While I, like the rest of us, wish that we could all stay at our childhood barns. In a euphoric and naïve haze we can dream about the facilities, trainer, and friends you grew up with and had become comfortable with. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for about 99% of us, and we must spread our wings and find greener pastures. When you’re starting your search or making the decision where to move your special animals, there are three major things to consider.
- The trainer and the program
If you’re moving to train, make sure the person you’re moving for is actually worth the move. You don’t want to uproot yourself and your horse for a subpar training schema with someone who doesn’t lift you up. Make sure they’re good, healthy minded people, whose passion is continuing people’s riding educations. Ask questions! If you’re going into a full training program, how does that effect how many times you ride your horse in lessons or does that mean the trainer rides them? Can you take lessons on schoolmasters? Are you required to participate in extra-curricular activities such as clinics that cost a fortune or instead of a good gallop in the pasture, is your horse required to do treadmill or water resistance activities? How do they train when you aren’t around? Are they the type to bring you down to get more money out of you or give you the boost to help your long-term goals? If showing is important to you, are you required to go to a certain amount of shows per season? Are you allowed to take lessons from other trainers or go to clinics? Do you have to use their farrier and vet? It might seem like a lot, but listen to their answers carefully and ask for a copy of the requirements in a contract before agreeing to anything. All these things can vastly impact your barn life and your price. (p.s. all these things are real and have been experiences first hand by myself and my group of friends)
- The facilities
Facilities are probably the second most important thing when choosing a barn. Try to find somewhere that will help you with the transition, like if you’re horse is used to 24/7 turn out, find somewhere that will help ease them in to a stall. It’s also important to find a stable whose facilities align with your discipline and horses’ needs. What’s the turn out schedule like? How big are the pastures? How many times are stalls cleaned and what’s the size? Do you have control of their feeding regime or are all the horses fed the same brand of grain and anything extra, you have to pay for and feed? Who works there? I’m not kidding when I say a lower income barn I know of that specialized in younger girls (10-16 years old) had an actual sex offender on their payroll. Another barn I boarded at let all the teenage girls with little hands on horse experience “run” the place, including the once a day feeding, cleaning stalls, workout schedules, and “turn out”, which consisted of 35+ horses running together in a 6 acre pasture. You can imagine how hands on I was at the latter with my two horses to avoid allll of that… Arenas and trails are other greatly important aspects to consider when deciding on a barn. If you live somewhere where the weather is consistently hot or snows or has lots of rain, an all weather, covered arena might be worth looking at. If you’re an eventer, do you have access to school cross country or do gallop sets? If there are large pastures horses stay out over nights, is there a covered dry area for them to get out of the wet or cold? Is there trailer parking available? Is the tack room dry and comfortable? Is there a security system? SO MANY QUESTIONS TO ASK.
- The budget
Be sure to have a good understanding of what you (or your parents) can pay and what you’re paying for before agreeing to anything. Pasture board, full board, training, full training, and all inclusive all have different prices, especially at nicer barns, so make sure what they’re asking price wise is in line with the quality of the training and the facilities. Get a break down of how everything is charged and why before making a decision. I’m not joking when some barns will charge extra for horses to be turned out more than once a week/on the weekends or will charge for unnecessary supplements that they believe all horses should be on. Again, hands on experience here. Be calculating and careful when discussing money to make sure you’re getting honesty about what will be charged and why and if things are optional.
In the end, you’re trying to find somewhere whose equestrian philosophy and facilities align with your own beliefs and needs. There are plenty of other things to consider, but these are just the bare minimum. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Happy riding and barn shopping, y’all!
Until next time,