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How to find a livery yard

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 know how to find a livery yard that is will care for their horse professionally and with diligence.

They will need to find a stable or a horse boarding farm for their beloved animal, somewhere within easy travel distance of work or home.

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 that requires some careful thought and research. There are some very good livery yards in the UK, but sadly there are also some which fall below the expected standards.

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 are some suggestions for what you should investigate before making the decision to board your horse at any facility.

The Appearance of the Livery Yard

Whilst appearance isn’t everything, your first impression of the paddocks, stables and riding ring at the yard is a good indication of the levels of professionalism and care maintained at the yard.

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.

how to find a livery yardThe 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 is reassuring for those choose to stable at them.

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.

The Livery Yard Contracts

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 veterinary 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.

What are your experiences with livery yards? Do you have any tips you can pass on? Leave a comment below.

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5 Winter Horse Care Tips You Should Know

When winter is upon us, baring its teeth with frosts and snow, we need to understand how best to care for our horses, so that they don’t suffer discomfort. With that in mind, here are some winter horse care tips you should know in order to best prepare for the first frosts or heavy snowfall.  In all starts with preparation in the autumn.

If we humans struggle to stay warm and dry during the winter, imagine the situation for horses. It is of the utmost importance that horse owners care for their animals in the right way during these cold winter months.

Here are five tips for the best practices for caring for horses in winter.

1. Cold weather, and wet weather, means greater calorie requirements.

Horses, like all warm-blooded animals, maintain a constant body temperature. In cold, wet, and/or windy weather, the internal furnaces of horses and other mammals require more calories in order to maintain body temperature. For example, a thousand pound horse readily consumes roughly 15 pounds of hay each day. As the weather drops to freezing levels, the same horse would require 17 pounds of hay per day to prevent any degradation of body condition. Wet weather and windy weather increases the horse’s calorie needs even more, especially if the horse is without shelter.

2. A little fat is helpful.

Horses are designed to survive on a forage diet – in other words, grass and hay. In general, cereals are not recommended feed for most horses. However, in the autumn months before cold weather strikes, adding grains to horse feed helps the horse to add a layer of fat. The protective fat will insulate the horse from cold weather, provide energy reserves, and mitigate the need for extra feed during the winter months.

winter horse care tips3. Keep water above freezing.

Envision a blustery day in midwinter, with steely, overcast skies, and maybe even a few snow flurries. On a day like that, one of the most comforting activities is to sit with your feet near the fire and sip a cup of hot tea, (or a glass of mulled wine).

No one would want to cozy up with a glass of ice water. In the same way, horses don’t like drinking freezing cold water in the winter, but by dehydrating themselves their risk of colic and impaction increases. To prevent this from occurring, remove any ice crystals that form in the water, and keep the water between 7 degrees and 18 degrees Celsius.

4. Keep horses away from the beauty parlour.

Throughout the fall and winter months, allow the horse’s coat to grow. Its natural winter coat is its best defence against cold weather. Although it may be tempting to trim the hair within the ears, and around the fetlocks, resist the temptation for the sake of the horse’s health. Furthermore, make an effort to keep the coat dry. Once the horse hair gets wet, it loses its ability to insulate the horse from the cold, just as walking outside in the winter with wet hair is unpleasant for humans.

5. Don’t let horses slip on the ice.

A broken leg for a human means a cast, and some time on crutches. A broken leg for a horse sometimes spells death. Therefore, protect horses from snow and ice during the winter by trimming hooves every six to eight weeks. For horses who will stay outside during the winter months, remove horseshoes. Horseshoes can easily become backed with ice, which greatly increases a horse’s risk for a fall.

These five tips are certainly not exhaustive, but provide a good place to start for caring for horses during winter months.

What additional tips can you think of? Let us know in the comments below.