Category: Beginners

Important Questions When Searching For A Horse Boarding Facility – Part 2

In my last post I talked about my ordeal finding a new horse boarding facility.  I thought the questions I asked might be helpful.

You can download the top 20 questions that were most important to me.

The obvious questions:

  • What type of board do you offer and what are the rates for each?  There are a number of possibilities  –  full service stall or pasture, self-service stall or pasture, pasture only, etc.
  • If you want a stall for your horse, how big are the stalls?  Most stalls are either 10’x10’ or 12’x12’.  The size of the stall should match the size of your horse.  A pony or small horse will do fine in the smaller stall, but a larger horse (say over 15h) would be better off in the larger stall.
  • How long are the stalled horses allowed outside each day?  Every horse needs some time outside either in a run, paddock or pasture.  Horses need daily exercise and they should be allowed to free graze for a few hours each day.  This makes for a healthier, happier horse.
  • How many horses are turned out on each pasture?  You want to make sure Lush green pasture and good fencing are a mustthat the pastures are not over grazed.  Depending on the condition of the pasture, a lush green pasture could support 1 horse per 1½ – 2 acres.  If there are more, the pasture should be supplemented with hay.
  • Are the horses pastured according to gender?  Some barns will have their pastures designated as mare or gelding pastures.
  • What type of grain and hay are used?  If the feed is not the same as you use, bring enough feed for your horse for a minimum of 1 week of feedings.  This can be mixed with the new feed and transition your horse slowly to the new feed.
  • If your horse is on a special diet, does the facility provide that feed?  If not, will they provide it and charge you the difference between the different feeds?  If you have to provide your own special feed, will the facility give you a discount on your board bill?
  • How many times a day do you feed?  Some boarding facilities feed twice a day, some feed only once a day, but I have heard of others that feed 3 or 4 times a day.  What ever it is, know the feeding schedule and what is being fed at each one.  Discuss any changes that your horse may need with the owner or manager.
  • What vaccinations or medical records are required to move in?  The most important and common health paper required is a negative Coggins.  You also may be required to provide a health certificate.
  • Is there an arena and what type is it (indoor or outdoor)?  Arenas are a big plus for me. 
  • Is there a round pen?  This gives you a small area to do concentrated training without worrying about being in the way of others in a large arena.  It is also great for lunging your horse or groundwork.
  • Is there a tack room?  It is nice to have a place to put your tack and grooming supplies on the premises.  I have come across a few places that did not offer a tack room.

Some not so obvious questions:

Trailer parking could be an extra fee

  • What hours/days is the boarding facility open?  I’ve found a facility that was closed on Sundays and I’ve found one that as only open from 8 am to 8 pm.  Both assured me that the facility was open if there was a sick or injured horse that needed medical attention.  Make sure you know the hours of operation.
  • Are there extra fees for services rendered by the staff?  This is an important question that is often missed.  Make sure you know what each fee is because they can add up in a hurry and make your reasonable monthly board bill prohibitive.  An example of what extra fees could be are for trailer parking, holding your horse for the farrier/vet in your absence, putting on/removing blankets or adding the supplements you provide for your horse.
  • Is there a wash rack?  If there is a wash rack, find out if it is indoors or if it has hot and cold water.  If not, they may have a specific place where you are permitted to wash your horse.
  • Does the gate need an access code to open?  Not all facilities have this.  If you decide on a facility that does, make sure you get the code.
  • Does the facility have a resident vet or farrier?  Some facilities like to use one vet or farrier and have all work done by their chosen professionals.  There is an advantage to this as it may reduce the cost of vet farm calls or get a group rate from the farrier.  You should be able to use your own vet or farrier at any facility, but make sure by asking before you move in.
  • Does the facility have a regular vaccination program?  This means that the facility sets up an appointment with the resident vet to vaccinate all of the horses, pull a Coggins, float teeth etc. at the same time.
  • Does the facility schedule trimming/shoeing with its resident farrier?  The stable I’m at now schedules all horses in 2 visits with its own farrier.  This can help keep the cost down.
  • Is there training/lessons available?  If not, ask if bringing your own trainer/instructor is permissible.
  • Are there accessible bathrooms?  This may seem like an odd question, but I looked at a couple of facilities that did not offer bathrooms to the boarders.  This could be problematic if you have children or you just had too much coffee before going to ride.

