I was reading on a popular online forum the other day about boarding barns and barn rules and as I came across a couple of responses I thought “No way, that’s a dealbreaker”. Then I started thinking about all the places I’ve boarded in my life and all their different rules, practices, facilities, etc. There’s so many things that I’ve learned along the way that I must have in a boarding facility, or can’t have in a boarding facility. As I sat there pondering away in lalaland and reading through everyone’s stories about their own barns I came up with a list in my head…
Turnout. I really really think horses need at least 6 hours of turnout a day. I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum – a barn that turned out maybe 30mins-1hr every other day, and pasture boarded horses that were out 24/7. Pasture board is tough in a Texas summer though, and I tend to need mine body clipped in the winter, therefore it’s not always practical. So to me the perfect compromise is 6-12 hours of turnout. If they have a run attached to their stall so they can come in and out as they please the rest of the time, even better.
Good footing. We all know how important this is. I can live with a place that won’t let you ride when the rings are wet, as long as the footing is good the rest of the time. It should be even, the right depth, not too soft, not too hard, and dragged/watered regularly. Keeping the horses sound is of the utmost importance. I also think its a huge bonus if there’s a nice big field to hack out in so we can escape the confines of the arena regularly.
Good care. The horses obviously must be watered at all times (most places here have auto waterers, but not everyone cleans them), they must have ample hay, they must be fed on a regular schedule, the stalls must be clean and bedded appropriately, etc etc. I can’t stand dirty waterers, meager hay, or filthy stalls. It’s also important to me that someone live on the property – the closer to the horses, the better. And they need to be paying attention!
A decent trainer. I’ve boarded at lots of places with no trainer, and it’s been fine, but with the current horse I do need someone around that can help me develop him correctly. Preferably a person with a strong jumper background that has an eye for detail and is really nit-picky… that’s my favorite kind.
My can’t haves are basically the opposite of the above. Bad footing, bad care, no turnout and a bad trainer are things I cannot live with.
As far as barn rules go, I wouldn’t get far in a place that required X number of shows otherwise you incur a non-showing fee. Nope, won’t happen. I also won’t be buying all new blankets and equipment in barn colors just so everything can match. Nope again. I don’t think I could deal with boarding at a place that had specific hours/days that you were allowed to come ride. Barns that are totally closed on Mondays or by 8pm? What? Nope. All of those are dealbreaker rules for me.
Otherwise I think I could live with most things. I would consider rules about cleaning up after yourself, wearing a helmet, no sandals, no smoking, maintenance of the property, etc to be positive things. Heck, I grew up riding with a trainer who didn’t allow tank tops, required your hair be up in your helmet correctly, god forbid you have shavings in your horse’s tail or not get every square inch wet when bathing, not wrap a leg 100% evenly or not clean your tack after every ride. They weren’t written rules but lets just say you only made those mistakes once. 😉 But I really appreciate that kind of upbringing now, and try to keep high standards for myself… therefore it doesn’t really matter to me if that level of detail is expected since I do it most of the time anyway.
The one rule I can’t really decide how I feel about is the “no jumping outside of lessons”. I don’t jump all the time, but I do like to hop over a few low fences a couple times a week just as a refresher. And my pocketbook is not of the variety than can afford 3 lessons a week. If you had a made horse it probably wouldn’t matter, but what about a greenie? What could you do to cope with a rule like that? Set up pole exercises one day a week and do a lesson another day a week and say that’s enough? That’s the only one I’m really hung up on.
What about you – what are your must haves/can’t haves? What rules do you love, what rules do you hate? What do you consider a “dealbreaker”? I’m sure there are a lot more I haven’t thought of.