I have been to several different barns, and each time I’ve moved it has been for a different reason. I know sometimes I have a hard time deciding when to leave a barn, but experience has shown me that there are a few tell-tale signs that you should start looking for a new place for you and your horse(s).
1. You’re not happy with the care your horse(s) is/are receiving: There are varying degrees of this, obviously. One of the more extreme ones happened to me when I was at the barn previous to where I am now. I got there during the summer. It was a hot day, and to my horror, my horses had NO water in their trough – as did none of the others that were turned out. I promptly made a complaint to the barn manager. After it happened for the second time, I knew it was time to start looking for a new barn. Of course, you should only think of moving if it is something that can’t be fixed. For example, if you don’t like that your barn does night turnout in the summer, and they aren’t willing to turn your horse/horses out during the day to accommodate you, then maybe it’s time you find a place that either will accommodate your needs or only turns out in the daytime.
2. Your riding goals have changed: A lot of barns have more than one trainer, usually in more than one discipline, so if you decide you want to do the jumpers when you’ve been doing hunters your whole life, you can just switch trainers. However, some barns don’t have this luxury, or you may be at a discipline-specific barn so you wouldn’t be able to switch even if you tried. Sometimes this fix is as easy as bringing in an outside trainer – if allowed -but if you’ve decided you want to get into cross country, and your barn doesn’t have a cross country schooling course, then perhaps you should start looking for some good eventing barns in your area to pursue your riding dreams.
3. You don’t feel welcome at your barn anymore: Sometimes things happen, and the atmosphere of your facility changes. It could be a fight you had with a barn manager, too much drama amongst boarders/riders, or you just don’t like the people anymore. If you don’t feel welcome at your barn, that isn’t fair to you or your horse! We ride because we love it, and we shouldn’t have to get stressed out every time we want to ride or see our furry friends.
4. Too much drama: This is not always the case, but a bunch of girls + horses + competition + money = drama. However, there ARE barns out there that do not have a bunch of drama all the time. In my personal opinion, they are few and far between, but if you’re at a place now where the drama is constant, even if you try to stay away from it, leave! You’ll be much happier, trust me.
5. You don’t feel like you can make specific requests to your barn manager regarding your horse: You are paying a good amount of money every month for the type of board you’ve selected, and if having a certain food, supplement, blanket, etc. is covered, then you should never feel silly or uncomfortable making that request. I was once called “needy” by my barn manager for making a reasonable request regarding the farrier coming out on a more regular basis for one of my horse’s because he needed to be trimmed and reshod sooner than some of the others at my barn. You should never, ever feel silly or have a staff member belittle you for making a reasonable request regarding your horses’ care, so if you have gotten to the point where you don’t want to talk to your barn manager about something that is going on, you need to find a place where you do feel comfortable. Your barn manager is there to care for your horse, and you are paying far too much money (at least, that’s how it is in New Jersey. Board can go upwards of $1500 a month depending on the type of barn you are at) to feel like you can’t have what you want.
6. You would like different things from a boarding facility than when you first arrived: This is somewhat like #2, but more about amenities. I have only boarded at two barns that had indoor rings. Since I grew up at a barn that only had outdoor rings, not having an indoor ring never bothered me. I simply sucked it up and rode in the cold/accepted there may be some times where I can’t ride because of snow. This past winter, however, was BRUTAL, and I’ve found myself wanting an indoor ring because I just can’t deal with the cold and/or snowstorms that sometimes prevent me from riding for weeks. If you find yourself wishing for amenities that your current barn doesn’t have, and those things are a priority on your list, you should think about moving barns. This can be anything from having an indoor ring, to having a cross country course on the property, or having a barn with more turnout/bigger stalls/FEI-regulation dressage ring.
7. You aren’t happy with the on-staff trainers: I am very picky about who I ride with, and I currently will only ride with one trainer. My horses are also only allowed to be ridden by my trainer, and my horse that was being leased was only allowed to be in lessons with my trainer. This may be extreme, but everyone has their own preferences. Unfortunately, trainers sometimes leave to pursue better opportunities for themselves or because they can’t take the atmosphere at the current barn (I recently read an article about how barn managers/owners often have power struggles with resident trainers – this DOES happen). If your barn allows outside trainers to come in, then this may not be a problem for you. However, if you are only allowed to use the trainers that are on staff at your current barn, and you are not happy with the quality of their instruction or services, then moving to a new place with more suitable trainers might be the right decision for you. Or you could consider moving to the facility where your preferred trainer now works, if this is possible.
8. You can’t afford your current barn’s board: Horses are expensive. My dad often says the least expensive part of horse ownership is actually buying the horse. Many barns offer different types of board – from a less expensive option to a most expensive option. Additionally, different barns may offer one rate, but depending on the facilities and services, that rate may be more or less expensive. If you are struggling to pay board for your horse every month, you may want to consider moving. Struggling financially to care for your horse can be extremely stressful, and it can take away from the enjoyment of horseback riding. If you do not want to move, you should look into options such as leasing your horse to a rider or allowing your horse to be used in lessons. If you do this, it is important to have an agreement with the lease rider or lesson program operator to ensure that nothing goes wrong, and there is an understanding among the parties as to what can and cannot be done with your horse. You could also see if your barn manager will allow you to work off some or all of your board. However, if this doesn’t seem appealing to you, or these options aren’t available, you should look into going to a barn that offers cheaper board.
9. Being able to afford more expensive board: While I am not advising breaking the bank just because you can, if you can comfortably upgrade your boarding services and not be stressed every month about making board, then you should definitely consider moving to a more expensive barn, especially if you would like more amenities or services that include daily grooming, routine clipping/trimming, or others that are often offered at show-quality barns. Again, this is all personal preference, but it is something to consider if you find yourself yearning for that show barn treatment and know that you can afford to pay show barn prices.
10. Commute time: I know people that keep their horses an hour away from their home, and I know people that only have to drive 5 minutes to get to their barn. Because our lives can and do change, we may find ourselves with less time to make a 45 minute drive, so moving to a barn that is closer or on a less congested traffic route may be something to consider – if you can find a place you like with care you trust. This is low on the list because I think the aforementioned issues may be more pressing than commute time. Proximity to my home is important to me, so I’ve appreciated being at barns that have been no more than a 40 minute drive from my house. However, this may be less important to others.
Again, these are all things that come from personal experience. We all have different qualities we want in a boarding facility, and some may rank certain things higher than others. The best advice I can give is go with your gut. If something does not feel right, or if you or your horse(s) are extremely unhappy, maybe it’s time to part ways with your facility and find one that has what you and your horse(s) need!
Have you ever had something happen that solidified your decision to move barns, or do you have something to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!