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6 Signs of a Bad Horse Boarding Barn

When looking for horse boarding barn, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account, such as the distance you will have to drive to get there, the hours they are open to boarders, the quality of the facilities, and the services provided. Not every barn will be the perfect fit for every person or horse.

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In this article, we’re talking about red flags that a potential horse boarding barn might not be a safe or fun place to keep your horse. Here are the red flags we look for:

The Barn Owner or Manage is Rude, Dishonest, or Abrasive

Right off the bat, meeting with the barn owner or manager will tell you a lot about whether or not that barn will be the right fit for you. If they are not forthcoming with information or do not seem to be providing clear answers to your questions, do not expect that the level of communication will improve.

When it comes to choosing a barn to board your horse at, you want to make sure that the owner and manager do what they say they will. If you can look around the property and see that the services they are promising you are not currently being met, then you know they are not going to follow through for you. For instance, if they say that all stalls are cleaned by a certain time each day, but you arrive after that guaranteed time to check out the barn and none of the cleaning has begun, then the barn management is underdelivering on that promise. 

The Barn has Signs of Poor Hygiene and Lack of Organization

The cleanliness of the barn area will tell you a lot about the facility. A barn is not likely to be spotless; however, it should still be tidy. Items left in walkways cause trip hazards, grain bins left open will lead to mice and other rodents getting into the feed, and the stalls should be cleaned daily. All of these examples can lead to health and safety issues for both the horses and people if they are not handled properly.

When you first check out a prospective barn, it is recommended to take a look around and see if the level of cleanliness is up to your standards and if there are any blatant health or safety hazards present. Manue should be handled in a hygenic and modern manner that decreases the risk of pathogens and flies.  

Staff and Riders aren’t Observing Basic Horse Safety

Safety is a very important aspect of every barn, for both the horses and the people. It is inevitable that riders will occasionally fall off; however, if a particular barn has a large number of riders falling off or frequent accidents, it is a red flag that some safety element is not being adhered to. This could be due to unsafe riding techniques, riders being improperly matched with horses too advanced for them, or an unsafe environment overall.

A good question to ask when checking out a new barn is what the policy on helmet use is. The barn’s policy on this can hint at the overall safety environment. If everyone is required to wear them, or if they recommend helmets for everyone and explain the benefits of wearing them and the risks of not, but leave the final decision up to the rider, then safety is likely to be more of a priority. If they are not encouraging the use of helmets, particularly for novice riders and especially for children, then it is likely not a safe environment. 

Riders don’t Act Like they’re Having Fun

If you are looking to take lessons at your new barn, it is also a good idea to ask to watch a couple of lessons before making your decision. This will give you the opportunity to see how the riding instructor teaches, and how the barn runs during lesson times. Some instructors’ styles may not be a good fit for all students and horses. It is also a good time to ask questions, such as:

  • Is there a limit on how many riders are in the arena at once?
  • do boarders have their own riding time or do they ride during the lessons?

If the arena is going to be overcrowded during the times you are wanting to ride, you will have to decide if that is something you can work with, or if you and your horse need more space.

Having a lot of horses in the arena at once can be very chaotic, which can make learning difficult for some people and some horses, so it is good to know what you will be getting into ahead of time.

The Barn Doesn’t Fit Your Needs

Not a universal sign of a bad horse boarding barn, but an indication the barn might be bad for you, is their riding discipline, style, and competition vs pleasure riding focus.

This is a good time to evaluate your personal riding goals for you and your horse, and see if they align with what is taught at that barn. Some barns will have a wide range of riding disciplines, and others are more narrowly focused. For example, if your goal is to get into barrel racing, then a barn primarily focused on show jumping may not be the best fit. Be sure to select a barn that best matches your goals and style. 

The Horses Look Unwell

Taking a look at the horses that live there will tell you a lot about the level of care at the facility. You want to make sure all of the horses look happy and healthy. If the majority of the horses are underweight, that is a good sign that they are not being properly fed and is a major red flag.

Also, if most of the horses seem withdrawn and do not want to interact at all, then there is likely a problem. Keep in mind that even at the best run barn, there are bound to be one or two horses who are not in the best health, a few that are retired old horses struggling to stay in condition, or horses that are just a bit moody by nature. However, if the horses at the barn do not look and act how you want your horse to look and act, then it is definitely not the right place to board your horse.

Final Thoughts on Red Flags of a Bad Boarding Barn

Ultimately, you should always trust your gut. If anything feels off to you and you are not one hundred percent comfortable after visiting a new barn, then keep looking. Deciding where to keep your horse is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. You want to make sure they are getting the best care possible when you are not around, and that may mean trying out several different places before finding the right fit.

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