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Tips for How to Chose a Boarding Stable for your Horse: Do I need self-care or full care board?

Updated on January 10, 2014

Choosing a boarding stable is not always an easy task. Before you find a place to board, it is good to know your expectations in regards to the following:

Living Conditions: A number of options generally exist for your horse. Some horses are kept in stalls, others are kept in stalls at night (or during the day during the heat of the summer) and turned out around 8 hours a day, and others live outside 24-7. Some pasture board places have only trees for shelter, while others have 3-sided sheds called lean-to. Water source is also an issue, be sure the horse always has access to clean, fresh water. When examining the living conditions, be sure to evaluate the construction of the stalls, the type and integrity of the fencing, they type of bedding, the dust level, and whether or not bug control is utilized.

Level of Care: Barns generally define themselves as full care, partial care, or self-care. Each of these descriptors actually cover a broad degree options. Full care can range from horses being kept only in stalls with daily cleaning, to stall use, turn-out, blanketing, bandaging and fans in the summertime. If the horse is not turned out, full care stall board can still be plenty of work, as the horse will need regular exercise and attention. Partial care is often a good option for the cost-conscious. While again, there are many variations, I think the best option is if you feed in the evening and set feed out for the am. The barn staff will give horses the feed you set out, and refill water levels. In this arrangement, you generally are responsible for shavings, turnout (if available) and feed. Self-Care: is simply that. You do 100% of your horse’s care. I don’t always like this option, because it means you need to visit an offsite location at least twice a day; which can dramatically impinge on the lifestyles of most people.

Hay Quality and Type: Typical hay options include costal hay, grass hay, brome, and alfalfa. Each of these options have different nutrient profiles. Grass hay is generally coarser, which is designed to slow the horse down. This may be important if the horse is stalled. Alfalfa hay is high in protein and is often more palatable; this may be important if you have a finicky horse. Be sure that the hay is of good quality and is not wet or moldy.

Grain Quality and Type: Many barns feed the local co-operative grain mix. It is important to ensure that your feed is manufactured in an ionophore-free plant. While this is a requirement for premium feeds, co-ops may not follow this important guideline. Ionophores are often included in cattle feed, to enhance growth. These chemicals are deadly to horses, which is why many premium brands have opted to manufacture horse feed in ionophore free facilities. Premium brands must work hard to maintain their reputation; therefore extensive research and quality controls are used surrounding the feed. Horses have dramatically different nutrient requirements based on life stage and work load. In combination with health and current body score; all these factors should be taken into consideration when selecting a feed.

Inside barn at Diamond T Stables
Inside barn at Diamond T Stables

Cost: Often the primary driver of the decision, it is important to find out what they are covering. Costs can range anywhere from $100 for a pasture rental, to $800 for a gleaming show facility. Depending on the area of the country, partial care pasture board can range from $200-300. Full care stall board can range from $300-700, depending on the services and “fanciness” of the barn.

Riding facilities: Depending on your riding style, there are a variety of facilities available. Options may include outdoor and indoor arenas, round pens, riding trails, jumps, barrels, and obstacle courses. Other variables include footing, drainage, arena maintenance (which includes watering to limit dust, dragging to maintain footing etc).

Author: Melissa Kanzelberger

Zero Rolling in Pasture
Zero Rolling in Pasture

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