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
Name plate on the door – home, sweet home!