Choosing the Right Stable Yard for You and Your Horse…
As most yards are run as a full or part livery, finding a DIY yard can nowadays be hard to come by.
Choosing the right facilities for both you and your horse can mean needing to compromise on what you want and need.
Below are some points to consider when looking around yards or when enquiring on the phone. One tip is to look for a website, this can tell you a lot about a yard before even picking up the phone.
The location of any yard is likely going to be one of the first things you will consider whilst making your short list. Before you start calling around, it is a good idea to check out the location in relation to your home, place of work, competitions. Needing to take your lorry on a long drive before hitting any main routes may well add a lot of extra time and money to your journey, especially if you are competing several times during a week.
More important than you may first think, the distance from your home to the yard will have an impact on your pocket and time, especially if you are planning to visit twice a day. For example, fuel and wear and tear on the car.
If you have never owned a horse before or put your horse on livery the monthly cost can be quite scary when you add it all up. Cost’s will vary largely depending on the service and yard you are looking at. It is always good to work out what you can comfortably afford, as we all know, horses love to surprise us with those vet bills. Do not forget the costs don’t just end at livery, there are a long list of other costs associated with our favourite friends. Insurance, farrier/trimmer, feed, bedding (if not included), equipment, dentistry, physio’s, lessons, competitions, transport (check if you can park a lorry or trailer on the yard, and if so, is there a charge for this) … the list can be endless. So, ensure you have a buffer…
DIY – DIY is as it says, do it yourself. This normally means travelling to your horse twice a day where you will carry out all the stable duties yourself, including turning out bringing in etc.
Part Livery – Part livery normally includes the cost of the stable, turnout, a set amount of bedding and unlimited or allocated amount of hay and/ or haylage. There may be a service included to turn-out or bring but you are likely to find it is either one or the other, sometimes on part livery you will find your horse is mucked or skipped out for you Monday- Friday, however it is best to clarify exactly what is in the package. Yards to tend to differ in what they offer. Additional services to create a more bespoke package can normally be added as and when needed, but these are charged as extras.
Full Livery – This package covers everything. Your horse will be looked after either Monday – Friday or 7 Days per week. Again, it is a good idea to clarify exactly what the full livery package includes. It would normally include, turning out and bringing in, mucked out inc replenishment of hay and water. Unlimited / set amount of bedding, hay and or haylage, some yards include their basic hard feed. A grooming service, in most cases, will be included too, and your horse will likely be part of the worming routine, with this in mind, there could be a schedule for the dentist and farrier which you would become a part of. These costs are usually charged separately to livery but someone would be present to handle such appointments on your behalf.
With full livery you may find, should there be someone suitably qualified on site, that a schooling or exercising service would be in place which you could make use of at a fee.
Services will differ greatly from yard to yard, the best thing is to go through each point of your requirements and what the yard can offer so there is no ambiguity from you or the yard owner/Manager.
It is not unusual to find that most yards will have a contract or some form of written agreement in place. This will normally cover the service agreed, price, date of payment and how it should be paid, termination of contract (notice for leaving) and various other information such as terms and conditions. The agreement would be in place to protect both the livery and yard owner.
Grazing is essential not only for your horse’s diet, but for their mental health too. Restriction of Turnout may be in place over winter, but it is essential to make sure you horse has access some form of exercise (horse walker), turnout pen or grazing each day. It is also useful to find out how the herds are made up, how many to a paddock, how your horse will be introduced to their new field mates.
When looking at potential yards, make a point of looking at the turnout, the set up and how the horses are interacting with one another. The grazing should be well maintained, have good water provision and the fencing should be in good order.
Some turnout may have field shelters, look at how well maintained these are, how easy are the paddocks to access, will you need to walk through paddocks of other horses to get yours in or out, those type of things.
The size of the stable should be considered, if you have a large horse who loves to roll, is it big enough?
Are the stables sociable or would your horse need something more secluded? How good is the ventilation? What type of bedding is being used? Will the yard allow alternative bedding types?
Exercise and Riding
Is there an all-weather menage, is it floodlit? This is a consideration if you need to ride in the evenings. If a menage is not available is there anywhere flat on the grass which is available for use I the summer? If your thing is jumping, is there a set of jumps? If not, perhaps there is a yard or riding school close by that would permit hiring of their menage?
Hacking routes are important too. Is there off-road hacking accessible within easy reach of your potential yard? If your thing is hacking, are there enough routes that you can create variation to your rides? Are there main/ busy roads in which you need to hack on before you reach beautiful off road riding?
First impressions / Yard appearance
A well-kept yard is normally an indication of a yard which is well run and will normally give you an idea of the type of personalities who livery there.
Word of mouth can speak for a lot. Some people may have an awful report of a yard, but this may not be that the yard is bad, it could be that they did not agree or see eye to eye with another livery or the yard owner. Remember, making your own mind up on your own judgment is the best way to decide on a yard, so do not write them off before you have given them a chance and viewed them. You will get a feel for the yard as soon as you arrive.
Quarantine and worming
When there is a new horse on a yard it is good practice for the horse to be put into an isolation paddock or stable. This will ensure that any potential bacteria / illnesses are kept under control, don’t think of it as though your horse is thought of as unhealthy, but rather ensuring your horse also stays well when another newbie arrives. Always enquire as to whether there is and isolation period and worming programme in place and be prepared for a short period of stabling. If your horse is rather highly strung, it may be worth considering some calmer prior to the move to prevent any possible stresses (for both, you, and your horse)!
The more extensive your requirements of a yard, the more you can expect to pay. You may have requirements that have not been mentioned above which are more specific to you or your horse. It is best to make a note of all the finer requirements that you think of and take it with you on your search. Remember that no question is a silly one and the more you ask the more thorough your search will be, this will hopefully result in finding the yard in which will be a huge, fulfilling part of your life for a long time to come.