College is a life changing experience and a big change for most young adults. Many young adults and parents find the process of picking a college as a very nerve-racking time. When you are an equestrian and horse owner, the idea of bringing a horse along to that university with you can be an even more stressful time. There are a lot of decisions to be made from which barn to chose, when to move the horse and what services you will need once the horse has moved.
As a professional in the Hunter/Jumper industry for over 20 years, I view this topic from the trainer and managers perspective.
Here are some tips and things to think through as you are deciding on where to board your horse.
Firstly, decide when the best and ideal time is for you to bring your horse to school. The first semester for a freshman can be overwhelming and difficult to manage so try to sort out how much time you will really have to go to the farm and spend time with your horse. You may decide to send the horse to school once you have settled into your new routine which is fairly typical. If you are further along in school this may not be an issue for you.
Secondly, try to narrow down the specific services you are looking for. There are many types of boarding and training facilities. You can find a basic place that just rents you a stall where you are in charge of buying feed and bedding and you do all the daily care and managing of your horse. Or there are full service facilities that will include every element of care as well as a training program. School can be demanding of a students schedule so try to think ahead on how much time you will have to dedicate to your horse. Remember that horses are animals that need attention from us 24/7. They do not take holidays or get to be ignored when the weather is not cooperating or you have a party to attend. Most horses are fed up to four times a day and require a ton of hands on care. My advice is to find a facility that will do most of the care for at least the first year and then you can scale back or become more hands on in the future years. Some facilities have different tiers of services and will allow you to change your type of care as you go along so that is always something to think about.
Thirdly, research the different barns in and around the areas of your school. I suggest to not just search on Google but to search the local affiliations and see what barns are listed on their websites. Contact as many barns as you would like and be aware of how professional they are whether is is returning your calls, emails or texts. The way they handle the business side will most of time reflect the way they manage their horses as well. When you are in the area visiting the school, try to see as many of the barns as possible. Price can always be a deciding factor in which barns you choose but for an extra $50 per month you could get much better care for your horse as well as better training. Try not to narrow down facilities by price ahead of time because the actual care could differ quite a bit. More specifically to researching the different barns, make sure they provide the services you require. A barn that provides the best care could save you money in the long run by not having to call the veterinarian for various illnesses or injuries.
Here are some things to think about when you visit different facilities.....try to pay attention to how clean and tidy the barn is, how tidy are the horses, do the horses look happy and healthy, do the clients seem happy and laid back (no drama), what does the quality of hay and feed look like, how organized is feed room, how does the trainer conduct themselves in a lesson with other students as well as how do they ride and handle their horse? It's never a bad idea to watch a lesson or even take a lesson if possible so you can get hands on experience with the barn and trainer.
Lastly, go with your gut when making that final decision of where to board your horse. If you get a good feeling when you walk in the barn of a certain facility then pick that one but on the flip side if you see something that you don't like, do not ignore it. Because there are so many different ways to care for a horse, try to pick the best place that will fit your needs and wants. For most of us, our barn family is huge part of our lives so pick a place that you feel comfortable and know that you can trust them to manage your horse.
I hope this post has helped you in what to do when you decide to bring your horse to college.
Stevie McCarwon Wigley