Boarding your horse in Lexington, Kentucky... and beyond
Lexington, KY area
Owning your very own horse is an exciting thing, and it comes with a huge responsibility. Horses are animals that require attention all day and every day. A well fed horse will and should eat up to four times a day and should be exercised or outside in a paddock for a certain period of time every day. Of course, that is assuming they don’t have an injury. I am lucky enough to have my own Hunter/Jumper facility just outside of Lexington in Midway, Kentucky, so I have total control over the care and attention that my horses get. But, not everyone is so lucky. So, if you own a horse, you will likely need to find a place to board that horse. If you’re in the greater Lexington, KY area, I would highly recommend a visit to my facility. However, even if you are outside of the area, here are some tips for things to look out for when trying to find the best boarding facility.
Budget for boarding your horse
First things first...figure out a budget for what you can afford each month.
As I am sure you have figured out, horses are not cheap. They eat a ton of food, require a farrier to come trim their feet every four to six weeks, require yearly vaccinations, dental work and the list goes on. Once you set a monthly budget, you can narrow down a list of barns that fit that budget. Personally, I believe that if you can’t afford very much, you shouldn’t own a horse. In my experience working in Lexington, KY and across the country before that, I have seen too many horses get neglected because the owner simply can’t afford to own them. But, let’s assume you can afford a basic type board at most facilities. So, here are the next questions to consider:
- Will you be doing your own daily care?
Do you want to buy your own hay, bedding, grain?
Will you be wanting the barn to do everything from feeding, cleaning stall, turning out, grooming, blanketing, holding horse for farrier?
Some barns will break up the charges and charge you individually for every item of service. From my standpoint of a farm owner, it gets very complicated when you have several different horses that are receiving different types of care and it is very easy to forget to do certain things with certain horses. If I were someone looking for a place for my horse, I would either have them do everything or the bare minimum. That way it’s easier to know what each person is responsible for. This is the way that I set up the pricing at my own Lexington, KY area farm.
Type of supplies and feed matters
Secondly, do your homework on what type of supplies they provide for the horse. If you are paying full board and the facility is providing hay, grain and bedding, pay attention to the type and quality of these things. Most facilities use one brand of horse feed, and it is easy to do a little research on that type of feed. Figure out what options they provide, and if you are unsure about what type of feed would be ideal for your horse, contact the feed company and they can steer you in the right direction. The hay is a bit more complicated. When you are visiting the facility, pay attention to if the horses are eating it happily and it looks clean (not dusty or moldy) then it should be fine. In my opinion, most facilities should provide at least two types of hay. I provide three types of hay at my Lexington, KY area facility. Another important factor is the amount of hay and grain they will feed your horse. Ask the facility how the figure out amounts and types for each horse. Every horse should eat a slightly different amount based on size of the horse and their temperment. A big red flag is how organized is the feed room where they keep all the feed and supplements.
At Cloud Nine Farm in Midway, KY, we have a very detailed board that lists all the horses names along with details like type of feed, amount of feed and supplements they each receive. There is nothing worse than spending a ton of money on supplements for your horse and noticing that your horse is not receiving them. As far as the bedding goes, there are several types of bedding. Shavings, sawdust, pellets to name a few are all fairly popular and can be a great bedding for your horse. My biggest concern with bedding is dust. A lot of bedding can be processed and put into bags and then will have a ton of dust when the bedding is then put into the horses’ stall. The dust is a huge issue when you are putting hay down onto the dusty bedding and then your horse is ingesting the dust while they are eating. It is not that difficult to tell if the bedding looks dusty when you are touring a facility so pay attention to that. Another important element to the bedding in the stall is making sure the facility provides enough bedding. If your horse is spending a decent amount of time in the stall, then the stall should have a nice “mattress” to it. If you can see the stall floor, whether it be a rubber mat or class eye sand then there is not enough bedding in the stall. I personally can’t stand to see horses getting hock sores when they lay down on stalls that don’t have enough bedding. If you are paying for a stall, then it should have plenty of bedding.
Pasture and turning your horse out
Pasture time for any horse is a must unless they have an injury and are not allowed to go outside. Ask the boarding facility what their protocol is for turning the horses out. Here are some important questions to ask:
- Do they go out individually or in herds?
Do they charge extra for individual turn-out?
Do they spend a certain amount of time outside every day?
Do they go out in the same paddock or field every day?
Do they turnout when the weather is bad?
Do they have a protocol for when the horse is running around in the paddock?
In my opinion, turning a horse out is a very important part of the horses physical and mental health. Their mental health because as animals they need time outside with their heads down grazing. Physical health because they need to move around at their own free will. If the horse is mismanaged there are many downsides to turning your horse out. If your horse is a little nervous, he/she may run around if they notice another horse being brought in and get worried about being on their own. If they run around too much it is not uncommon for them to pull shoes off and or hurt themselves. If your horse is out in a herd, the barn should make sure that all the horses are getting along and no one is going to get kicked or hurt. Making sure your barn pays attention to the horses that are outside is so important. At my farm in Midway, KY we pay close attention to all the horses that are outside at all times. The moment the horse seems unhappy, we bring them in.
Asses the riding area
Lastly, if you plan to ride your horse at the facility make sure you take notice of the arena or the area they provide for riding. For example, you may want to consider:
- Do they have an arena with sand or all natural footing?
Do they water and drag the footing on a daily basis?
Is the footing hard to too deep?
These factors will play a huge part in your horses’ soundness if you plan to ride them regularly. Other things to ask are:
- Are there times of the day when the arenas are available for use?
Are there restrictions for riding during other lessons?
Can you bring in a trainer to teach you if they don’t provide a trainer?
Are you required to wear a helmet at all times?
In my opinion, if the facility doesn’t have a helmet rule then they are too lenient and you will likely notice more unprofessional behavior. A facility with more rules tends to be more organized and will be a safer place for your horse to live.
Make sure that when you research different facilities you should try to find at least three to compare. Boarding barns come in all shapes and sizes and there isn’t one way to run a barn. Take notice of all sorts of details when you arrive. Is the barn tidy and clean? How helpful and organized is the staff working there? Do the horses seem happy and healthy? Look in all the rooms and make sure you tour every part of the farm. Walk out to the paddocks...are they torn up or are they well maintained? Look in the stalls….are the clean and do the horses have clean water and feed buckets?
Your first impression and going with your gut are two important factors when choosing the best boarding barn for horse. Whatever amount of money you will be paying, the owner/manager of the barn will be fully in charge of your horses’ well being, so make sure you are comfortable with that person and that they seem very professional to you.
A little about Cloud 9 Farm in Midway, Kentucky
Stevie McCarron Wigley has been a professional for over 20 years in the Hunter/Jumper industry and has been running Cloud Nine Farm in Central Kentucky since 2005. Cloud Nine Farm has over 18 stalls and is equipped with both an indoor arena, outdoor arena, several fields and paddocks. We teach several different disciplines including hunters, jumpers, equitation and ponies. We had students that range from 5 years old to over 60 and teach all levels from walk/trot to competing at the Grand Prix level.
For more information or to contact us with questions, get in touch here. http://www.thecloud9farm.com/contact-us-1/