Good Hay, Good People: Finding a Boarding Facility
As many of you already know, Apollo Equestrian LLC has relocated! This wasn't an easy decision but in the end, being part of a new facility developing in Fort Collins was too good of an opportunity to pass up!
So what factors do I weigh when searching for a new facility? Keep reading to find out!
1) Set a budget, set your priorities.
Before starting out on your search, you need to have a very honest conversation with yourself about your budget and your priorities.
If money were no object, of course, we would all have an unlimited budget to spend on keeping our equine partners happy and healthy. However, for most of us, that just isn't in the cards. Set a realistic budget, and don't entertain places above it. Budgets don't work if we don't stick to them!
Set your priorities. Personally, I set five "must-haves" and three "nice to haves" and then, realistically, I have to be willing to compromise on all the rest. In my most recent search my must-haves were:
Experienced, qualified barn management
Safe, clean facility for horses and clients including outdoor arena and round pen
Full care, including quality hay
Ability to pick my own grain, vet and farrier
Enough space for horses to be comfortable
My nice to haves were:
Indoor grooming area
No additional charge for teaching lessons
I got all my must-haves, and all but one of my "nice to haves" (and an indoor arena is planned for 2021 at our new home!)
2) Happy, healthy horses.
When you go on your tour, take a close look at the horses. It's easy to clean a place up before a tour and make the place look pretty, however, horses don't lie. If the horses overall are underweight, obese, or uncared for this is probably not the right place. Look for signs of widespread boredom (wood chewing, poop eating...) or horses that look sad or tired. On the flip side, I don't want to see a herd of unsettled horses that look nervous or irritated.
Note: This isn't referring to one underweight horse or one horse that looks like it needs good grooming. I look for the average, not an outlier. If there's one horse that doesn't meet my expectations for care, I'll politely ask about it but chances are it's a new arrival or a senior citizen. In the best-case scenario, before I can ask the person giving me a tour will volunteer the information.
3) The Facility: Safety First.
Some amenities are nice to have, others, depending on your situation and needs, are not negotiable. If you live in Colorado (like me) you probably can't get by without an indoor space to care for your horse. Not having a wash rack to doctor a horse if needed, or somewhere safe and indoors with lights if you need to have the vet out late for an emergency, is not just inconvenient- it's a safety and health concern.
The riding areas are usually easy to rule in or rule out. Arenas need to be large enough and have footing suitable for your chosen discipline. How do the stalls, paddocks, or pastures look? How often are they cleaned, and who does the cleaning? How does the facility smell? Particularly indoor areas should smell clean and like horses, not like ammonia or manure.
4) The People.
The importance of the people at a facility is not to be underestimated. The barn community and management are what make the difference between whether or not you're comfortable at the facility, and whether you look forward to going to the barn or not. This is the trickiest part- since it's tough to know if the people will fit until you have boots on the ground.
Before making a commitment, ask around. Ask for references if you're new to the area, and don't have any local equine friends. Vets and farriers usually have good insight into the facilities in the area, so if you have a connection with a vet or farrier in the area, ask them what they've heard of your top few choices. Read reviews online, and look on local Facebook pages. Most importantly, when someone shows you who they are at a tour or meet and greet... believe them.
Finding the perfect place for your equine companion is... impossible. The harsh reality is that everything is a tradeoff, and you will likely have to compromise. There will likely be a few areas where you wish things were just a little different. However, if you've thought ahead and set your priorities thoughtfully, you and your horse will end up in the best possible place!
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