Boarding Checklists Help Ensure Happy Horses and Owners

Equine enthusiasts unable to use their own facilities to house a horse should consult a well-thought-out checklist when looking to board the animal.

Dave Freeman, PhD, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension equine specialist, advises horse owners to think of the development and use of such a checklist as a sort of renter's insurance of the four-legged variety, asking questions right up front that can help avoid problems down the line.

"It comes down to the details and an understanding of what will or will not be supplied or made available within the confines of what has to happen to manage a group of individually owned horses," he said.

In short, the more horse care matters for which a facility takes responsibility, the less an individual owner boarding his or her animal at the facility can expect to control specific details of the horse's care.

From a practical point, the person managing the facility has an inherent responsibility that all horses housed are managed appropriately in terms of nutrition, exercise, health, and general care--even if a portion of the care is supposed to be supplied by the owner.

The horse owner must agree to the type of standard care supplied by the facility, as well as his or her responsibilities to cooperatively house an animal with horses he or she does not own.

"Creating and using a checklist of pertinent questions will help the horse owner determine his or her responsibilities, reduce the likelihood that some key element is inadvertently overlooked, and ultimately help him or her make an informed decision on whether or not a specific facility meets his or her needs," Freeman said.

Services amongst facilities vary from the small-acreage type that is looked upon as merely providing a place to keep a horse to full board-and-care facilities that make use of a manager and possibly a trainer.

"Most facilities fall in-between--partial care by the facility manager and partial care by the horse owner," Freeman said. "From a manager's perspective, it is often easier to do none or all of the care given that individual boarders tend to vary on the types of services desired, or overestimate their routine availability to provide necessary horse care on a daily basis."

In addition, management of services also varies between individual facilities. A farrier may or may not make routine stops to check on animal hoof care, forage supplies may or may not be supplied by the stable, or feed selections may be limited if the facility is only responsible for partial feeding, as examples.

As a broad overview, stable selection will depend on:

  • Location of the facility in relation to the horse owner;
  • Details as to the agreement of services provided;
  • The working relationship between the horse owner and facility manager; and
  • Knowledge of what activities and interests all boarders have in common.

"Ease of access, even on 'busy days' helps owners commit to daily care when the horse is offsite of the owner's residence," Freeman said. "Details as to agreement of services provided by facilities are important to helping prevent problems from arising between owners and managers after the fact."

The development of a close working relationship between the horse owner and facility manager is important because it allows them to make adjustments relative to standard care agreements, and typically ensures the best possible level of care for the animal.

Interpersonal and Business Relationships

"It's very much an interpersonal as well as a business relationship, with everything that entails," Freeman said. "It's going to be a work-in-progress throughout, with communication being a key element."

Housing a horse with animals of owners who share common interests builds a sense of community and cooperation around a facility, which increases the enjoyment factor. Freeman points out horse enthusiasts tend to like to talk about horses, and engaging in horse care and riding activities with like-minded individuals can be a lot of fun.

"In such instances, the inherent work associated with caring for a horse is instead looked upon as a source of relaxation, satisfaction and pleasure that can help 'recharge' a horse owner from whatever else is going on in his or her life," he said.

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