There could be questions that you may not even know to ask of the facility or your vet/farrier:

  • If the facility owner is the only one doing the work, how are the horses taken care of when the owner is sick or on vacation?  This may only be a problem with the smaller boarding facilities that do not employ additional help.  Even with the larger facilities, ask who will be taking care of your horses.
  • Can a friend bring their horse to ride with you in arena or trails?  Not all boarding facilities will allow non-boarding horses on the property for health reasons.  There are some very contagious illness that can sweep rapidly sweep through a barn.  I have seen a few boarding facilities that have riding memberships available.  There is a small fee per ride or per month and a yearly current Coggins must be on file with the facility office.
  • Are the arenas, wash racks, tack rooms etc available to all boarders?  I’veAsk about evacuation plans in the event of a natural disaster or fire heard of some facilities that only allow the full service stall boarders use indoor arenas etc.  If you are on a lesser board option, make sure you know what you get to use.
  • Will your vet go to this facility?  You can call your vet’s office to find out if there will be any change in the farm call fee.
  • Will your farrier go to this facility?  Ask your farrier if he will travel to the new facility.  If so, you need to ask if his rates will change.
  • Is there an emergency plan in case of fire, flood, etc?  This is a question most people don’t even think about until some act of nature hits them.  Whatever the cause, you need to know if there is action plan if your horses need to evacuate from the boarding facility.

You may have other questions that pertain to your particular needs.  If you do, write them down or add them to the list I provided  so you don’t forget to ask them when you visit a horse boarding facility.

Important Questions When Searching For A Horse Boarding Facility – Part 1

I’ve been at my present horse boarding facility for over 20 years.  Wow, that’s a looong time you say.  Yes it is.  I had no reason to move.  I liked where I was.  I liked the people, the barn manager, the other horses and the barn owner.  Unfortunately, the bad economy and the ever increasing cost of feed are forcing the boarding facility to close its doors.

Early years of my boarding at the barn with Dody and MarilynI found myself in unfamiliar territory.  I hadn’t had to really look for a boarding facility since I got my first horse over 30 years ago.  The horse boarding facilities where I’d been to this point were either recommended by friends or my friends were currently boarding at them.  This time I had no such recommendations.  So, I had to set out from scratch to find a new place that best fit my needs and my horses’ needs.

How you ask?  I started on the internet.  You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many facilities come up when doing a search that includes the town you want to be near (horse boarding Tulsa, horse stables Dallas, etc).  Out of the 20+ boarding facilities that came up, I found 8 boarding facilities that looked promising in my target area.  I made a spreadsheet that had the name of each stable, the contact person, phone numbers and address.  I’m making this available to you.

Click here to download my spreadsheet.

I called each one. The very first thing I asked was “Is there space available for my 2 horses”.  Since I had a relatively short time frame, if there was not room there would be point no need to go any farther.  If I had a longer time frame, I could have asked to be put on their waiting list.  If there was room, I proceeded with getting information.  Depending on the information I received on the phone, I had to make a decision if I wanted to put the facility on my list.

Do yourself a favor before you start this process and decide what would be a deal breaker for crossing off a horse boarding facility.  It could be too far away, no trainer, no stall, too expensive, not the right riding discipline, facility is just too large or too small etc.  It could be a number of things.  Just make sure you know what is most important to you and your horses.

I set up an appointment for the 5 boarding facilities that made my final list.  I made sure to leave my name and phone number in case the barn manager or owner needed to contact me.

1st rule:  BE ON TIME for any scheduled appointment!!!  If you can’t make it or you’re running late, call the facility.  They may decide it’s best to reschedule.

