Quality of CareYour main concern will be the health and safety of your horse. When you check a stable you'll want to notice:
- Do all horses appear healthy and content?
- Is there adequate space for them to co-exist without bickering?
- Is the hay and feed top quality?
- Are clean water and salt available at all times?
- Is there a routine schedule of feeding and turnout?
SafetyAll stalls, fences, windows and doors, walls and ceilings should be free of safety hazards. Fences should be sturdy, horse safe and in good repair. There should be fire extinguishers, a phone, a first aid kit for both humans and horses and other emergency equipment on hand.
HygieneLook for things like clean stalls, neat aisleways, clean troughs and buckets filled with fresh water. The barn should smell relatively fresh, not like manure or ammonia. The barn should be bright, airy but free from drafts (although this will be difficult to tell in warmer months).
CostFor many of us this is the biggest factor in choosing a stable. Boarding fees reflect where the stable is and what the stable has to offer. You have to decide what you can afford. You can find out more about the cost of boarding in the article How Much Does it Cost to Board a Horse?
DisciplinesIf you ride English, you may feel out of place if all the others in the barn ride Western. Or a barrel racer may not feel comfortable and have the facilities available for their discipline in a jumper barn. If you love trail riding, you probably won't be happy in a dressage barn. There are stables that do have boarders with a wide range of interests. Boarders that are interested in one discipline can co-exist with those interested in other disciplines as long as everyone stays open-minded and focused on learning and fun.
Training MethodsYou might want to consider the training methods you see used in a stable. If you use natural horsemanship methods and like to work your horse in a round pen, you might not feel comfortable working around those who believe strictly in classical methods.
Services AvailableSome stables offer many different services. Some boarding contracts will include riding lessons. If not, find out if you can have your own coach or trainer in if you choose to. Extras like blanketing and special feeds may or may not be available. Some stables schedule routine care like blacksmiths, immunizations and de-worming programs. These services will probably be an additional cost beyond your monthly board fee.
SizeA smaller, less busy stable may suit someone who likes quiet, alone time with their horse. Bigger stables can be busier, but that can be a plus for those who like to socialize and ride with others.
HoursCheck the hours the stable is open. Can you ride late at night or early in the morning? Is the arena available only at certain times? If you have Monday off and it's your only day to ride, a stable that is closed to boarders on Monday isn't going to work.
Read the ContractYou should read the boarding contract and decide if it is fair and understandable. Don’t sign it unless you understand it and are able to live by it.
To get a sense of the overall environment of the barn talk to other boarders. It is also fair to ask for references from the owner or manager.