Making the Decision to Change Barns

Hello everyone!

This is (yet another) post about when you know it’s the right time to change barns. As a bit of background information, I’m an adult re-rider that got back into hunter/jumper land about 5 years ago. I live in an urban area. I’ve never switched barns before, so I guess I’m feeling a little apprehensive/guilty because I do love my current trainer, and I’ve been with this Trainer A since I’ve returned to riding. I have one horse that I compete with. The only thing that’s making me want to leave my current situation is the facility itself. Here’s a bit about my current place (A), and potential new barn (B):

Facility A: The main bonus is that it’s 5 minutes from my house and 15 from work. It’s a very busy barn with several jumping arenas. My horse is currently in a 12x12 barn stall, and the horses cannot see each other/socialize through the sides of the barn. Limited turnout (although this is common in my area due to urban setting). No access to any sort of trails as it’s basically landlocked by the freeway and streets.

Facility B: About 30 minutes from my house, and 20 from work. Reputable H/J trainer available for me to switch to. Less busy with more space, and has access to lots of trails. However, this also creates an increased fire risk due to my location in the US. 12x24” pipe corrals that are covered, and the horses can see/socialize with each other through their stalls. Still somewhat limited turnouts. Two jumping arenas and a dressage court.

Thanks for your input in advance!

My vote will always be what is best for the horse. I would go with Option B due to the pipe corral allowing your horse more movement.

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My thoughts exactly. And the trail access is better too for them physically/mentally.

Thank you for your input :smiley:

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I understand there is limited amounts of turnout in many parts of the U.S. I relocated 800 miles due to lack of land and affordability where I was raised, so that we could buy as much acreage as possible.

When I started keeping my horses at home, about 25 years ago, I noticed a huge change in their all around attitudes. My horses are our 24/7/365 unless they are injured or the weather is so ungodly bad. The bad weather situation has only happened a couple times in 25 years. They have a run in shed, as well as trees in the pasture for shelter.

With them being out, able to move around, and socialize, they seem much more content, less spooky and much more relaxed.

I have a 23 year old who retired this year, due to arthritis in a knee. While he has a difficult time picking up that leg for the blacksmith due to the knee, he walks, trots and canters soundly without medication. I credit that to the fact he moves around constantly.

Believe me, I get the frustrations of boarding!

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When checking out Facility B, pay careful attention to feeding time and horse interactions while they are eating. Make sure that the horses are able to eat in a private corner, without fear of having to guard their food.

I moved my horse from a barn like Facility A with solid walls between the stalls, to a 12 x 24 stall with top boards that allowed some sniffing and socializing. All was fine until his new neighbor, a 17 hand curious young warmblood gelding began to mooch near his feed tub. What started out as ear pinning from my horse escalated to aggression around feeding time. The barn owner would not allow me to block off access between the 2 horses (it looked “tacky” and “changed the look of the barn”). He became tense and spooky in the stall even when moving the tub to the far corner. Within a day after changing barns his food aggression disappeared when he felt he could safely eat. His best new friend is another big, goofy warmblood. We both love our new barn and he is back to his friendly relaxed state.

If I had checked the prior barn around feeding time I would have seen that other horses displayed signs of food aggression. I took note of the feed tub (it looked new and safe) but not that another horse could interact while another is eating. Nothing wrong with a pipe corral set up, just make sure your horse can feel safe while eating. Trail access is always a huge plus for me!

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To consider moving barns is a worry, but I’ll always vote for the barn that allows the horses more outside and/or social time. Good luck with your decision!

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Ask facility B what their fire plan is. Any good barn in areas with fire risk, should have a detailed plan in place if the need for evacuation arises. If they don’t that’s concerning. I am curious about the training/lessons options at facility A as you didn’t mention it.

I too, also favor options for turn-out and trails, but three questions: (1) can you sustain that commute with your current work/life needs? If it’s going to impact the frequency in which you go to the barn, it’s something to keep in mind (2) how does the care and consistency of the care look at these two facilities? Are there any differences? (3) footing? how often is the arena dragged/watered?

I reiterate the previous poster’s comment about feeding and feeding behaviors.

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Have you confirmed the available hunter trainer is someone you want to work with?

Does the available feed options (including amount of hay, type of hay, etc) at the new barn meet what your horse needs?

I want to third what was said above. Being able to interact over the wall is not always a good thing. To some horses it is very stressful and will lead to a nervous reactive horse.

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Any chance you could buy a trailer?

There are not many barns that have direct access to a trail system I’d want to ride every-single-day. Having a trailer means I can switch it up, and it gives the valuable experience of being trailered and ridden somewhere new.

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Thank you all so much for the extra information to think about. It really helps.

