best barn ever
Photo Credit: H. McGrath

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 roly-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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34 Comments

  1. Wildwind Equestrian Center, South Lyon, Michigan is my dream barn. Classes are available for riders aged 4 to 94. Vikki and Cindy run a barn that is comfortable for the horses and safe for the riders. Some of Wildwind’s boarders have been with the barn 15 years. What better endorsement coud you have than people who stay that long. I just started riding this spring and will turn 65 in a few weeks. Everyone and I do mean everyone is so supportive and friendly! I can’t think of a better place to fulfill my life long dream of learning to ride. Thank you Vikki and Cindy and all of the riders at Wildwind Equestrian Center, i am so greatful for all of you. Jeralyn Felts, Novi, MI

  2. I started horse keeping just a couple of years ago when I moved to the country. My barn has turned into a wonderful place because of everything you listed. It isn’t spotless, but it is a warm and friendly place to be. My barn mates are kind and supportive. Problem solving is key. We all work together to make sure the horses and the riders are happy. Excellent quality lessons are just a short walk down the road. The trainer there is the one who exudes confidence and keeps all (horses and riders) in her sphere of influence on an even keel.

  3. This is a great list, but I think you do need to add things like: there is an obvious maintenance of good safe fencing, and pastures are kept cleaned, and when or if changes are made to pasture mates, owners are given a heads up so that they can be there if need be. At the barn where I board, the items on your list are fairly good, but the ones I mentioned are somewhat questionable. You’re right, it is tough because you hate to move your horse around too much, but really want them safe and content.

  4. This is a very comprehensive list. The horse care and conditions of the buildings and fences for the safety of our beloved friends is pretty obvious. The thing that most of us miss is the helpfulness of other boarders, the friendliness and respect that each rider is given no matter what level the rider is working. A barn that lacks drama is a barn with happy horses and relaxed riders. I am fortunate to be working in such a barn.

  5. The important thing to keep in mind that a barn is always in flux. Peoples lives change – barn owners, boarders, friends…..over time, when a barn no longer fulfills the needs of you and your horse, you will need to find a new one. Doesn’t mean that the current barn is a bad place, it just no longer works for you. I’ve seen too many boarders over the years go out “in a blaze of glory” when they are not happy at the barn. It doesn’t need to be that way……and you shouldn’t burn bridges…..

    1. Amen!!!! First thing I tell new clients coming into my barn is that ‘you came here bc u wanted change. Just keep in mind that I may not be the change you are looking for. That’s not a bad thing and I can help you find something that best suits what your looking for… No need to leave on bad terms!’ We are all in this buisness to accomplish somewhat of same thing (happy, successful horses and clients) There are just many different ways to get there and what works for one person may not work for another.

  6. I am in my “Best Barn Ever” for sure! This article describes our barn to a “T”!
    Dos Potrillos Farm (named for my mare & my best friend Gilda’s gelding who we raised together from birth) is my haven!! If men have “man caves” . . the tack room/riders lounge is our “Girl Cave”! The quality of friendship and support for each other and our horses can not be beat!! The barn is a direct reflextion of the kind of person barn owner Gilda Owen is . . kind, thorough, caring and FUN!! I feel so lucky to be there!!

  7. My daughter and I board at the best barn ever too and can happily check off all items on the list! In addition to the list is riding options for most – “barn members” can pay a membership fee and ‘adopt’ one of the barn horses to ride and pamper, also “work to ride” members can put in sweat equity (through barn feedings and chores) so they can ride.

  8. Stirling Farms in Folsom, LA. …. Truly the best barn. It is the “sunshine-y” place for a lot of us!! Thanks for the article and reminding us of this….

  9. I’m no longer at a big barn because I have never found one that will give my special needs horse the care he requires… and I am VERY picky about his care! So, I found a smaller place with an amazing barn caretaker who personally cares for the horses and every little nuance my horse requires is met!!

  10. I am at the very best barn in the world. When I am there, I am home again. All of the troubles of the world stop at the gate and I am safe, happy and loved just like I am at home where I live with my husband. My sweet babies are happy. They nicker and come to me when they hear my voice. They adore their trainer and are kindly treated by the gentlemen that take care of their stalls. The owners of the barn I have known forever. I left because I moved and was welcomed back with open arms. They are truly wonderful. It is the very best barn, West Milford Equestrian Center, in the Whole World.

  11. I recently leased a horse at noble horse dressage farm in newberry ohio. I have never been in a happier barn. it meet and exceeds all the aspects mentioned above. resprctfully tammy haney

  12. Eros-Bordeaux Stables in Olympia, WA. This is the cleanest, tidiest barn I’ve ever seen. Today, a lovely Sunday when the managers could be out riding, they were…are you ready for this? Scrubbing the walls of the stalls. I mean REALLY scrubbing, with hot soapy water, scrub brushes and sanitizer in the buckets. Why? Because it was on the maintenance schedule.
    The two arenas: one indoor and one outdoor-are routinely turned up to prevent packing. They are groomed at least weekly. Users are expected to clean up after their horses. One or two women conveniently ‘forget’ to do it, and then folks…like me…go and pick it up for them. The paddocks are large, roomy and are also picked up at least weekly. The outdoor water tubs are large. They are dumped at least once a week and scrubbed clean. Everyone has a rack for their saddles in the tack roomS. They are floored – meaning no cold hard concrete, but a nice, wooden floor, and heated in winter.
    The managers make every effort to keep your horse fed properly. They will trailer your horse for you to one of the three big equine medical centers, every one at least a two hour drive away.
    The stable has recently earned awards from the AQHA for their outdoor trail system of obstacles.
    They have rules: no dogs allowed to roam free. (they have a roomy kennel you can store your dog in while you’re riding). No smoking anywhere on the property. Even their barn hands are thoroughly vetted: an employee must be here legally, be drug/alcohol free, must pass a background check, and a drug test.

