If its time to change barns you want to make sure you find a stable that fits your needs. It can be tricky finding the perfect stable, and you may find yourself visiting 5 barns at a time. I speak from experience when I say, when you find the one you'll know. Here are 5 qualities you need to look for in a stable if you are changing barns.
Cleanness Its important to make sure the barn you are looking at is clean. Inspect the stalls, see if they are freshly mucked or if there is manure on the walls and dirty shavings. Check the tack, if it is dirty and the leather looks beaten up then it probably isn't being taken care of. Look at the grain bowls and water dispenser's in the stalls. If the bowls look extremely dirty and the water is coming out muddy or black, the workers aren't keeping the stable sanitary. If you are looking to ride or board your horse at a barn the stable needs to be clean. I'm not saying it has to be sparkly white, but it does need to be sanitary for you and your horse.
Health Just like quality 1, making sure the stable is clean, a healthy stable is another key factor. Go to the feed room. Check the hay and grain. If the grain looks old and the hay looks moldy or smells damp, they probably aren't taking good care of their horses. You can check the stalls as well. If there is lots of poop in the stalls that looks hard and brown the stall probably hasn't been mucked out for a while. If you plan on boarding your horse at a barn the barn needs to be feeding tip-top hay and grain, and the barn needs to offer your horse a clean stall to stay in.
Taking care of their lesson horses Sadly in the horse world you will run into some barns that don't take proper care of their horses. They might feed too much grain and not give the horse enough exercise, which could cause colic or laminitis. They might over work the horse in lessons and then have the poor equine going to another lesson right after. The barn may have their lesson horses in a stall all day without being worked and without staying in a pasture. They may even skip cleaning their stall, water dispenser, or grain. If you are planning on riding a lesson horse at the stable you don't want to support a barn that isn't taking care of their horses. Take one lesson at the barn to see how the quines are treated, and if you think they aren't being treated well its time to look at a different barn.
Offering lesson horses to ride If you are an equestrian that doesnt have a horse you will need to ride a lesson horse at the barn. Its very important to ask or check the website to make sure they are not a boarding barn that offers an arena. If they are a boarding barn that offers an arena, this means that they only have stalls for people's horses and an arena where the person can ride their horse. You would have to buy your own horse to ride at the stable if this is the case. Its very important to make sure they offer lesson horses you can ride during lessons.
Style's While lots of barns offer English styles and western styles, some barns don't offer both. If you are planning on doing showjumping but you go to a western-only kind of barn you wont get what you are paying for. You will likely get barrel racing, pole bending, or reining lessons. Some barns might offer hunt seat or saddle seat but not jumping (like one of mine). It all depends on the barn and what they offer. Ask about what style's they teach so you can learn whatever discipline you want at a barn that offers it.
Offering board If you are looking to board your horse at a riding barn you need to make sure the stable has board options where you can board your 4-legged friend. Some barns might only have lesson horses and don't offer stalls to board. Some stables might have boarding options but they could currently be out of stalls and your horse wouldn't have a stall to board in. Its also important to check what they offer for boarding your horse. If you are okay with scheduling all the vet visits, farrier visits, giving hay and grain, coming to groom everyday, and mucking out twice a day you don't need to worry about the stable offering any of these things. However if you are busy during the day and don't have time to work your horse every day or come to feed every couple hours, you want to make sure the stable is offering what you need.
Showing Lots of barns offer showing, lots of barns don't. Some barns offer showing only if you have your own horse, and some barns let you show a lesson horse. If you are an equestrian wanting to show you need to make sure the barn is offering showing options. You will also want to ask the barn manager about showing, even if they do have it on the website. The website may be outdated and in need of a change, so before you settle on a barn ask if they show or allow you to show without your own horse.
Price Last but certainly not lease, is price. This is probably the most important factor in a barn. You want to make sure you are getting what you are paying for. If you have to pay $100 for a 30 or 45 minute lesson then that is clearly a sign the barn isn't meant for you. If you want to ride 2-3 times a week but the prices are too high you aren't going to get what you want. Most times a showing barn will be more expensive so if you find a showing barn then keep in note, non-showing barns will be cheaper. The price of a lesson may vary in different states. Keep in mind how much you are paying and how many lessons you are receiving.
Organization Finding a barn that has things organized and scheduled is great. Each barn should have their lessons organized and send emails before your lessons, checking in that you will be riding the next day. If you find that you are constantly being cancelled on or can't seem to get a lesson in you need to switch barns.
These are all very important factors when finding a barn. Its great to ride at a barn you love, and you may even ride at 2 barns to find a balance with both. I hope all these tips help you if you are looking at barns or changing barns. xx The Desert Rider