For any horse owner choosing where to keep your horse is a big decision and it can be a challenging one if you’re a first-time horse owner.
You should choose a livery yard that is insured and complies with the current health and safety guidelines and that will offer you a clear contract to sign so that everyone knows what to expect.
Here I’ve listed some of the things you should consider when choosing a place to live for your horse.
#1 – Where are they located?
The further the stable is out of the way, the more of a bother it will be for you to get there.
Try to find something as close to home as possible to make it easy and convenient for you to go there.
That’ll also make sure you get to spend time with your horse rather than commuting. Also, consider how you’ll get there; is it accessible by public transport as well or only by car?
If you can find a stable either close to home or close to work that will provide a minimum detour between the two, all the better.
If you mainly go hacking with your horse, you should consider a livery yard that has close access to bridleways.
What type of livery is best for you?
Some yards will offer several different types of services that you can choose from to suit your needs, others only offer one kind of livery and any changes are non-negotiable.
See What kind of stabling options do you have for your horse? for the different kinds of livery out there.
#2 – What kind of facilities do they have?
The facilities that different yards offer can vary greatly. Some may include a secure tack room and others may provide you with a cupboard.
Indoor and outdoor riding arenas, show jumps, cross country course, parking for trailers and horseboxes, wash/clipping stalls, hacking across farmland and horse-walkers are all services they can have.
If you’re mainly going to be riding in the evening, lighting in the arena and around the trails is important or you won’t be able to do much in winter.
#3 – What kind of grazing do they offer?
Typically, the horses that are being stabled at a yard will share paddocks and fields so that they can form herds and interact with other horses.
Some yards will offer individual turnout for horses where each horse gets its own little paddock for exercise. The small paddock size means very minimal exercise for your horse during the day and you’ll have to get most of that done once you come to the stable.
Individual turnout will protect your horse from being bitten or kicked by other horses, but is stressful for your horse.
Shared fields will allow your horse to engage in species-specific behaviour in a herd and reduce stress from being alone. This does mean that there is a risk of getting injured but it’s mostly cuts and minor scrapes that heal quickly.
Some yards will offer grazing all year round while others may restrict grazing or cease to offer it during the wettest months of the year. This is very dependent on the soil and ground quality and management.
It’s important that any field has some kind of a shelter from sun, rain and wind – trees or hedges or a field shelter that the horses can enter at will. Also check that the fencing around the fields and paddocks is well maintained and suitable for horses.
#4 – What kind of stable do they have?
A pony requires a stable of at least 10 x 10 feet and a horse no less than 12 x 12 feet.
Traditional wooden or brick stables that are built around a central courtyard offer your horse more to look at while stabled. A long barn with box stalls in rows along a central walkway offers better shelter from the weather and are warm in the winter.
Automatic watering systems ensure that water doesn’t have to be carried in buckets or moved with long hoses, but even automatic systems need daily maintenance and the troughs still need to be washed regularly.
#5 – What is the yard schedule like?
Some yards will offer flexible access so that you can come and take care of your horse as it suits your schedule. You’ll be able to ride and turn your horse out at any time of the day or evening with little or no restrictions.
Other yards can restrict the time you can come, may require your horse to be turned out and brought in at specific times and there can be limitations on how the riding arenas are available to the renters – this can especially be the case if it’s also a riding school.
Ask a lot of questions and make sure the timings of the stable suit you. For instance, if the turnout times are difficult but need to be followed, you can ask if that can be included in your list of services and at what cost.
#6 – What does it all cost?
One of the most important things to do is to get clear about what is and isn’t included in your livery service.
While some stables have arenas, show jumps, parking for trailers, cross country courses and even locker rooms with showers and common rooms for riders, others charge extra for the use of facilities.
Ask questions and get it in writing so that you can go home and sleep on it before committing.
If horses are in a shared field you should also ask what their policies are about introducing a new horse to the existing herd.
#7 – What kind of security do they have?
The security of your horse, your tack and any other equipment you have on the property is crucial.
Fields in which the horses are visible to a big road or gates with no security near busy roads can make an easy target of your horse.
The tack room or cupboard should be lockable and they should be kept locked when not in use and at night. Most insurance companies won’t pay to replace tack that was stolen from an open room.
Horseboxes and trailers should be parked out of sight and be behind locked gates when not in use.
Some yards have the owners living on-site which provides extra security and some yards are left completely unattanded at night.
Read more about what a secure yard looks like: 7 tips to help prevent your horse from being stolen.
Making your decision
Don’t rent a space for your horse without visiting the location first yourself. Check out the grazing, stabling, security, facilities and ask a lot of questions before signing a contract.
Also ask if there is a period of grace from the signing date, in case the yard doesn’t work out for you or your horse.
Also ask how long in advance you have to cancel your spot if you decide to move your horse somewhere else.
A tidy and well-maintained yard, stable and fields will tell you that the owners and employees take pride in their work and the service that they offer.
By chatting with the owners, managers and staff, you’ll get an idea of what kind of people they are and how they view horse management. You’ll get a feel for the atmosphere and find out if they’re the kind of people you’ll get along with.
The most important thing is to find a stable where you feel your horse is safe and well cared for in your absence.