Tips for Choosing a Boarding Stable for Your Horse
Your horse’s stabling needs will determine the type of boarding facility you look for. Common examples include:
Complete Meal Service. All the regular necessities that a horse needs are included in the entire board. The monthly fee covers the use of the stable, paddock, and pasture, as well as the cost of bedding, food, and the caretaker’s time cleaning the stable and tending to the horse. Additional services may include routine grooming, washing, and exercise for the horse.
Limited Board. In this case, the paddock or pasture, as well as the stall space (box), is provided by the stable manager. However, the owner, not the sound manager, is responsible for the horse’s upkeep. What will happen if you are temporarily unable to fulfill your responsibilities (due to work, a family emergency, or being away on vacation) is something to think about. Can the stable manager take care of these, or do you need to find a friend? If it’s the latter, how much are the tacked-on costs?
Animal Feeding Control Commission. Simply put, a pasture is a fenced-in field. The horses can get some exercise and grazing (grass) to eat. Each range typically has multiple horses, creating a natural herd dynamic. Stabling without stalls and bedding generally is the most cost-effective option. However, not all horses can handle the heat or cold, so this is not an option for some.
Good Pasture and Its Availability
Besides short rest periods, horses generally prefer spending as much time as possible on pasture rather than in their stalls. The amount of access they have to pasture each day and the quality of the field will largely determine how happy and healthy they are. When evaluating the range for your stabled horse, factors to consider include the following:
Quality and quantity of grass. Too little or poor quality grass, and your horse may not have enough to eat. Alternatively, if it is too rich, your horse risks laminitis.
Physical Safety. The fencing should not have holes or breaks, which could allow your horse to wander into danger. Electrical wire usually is safer than high-tension wire (which can cut and even primary your horse if he gets tangled in it) or barbed wire (which can cause injuries) (which can cause injuries). The fields should be clean of any objects that could hurt the horses (e.g., pieces of broken fencing wire left about can tangle around a horse’s legs and cause severe injuries).
Maintenance. Does the fence have sturdy supports (no rot, no movement)? Is the wall in excellent repair, with no protruding nails and solid boards? Is the wire used for fencing in place and not sagging or lying on the ground? Do you not find all of the equine poop to be an unacceptable amount?
Weeds. Some common plants can be harmful to horses. Weeds can cause short-term or long-term health problems, depending on the type. If weeds are in the field, ensure they aren’t dangerous.
Size. A large pasture offers more chances for physical activity, mental challenge, and emotional release.
Shelter. Do all the horses have somewhere to hide on the pastures? Remember that dominant horses tend to chase less powerful ones away from sanctuaries, so providing plenty is essential if all the horses feel safe.
Drainage. Does the field get flooded when it rains, or does it drain well? Horse hooves are sensitive and can be damaged by standing in wetness.
Various Animals. Since the horse is a social herd, it must be around other horses. However, all the horses in a pasture must get along to prevent unnecessary conflict or abuse.
Most stables only offer paddocks because of the restricted access to pasture. While access to grass is ideal, a decent paddock can suffice in a pinch. When assessing the paddock’s amenities, it’s important to take into account the following:
Size. A big paddock is more appealing to a horse than a small one. The area of the paddock is less crucial if the horse has access to a large amount of pasture than if it does not have access to the field at all.
Access. Horses benefit more from a paddock if they can quickly enter and exit it (for example, through an open door from their stall).
Construction. The paddock needs to be safe and have a good floor for the animals to run on. A horse with healthy feet can perform adequately on various surfaces, including sand, wood chips, and gravel. However, a hoof-problem horse may need a more forgiving floor (e.g., sand, wood chips).
Sharing. A familiar paddock is fine as long as the horses get along and there is no bullying. However, individual paddocks are often preferable if there are disputes between the horses.
The horse will spend a good portion of each day in its stall, and in many stables, this may be the case for most of the day unless the owner has chosen pasture boarding. This feature of your potential stability, therefore, requires careful consideration in light of the following:
Size. The stall must be large enough if a horse spends much time in its stable. A cramped cubicle is physically unpleasant and compels the horse to sleep in its waste. Although the minimal stall size is debatable, we advise allocating at least 3 square meters for a horse of average height and at least 3.5 square meters for a horse of enormous size.
Height. How high are the stall doors? If a horse rushes in with its head up, will it be safe? Is there enough headroom for a horse to walk around without hitting his head?