2nd rule:  Take a notebook with you to write down information.  If you’re like me, I can’t remember things for too long.  When I have a notebook, it helps me ask the same questions of all the facilities.

I took all of the information and entered it in my spreadsheet.  This made it easy to compare all of the boarding facilities with each other.  I also didn’t forget to consider what I saw when I visited each facility.  Was it clean?  Were the stalls clean and have a good layer of wood shavings?  Were the stalls/fences/gates etc in good repair?  Was there clean water available for the horses?  Was the feed room clean and appear free of pests?

I also look for a friendly environment.  I note if the owner or manager is easy to talk to and how forth coming they are with information.  I also take in consideration the riding style of the facility or if it is solely a show barn and how well I might fit in.

For me this was a nerve wracking process.  I wanted to make sure I picked the best facility I could afford.  I had a little more than month to locate, compare and pick a new horse boarding facility.  I tried not to get discouraged if a facility didn’t work out.

Of the 5 horse boarding facilities, I narrowed my choices to 3.  Over the next few weeks, I changed my mind a couple of times as to which would be best for me.  When I finally made my decision, I informed the lucky facility that I would like to move my horses there if the openings were still available.  I couldn’t move in until the end of the month.  I asked what it would take to hold the spaces.  We agreed on a deposit to hold the openings.  Now I’m waiting for my vet appointment so that I have the necessary paper work.

I’m glad this process is finally over.  I’m ready to start the next adventure.  I hope this isn’t going to be an omen, I’m moving on April 1.

Check back for Part 2 for an exact list of important questions to ask when looking for a horse boarding facility.

Horse Show Etiquette For Spectators

I recently went to a fund raising schooling show for a local therapeutic riding center.  We got to the show just as the riding center kids were starting their part of the show.  Some of the kids had side walkers and some rode by themselves.   I thought all the kids did an amazing job riding their horses.  After their last class, the regular schooling show continued.

To give each horse and rider the best opportunity to show their best, there should be a certain amount of courtesy shown by the spectators.  During this show, I was astonished at the lack of spectator etiquette.  So, I thought I would put together a list of things that a spectator should follow while viewing a horse show.

  • If the spectator walkway is right next to the show ring, wait until the class is finished to take your seat or leave.  Also, be courteous of your actions when seated next to the ring.  I witnessed a woman opening her umbrella for shade when a horse was coming down the rail near her.  This startled the horse and it took several frightened steps sideways before the rider regained control.  The  rider lost points in that class.  If this had been a group class, it could have caused a major wreck.
  • While some types of classes are okay with cheering their favorite during their run, refrain from clapping or cheering until the class or the individual run is over.  With that said, please keep in mind that some of these classes run the individual riders one after another so there may not be time to cheer before the next rider starts their run.
  • Don’t boo the placement of a class.  While the outcome may not be what you think is correct, a horse show is purely the opinion of the people who are judging it.  Besides, the other riders in the class don’t deserve this type of bad behavior from the crowd.
  • These horses have been brushed, bathed, clipped, sprayed and spruced up for hours.  Some owners are very particular about the way their horse looks before they enter the show ring.  Before you decide to pet a horse, ask the owner or rider first.
  • Turn your cell phone ringers down or put them on a silent or vibrating setting.  If you need to talk on your cell phone, keep your voice down.  People around you  came to see the horse show, not listen to your conversation.
  • Kids can startle a horse just by being doing what kids do naturally.  Don’t let them run around unattended and get into mischief.
  • Kids also have a short attention span, especially if they decide the outing is boring.  So bring something to keep them entertained and possibly their favorite snack.  If they start to get unruly, take them away from the show ring.  A change in activity can do wonders.
  • Throw your trash away.  Don’t leave half empty cups or partially eaten snacks on the seat next to you or on the floor.  They just end up being kicked over and make a big mess.
  • If you bring your dog, keep them on the leash.  You have to keep in mind that a lot of horses do not like dogs and will charge them.  So a loose dog around horses is dangerous not only to the horse but to the riders and anyone around them.
  • If your dog continually barks or yaps, it is best to leave it at home.  This is very annoying to the other spectators and could make the younger horses nervous.

