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Finding Livery For Your Horse - Making The Right Decision

Finding a livery yard can be hard. Not only does it need to have all the facilities and services you desire, and not be too far from home, but it also needs to be affordable. It can be even harder if you have a differing work regime or a horse with special care requirements, as you’ll need to find a yard that can accommodate these too.

With the livery industry being completely unregulated, it’s also particularly important to find a yard that is run competently and professionally. With regular reports online and across social media of poor livery yards with little knowledge, poor welfare and client management, it’s important to do full due diligence before choosing where to move your horse to. After all, as big of an upheaval as it might seem for you, imagine what it’s like for your horse; being moved to unfamiliar surroundings with new field companions, a different routine and lots of people they are not used to!

Whilst many look for yards with the intention to stay on a long-term basis, there is a culture of ‘yard-hopping’ amongst those of an indecisive nature or those that simply don’t find the right yard the first, second or third time around. Many horse owners will even choose to move regularly with the seasons to ensure there is enough grazing, or for the benefit of an indoor arena or better hacking over the winter months, because all has not turned out as expected at their chosen yard. It’s important to remember that moving yards can be stressful for a horse, so it’s better to take a little more time to find somewhere they are happy and settled, and try to limit moving them too frequently.

Whilst many yards may look shiny and appealing from photos on their flashy website, regular social media updates or great branding (or often just due to their temptingly low prices!), there are some basic checks that should be carried out by any prospective livery, from the very first contact:

  • What exactly is included in their livery package – what are the expectations and responsibilities?
  • Is the yard insured with the minimum of a professional Third Party Liability policy (plus Care, Custody and Control insurance if they offer services)?
  • Do they charge for assisted services or extras, do they have a price list and, if so, are you obligated to use the yard for assistance?
  • Does the yard manager seem competent and experienced, and are their staff suitably trained?
  • Does the yard offer a livery contract, do they take a security deposit and, if so, what are the payment terms?
  • Do the yard and the facilities seem in good order, and appear well maintained?
  • Do all of the horses on the yard look happy and healthy?
  • Are friends or family allowed to visit the yard, including to ride or care for your horse, and are you allowed a visiting instructor?
  • Are there any restrictions on facility use, such as yard opening times, reduced turnout over the winter or set times to use the arena?
  • Do they have any biosecurity procedures in place, such as isolation or testing for new arrivals, and how do they manage parasite control?

Whilst making initial contact via phone or email – or when viewing the yard – ask as many questions as you deem necessary. The yard manager’s response will give you a good indication of their experience and competence, and should easily cover the most basic of equine care and management. If your horse has any special requirements, then it’s important to discuss these to make sure you are choosing a yard that is experienced and capable of offering such care.

Most importantly, don’t base your decision purely on cost. Whilst there are cheaper yards available, many do not meet what would be deemed as basic industry requirements, such as health and safety considerations or even having insurance. If you have several yards to choose from, it’s important to consider all aspects of what they have on offer. Whilst I’m sure we’d all rather not focus on the negatives, it can cost you a lot more in the long run if your horse has an accident due to the negligence of a yard that’s not insured, or because the fencing is poorly maintained. Therefore, it’s important to draw up a list of what you deem the most important factors, and try not to compromise just because it comes down to cost!

If you already have your horse at livery, the easiest way to decide what’s important to you is to ask yourself why you want to move. It may be that you are relocating, or the yard is closing, and therefore a yard move is necessary. However, if you feel like it’s time to move on because of a few niggles with your current yard, make sure you address these negatives as best as possible in your list of ‘wants’ – don’t compromise on the good bits of your current yard, otherwise you may simply end up at another yard with a different set of problems down the line!

LiveryList has produced an extensive guide to ‘Finding Livery’ in association with the ABRS+ to guide you through the pitfalls, and help you ask the right questions.

If you are a yard owner and would like to learn more about your responsibilities, or find support to help you manage your yard and your clients, information can be found on the LiveryList Yard Owner Hub.

Cheryl Johns - Livery List
Horsemart Brand Ambassador
Published on 01-09-2021
Cheryl Johns is the founder of LiveryList. Launched in 2011, it has been the top-ranked Livery Yard Directory for many years, and through the Yard Owner Hub, launched in 2020, has developed into a one-of-a-kind resource for yard owners. “As an experienced equestrian and yard manager, with a background in marketing and business management, I create and publish lots of content in relation to yard management and equine welfare, as well as working in partnership with many equestrian associations, charities and publications consulting on yard management and viability. The helps support yard owners to run professional, viable businesses, and helps educate horse owners as to what they should be seeking from a yard in terms of best practice"