Twice a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year. The livery yard, especially DIY livery, will become more or less your second home, so putting some time and thought into choosing the right one could be well worth the effort.
The easy bit in some ways is assessing the facilities. Indoor or all weather arena’s are now so popular as to be almost ubiquitous, and most people who have been on a yard with a decent one would then never go back to being without. When looking round the arena of a prospective livery yard it’s worth having a discreet scratch around to check there is plenty of covering – 100mm is usually accepted as being the minimum. If you’re serious about your dressage additions like mirrors or even videoing facilities can be a massive help in improving your and your horses performance.
If you’re looking round a new livery yard in the summer then a bit of imagination can be helpful to visualise what the same yard might look like in the middle of a wet winter. Is the yard actually concrete or just hardcore which could turn into a couple of inches of mud, does it look like there are natural contours for water to drain away or are you looking up at a hill which could send miniature rivers down on you for 6 months of the year?
Some Problems that Occur when looking for a Livery Yard
A very common source of discontent of a livery yard is having to buy the owners straw, hay and haylage. This is understandable from their point of view and in theory makes good sense – no delivery costs are involved, you’ll never turn up on a wet Sunday morning and realise you’ve run out of haylage, and the owner should in theory be able to supply it cheaper to you than a merchant can. This, indeed can often be the way the arrangement works out, but having some flexibility is really important if something does go wrong. Anyone can be caught out by the weather when making hay or haylage, but it shouldn’t be your problem to struggle through feeding substandard stuff for a whole winter due to something over which you had no control. Negotiating some flexibility if your horse won’t eat the hay or needs a specialist forage is much easier before you’re actually on the yard. Never forget that you are the customer and the owner wants your business as much as you want to find a nice place for your horse.
Finally, the aspect of a livery yard which will have the most bearing on your enjoyment of your horse is the atmosphere. Its amazing how this can emanate down from a surly yard owner or bitchy clique who’ve been there longest and therefore think they’ve more rights than anyone else. Of course this is the hardest aspect to evaluate when you’re looking round, but your instincts should soon kick in if you spend some time chatting to existing customers of the yard. Organised trips eventing or hunting etc can also be a good indicator of esprit de corps which could make your time there much happier.
Here is a useful link if your looking for a livery yard: http://www.bhs.org.uk/welfare-and-care/find-a-livery-yard