I think almost everyone can relate to the horrible situation of the endless cycle from being at a bad yard. This cycle is moving to a yard thats turns out to be bad news, wanting to escape as quickly as possible, and in your haste to leave your current stables you fall into another rotten one that eventually shows its true colours. Sometimes it’s not as bad as this, and you simply don’t get to do the things you want to with your horse becuase it’s not got the facilities you need, or it’s makes you unmotivated and miserable in one way or another, from being too long a drive away to being surrounded by unpleasent liveries.
So, how can you tell when a yard is a real keeper?
This is so important becuause its horrible having to move your horse all the time, its so unsettling and distressing for them most of the time, not to mention a time water for you. The yard is supposed to be somewhere you and your horse both thrive and act as an escape from the daily grind, not the cause of it. So to help you along with this important task, I’ve created a fool-proof checklist that is vital to consider when thinking of moving yards or when you’re in the process of looking seriously.
1. Make a list of necessities and a list of bonuses.
Being able to distinguish, from word go, what you really NEED in a yard and what would be nice to have, is a major first step in considering whether a stable yard is worth the move. First off when making your list, do a brain dump on everything your dream yard might have: this should range from things as simple as “electricity” to things as big as “a cross country course”. Anything and everything basically.
Once you have all of this down on paper, make a simple table with the headings of “Necessity” and “Bonus”. Work your way through everything you’d written down, and apply each thing to the correct category.
Now that you have everything categorised, there’s one last step. Make the same table again, except this time arrange your categories in order of importance. For example:
These are then things that you systematically know you cannot even consider a yard that does not have these things. But now that they’re in order of importance, if for example you found a yard that was perfect but didn’t have anywhere to park your trailer, you could could consider finding somewhere else to keep it if that was the ONLY thing stopping you from moving there. Complete the same with the “Bonus” list, as even though it’s not so important, it can come in handy if you’re trying to decide between two or more yards.
So now you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, and when you’re scanning through online ads or even hearing of yards through word of mouth, you know what questions to ask and which yards to ignore.
2. Consider your budget.
Spending time considering your budget for yard rates is also very important. Calculate the maximum amount you’d be prepared to spend on livery and this will narrow down your search even further. Part of this is deciding how many (if any) services you would require, so decide upon whether you’re looking for a full, part, assisted or DIY livery yard and only look at yards that offer what you need. Compare prices of different yards of the same type to get an idea of what the average price range is for your area, as they can differ. In Hampshire for example, DIY tends to range from £120-£170pcm and full can be anything from £450pcm plus.
When looking at the pricings of yards, look into what is included for your money. For example for the full price, some yards will include bedding, feed, hay etc. But be just as careful to work out how much the extra costs might be – some yards charge for school use and trailer parking for example, and of course it’s worth finding out how much the local hay deliveries etc. are if you’re moving to a different area.
A lot of full livery yards offer bespoke packages to suit which would be worth looking into if you decide to go along that route. So, before writing off a yard because it looks too expensive, just have a quick peek into what’s included, as it may surprise you. We forget how much we spend on extras, so actually it may well be within your price range if you consider all the other factors. Similarly, doing the reasearch and asking the right questions before hand will avoid any unpleasent surprises after you’ve signed the contract.
3. Ask people about the yard.
This is where social media is a life saver. Not only are the groups and pages great for finding yards that you might not have other wise known about (e.g the “Hampshire Livery Offered/Wanted” page), you can write posts on pages such as “hampshire horse riders” asking for recommendations, or asking their opinion on a particular yard. You know us horse people, we’re always ready to give advice and put our noses in where they don’t belong – in this case, it’s useful.
Doing a background check will save you from any heartache later down the line. People would be sure to warn you of any batty owners, run down facilities or strangles outbreaks.
4. Be critical, observant and ask lots of questions when you decide to visit a yard.
When you have decided on a yard you liked, got in touch and arranged to view the yard, don’t just go in hopeful and end up blind to anything you don’t want to see. Go in with a critical head, but obviously not too critical or they might not have you! It’s useful to write a list of questions on your phone to refer to when at the end the yard owner asks if ypu’ve got any further questions and your mind always goes blank. This will stop you regretting not asking something on the car journey home. Your list of questions should focus on the more discreet things like:
Now we’ve got that sorted, be observant. Now I’m going to reel off a load of things to look out for. It’s worth making a list of these before yoy go as well so you have it in your head:
Time how long it takes you to drive to the yard from your house. Note what sort of people the liveries are. Look at how busy it is at the time you arrive and how many cars in the car park. Take in the state of the horses, the type of fencing, the number of horses per field and if there’s much poo in the fields. Look at the surface of the sand school, the amount of mud, the quality of the stables and the general cleanliness of the yard. Talk to some of the liveries if you get a chance and finally, make sure you see specifically where your storage would be. That ought to get you started!
5. Make a firm decision as quickly as possible.
Trust me, if the yard really is great – the spaces won’t be hanging around long. You need to spend at least a day really thinking hard about whether that is the right yard for you. Don’t agree to it straight away, you need some time to step away and reflect on what you’ve seen and heard. Talk to people, get there advice. If you brought someone trustworthy to view it with you, even better. Get their opinion. Make sure any doubts are cast out early and that you really could see yourself and your horse being happy there. All questions to the yard owner should’ve been asked at this stage, so now its all about YOU. If you’re trying to decide between yards, make another table and list out the pros and cons of each. Make a points system for each pro and each con, and then tally up a total at the end. This should help you decide. If by some miracle they’re equal then just go with your heart.
It’s a hard task knowing if you’ve picked the best yard for you and your horse. It’s certainly a mix of head and heart – but as long as you’ve gone through the necessary steps, trust that you’ll make the right decision. I hope this checklist has helped clarify your thought process in this important task, and ends up with your steed happily in his forever home!