    There’s even a ‘woman cave”…a small barn converted to a couch filled TV room where you can watch your training CD’s.
    I’ve been in many, many barns in many, many years and I can only think of one other one that is on par with “Bordeaux Stables”. I highly recommend it.
    Their website is: http://www.erosarabhacks.com

  13. My Boy Lives At Homestead Farm And Stables Located In Oldwick NJ. He Is Living In Hor
    se Heaven For All Of The Reasons You described.

  14. I can answer yes to just about all the questions above, but my horse is turned out with four other horses in a paddock about the size of half a dressage arena. I have been there for three years and the paddocks are never cleaned–when it rains the mud is 6-12 inches deep and often has the consistency of soup. The arena footing is a joke. Like so many other barns, they just put sand on the ground, rather than building a proper base.
    I have been by some barns that would qualify as the best barn ever, but even though I can answer your questions positively, my current barn is far from the best ever.

  15. Heron Bay Stables in Ladner, British Columbia, Canada fits this description as well. One thing special about Heron Bay is that all types of riders board there. We might not have all equestrian disciplines, but just about including such wide ranging pursuits as Natural Horsemanship, Agility, classical and western style dressage, hunter/jumper and eventing. There’s even folks who just like to trail ride. And there’s no snickering, judging or one-upmanship going on. We all agree that each rider loves their horse and cares for him/her deeply no matter what kind of tack they put on. We all get along and there’s a wonderful atmosphere in the air there. And besides that, we learn from one another. So much fun!

  16. Synergy Equestrian Center, Pattee Rd, Hawkesbury ON Canada! My son has been taking lessons there since he was 2 -it is a very clean, healthy stable with a fantastic and friendly crew, brilliant and happy horses. Everything about this stable conveys positive energy and love. All disciplines, plus therapeutic riding. Jeannine Bastien is a horse -and people- whisperer 🙂

  17. Willowmist Farm in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta Canada is where the best barn is. Unfortunately, we are experiencing a hiccup as our riding arena roof collapsed from ice build up from our freak snowstorm, then summer like temp., then -30 and more snow, etc. It took the perfect circumstances to bring the roof down as it is a new barn. We are grateful no one was inside at the time. We have wonderful instructors and kids and we will keep riding on. The owners are optimistic and ready to rebuild ASAP. Can’t wait to be back!
    Robin Montgomery

  18. Reblogged this on Every Day Equestrian and commented:
    I’m so lucky to have found the prefect fit for me and my horse! My trainer/owner/friend truly gets us and we’ve never been happier! My barn is like my second home, and everyone there is like family. I’m so fortunate to be able to have an escape from reality. The bran really is my happy place!

  19. I have found just the place! Glenaura Farms in Shelburne, ON – if I had a farm it would be exactly like there. I have no worries, all the support I need, and I am around like minded people. Most importantly, boys are soo happy!

  20. Shallowbrook Farm in Lancaster County, Pa. BEST BARN EVER! It is a happy place for both horses and riders! Believe it or not, this barn meets ALL of the criteria mentioned in the article. We’ve got great facilities, superb and individualized horse care, a wide variety of lessons and skill sets, friendly and helpful boarders, competent, compassionate management, a nice ring, trail riding, off property group opportunities, clean barns, the best winter hay and lush summer grass. We have very long term boarders!!!

  21. This list is spot on for my barn. My horse has never looked better, I’ve got friends that are almost like family. I am so very blessed to be at The Welcome Farm, near Atlanta, Ga.

  22. Legacy Equestrian in Chesterland is undeniably the best barn ever, happy hooves all around and the people are super friendly too

    1. The staff at Legacy Equestrian Center works hard everyday and understands how precious free time is to spend with your horse. When entering the gates a feeling of tranquility occurs. This not accomplished by one person or a nice facility, but rather a team approach to the vision. We hope long relationships and memories are made.

  23. IdyleWild Farm in Cochranville, PA is by far one of the best barns ever! Elyssa, the owner and trainer, goes above and beyond to provide the most amazing space (clean, safe, healthy, happy, non-judgemental, learning, & friendly) for both the boarder and their beloved horse. I know that I have found a forever place for me and my horse.

    1. BEAR CREEK FARM is the Ultimate Dressage facility in Woodinville WA . 18 acres of grass turnout and excellent footing indoor and outdoor. Excellent care and all needs taken care of. Great people. no stress boarding!

  24. Erika-West Dressage in Willis, TX is just such a place. Beautiful landscape, happy horses, excellent instruction and training, and no drama. The folks associated with this best-barn-ever refer to themselves as “Team Erika”. This teamwork permeates the day-to-day as well as at competitions where Team Erika cheers for each member as well as for rider/horse friends from other barns. It is indeed my happy place, and after a year overseas, my horse and I can’t wait to get home:-)

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