Safety. Is there a chance of getting hurt in this stall? Is there anything a horse could get injured on, like protruding nails, timber slivers, or metal bits? Will a horse be able to kick the entrance and walls down? (if it can kick through, it can injure its leg or become trapped and breaks its leg).
Cleaning. A proper enclosure will be neat, dry, and odor-free (not smell of ammonia). If the horse spends most of its time in its stall, twice daily cleaning is recommended.
Ventilation. Does it scent fresh, or is there a musty or stale odor in the air? The best time to check (if at all feasible) is right before the stable is opened for airing in the morning if it is closed at night. This is because any ventilation problems will be immediately apparent.
Pests. Do the stalls appear to have signs of mice or an overabundance of insects? If that’s the case, there might be issues.
Time. Compared to a horse that has access to paddock and pasture for most of the day, a stall-bound horse gets less physical and cerebral stimulation. But young horses (and very elderly horses) often benefit from spending some quiet time alone in their stable each day.
Bedding. The emotional and bodily health of a horse can be affected by the bedding’s quality and quantity.
Water. Most stables have drinkers installed so that horses always have access to water. Ensuring the lines don’t freeze in the winter and leaving the horses without water is essential.
Minerals and Sodium. Minerals and sodium are essential for horses. Some stable owners may provide these out on grass rather than in the stalls.
Lighting. Access to abundant natural light will improve your horse’s mental and bodily well-being. Dark stalls are depressing for the horse and can foster the development of mold and fungus, which is terrible for the animal’s health.
Water and Meals
The food and water available in different stables vary considerably in quality. Stable owners often cut corners on food quality and amount to increase profits, representing two of their most significant expenses. Things to think about:
Quality. What do you feed the horses? Do you know if the hay and feed supplements are good quality or just the cheapest on the market?
Quantity. Is there a limit on how much food each horse can have (say, only 1kg of food additive per horse daily)?
Frequency. When do the animals get their meals? At the very least, twice a day, and ideally more (access to quality pasture qualifies as feed).
Water. Can the animal get enough to drink?
Buckets. How often do you clean the drinking and food containers? Do you remove the old food and thoroughly sanitize the buckets daily before adding the new food?
The management of the stable and the treatment of the horses are essential factors to think about. Here, it would be best if you were on the lookout for the following:
The head of the company. He or she is responsible for establishing the norms and atmosphere at the grounds.
Engage in conversation with him and learn about his background in the equine industry. Does he come across as knowledgeable, skilled, and committed?
Ask the stable manager for his opinion on your horse and any special care it might need; if he examines the horse thoroughly (including the hooves and teeth) before answering, this is a positive sign, but if he responds after only a cursory examination, you might want to look elsewhere.
Find out if he has a problem with you bringing in your doctor and shoemaker. Even if you’re OK with using his facilities, you might have cause for alarm if he doesn’t let in outside veterinarians or farriers.
Horses. The condition of the animals provides valuable insight into their treatment. Is their weight too high or too low? Do they have jackets that sparkle? Is their demeanor one of alertness, activity, and contentment? Do they act anxious (by pacing, swaying back and forth, or chewing on wood)? How neatly do they keep themselves? Check that the hooves of a few horses look healthy and have been cleaned lately by picking them up.
Stalls. How neat and orderly are the booths? Be sure to inspect the water bowls, food dishes, mineral/salt plates, and bedding. Are all the animals supplied with salt and minerals?
Spaces for Common Use. What do the various establishments appear like? Do they look tidy, well-kept, and up-to-date? Disregarding the amenities may be a symptom of deeper problems.
Employee Behaviour. How do the workers treat the equines? Do they seem to care about the horses? Do they handle the horses kindly, talking to them and leading them along? Look like mature, experienced, and informed individuals (or just cheap labor, no matter how well-meaning)?
Other Customers. If you can, speak to other horse owners to find out what they think of the stables and their experience there. Don’t place too much stock in this; they could be the stable manager’s pals or inexperienced horse owners who can’t be trusted.
Nearby Animal Hospital. You, the client, can benefit from consulting the neighborhood veterinarian.
Vaccinations. Is it a requirement that the stable boss be immunized? If you don’t, your horse’s health could be in danger.
Deworming. Have all the horses been wormed that are here had? When do you plan on deworming them all? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, worming your horse may not be as successful as it could be.
Access. How often do you get to use your horse and any related amenities (like a training ring)? Can you visit your horse and its stable whenever you like, or do you need to schedule a specific time? (the latter is a bad sign).
Dr. Doug Stewart owns Horse Care and has written numerous pieces on the equine industry, including Stables for Boarding Horses.
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