Today I went to the barn to see my horses but I wasn't too motivated to do anything, so instead I hung out with Elisia then ended up chatting for a long time with Elisia and Pam.
I am SO lucky to have such a great boarding facility so close to my house. I informed Pam (the owner) that I am never leaving, so she had better get used to me.
This is a basic knowledge dump from years of boarding and asking (or not asking) the right questions. Over time I will detail each of these subjects so you can have a better idea what the 'best' answers will be (although they will vary based on your need).
There are 3 types of boarding care: Full care, partial care and self care. Each of these levels of care can vary by definition when you choose a barn, so it is important to know the ins and outs when making your choice. Here are some of the basic topics, find out what your potential barn does then you can classify which category of care you are getting.
1. Do you provide feed. If so, what is included? Hay? Grain? If hay, what type and how much? What types of grain do you feed? Do I have choices? May I change what my horse gets? What if I travel, may I take hay/grain with me (the answer should be yes, you are paying for your horse to be fed, even if you leave). If my horse has special needs for additional hay/grain is that included? (Some horses have MUCH higher needs for hay/grain so a barn may limit the amount included and charge extra for a high consuming horse). How many times a day do you feed?
Are supplements included (usually no). If I provide them will you feed them? Is there an extra charge? Do I need to put them in baggies or packets? If medication needs to be refrigerated, is that possible?
If self care-do you feed? Can I set my AM or PM feed out for my horse? What arrangements are there if I am unable to get out to feed my horse.
If self care-storage. Is there a place to store hay? How much can I store? Is there a place to keep my grain? Is it horse/mouse/rat proof?
Is turnout available? Do you turn out? Is there a charge for that? Will my horse be alone or with other horses? Is there shelter? Is there water (you would think the answer is yes, but ALWAYS ask). Is the turnout pasture? If you turnout, who will be handling my horse? If you do not turnout, is there a limit to the amount of time I can use the turnout? May I come turn my horse out then leave or must I remain on the property? Is there hotwire on the fencing? If so, how hot is it? May I walk your fenceline (to look for debris/barbed wire/unsafe horse objects). How often do you walk the fenceline? Will my horses be out with other animals?
Will you blanket/unblanket my horse? Is there a cost to that?
Do you clean stalls? If yes, how often? If I would like them cleaned more often is there a charge for that? If no, how often will I be expected to clean? Do you provide bedding? How much is included? What if I need more? Where is the manure pile? Do you provide wheelbarrows/forks? How often are water buckets cleaned?
Is the arena covered? Closed in or open? How deep is the footing? When can I use the arena? May I free lunge/turnout in the arena. Are there poles/barrels/obstacles that I may use for training purposes? Do I need to pick up my manure after I ride? What is the footing made from? How often do you drag the arena? Do you have a sprinkler system (for watering)? How often do you water? Do boarders ever water the arena? Is the arena ever closed? For what reasons?
If there is a trainer/lesson giver ask-may I use the arena while lessons are being given?
Is there a tack room? Is it locked? How much room will I have for storage? Where may I hang my blankets? Is it heated?
Do you have one? Is it available all the time for use? See arena questions.
Do you have trailer parking? Is there a cost for it?
Do you have a wash rack? Is it matted? Are there cross ties? Hot water? Any limitations on its use?
Where may I groom my horse? Am I expected to pick up after myself? Is there electricity for clipping?
May I use my own vet/farrier? Where should the work? Any expectations from them? If I may not use my own vet/farrier, is the barn on a schedule? Can I split the barn call fee with other owners?
Do you have a worming program? May I worm my own horse? Can I get onto the worming program?
May my own trainer come to the barn and give me lessons? Do you have any 'style' requirements for training (natural horsemanship, dressage, hunter/jumper/western pleasure)?
Atmosphere: What is it like to board here? Do people bring kids? Dogs? Is that allowed? How long have your current boarders been here? What kind of turnover do you have? Do you have plans to change ownership? How do you resolve conflict between boarders? May a friend come and ride my horse? Do you have waivers? Helmet requirements? Are there events (shows/clinics/etc) that happen here?
A good barn is like a family. I have been lucky enough to have two of those in my years of boarding (and I have tried many). In the good ones, the time passes quickly and your memories are fond, no matter what your trials and tribulations with your horse was. In the bad ones, being at the barn is a dreaded chore and even the soft nuzzle of your equine friend cannot lift your negative spirits.
So ask the right questions to find the right barn. Be willing to give up two or three of the 'perks' for the right atmosphere. Look beyond the polish and determine if the horses are healthy and happy, sometimes just because the barn is new, doesn't mean it is home.