This is just a short list for spectator etiquette.  There are probably other things you can do to be courteous while at a horse show.  Some of the riders are nervous enough.  Any distraction from the spectators could be enough to make a rider lose his concentration.

Every horse and rider deserves the chance to do their best with the least amount of distractions as possible.  That’s only fair.

Horse Chores For Your Springtime Checklist

Rex-Zeus-Feb2011It’s amazing how just a few weeks can impact the weather.  At the first of February, northern Oklahoma had it’s second ever blizzard warning.  Where I live, there was a record 25″ of snow.  Just a few miles north, there was a record setting 50″ and that area also set the record for the coldest temperature of -23°F.  There was snow for over 2 weeks, which is also out of the normal for Oklahoma.

Now, the temperature was close to 80°F today and the daffodils in my yard have been in bloom for about 2 weeks.  We had our first actual thunderstorm  just a few days ago.  Spring is officially around the corner!  So, it may be a good time for some spring chores.  Here are some chores that you may want to do.

At the barn:

  • Clean and condition your leather tack.  Make sure the leather is dry before applying a leather conditioner.
  • Inspect the leather for any cracks, cuts or splits.  Replace any leather that is damaged.
  • Go through your grooming kit.  Replace any tools that are broken.  This would probably also be a good time to wash your brushes.
  • Clean your clippers.  You can do this yourself or take them to a professional.  You can also have the blades sharpened at the same time.
  • Wash your winter blankets, if you are not going to need them anymore.  Store them in a dry place.  Most blankets come in a zippered plastic bag.  I have kept these to  store my blankets for the summer.  This makes for good dust free storage.
  • A warm dry spring day would be perfect to strip your stall completely (if you have one).  Let them air out for a few hours before you put bedding back in them.  If you have full board, this is probably done periodically through the year.
  • Give your trailer a good cleaning.  Do a thorough inspection and make note of any damage to floors/walls/ceiling/tackroom, worn tires, damaged lighting/wiring, etc.  Make a plan and time frame to get damage fixed.

For the vet:

  • Get vaccinations, if you haven’t already done so.  Check with your vet as to which basic vaccinations are recommended for your area.  Your vet may also have suggestions for additional vaccinations based on the age of your horse and also whether or not you show or trail ride.
  • Don’t forget to get the Coggins test.  A negative Coggins is required if you plan to show, trail Daffodils-Mar2011ride or take your horse to a riding clinic.  Most events want a Coggins that was done within a year, but a few require one that has been done within 6 months of the event.
  • Spring is also when I have my horses’ teeth checked and, if necessary, floated.
  • My gelding will have his sheath cleaned, if needed.

There is a multitude of chores that you can do in the spring.  This is just a small sample.  Plan a work day and make a list of what you want to accomplish that day.  If you don’t finish your list, add it to the next planned work day.  Don’t try to do everything all in one day . . . . your body won’t like it.

Ride With Confidence After A Fall

I’ve had my fair share of falls and most of which I’ve been able to bounce back  quickly.  It seems, though, the older I get, the more apprehensive I’ve become about getting back in the saddle.  As you’ve read, I had a pretty significant fall at the first of January.  It took almost 3 weeks for me to heal enough to walk with no pain.

Oklahoma had a record snow in February which stayed on the ground for about 3 weeks.  That is very unusual for our weather.  So a few weekends ago, the weather finally cooperated enough to allow time to ride again.

I got Dollar from the pasture, groomed him and tacked him up.  I adjusted his cinch again just before we reached the mounting block.  I can’t mount from the ground anymore because of bad knees.

With one foot in the stirrup, I was getting ready to swing over.  Then  . . . WHAM . . . a back spasm.  I had to stand on the mounting block for a bit to let the spasm subside.  I don’t know if that was caused by the accident or if anxiety played a part.  I think both.  I told my trainer I thought this might be a short lesson.

