It would be a wonderful world if every horse owner and horse lover had the ability to keep their horse on their own property, but this is simply not the case. In the United Kingdom, as in most parts of the world, horse owners will need to find a good livery yard, which may also be called a stable or a horse boarding farm somewhere within easy driving or travel distance to keep their beloved animal.
Making the choice of the correct livery for your needs and, more importantly, for the safety and health of your horse is an important decision when you can’t keep the horse on your own property. There are some very good livery yards in the UK and there are those that are not good places to keep your horse.
As a responsible horse owner, taking the time to learn about the stables, the paddocks, the routines and the management of the livery will be just a few of the factors that should be under consideration. To help you get started, here is a general guideline of what you should investigate before making the decision to board your horse at any facility.
Appearance of the Livery
Whilst appearance isn’t everything, your first impression of the paddocks, stables and riding ring at the yard is a very good indication of the professionalism and care for the horses and riders you can expect.
Take a good look at the grounds as you drive up. The property should be well-maintained and cared for, particularly the paddocks and stables. Look for signs of poor repairs on fences, gates and stalls and also take a look into the tack room for organization and cleanliness.
Walk out through the paddocks and the turn-out area and look at the condition of the grass and the actual pasture. Is there a large enough space for your horse to be out to exercise or is it confined and cramped? Is there shade and how are the stalls cooled? Is there fresh water and air circulation in each of the box stalls in the stables? You should also take a look at the riding trails offered, are they appropriate for your level of riding ability?
If you notice any of the above issues, including open feed bins, poor quality water or bedding, bale stacks that are out in the weather and falling down, reconsider your choice. Also, look for any signs of rodents and vermin in or around the stable or any signs of dark and dingy stalls as this is a sure sign of an uncaring owner or manager.
Condition of the Horses
With just a quick walk around the facility, you will get a sense of the condition of the horses. Are they content and calm or do they appear nervous or agitated? Don’t just focus on one or two horses as there are always those that are difficult to stable because of their temperament or personality, but take an overall look at the horses at the stable.
If there are horses that seem nervous or aggressive, how would your horse react? This is a good time to ask about these issues and how more aggressive horses are managed in the yard to avoid any risk of problems with other horses. Many of the top livery yards will not keep aggressive or poorly socialised horses, which prevents any worry.
It is still important to ask about turn-out and how it is managed. Top managers of livery yards are very good at matching horses to be out on the pasture together with a limited risk of any type of negative interaction.
While contracts may seem challenging to read, it is important to take the time and completely review all clauses and information. Avoid any livery yard without a formal contract that clearly outlines their responsibilities and services and also your responsibilities as the horse owner.
Look for information on horse management practices, emergency veterinarian services, certification for all instructors and contractors using the livery and details on security and safety for your horse. The facility should also have written policies for visitors, a dog policy as well as security for the stables after hours.
Choose a livery that is not just an add-on service at a farm, but rather the focus on the property. Talk to other horse owners using the livery and also review online to determine if there have been complaints and problems before signing any contract.