10 Questions to Ask Before Boarding Your Horse

November 20, 2014

Taken from the magazine, Paint Horse Connection:

10 Questions…to ask before boarding

Boarding facilities can offer top-notch care to busy horse owners who don’t have the time or ability to manage their horses at home. When touring a prospective barn, new boarders often have a multitude of questions. Make the most out of an upcoming barn tour with the following talking points from boarding manager Marzie Harkness.

Be prepared before boarding your horse with these discussion topics.

  1. “What does full-care board include?”

Often separated into full-care or partial-care options, many boarding facilities offer multiple choices for boarders based on daily feeding, turn-out, budgets and other factors. Be upfront with this question, and don’t hesitate to clarify any special needs you’d like to have met.

“Full care doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone,” Marzie said. “If you own a horse, it’s ultimately your responsibility. At some barns, full-care might not mean the barn owner will hold the horse for the farrier, for example.”

  1. “What feed do you supply, and how often do you feed?”

If your horse prefers a specific feed—like APHA Corporate Sponsor Purina’s line of equine feed—ask the boarding facility if they can help you meet his dietary requirements. Some horses might demand special supplements or more frequent feedings, so be specific when asking the barn owner or manager.

“Another good feed question is what times the horses are fed,” Marzie said. “Personally, I don’t like to ride my horses immediately before or after they’ve eaten. I like them to have a little bit of time. If you come out to ride at 4, and we feed at 4, your horse isn’t going to be his best.”

  1. “What are your emergency procedures?”

“I would ask in advance what they do if your horse gets sick,” Marzie said. “Ask what requirements they have for shots, too/ You need to see if the boarding barn will call your vet in case of an emergency. It is also good to have a card that says who your vet is, and who the horse is insured with. If the barn owner can’t get in touch with you and your horse gets sick, who should they call?”

  1. “Can I store my tack or trailer on site?”

Space to park a horse trailer or store riding gear might be ample at some facilities but limited at others, so check before moving your horse.

“Ask if there is a fee or particular places they prefer you park your trailer,” Marzie said. “It’s the same way with storing your tack—I have a tack room, but I tell my boarders they leave their tack at their own risk/ You’d want to see what space the barn provides.”

  1. “Does your facility have an in-house trainer, or can I bring in my own for lesson?”

“It’s very helpful to have knowledgeable people around,” Marzie said.

If regular riding lessons would be an added bonus, ask if the boarding barn has a lesson program or an in-house trainer. An expert eye is handy to have nearby. On the other hand, if you’d like to bring in a trainer to give you lessons, it is polite to ask the barn’s policy on off-property trainers.

“You might also ask if the barn lets outside people come and ride,” Marzie added. “We have a liability release form to protect everyone.”

  1. “What are your hours of operation?”

Whether you’re an early-morning rider or a late-night groomer, be sure to understand the prospective barn’s hours. If the facility’s gates are locked nightly, it can be a hassle for barn managers when boarders don’t adhere to set hours.

“You can also ask when the manager does barn checks, and if an owner or manager lives on the property,” Marzie said.

  1. “What Kind of people currently board at your facility?”

There is a versatility which lends itself to a myriad of riding disciplines throughout all breeds. For example, if you trail ride, you might enjoy a boarding facility populated by other Ride America program participants. Similarly, if “family-friendly” tops your list of boarding barn must-haves, this question can help you find the perfect fit.

“If you’ve got a child who wants to ride, you’d want to know if there are other kids at the barn for her to bond with,” Marzie said.


  1. “What barn rules should I expect to observe?”

“I have a list of rules that boarders agree to, but they’re in place because of things I’ve experienced,” Marzie said. “I learned because of what has happened. Rules are in place to keep everyone safe.”

Communicate openly with the barn owner to ensure the best boarding experience for your horse—that includes abiding by the facility rules.


  1. “What horse experience do you or the barn manager have?”

An especially important query for new horse owners, this question can help prospective boarders get a feel for the facility owner or operator’s expertise. It’s always helpful to have an experienced eye watching over your horse. Whether that advice comes from the barn owner, manager or a fellow boarder, it’s an important question to consider.

“You need to be careful on who you get your advice from,” Marzie said. “In a barn, every person there will have an opinion.”

  1. “Can I contact a boarder for a reference?”

Some simple legwork can make transitioning to a new boarding facility much easier, especially if you’ll be moving from out-of-state.

“I usually tell people when they’re touring the barn to look at the horses on the property,” Marzie said. “Do you see skinny horses or horses who just don’t look good? That’s something I would look for, too.”

Most barn owners will happily connect prospective boarders with current, satisfied clients.


Article was featured in the Paint Horse Connection.

Marzie Harkness brings a wealth of experience to her self-owned and operated Hidden Star Farm boarding facility in Roanoke, Texas. A lifelong horsewoman and avid all-around compeitior, Marzie has managed equine boarders for the past 10 years.



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