After about 5 minutes, I mounted Dollar and off we went at walk.  I had a lesson in finesse riding that day.  I did lots of straight lines, counting steps for precise turns,  leg yielding, serpentines, etc.  Gait transitions were to be clean and immediate.

Amazingly, I made it thought the entire lesson.  Dismounting was not as easy as it usually is.  I had to swing my leg over and hold on to the saddle so I could make an easy drop to the ground.  I will admit I was a little stiff, but not as much as I thought I would be.

Riding after a fall for anyone can be daunting.  When to get back on a horse will depend on how well you have healed.  Be smart about your injury.  When you are ready, try a short ride at first to access how well you have healed.  Also a good short ride will help you regain your confidence.  If you hurt too much afterward, give yourself more time to heal both physically and mentally.

Also, don’t try not to do extensive training of your horse or a demanding lesson for you.  You may find that your body just won’t cooperate.  Instead, go back to the basics.  It never hurts to refresh on the simple things.  Concentrate on giving good cues so that your horse knows what is being asked.  As stated above, have short rides at first but make them count.  As always, stop on a good note for both you and your horse.

Ask The Tack Store To Stock Your Favorite Products

A few months ago, I stopped by one of the pet stores in my area that happens to carry a few horse products.  I buy my favorite hoof supplement from them because they are conveniently located close to my house.

On the way out, they asked if I found everything I needed.  I surprised myself (and my husband) when I said “No”.  They asked what I was looking for.  I told them I used the all natural Hoof Flex and that no one carried it.  I also used Absorbine Refreshmint as a brace in the summer.  This, also, was not carried by anyone in my area.   I told them about my favorite bath products and antiseptic spray I have come to love.

The store help wrote all of this down and said they would see what they could do.  They were trying to expand the horse products and appreciated my input.  I left the store thinking I probably would not see these products on there shelf.  I didn’t think the wants of one person would amount to  much for a big store.

I went to this store last week to purchase the hoof supplement again.  I always cruise the horse products looking for anything I may need.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  There on the shelf was not only the Hoof Flex I asked for, but also the Refreshmint!  I was stunned.

So, if you don’t see what you want at the tack, feed, pet store that you frequently go to, just ask.  The store may not be able to get the products you want, but you won’t  know if you don’t ask.  You’ll be amazed how well this works.  I was.

Horse Riding Helmet – Replace It After A Fall

I haven’t got to ride since just before Christmas.  So when this last Saturday rolled around, I was ready.  Or so I thought.  The fall I took  was not big.  I just slipped off Dollar while trying to ride bareback.  I landed hard on my rear end and also hit my head on the ground.

I noticed at the time that my helmet was not quite right.  It wasn’t until I got home that I found all the damage done.

The outer shell is split and separated from the inner shell.   The inner shell is cracked at the back bad enough you can see daylight thru it.

I guess I hit harder than I thought.  I’m glad I’ve become very diligent about wearing a helmet.  There’s no telling how bad of a head injury I would have had if I wasn’t wearing my helmet.   I’ll being buying a new helmet this week.

I can’t stress enough that if you ride a horse, PLEASE wear a helmet.

Prepare For Saying Good-bye

It ‘s coming up on 2 years since I lost Iggette.  You can read about her in a  previous post,  “Meet My First Horse“.  She was a 3 year old when she came into my life.  We learned a lot from one another.  She turned out to be one of the best teachers I have ever had.  Why am I reminiscing about her now?

Over the last few months, we lost 2 members of  our barn family.  The most recent was Brig.  He was a 31 years old gelding that had been at the barn since before I came over 20 years ago.  He was not a very big horse, but a very sweet guy.  Because of his  age, he found the play times of Dollar and Sonny too rambunctious.  He preferred to spend his days soaking up the sun and grazing.

Monday, I received an email from the barn manager.  She told us that Brig had spent the day at the clinic with colic.  As the day progressed, he did not improve.  His owners were prepared and made the decision.  Brig was laid to rest.  He will be greatly missed.

