Boarding Barn Health: What To Know And Look Out For

by Michelle Drum March 28, 2021 5 min read

Boarding Barn Health: What To Know And Look Out For

This week's guest blog post is written by Nicole McCray. Nicole is a lifelong equestrian and grew up helping run her parent's boarding stable. Today she shares her thoughts on what to look for when relocating your horse! 

Choosing the best barn can depend on multiple factors such as expense, location, and many other preferences. Boarding locations can also vary in specialization, and some features may be more important to horse owners than others. If you’re considering moving your horse to a boarding barn it can be a difficult decision. It is important that you do your research and asks questions when deciding, to ensure you are protecting your horse from any type of possible disease or injury. 

Finding the right boarding barn is essential for your equine partner’s care and health. Here are some important things to know and look out for when deciding when looking to board your horse at a barn, including what questions you should ask.

BARN ENVIRONMENT

Besides the general location and monthly expense of the barn, you should explore the environment located within. Does it seem like a generally positive place, with a happy atmosphere? It can help to talk to the boarders and find out their impressions of how well their horse is being cared for, as well as how the handlers treat the horses. 

Some other things to look out for you want to consider:

  • Does barn help have a high turnover rate? 
  • Are the staff members pleasant / Do they enjoy their work?
  • How do the horses seem? - Check their body condition, hair, feet/hooves, and attitude around other people (particularly, staff).

Many of these considerations can give you great insight into the quality of how the horses are treated, and if the horses seem content with their handling and surroundings.

QUALITY CONTROL

Now, sometimes it is not always foreseen when an animal might become sick with an illness or disease. Though it’s important when choosing the right barn to know how they might handle an outbreak if one were to occur. This doesn’t just pertain to horses, either. The experts at Bond Vet Animal Hospital warn of dogs that have been able to easily spread the Canine Flu throughout barns at a rapid pace. Luckily, the Canine Flu does not affect the horses directly, though the same rapid-pace spread can occur with horse-impacting illnesses.


Common vaccinations required at many boarding facilities include rabies, Tetanus, Equine Flu, Equine Encephalitis, Strangles, Equine Rhinovirus / Herpesvirus (EHV1). West Nile Virus and/or Potomac Horse Fever may also be recommended if problematic in your area. This is precautionary for any plans for your horse to travel and be in contact with other horses that are unfamiliar because some owners might take their horses to places to ride or show that could potentially expose them to new contagions.

A list of additionally suggested vaccinations by region in the United States can be found HERE at the website for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Mayflies commonly transmit Potomac Horse Fever, in certain areas of the country. You may inquire as to any specific regional vaccines required by the boarding facility.

You may also observe areas if there is unmanaged standing water around the barn or pastures and inquire how often troughs/buckets are scrubbed and if standing water sources such as ponds are treated to prevent the spread of types of insects that tend to spread diseases such as PHF and West Nile Disease. 

Barns may have their preferred vet, so if you want to use the one your horse is already accustomed to, be sure to inquire about this. And you may also want to ask your vet if they will travel to the facility of your choice while you’re at it.

Some other important things regarding your horse’s safety that you can look out for when exploring the prospective barns include:

  • Cleanliness of establishment (ventilation, fumes, debris, bugs, etc.)
  • Rundown areas (nails sticking out, pipes, barbed wire, ropes, etc.)
  • Maintaining of pastures for grazing (weeds).

You also might want to ask or be on the lookout for what other horses will be around yours and be in contact with their owners as well. Your horse needs to live with a herd that is compatible with its well-being.

If your horse is going to be living in an outside area, scan it for places for shade and shelter so you know that your horse won’t spend long hours in the hot sun. Make sure you also feel comfortable with the storage arrangements that are available for you to board there.

BARN SERVICES AND CARE

Choosing the right barn may also require you to see your responsibilities, or what services the barn itself might provide. Some locations may need you to incorporate specific activities like full-care, training, or lessons, while others may only require some, or not at all.

Bringing horses in and turning them out may also be another aspect of daily care depending on the living arrangements. Other services that might be available could be fly spray, blanketing, deworming, and bandaging or administering of medications.

Nutrition is a top priority. Some things you may want to ask in terms of feeding, for care:

  • How many times per day do they feed?
  • What sort of food(s) are offered? 
  • Is feeding provided by the barn?
  • Does the facility have automatic waterers? - if not - How often are buckets/troughs checked and refilled daily?

If your horse needs more feed or a different type of grain that is provided you should ask for accommodations. If your horse grazes in a pasture, you might want to see if the barn provides more hay in the winter when there isn’t pasture for grazing and if so - there could be an extra fee.


CHOOSE SAFE

Top priorities of whatever barn you are looking for should be listed out for you. Things like quality care, safe living areas, proper fencing, adequate food, water, and access to vet professionals in case of illness are important. 

You might also want to be sure if ring riding is your priority that the footing suits your needs and the riding rings are managed properly with water, leveling, and adequate drainage. If you plan to be riding in the evenings after work, make sure the rings are well lit and evening riding is acceptable to the barn manager/owner (especially if outside), or indoor arenas during the cold weather months.

If you are moving to a barn with an active show schedule you may consider checking things like show and clinic schedules as well as lesson calendars to make sure that there is ring time for you to accomplish your goals with a trainer or on your own. The activity on the calendar may also affect the availability of amenities like grooming areas or wash racks and common areas. Peak usage times may be good information to know if you are on a tight schedule. 

The best decision comes with a lot of research and planning. You should try to arrange to visit the barns that you are considering at those peak times as well so that you can observe how operations are run regularly, and it can help you make the most informed and comfortable decision for you and your horse. 


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