Choosing the Right Stable Yard
Just a little over a decade ago stable yards where predominately ‘do it yourself’ (DIY). Fast forward some 15 years and how the times have changed. A livery, where your horse’s care and in some cases riding were taken care of, was only for those who could afford such luxuries. However now, the majority of yards run as a full or part livery, leaving owners will little choice.
Choosing the right facilities can mean compromising on what you want and what you need. Our top tip would be to take your time and be thorough in your research.
Below are some basic points to consider when looking at choosing the right stable yard for you and your horse. You may be able to find a lot of the information is readily available on the yard’s website (if they have one) however it’s still worth discussing to confirm as some points may have changed since the publication or last update.
Location and distance from home
The location of a yard may be the first port of call for drawing up your short list of potential yards. Before you start calling to see if there are vacancies, be sure to check out the location in relation to your home, place of work, local shows and veterinary practices.
More important than you may first think, the distance your chosen stable yard is from home will have a big impact on cost and time, especially if you are having to visit twice a day. Fuel and wear and tear on your car, over time will mount up.
If in an emergency you need to get to your horse, motorways and dual carriageways, especially if you’re in a rush will add to your travel time. Choosing a yard close to home, when you can, is definitely the better option.
Cost will vary depending on the type of service and yard you’re are looking for (see point below). Work out how much you can realistically afford, on a monthly basis, leaving a buffer for unexpected costs. Don’t forget to factor in travelling costs too.
DIY – Sadly now few and far between, DIY is as it says on the tin, do it yourself. This, in most cases means, travelling to your horse twice a day and includes all stable and horse care duties.
Part Livery – A part livery normally includes the cost of the stable, paddock, a set amount of bedding and unlimited or allocated amount of hay/haylage. In most cases there may be a turn-out or bring in service included but you may find it’ll either be one or the other, and not both. Additional services can be added as and when needed but these can come at a cost.
Full Livery – The complete package, your horse will be turned and and brought in, mucked out, water and hay will be given. A grooming service, in most cases, will be included too, and you may even find a calendar or appointments with the farrier, vet and dentist may also be managed for you (potentially at additional cost).
In a full livery agreement, depending on the qualifications and experience of the yard staff/manager your horse may be schooled too. This can come at extra cost or will be a part of the agreement, make sure this is discussed prior to confirming your place.
Services will differ greatly, be sure to discuss all of yours and your horse’s requirements and have it wrote down at the time of agreement.
Most yards now have a contract or some type of agreement in place. A contract will often cover services offered, cost, when payment is expected to be made, notice of leaving and other mandatory information. The contract is set in place to look after the best interests of yard owner and livery owner.
Be careful: It has been known for livery owners to include a clause in the contract that if you fail to pay your livery bill your horse may be witheld and sold, by the owner to recuperate costs. If this is the case, make sure you have an independent solicitor go over the contract for you. This may be an appropriate way to deal with non payment however as an owner you need to be aware, and be able to understand this.
Adequate grazing is essential not only for your horse’s diet, but for his mental health too. Restriction of grazing may be in place over winter periods but it is essential to make sure you horse has access to a paddock each day. Ask how horses are grazed, in what numbers and whether geldings are kept separate. Consider asking how new horses are introduced to the heard and what type of horses yours may be grazed with.
Paddocks need to be well maintained and free from poisonous plants such as ragwort. They should be of an adequate size, have access to water and be regularly poo picked. Secure fencing is a must, this can be either post and rail or electric fencing. Steer clear of barbed wire fencing. Access to clean water should also be available.
Look for grazing that offers plenty of shelter, whether this be by trees or wooden shelters. Ease of access is also very important, will you be able to get your horse to and from the field? Consider the access, is each field accessible via a separate walk-way?
The size of the stable should be considered, is it large enough and water tight? Over time clogged up gutters may attribute to a wet stable which will not only cost you more in bedding but will leave you with a wet horse. Consider the location of the stable in a busy area of the yard or more quiet too.
Other points to consider include airflow and light, are the stable door fittings secure and adequate. Windows offer more light or a sky light can often be beneficial for otherwise darker stables.
Do horses have nose to nose contact with the horse next door, this may be advantageous for some more friendly horses, but for those who like to be left on their own and are possessive over their private space this won’t be ideal.
Is there access to a floodlit, well-drained school? Size will matter if you have a big horse and you ride more competitively. If a school isn’t available is there a field to ride in during the summer months? If not, perhaps a local riding school that offers school hire may be close by. Consider where you will ride during the winter months too.
Hacking routes are important too. Is there off-road hacking accessible within easy reach of your chosen yard? If not consider whether the roads are quiet enough for hacking alone or in company.
In some cases, as mentioned above, riding/schooling may be available as part of your livery package or via an add-on to a part livery. If you are looking for this service, make sure you discuss your requirements in detail. The experience and qualifications of the person who will be offering this service will need to be discussed.
Access to off-road riding, local shows and ease of access are all points worth considering for location.
A well kept yard will be a well ran yard.
Word of mouth/reputation
It’s important to take note of what you hear down the ‘grape vine’ however it’s more important for you to make your own mind up. Stories, are often made from negative experiences but remember, this may only be due to someone leaving on bad note.
Whether a horse is new to the yard or is ill, an isolation paddock and stable is considered good practice. Ask the owner for the isolation procedure for when a horse moves onto the yard. Be prepared for a period of stabling or restricted grazing for a short period.
The more we expect from a stable yard, the more you can expect to pay. There are basics covered in the points above that aren’t exhaustive but, are worth considering before choosing the right stable yard for you and your horse. There will be points that aren’t covered above that may be more specific to your horse, try to right them all down and ask them when you go to visit. Remember to take your time and be thorough before making your choice.
Best of luck!