Running a horse boarding stable has many costs. To effectively run a facility you need to manage your expenses and your income. Some of the cost management challenges include managing the horses hay, stall bedding and employees. Savvy horse boarders should understand these challenges to ensure their horses receive the best level of care for the money.
If you are a rider looking to board your horse, you should consider the care and quality of the horse facility you are looking to keep you horse at. I recommend giving the ranch a call on the weekend to schedule a time to visit. Short notice on a mid day Saturday is better, as you want to visit and see the worse case scenario. Saturday’s tend to be the busiest days for a barn. Things to consider, when you enter the stable or horse barn take a deep breath. Do you smell ammonia? If so, the stalls are probably not well kept and have had urine standing in them. After a day in the heat the horse urine will give off an ammonia smell. Ammonia is not good for your horse’s health.
Next look in to the horses stall. Do you see boards that are missing, stall mats that are flat, nails or safety issues? Look at the amount of shaving in the stall. Is there enough to keep your horse from getting bed sores?
Is the barn well kept? Are there cobwebs or debris around electrical or lighting. Or is the barn clean, the doors working, stall panels well kept, tack up areas clear. If so this is probably a good indication to the level of care your horse will receive.
Next, take a look at the weight of the horses that are already being boarded at the facility. Are they in good physical condition? Check to see if their coats are shiny and that their are not ribs showing. Ask to visit the hay barn. Take a look at the hay that is being feed. Check to see if the hay bales contain any weeds or are moldy. Pull off a flake of hay to check and see of it has any mold and that is properly stored away from rain.
Ask what cuttings of hay the barn owner purchases and where they obtain their hay from. Is it a local reputable grower or feed store? Ask what cutting the alfalfa hay is. At our ranch we never feed first or second cutting alfalfa or alfalfa grass as it is usually too high in protein and may contain toxic weeds. The first and second cutting is usually used for cattle and the protein level can make horses drink excessively and give them too much energy.
Familiarize yourself with hay, weed, or other health issues for the area you will be boarding in. Talk to a local veterinarian or agricultural adviser. For example in our county in California, Yolo County, we also have the added problem with feeding alfalfa hay and our hard water creating enterolyphs in the horses. These are also called stones. In this area of California we have to feed only one portion of Alfalfa hay to be safe and keep the horses from developing stones that often over time results in colic surgery. Barns in our area tend to feed a portion of alfalfa mixed with and orchard grass, oat or rye grass hays.
Another problem for this area is caused by a weed called Groundsel. It is toxic to horses and can build up in their systems over time. It normally occurs in the first and second cutting of hay that has not been treated with a broad leaf preventative. An example of shy this recommendation is so important is, we have had barns in our area feed hay containing this weed and loose all the horses in the barn. As it is settled out of court, it normally does not make coverage in the news.
After the horses have consumed approximately 3 pounds of this weed, it creates health problems and toxicity that cannot be reversed. This weed mimics the dandelion weed in the color, and white poof on the end. I always take our hay in to be tested and to check our hay through the California Food Safety Lab for testing to see the protein content and to ensure we do not have any weeds that would be harmful to horses boarded at the ranch. There are other weeds specific to the areas people live in, contact your local farm adviser for more information. It is good to do some research on the hay available in your area and what the barn owners will be feeding to your horses.