I’m going to watch some lessons with the new trainer before making my decision. Trainer B has a good reputation and I know two acquaintances who are currently in the training program and I’ve spoken to them about their experiences. Facility B is slightly more expensive, but will feed more hay (morning, noon and night). Another perk is that Trainer B includes training rides as part of the full training package, whereas my current one does not.

Unfortunately owning a trailer isn’t an option at the moment, even though it’s a great idea. Storage for trailers is limited in my area, and theres quite an expensive monthly fee to park it.

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If the horses are well fed ( hay wise) and the longer commute to the barn isn’t an issue, I would consider barn B. In that type of boarding situation the bigger covered pen would be a real plus.

The only issue I can see is if your horse doesn’t get along with his neighbor(s) for whatever reason. If the horses kept there are well fleshed, shiny and happy and the boarders are happy with the care their horses receive then I would go.

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I like the sound of Barn B better.

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This is a hard predicament that a lot of people find themselves in.
I haven’t been in a barn with open stalls, but I think that’s a worthwhile thing to investigate.
I think more turnout is important. How much is enough and the ideal set-up for turnout is hard to balance with distance. Boarding really close to home and work is really nice - especially if you forget something, need to treat an injury or give medication, or if driving farther is going to mean that you won’t be able to see your horse or ride as often.
What concerns me is that you’ve said that the other barn still has somewhat limited turnout. I personally would feel good about driving 30 minutes for better turnout, but if it’s just slightly better I wouldn’t be as excited. Trails are nice but not completely necessary for me if I can ride outdoors somewhere.
I do wish more turnout would be prioritized higher. I do understand that by putting a lot of horses in a small space, it’s difficult to have ideal turnout but it would be nice to see more facilities where horses could be turned out for longer periods of time, but where the pasture maintenance was good enough that they didn’t then have to be in for weeks if it rains a bit.

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In some very urban areas there is just no room for any turnout other than letting your horse into an empty arena on occasion. I boarded in Northern CA for many years with just this situation.

Just how it is and actually the horses do just fine . A 12x24 would be fairly roomy to be honest. I rode 6 days a week so my horses were fine.

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What is barn B’s plan to mitigate the risks of a fire, and what is their evacuation plan? Fire scares the heck out of me (but I also lost a horse in a barn fire and you never quite recover from that).

I’m sure it can work. I have just always heard that in terms of conditions horses are prone to including colic and arthritis, it’s better for them to be out grazing as much as possible. I try to prioritize that because I believe that an environment where the horse can be outside with his head down eating is a healthier environment than being in a stall more often - for gut health as well as mobility. I do understand that the more populated an area is, the more difficult it is.

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To be quite honest the horses were really very healthy and there weren’t many colics( out of the ordinary). It was a very large stable and horses were fed ample forage and some were fed in feeders but most all ended up eating their hay off the ground anyways.

I agree and I don’t stall my horses since moving from that area as I like them out as well.

Are there any horses at Barn A who have developed stable vices in that environment?

Just wondering in general, as a horse with a stable vice like cribbing may not be an acceptable boarder for some barn owners when time comes to look for a new place.

Try taking some lessons with Trainer B before making the switch.

I also live in an urban, fire-prone area with no turnout options (thanks SoCal land prices!) so I feel your pain. I’ve been at barns set up like both options so I’d have several questions before I’d want to switch.

  • Turnout: What do you mean the second barn has more turnout? Is it “true” turnout where the horses are out for an hour+ or just turn out in an unused arena? Does one have grass or hay?
  • Stall size: What is the shaving/bedding situation for the larger stalls? Is the entire thing full of shavings or just part? Do you have to provide that?
  • Time: Will the extra commute be doable long-term?

If the turnout at the new barn was just “put in an arena or small dirt lot for 30 minutes” I wouldn’t go for it (or if the turnouts didn’t same safe in general). The barn I currently work at has both 12x12 box stalls, 12x12 pipe stalls, 12x24 fully-covered pipe stalls, and 12x24 partially-covered pipe stalls and I see different behavior in all. The horses in box stalls have the fewest stall vices (little cribbing, weaving, stall-walking, etc.) though I place a lot of that on good managment; the box stalls are primarily rented by training/show barns and the horses are all getting roughly the same good care/excercise. Conversely, the pipe stalls are a mixed bag due to them being predominantly self-care. Many horses are fine in the standard 12x12 (no stall vices or behavioral issues), while some are absolute terrors, as are some of the horses in the larger pipe stalls.

Also, what do you mean by fire hazard? Like, “every year this place nearly burns to the ground” or “there is a lot of trees and brush that can get dry” or “this just isn’t the middle of the city”.