Expert advice from HORSE Magazine on choosing the right livery yard

Don’t get fooled into thinking that one livery yard will be much like another. Facilities, the type of livery you require, the yard atmosphere and cost are all things you’ll need to consider before you pack your horse’s bags and set off for your new yard.

If the yard you’ve selected has a vacancy, make an appointment with the yard manager.

When you visit, consider the following:

  • Opening times. Does the yard restrict access at certain times? If you like riding at 5.30am on a summer’s morning it’s no good if the yard doesn’t open until 7.30am.
  • Cost. Is it per week or per calendar month and does the price include VAT?
  • Stables. Ask to see the box your horse might live in – is it large enough, light, airy, well ventilated and accessible? Does your horse have a nice view?
  • Bedding. Is there a choice and if so, of what? Does the livery charge include a limited amount per week and if you need more can you buy it for a fair price?
  • Feed. Do they stock the brand you feed, or similar? Are the horsesgiven ad-lib hay or restricted amounts? Is the feed and hay good quality? If you feed supplements, ask whether the staff will add these for you.
  • Storage. See how much space you’ll get to store all your tack and equipment and check the tack room is secure. You might even want somewhere to park your trailer, which some yards will charge for.
  • Contract. A good yard should ask you to sign a contract outlining the agreement, such as who is responsible for doing what, payment details and notice period. Ensure the yard has at least third party public liability insurance and preferably theft insurance if tack is kept on the premises.
  • Turnout. How long will your horse be turned out for and is grazing restricted during the winter? Will he be on his own or turned out with others? Have a look at the quality of the grazing and the fencing – are they well maintained?
  • Facilities. The yard may have an outdoor arena and a smart indoor school, but can you use them? Ask if you have to pay extra and whether you have to book them. If there’s no booking system, what happens at busy times? Ask if the hacking is good and how much roadwork you’ll have to do.
  • Holidays. Find outwhether the yard is willing to do your horse for you if you go away on holiday or if you’re off sick.
  • Experts. Is the yard manager or owner available at all times in case there is a problem – this is particularly important for less experienced horseowners. Ask if you can have lessons with your own instructor and whether the yard insists a particular vet or farrier is used for all the horses.
  • Worming. In a DIY yard you will be responsible for this, although it’s worth co-ordinating your programme with the other liveries. If your horse is on full livery check whether the yard organises this.
  • First impressions. Note how well the yard is kept – if it’s tidy it is more likely the horses will be well cared for.
  • Staff. Ask to meet the member of staff who’ll be looking after your horse. Find out if they have time for extra things like applying fly spray, putting boots on before turning out or applying mud fever cream.
  • Atmosphere. Probably the last thing you’ll consider but one of the most important factors. Listen to your gut feeling and chat to a couple of liveries to see if you feel you would fit in. Ask whether there’s a high turn over of liveries.

Read more on livery yards: