When Good Barns Go Bad
by Cheryl Kelly
In my 30 plus years as a horse owner and boarder, I have heard many complaints about bad boarding facilities, and witnessed some that were bad to begin with, and others that have suffered the fate as a failing business
Economics plays a major role in how a boarding facility operates, and owners count on board being paid on time. Boarding facilities must function as a thriving business in order to maintain a good quality of care.
With the general economy faltering, it has made good ownership and barn management difficult to keep up due to rising costs of the basics. Food and shelter are of those basic necessities. With efficiency and economy, barns can provide acceptable quality hay and feed, plentiful pasture, and adequate turn out time to ensure maintaining good health all of which are at the top of my list.
I have seen some establishments that do not provide these amenities: overcrowding in small paddocks where there has been an accumulation of droppings; inadequate supply of water, or sharing a water trough with too many, (a sure sign of negligence); not enough good hay for the amount of horses sharing a dry lot space; and most often, wet and moldy hay which could lead to health issues, all of which did not seem to concern the owners. I also see this as a lack of knowledge, and a lack of desire to learn from past mistakes.
A little education goes a long way. but some owners are not prepared to do the homework. Any one who owns or takes care of horses knows it is not an easy task taking care of a large animal. By looking around and about the stable, you should be able make a good decision as to the care received. Paying an expensive board does not always guarantee premiere service and care. When an establishment loses control of the care that was promised and agreed upon, it is time to politely move on.
Maintaining a clean and safe environment is good horse care, and should be a foremost concern. Choose a boarding stable that is capable of providing the quality of care that your horse needs. Entrusting the safety of your horse is not an option, it is an obligation.
Maintaining the infrastructure of the facility is the owners responsibility and the barn should never fall short of fixing a repair immediately. I look at the construction of the barn and the stalls for safety and if they are not in good repair it is a clear indication of what level on care and safety you can expect.
A fire prevention check list and adhering to those rules could prevent a disaster and the non smoking policy in or on stable property should be observed and adhered to. An owner that has allowed such action is one reason for finding a new home for your horse ASAP.
Accumulation of household (or 'horsehold') garbage should be set up in garbage cans with proper removal and disposal, in a manner that would insure no vermin infestation which is one of the leading causes of barn borne diseases.
Stalls must be clean and free of manure and urine soaked bedding. High levels of ammonia and bacteria are damaging to horses so frequent cleaning is required if your horses is stabled for longer periods of time.
Paddock and field fencing should be in good repair with no barbed wire. Breakage of wood fencing can be damaging if your horse catches a foot or shoe and picking up splintered pieces of fencing should be done frequently, as even the smallest of pieces can cause harm.
Grain and supplies should always be in abundance. You should never have to feel like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel for a daily feeding. Make sure that your supplements are available and being used for your horse and your horse only.
These are just some of the issues I have come up against during past experiences with boarding my horse. I am passionate about my horse, and that includes everything that pertains to his care and well being. The fact remains that what you see is not always what you get so be an active and vigilant boarder and advocate for your horse's welfare. As my colleague Holly Peterson said in her recent A Bit of Advice column here on the Catskill Horse, addressing a boarder's concerns with a barn in PA, if you are not happy then it is time to move on. Your horse deserves it, and so do you.