The other member of our barn family was not a horse but an owner who passed on.  She was not that old, in fact, she was younger than me.  She had been fighting cancer for the last year.  In December, she lost that fight.  Her horse left our barn and went to live in a friend’s pasture.

I am a firm believer that if you listen to your animals, they will tell you when it is their time.  We have to have the compassion and strength to make the decision to stop their suffering.  We have to be brave enough to go on without our friend.

As horse owners, we also have to be responsible and plan ahead.  Yes, I know no one wants to think of their own death.  But if you don’t plan, what will become of your horse?  Is your family prepared to take on the responsibilities that you found enjoyable and fun?  Are they going to be financially able to take on the care of a horse?

If your answers were yes at one time, have you asked them lately.  In these hard economic times, circumstances change.  What was once a firm commitment may now be a hardship.  Even if you had planned to donate your horse to one of the many great foundations, have you kept up contact with them to make sure that option is still open?

It might be a good idea to review your plans every year or two.  Discuss them with the people or foundations that you will be  entrusting your horse to after you are gone.  Make a will if you need to and update it as circumstances change.

This post is meant to make you stop and think. What would you do?  Are you prepared?

It’s Too Cold To Ride When . . .

When is it too cold too ride?  I have been asked that several times.  Unfortunately there is no concrete answer.  You will have to base your answer to this question on your region’s winter and also on you and your horse’s condition.  It also depends on whether or not you have an enclosed arena.  So since I don’t have access to an enclosed arena, I’ll just tell you when I determine it is too cold for me to ride in the Oklahoma winter.

It’s too cold to ride when the ground is frozen hard and has been for several days with no thaw in the near future.  Not only is the ground frozen but everything laying on top of the ground is also frozen solid.  Any sign of moisture is transformed into an ice rink and the occasional horse droppings have become small boulders.  Each have their own form of hazard if the horse steps on it.

It’s too cold for me to ride when the air temperature is below about 30°F or if the air is sparkling as any moisture is instantly frozen.  Between the extra under layers, the extra pair of socks and winter boots, the heavier gloves, the ear muffs, I just can’t move freely.  Just walking in this much garb makes me think of penguins.  Forget about trying to raise my leg high enough to step in the stirrup.  I just can’t enjoy riding if I’m wearing so much clothing to stay warm that I’ve added another 20 lbs.

It’s too cold to ride when the wind chill is 20°F or lower even if the air temperature is above freezing.  Having the breath ripped out of my body by even the slightest of breeze is not my idea of fun.  I imagine my horse is just as reluctant to work in these conditions.

It’s too cold to ride when . . . . .  my eyelashes start to have the frosted look.  My fingers and toes get numb just walking from the car to the barn.  My cheeks turn bright red and then purple from the cold in just a few minutes.  My nose runs from being so cold, but freezes before I can use a tissue.  My steaming hot coffee becomes an iced drink in 10 minutes or less.

Riding is supposed to be fun, even if you are training seriously.  If the winter weather is cold enough to be hazardous to you or your horse, why risk it?


Reflections On Another Year For Me & My Horses

2009 held a lot of good things for me.  I’m thankful for my husband most of all.  After 35 years of marriage, he still endures my horse craziness.  He is the reason I still have horses today because I almost gave them up several times for economic reasons.  I love him very much.

I’m glad I have my horse buddies.  Without them, my horse life would not be as much fun.  My trainer is very tolerant of my weaknesses & phobias.  Lessons are fun and vary in intensity.  I will master my weak points.  I can also say she is a good friend.  The stable owner has been a friend since her mother owned the place.  I’ve ridden many Saturday morning group lessons with her.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the horses I own today.  I’m glad I took the time to search for the right horse.  Every time I ride, they teach me to be a better rider.

So as the hours wind down for 2009, take a few minutes to reflect on the past year.  Learn the lessons taught from the bad times.   Be thankful for all the good times that have occurred over the year.  As for 2010, plan to make your horse experiences better.