Questions to Ask a New Boarding Barn for Your Horse

Updated September 22, 2023
paint horse looking out stall door window

Searching for a new boarding barn can be one of the most stressful parts of horse ownership. Whether moving down the road or across several states, finding a new barn for your horse takes time and research. 

As you look for a new barn, ask lots of questions to determine if it is the right fit for you and your horse. Most boarding facilities are happy to answer questions and give you a tour. To get you started, we’ve created a list of the top questions to ask when finding a new stable to board your horse.

What are the Boarding Options?

Asking about a barn’s boarding options and what is included each month should be some of the first questions on your list. Communication is key, and knowing what you will be responsible for regarding fees and your time commitment is important.

  • What boarding options are available? (pasture board, stalled, stalled with a run, etc.)
  • What is the price of each boarding option?
  • What is included in the price of the board?
  • Are there any board add-ons? If so, what are they? (Holding for farrier, blanketing, etc.)
  • How is the board billed?
  • When is the board due?
  • How do you accept board payments? (PayPal, Venmo, Check, etc.?)
  • If payment is late, how is this handled?

Ask these questions ahead of time. During an emergency, being familiar with their policies can make conversations with the barn manager or owner easier. Plus, you can avoid an awkward situation.

Turnout Questions

A bay horse eating hay in the paddock with trees changing color in the fall

Not all facilities offer turnout paddocks for every horse. This will depend on the property’s setup and location as well as the owner or manager preferences. However, if the barn does offer turnout, you should ask the following questions:

  • How much turnout do the horses get?
  • For horses turned out in groups, how are turnout buddies selected?
  • How are new horses introduced to their new herds?
  • Are there grass pastures? If so, how are they maintained? (Rotations? Fertilizing? Seeding? Mowing? Etc.)
  • Are there any dry lots?
  • If pasture, can my horse be turned out with a grazing muzzle, if necessary? If so, are there any additional charges for this?
  • Are there small medical paddocks for horses that may need limited turnout when rehabbing from an injury? Is individual turnout an option?
  • If any adjustments need to be made for a horse (i.e., night turnout due to injury, personality conflicts, etc.), how are those adjustments handled? What adjustments are available and can be accommodated?
  • How are fly sheets, blankets and turnout boots handled? Are there additional charges for these services?

Feed and Supplement Questions

Many facilities will include hay with full board. In many cases, grain and supplements are supplied by the owner. If your boarding option includes hay, make sure to ask the following:

  • What kind of hay is fed?
  • How much hay is fed and how often per day?
  • Can adjustments be made regarding hay feedings for individual horses if needed? (frequency, amount, more alfalfa, no alfalfa, more grass hay, no grass hay, etc.) If a horse needs these adjustments, is there an additional charge?
  • Do you have a consistent hay supplier?
  • How often are horses fed grain?
  • How often are waters dumped, cleaned and refilled? 
  • What grain does the barn feed (if included)?
  • What adjustments can be made to grain feedings as needed for individual horses? (amount given, frequency of feedings, grain type, etc.) If a horse needs adjustment to his grain, are there any additional charges?
  • How are supplements fed? (SmartPaks are perfect for making supplements easy to feed for your barn!)
  • Any additional charges for feeding supplements?

Arena and Facility Access Questions

horseback riding trainer speaking with student in a riding arena

Not all barn and facility areas are open to boarders. If you are at an elite training facility,  some of the arenas and paddocks are specifically designated for training horses versus boarders. Make sure you are clear on what facilities are included in your board.

  • Are there open barn hours? If so, what are they?
  • If you need to be at the barn outside of barn hours (i.e., to administer medication to your horse, etc.), is that possible? Who do you need to let know if you need to be at the barn outside of the regular hours?
  • Is there a tack room or tack lockers
  • How is the tack room/tack locker space divided up? (if there are tack lockers, is that included in the board price, or is there an extra charge?)
  • Are there arena hours for riding or lunge work? Are there any times when the arena is off-limits?
  • Is there an arena-dragging schedule?
  • How is the arena shared? (lessons, clinics, lunging, etc.)
  • Are there jumps, barrels, cones, or ground poles that riders can use? If so, where are they stored? Can they be moved?
  • Any additional arena rules for me to know? (i.e., lunge in certain areas, etc.)
  • Any additional barn rules you should know? (i.e., are some lights purposefully left on at night, are certain doors left open/closed, etc.)
  • Are there any trainers based out of the barn? What discipline and level riders do they teach?
  • Does the barn host clinics or shows? If so, what must you be aware of during these times?
  • How many other boarders and riders are part of the stable?
  • What riding disciplines do the other boarders do?
  • Are there any nearby trails or bridle paths?
  • Do other boarders trailer off-property for rides?
  • Are there certain high-traffic or busy hours at the barn?

Emergency-Related Questions

veterinarian taking horses rectal temperature

With horses, emergencies are bound to happen. It’s important to know the barn’s emergency procedures beforehand. 

  • What are the steps taken in the event of a medical emergency with a boarder’s horse?
  • What are the steps taken in the event of a medical emergency with a rider?
  • What happens in the event the owner is unreachable for any reason? If you are unreachable, how are decisions for emergency care made in your stead?
  • Are there any additional charges for holding your horse for the vet or administering medication if the owner cannot be there?

This list of questions should get you started as you investigate a new boarding barn. There are no wrong answers. The questions are designed to determine if a barn is the right fit for your needs. 

A semi-retired trail horse who hates being stalled would likely need a different setup than a younger, off-the-track thoroughbred who is a hard keeper. 

Remember to ask questions specific to you and your horse, such as “My horse does better on night turnout. Is that possible?” or “My easy keeper needs a grazing muzzle in the spring – is that something that could be accommodated?”

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.