  6. I know that I won’t be 100% happy until my horses are at home. I have moved quite a bit for some of the same reasons as you. The only thing I used to be more flexible on is driving distance (some of the most wonderful barns I’ve ever seen are about 1 hour south of my house) but the drive exhausts me and makes me crabby. So even though I’ve tried twice to board farther away from home, it never sticks.

    I expect a lot. My husband says he feels bad for any barn owner that I board with…. 😛

    • I just hate driving. That was the reason I left the beautiful barn in the pictures, after getting a job a bit further away I was driving almost an hour to get to the barn, which put my total driving time per day at around 3 hrs. I understand why driving that far is hard- it just burns you out to be in a car that much!

  7. There is a farm around my area that has two indoor arenas, but suffers and lacks in quality care, management, and quality feeds. It seems difficult to find one that has all. Personally when I worked a stable the most rewarding aspect was having the young riders and the more experienced riders together. Each brings something new to the table.

  8. I gotta say, I’m pretty in love with the barn we’re at right now, I’m glad Addy’s owner picked it! The horses come first there 100% of the time, no questions asked- they have quite a few older horses that still go around happily since they get great care. The adults have all been super nice, the lesson kids are usually gone by the time I get there after work, and we have a nice big indoor! I do wish we had a slightly larger outdoor to use, but the one we have has great footing and we can still fit a couple jumps, so I can’t really complain there.

  9. I absolutely love the barn I board Miles at. Like any place, there are minor issues that crop up now and again, but by and large it’s fantastic. The three things that make it amazing are the well-maintained and ample facilities, the knowledgeable staff (who are very kind and always willing to help!) and the great boarders. I’ve definitely been blessed with finding an awesome boarding barn!!

    • That’s awesome to have Miles at such a great place. As you pointed out- I think the people make almost as much of a difference as the facilities themselves!

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