Don’t Overlook These Horse Boarding Barn Red Flags

Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Allison Price

It is a serious decision to choose a horse boarding facility. It is a serious business to choose a horse boarding barn. You have worked hard to provide for your beloved horse.

Clarissa Cupolo, who cares for the horses at Gemini Performance Horses in Parrish (Florida), says that choosing a barn to board your horse is similar to choosing a nursing home. You want them to be safe and clean. When you pay for premium meals, you don’t want them to be hungry every day.

Don’t Overlook These Horse Boarding

It is important that owners are aware of and take note of any red flags when looking into boarding facilities. These are some issues that potential boarders may encounter.

1. Poor-quality, crowded paddocks

It’s a fact that not all turnouts have green grass. Other than geographic limitations, rainy seasons can make paddocks muddy and drought can cause pasture grass to dry out. No matter what the weather, paddocks must have good drainage, according to Meggan Graves DVM, a clinical assistant professor of large-animal clinical sciences at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville. “Drylots can often become’mudlots” if they are not properly drained. This can lead to hoof problems,” she stated.

Cupolo said, “Paddocks also should be free from debris.”

Graves stated that a horse should be allowed to graze on a minimum of one acre of pasture.

She noted that “this can vary.”

Graves stated that horses who require drylots because of metabolic issues (such a horse at-risk for developing laminitis or equine metabolism syndrome development) don’t necessarily need a large turnout.

Ask the barn manager or owner if you have any questions about the potential barn’s size, capacity or condition.

2. Poor maintenance

Horses cannot be contained by fences that are not well maintained or with broken or inadequate gate latches. Horses can be injured or worsened by boards, whether they are loose or well-secured. Stalls that have broken doors and boards in the barn could also pose a risk. Unclean water buckets and feed containers should be considered unacceptable.

You should examine the condition of the facility. But remember that horses can be destructive and horses can cause damage. It’s possible that a broken fence or malfunctioning gate is a sign of a problem and the manager or owner has not addressed it. However, you can always ask questions about possible issues.

3. Foul odors

Potential boarders might notice a strong urine smell if they feel the bedding in their stalls is not adequate, needs to be changed, or both. Manure buildup could also indicate that the stalls haven’t been cleaned at least once per day.

Cupolo stated, “Also notice if or not the aisles have been cleaned.”

4. Food to think about

Good-quality hay should be available for horses. Horses are more at risk from illness if they are fed hay that is moldy. Pay attention to the location and layout of hay storage. Also, ensure that it is not in close proximity to electrical outlets and wiring. Ask if boarders bring their own or if the farm provides it. Hay qualities may differ if the former. You should also check that feed barrels and grain bins are securely secured to keep rodents out of the area. This will ensure that a horse cannot access them.

5. Watch the horses

Have a look at the animals in the barn. Are they in good physical condition? Do they seem interested in what is going on around them, or do they prefer to be in their stalls alone? Are paddocks and pastures peaceful or do horses seem aggressive and/or monopolize the food resources?

It could be an indication that the horses are receiving substandard care if you see multiple horses with poor health, neglect, injury, or that they seem to be thin.

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Cupolo said, “You need to ask yourself why the barn owner is allowing this to happen.” “Even if the owner isn’t taking care of the horse the barn owner should for as long as the horse is there.”

Use good judgment, as horses are horses. A 30-horse farm might have one skinny horse. The owner may be trying to find a feeding plan that suits him. One horse with a untreated flesh wound in the pasture might be waiting for his owner to take him under his wing. A barn full of social butterflies might not have one horse who is grumpy. If you have any questions, ask them. The barn manager or owner will be able to help you make a decision.

6. Verify, but trust

Boarding barn owners are consumers too. They might order regular deliveries (or purchase; they might be able pick up supplies for smaller barns). Schedules with purveyors for feed, bedding and everything else are available. Ask why.

Cupolo states that barn owners will sometimes use the same vendor for hay and feed for several months before switching to another vendor. This could indicate that they aren’t paying their bills or that the vendor has dropped them.

She recommends that you get references from current and past boarders.

She says, “Did (former boarding houses) relocate their horses due to substandard care or another reason?”

7. Candor counts

Pay attention to the honesty of your managers in answering your questions. If they aren’t, be cautious.

Cupolo states, “A horse barn owner is responsible for your horse and should be open with you.” “He/she should not play with her cards too close to the vest.”

The Bottom Line

It can seem difficult to find the perfect boarding barn. It can seem daunting to find the right barn for your horse. Take the time to see the facilities, observe the operations, and chat with past and current boarders and other sources.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!