So what are the essentials that every livery yard has to have? They’re not all the same – some provide a much better service than others, and after all, it’s your money they’re taking every month. When you start looking for somewhere to stable your horse, go with a checklist, and make sure you can tick these boxes.
- A friendly and supportive atmosphere amongst the ‘tenants’. This might mean you have to take your time and pop down a few times before you make your mind up, just to see what’s going on and if people are friendly. There’s nothing worse than being miserable in your livery yard – you want to enjoy your free time, and I would rather put up with a yard with few amenities than critical, unfriendly people.
- A stable. Not all yards have them, and horses are turned out all year long – this is the cheapest option. But I can’t help but feel sorry for a horse forced to be out in all weather. If you surely can not come up with the money for a stable, do not have a horse.
- A stable that’s big enough for your horse. The first horse we bought came sort of unexpectedly, so the livery yard had to be found quickly and we went for the nearest. Unfortunately, being beginners, and being in a hurry, we hadn’t noticed that the stable door had a low lintel, and the horse had a major panic attack just trying to get in because it hit its head every time. Not a good start!
- Each horse has access to turn out, and their own space for grazing. Some yards will have large fields where, say, all mares will be turned out together. This can be a problem where you get a horse that kicks or bites other horses, and your horse might get hurt. It can also cause no end of upset and ill-feeling between owners.
- Enough space in the yard to tie up your horse and groom, tack up, or do whatever you want to your horse. Some yards pack in so many horses it’s hard to find your own space, and you have to jostle for tie up space with your neighbors. This can be frustrating if your time is limited, and makes people niggly and frustrated.
- A fenced off area, preferably a school, where you can begin your riding safely, and start to school your horse. Lots of people are worried about riding in large, open spaces, or on the road or track, so a safe space is really essential.
- Someone to put your horse out or get her in if you can’t. In some yards you’ll have to pay extra for this, in some it comes as part of the service. It depends a lot on your circumstances and if you can get down to the yard twice a day as to whether you need this all the time, but it is really nice to know that if there’s an emergency, or you’re ill, there’ll be someone to take over. The same goes for mucking out, feeding, etc. Will there be a yard manager who will help out when you need it?
This is hardly an exhaustive list, as you can see. The point is, not all livery yards are the same. They are as much to do with the people as the horses. Some are posh, some are chatty. Some do classical, some do Parelli. They’re not just about riding, and you’ll spend so much time there, you need to find one that suits you and what you can afford.