The quest for a barn that suits not only your needs but your horse's as well might seem to last a lifetime and propel you through many travels far and wide. Although it is sometimes difficult to find the first-rate location to plop down your tack trunk, don't despair! There are barns out there that do in fact meet all the following traits described below.
You'll know it when you find the right place. Like a pleasant afternoon sunshine-y day, the best-barn-ever leaves you feeling warm, content and satisfied - with your day, your ride, your horse and even with the wonderful interactions you had with like-minded people. This article is dedicated to the barns that have mastered the difficult balancing act of meeting everyone's needs, horses and humans alike!
Here is how you will recognize the place.
1. The horses are rolly-poly and content.
More importantly, they are healthy and vibrant. Their exercise program is conducive to maintaining good body condition and combined with a healthy and adequate feed program, the horses are able to work at their potential.
Their overall condition tells you the truth right away: the horses are receiving good care. Their coats glow in the sunshine and they have a bright, how's-it-going expression that welcomes visitors and barn staff alike.
2. The barn is gleaming.
A clean barn does more than just maintain good health for the horses. The spotless corners, clear aisleways and web-free ceilings tell a tale of care and attention to detail. When everything has its place and everyone works at maintaining a clean and safe environment, there is a sense of calm that pervades over all the activities that transpire through the day.
3. Fellow boarders are friendly and helpful.
People are genuinely pleased to see you. They are happy to be at the barn and with their horses. They treat their horses like the pets they are while also committing the time and energy required to ride to their own high standards - not only for their own benefit, but especially for their horse's well-being. You can count on them to give you a hand in times of need and to cheer you on when you run into challenges.
Your success is their success and you are all on the same team. Somehow everyone knows that personal bests are the winning rides, regardless of the ribbon color. There is only one thing to beat and that is your past accomplishment.
4. You know you can count on a reliable routine and schedule in the barn.
The timetable of the barn is so well established that you can predict the routine to within a reasonable time frame. You know when supper is fed so that you can plan for a post-dinner ride. Lesson times are clearly written down for all to see and there is special attention given to ensuring free arena time each week for the boarders.
5. Special needs are discussed and accommodated as best as possible.
Just like people, horses can be quite different from each other. What works for one horse might not be beneficial at all for another, and the best-barn-ever manager has somehow managed to find a routine that accommodates every horse's requirements.
Individual feed programs are standard and supplements are fed regularly. The horse that needs extra feed will get what he needs. The horse that can live off "air" does not get overfed.
6. Quality lessons are available and everyone is interested in improving their skills.
It goes without saying that everyone benefits from the availability of riding lessons. Having a knowledgeable eye on the ground benefits the horse owner, the horse and the facility.
7. People are available to help the owner problem-solve through difficult situations.
One of the most difficult situations a horse owner undergoes is making complicated decisions for the health and well-being of her equine friend. There is nothing more uplifting and supportive than barn owners, managers, boarders and friends who listen, trouble-shoot, offer solutions and make recommendations.
Done in the right way, friendly support can go a long way toward softening the bumps and hurdles of the challenges that come along with learning to ride, owning horses and keeping horses healthy and sound over the long term.
8. Conflicts are addressed in a non-confrontational manner.
Conflicts happen everywhere and the barn is no exception. It is never the conflict that is the real problem - conflicts are a part of life and impossible to avoid.
Instead, the key is how conflicts are handled.
There is a wonderful synergy of intentions at the best-barn-ever. Instead of people looking to blame or criticize their fellow barn mates, they work hard to communicate, collaborate and concur with each other, solving problems together and contributing their particular talents for the greater good.
9. There are high behavior expectations.
One of the key factors in maintaining a comfortable and friendly environment is in the people themselves. The best-barn-ever has an environment that encourages respectful behavior not only for the animals but also for everyone else in the barn. Courtesy and politeness reign supreme and it goes without saying. People put regular effort into maintaining peaceful and polite interactions.
10. You think of the barn as your "happy place".
You are happy when you go there. Your horse thrives on his routines. The barn is a place where you can develop - physically, mentally, emotionally - to become the best person you can be.
The barn "just fits".
Before you laugh me off with ridicule, accusing me of fabricating far-fetched dreams that never materialize in the real world, let me assure you that I can think of several places that have mastered this art. Surely there are many barns that fit in a similar manner for each of us, wherever we may be in our horse listening path!
If you are at a best ever barn, tell us about it in the comments below.
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