The majority of horse owners keep their horses in stables. Many of them would like to take care of their horses themselves, however, sometimes it just isn’t possible because they might not have the acreage or time to spend feeding, mucking and turning out. Some owners like to keep their horses at a stable for the social setting and to meet and ride with other horse owners.
Whatever your reason, using a stable to board your horse can have many rewards and luxuries. Although it is more expensive than keeping horses on your own property, it is very convenient and desirable in most cases. When choosing the proper stable to board your horse, there are many factors that may make or break your decision.
Start by searching your local yellow pages, and get referrals from other horse owners or friends in your area. You may even contact your veterinarian or farrier for a referral. From these sources, you should end up with a decent list of stables in your area.
Some stables are much better kept than others, so be sure to stop by each of the referred stables and inspect the stalls, pasture and fences. Avoid stables that are not well maintained in those areas. If the stable owners take the time to give you a personal tour of the farm, this could be a good sign that they will be there when you need them, and not off running around doing chores and avoiding their boarders.
When you inspect the stables, first check the stalls. They should be clean, dry and should definitely not smell bad (or smell like ammonia). They should have fresh bedding and look as if they have been thoroughly cleaned in at least the last 24 hours. The larger your horse, the larger the stall you’ll need, so be sure the size of their stalls will also suit your needs.
Are the stalls safe and free of sharp edges or loose boards? It is usually preferrable to have rubber stall mats in the stalls under the bedding, so ask about that too. Do all of the stalls have filled water buckets that are free from ice, manure, algae and other contaminants?
How often are the stalls cleaned? If they are not cleaned daily, move on to the next stable. Keeping stalls clean is a top priority especially if the horse will have to spend a majority of his day in one. How often are the horses fed? To avoid health problems, horses should be fed and watered at least twice a day.
As you walk through the barn, note the ventilation. Is it easy to breath? Is the air fresh or does it smell damp, musty, or stale? Are there windows or doors in the stalls that may be opened for better ventilation? Also note if you see any rodents or excessive insects in the barn. These are usually very un-desirable.
Note any horses and/or owners that you see on the property. Do they look healthy and happy? Are all horses that live on the property on the same schedule for worming and vaccination? Are all horses required to have an up-to-date coggins test at least once per year? Do all owners need to show a clean bill of health before moving their horse onto the property? If not, your horse will be more at-risk for contracting dangerous viruses, illnesses and other diseases passed by incoming horses.
Next, check the pastures and ask plenty of questions about turnout. Do the pastures have plenty of grass, or are they sand, dirt or mud? If you see large pools of water in the pastures or paddocks, this could signal that there is poor drainage. Do the horses get turned-out daily? If so, for how many hours? Remember that horses are by nature grazing animals. The more turnout, the better. Does each pasture or paddock have adequate shelter for the number of horses who share each one? Does each pasture or paddock have a plentiful water supply?
Is there an indoor riding arena for hot or cold climates or seasons? Are the riding areas large enough for several riders to ride at the same time? Also ask about the stable’s hours – can you see your horse 24 hours a day or whenever you want, or are there rules as to when you can be there?
One of the most important issues to talk about with the stable owner or manager is veternary care. What is done when a horse becomes ill or needs veterinary care? Are you contacted for permission to give diagnosis, medication or treatment? What are their policies for colic and/or euthanasia? If the stable has their own veterinarian and/or farrier, can you use your own veterinarian or farrier? If not, ask why…they had better have a darn good reason!
Of course, you’ll need to talk about costs with the stable owner or manager. Boarding your horse at a stable can cost anywhere between $100 to $1,000 per month or more. This is a very large range, and price is mostly dependent on the quality of care your horse will get, location and type of board (pasture board, stall board, or stall board with daily turnout). The average cost of quality stall board with stall cleaning, feeding/watering and daily turnout is around $300-$400 per month in most areas.