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Boarding: A Two Way Street, By Bob Jeffreys and Suzanne Sheppard



featured-Bob-Jeffreys-Suzanne-SheppardWhat do most boarders want from their boarding farm?

The overriding concern is for the safety and well being of their horses. Most boarders insist on their horses receiving quality grass, hay and/or grain. There is no greater sin than barn owners trying to save money by cutting back on either hay or grain. They want fresh water available at all times and stalls cleaned a minimum of one time per day. Leaving stalls unattended for any length of time increases insect and rodent population which is a health concern and probably the boarders’ number two (pardon the pun) concern.

After these primary concerns boarders will look at the overall condition of the barn itself. Are the stalls safe or are there protruding nails or sharp edges. Is the wood rotted or moldy? Are the floors level, or do they have deep craters in them? Does the stall have good drainage? Are there rubber mats to provide a comfortable place to lie down? Are the stalls big enough for their horses? What bedding is being used, straw, shavings or something else? Are the feed and water buckets clean?

When the major lodging and feeding issues meet with approval, then boarders usually want to know about turnout. Recreational horses (those not ridden every day) that are used primarily on weekends will fare much better if turned out for at least several hours each day (weather permitting) with other compatible horses. Extremely nasty horses that could maim or seriously injure other horses should be kept by themselves. Fortunately this aggressive behavior is the exception, not the rule. Most horses will determine their position in the “turnout herd” within a reasonable time and live happily thereafter. Boarders will want to be confident that management is capable of sorting this out. While on the subject of turnout, boarders will also  expect safe fencing, and wish to be assured that broken boards, etc. will be replaced in a timely fashion.

If the stable or ranch provides riding rings or arenas, then boarders will be looking at the arena footing itself, as well as the maintenance and grooming of that footing. An uneven base, footing that contains rocks, roots or other debris such as shards of glass, and that which is either too deep or too shallow can be very unsafe and invite stumbles, lameness and worse. All need to be corrected so that the horses can move freely and in good balance.

Furthermore, consistency in the handling of their horses by barn staff to and from paddocks, etc. is key. Horses learn from everyone who interacts with them, and poor or inconsistent handling can undo good ground manners in a hurry, teaching the obedient, light horse to become fearful, pushy, or even aggressive.

Boarders also require a clean and accessible area to store their tack, and want to know that their personal property will be respected. They will want to know that their horses and tack are secure, and that someone is always on the premises to handle emergencies. They need to be confident in your ability to handle a crisis.

They need to know that all posted rules apply to everyone and will be enforced without favoritism. If medical vaccinations, worming, etc. are required, the staff must maintain due diligence in confirming that these conditions are met

Finally, it is also appreciated when the barn staff is friendly, and maintains good communication with the boarders, in addition to providing timely and itemized billing for services rendered.

Well there you have it (whew!). When both stable operators and boarders know and appreciate each others concerns, life is usually improved for both! Till next time, ride safe!

© August 2008.



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