Choosing a new Livery Yard

Moving yard is a stressful time for any horse owner. There are so many worries and what ifs: what will the other liveries be like? What if the yard owner oversold the facilities, grazing or services? What if my horse doesn’t like it? The final one is a particular worry as there’s no real way to prepare your horse for the fact you are about to load him on a trailer and drop him off in a new place without his beloved herd. It reminds me of the last time we moved house and my husband was beside himself with worry that the dog wouldn’t like the new place. Luckily the dog was fine and our horses usually are as well with a bit of time to adjust to the new location, field mates and routine.

Moving was particularly tough this time as I didn’t really want to. We were at a beautiful yard, with wonderful facilities (including the holy grail that is an indoor school), lovely other liveries and Ginge was happily settled with his field mates – even if they did destroy every rug I sent him out with. Nicky “The Rug Lady” has probably done very well out of rescuing rugs that Flash and Cloud had modified this last year. She is wonderful though, a good “Rug Lady” is worth her weight in gold and Nicky somehow rescues all of Ginge’s shredded wardrobe. Ginge had to move though, for the very simple reason of finances. I was working at his old yard to bring down the costs, but there comes a point where working multiple jobs and trying to fit in riding and seeing your husband/friends/family becomes an impossible juggling act. A spot came up at a nearby yard that does reasonably priced part livery and (after a word with myself about an indoor school not really being a ‘must-have’) I dragged my husband along for a viewing.

We have moved yard a few times now (hopefully this is the last time), so I feel like I can offer some advice on this one:

  • First impressions are important! Is the yard clean and neat, with well maintained fencing and muck heap? Whether or not the yard owner is stringent about sweeping the yard may not seem like it should be high on the priority list, but the issue is really whether it’s a symptom of a lax attitude elsewhere. Keeping the yard tidy is obviously important for hygiene and safety, but I’ve also noticed a correlation between scruffy yards and staff that also can’t be bothered to check rugs or pick out feet when catching horses in at night. The basics are important.
  • Try to go when the weather hasn’t been so great. Obviously, the weather is never in our control, but if you can see a yard after a few days of rain you are more likely to see how the fields will cope with winter and whether that “all-weather” outdoor school will actually spend most of the year unusable due to flooding.
  • Check for hidden expenses. Are things like hay and bedding included and, if so, what exactly is meant by that. Horses aren’t cheap and budgeting is so important. You don’t want to be hit by a surprise bill because you gave more than the “allowed” quantity of hay when grazing is scarce during winter or because you asked for your laminitis-prone horse to be caught in at lunch time to restrict his grazing.
  • Go armed with questions – and don’t be afraid of asking too many! Especially if you will also be using the yard manager’s services as you want to be sure you are on the same page when it comes to managing your horse’s needs. No one wants to be the demanding livery, but you do want to be sure that you can 100% trust another person with your horse’s care. If it is possible to speak to an existing livery, then that also helps.
  • Finally, trust your gut instinct. Sometimes, as with many things in life, you “just know” that a yard is the right place for you.

So far (and I say this with everything crossed), the yard we just moved to has felt absolutely right. The yard owner has been very accommodating, with things like making sure he has a field mate as he hates individual turn out, and always stops for a chat when I arrive to update me on quirky little things Ginge has been up to. I love this, as it says to me that she is actually taking care of him and not just seeing him as a source of income. The other liveries are very welcoming and have already started inviting us on hacks to show us the route. When it comes to facilities, they aren’t too bad. The school doesn’t flood or freeze and, although I miss having the roof over our heads, there is cross country course access free to all liveries throughout the year. The fences start tiny, so maybe this cowardly dressage duo will be building up to their first ever hunter trials in the near future!

Ginge and his new friend, Chester

Exploring our new surroundings

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Name plate on the door – home, sweet home!

 

All change! New season and a new start

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It may have escaped your attention, but all has been quiet in Ginger Pony Land for a little while. Last month, I got married! The run up to the wedding was the busiest time of my life, followed by the greatest day and two blissful weeks on a beach in the sunshine with my new husband. Ginge celebrated the wedding with a three week holiday – a bit of time to relax, mull over everything he’s learned over the last year and turn into a muddy, hairy mammoth ready for the oncoming winter. A whirlwind (and wonderful) few weeks for me, but I missed my boy intensely. There’s no denying that horses get under our skin and into our blood. I’m happy to be home with him, but it’s a shock coming home from Thailand’s beautiful beaches to the arrival of autumn/winter in my beloved Gloucestershire.

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Now I’m home, it’s not just the seasons and my name that has changed! Ginge has had his annual haircut AND we’ve moved yard. I’m lucky that he’s so chilled out about life in general, but even so we have had a few grumpy days recently as a result of all the changes. A few weeks apart, the horror of being clipped and then being dropped off in a new home has been a bit too much for him. I’ll talk about the yard move in a post of its own, but for now a word on clipping.

There’s a lot of debate about clipping every year, owners worrying about when to clip, how much to take off, rugging issues afterwards and the stress involved if their horse hates the clippers. Every horse is different, but Ginge and I have a system of compromise that seems to work for us. Ginge is a hot horse, so he really has to be clipped if we are to do any work over winter otherwise he’s a sweaty mess from a ten minute hack in walk. Since we have to clip, we take off the minimum necessary. Partly so the clipping process doesn’t take longer than it needs to, partly as I quite like letting him be as natural as possible and partly so there’s less rugging stress. The last few years we have gone for an Irish clip, just a little more than his neck and belly so he doesn’t overheat, but his topline stays warm when he’s out and about and we don’t need hundreds of heavy rugs.

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It’s also easy to underestimate the effect of our bond with our horses. Last year, I clipped Ginge myself. He was quiet as a mouse for the whole process and it was fairly stress free for both of us (except for the dodgy haircut he was left with since I’m terrible at straight lines). This year, as in the past, I paid someone else to get the job down. He was OK, but much less chilled out than when I do it myself and I had to bribe him with his Likit to keep him still. For food-orientated horses, Likits are heaven sent for when you need to get stuff done! After clipping, I can thoroughly recommend a NAF Love The Skin hot wash for your horse to take away the post-clip itch. I was lucky enough to win a bottle from BD Quest Club’s newsletter and will definitely be buying more when we run out. We have quite a few NAF lotions and potions in our show prep box – I think they’re fab and very effective, even for total amateurs at turnout like me!

Luckily, if we can hang on until early November, Ginge only needs one clip per year so we don’t have to go through this chaos on a regular basis. Maybe next year I’ll be brave again for his benefit and manage the clipping without hiring in a dreaded stranger. Ginge is definitely happier when I do it and practice makes perfect – right?