You will be making a significant investment and your choice of livery yard will impact both your horse's well-being and your lifestyle. It is important to find the right yard and so you should fully explore your choices. Ask as many questions as possible before you make any decisions.
There is little point in choosing a service that you cannot afford as this situation will be unsustainable. You must decide what your budget is and this will probably dictate whether you opt for full, part or DIY livery. Some yards specialise in, or only offer, one type of livery and so there will be certain establishments that you can rule out on this basis.
Your yard must be reasonably close to home. You will be doing a lot of travelling back and forth and so a location which is miles away will considerably increase your costs. All that travelling will also reduce the amount of time that you can spend with your horse.
Ask to see a contract and check it carefully to establish what is included and what you will be charged extra for. It could come as a nasty surprise if you weren't expectingto pay extra for turning out, grooming and mucking out. You should find out what type of bedding is used or whether you are able to provide your own. This is a particularly important factor if your horse has a dust allergy. Ask whether you are allowed to buy your own forage and feed or if you have to purchase these from the yard's supplier. Check the quality of what is on offer before making your decision. It is also crucial to establish how much turnout time your horse will get and how careful the yard is in selecting horses to be turned out together. Take a look at the quality of the grazing and enquire about the parasite control regime. Ask whether your own instructor is welcome at the yard or whether the yard only permits lessons with their own staff on the site. Check how much access you will have to an indoor school and whether this will involve booking and additional charges. It is also important to investigate the bridleways near the yard and to find out how safe and accessible they are. Check out the fire and first aid procedures and avoid any yard that does not have carefully planned arrangements.
Always spend a sensible amount of time at any yard that you are considering before making your decision. Get a feel for the place, look for potential issues and talk to other owners. Do the other horses look happy and in good health? Are the stables secure and generally in good condition? Does the yard have all of the facilities that you need?It is also important to look at the security when choosing a livery yard. How is the tack room secured? Are there CCTV cameras or any additional security measures in place? Do the entrances / exits to the yard have gates in place to prevent a horse escaping if they bolted?
When in Doubt
If you have any concerns, don't be afraid to ask questions and if you are in any doubt, walk away. For peace of mind, have your solicitor check over your contract before you sign. How did you choose your livery yard? Any top tips to share?