Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Boarding Matrix

Finding a place to keep your horse can be one of the most difficult and agonizing processes that we face as horse owners who are not farm owners. It can take hours of phone calls, travelling all over your state, laying awake at night wondering where your horse is going to be safe and happy and what the right decision is. Below is my attempt to take some of the guess-work and confusion out of this process.
The spreadsheet embedded below is something I created a while ago when I was doing my own barn search, and I decided to publish it in case it's helpful to others. It has one sheet for all of the contact information one needs for keeping track of barns, and another sheet to evaluate each barn based on a specific set of criteria. The criteria are based on what is important to me (and likely others looking for a boarding facility).

If you have Microsoft Excel, you can download the document (right-click and select "Export to Microsoft Excel") and make use of the pre-formatted answers to each criteria (you may have to select the columns, go to the "Data" menu and select "Autofilter" first).  In preparing the answers, I tried to account for the broad spectrum of farms that we all come across in our searches.  For example, in the "turnout type" column, you can select from the following choices:
  • Grass fields with sheds
  • Grass fields no shelter
  • Small paddocks with sheds
  • Small paddocks without sheds
  • Stone Dust
  • Grass or Stone Dust
  • Dirt/not much grass
  • Mud pit
  • Junk yard
 And in the "Fencing" column, you can select one of these:
  • Post and rail
  • 3 or 4 board
  • Electric braid or tape
  • Vinyl
  • Wood or vinyl plus electric
  • Electric wire
  • Bailing twine and duct tape
  • Unsafe/unsturdy
Under "Atmosphere," you can describe the barn environment in one of the following ways:
  • Laid back  
  • Busy and Active 
  • Serious 
  • Boisterous 
  • Deserted 
  • Peaceful 
  • Friendly
  • Cold and unwelcoming 
  • Hostile
I tried to make these options work for whatever type of barn you are looking for (self-care, full board, show barn, trail barn, dressage barn, stall board, pasture board, etc.). So, for example, under "Stalls Cleaned," I tried to account for all the options:
  • Twice a day, well bedded  
  • Once a day, well bedded 
  • Cleaned every day, but not enough bedding 
  • Not every day 
  • We don't believe in bedding 
  • Clean your own stall, with our bedding 
  • Clean your own stall, buy your own bedding 
  • No stalls
I'm trying out publishing a Google Document for the first time, so if you do use it, please let me know if you find it useful and whether it works (either as a download or as a publicly available document). I'd also love to hear other ideas if there are other criteria on which you base your decisions on boarding barns.

Alternatively, here is a link to the document, let's see if that works.

I'm going to set up a link to this in the sidebar, assuming it's somewhat functional.  Please let me know what you think!


  1. how did you know i would need your uber-organized anal tendencies to come to my rescue??

    thanks lady :)

  2. Your post this morning is what reminded me that I need to do this!

  3. I wasn't able to get it to work at all, even exporting to Excel...I'd probably find it easier to just download an XLS file and use it offline, rather than embedded as a Google Doc.

    I'd love to try the spreadsheet, though. I'll be looking for a boarding barn this year, and this could be really helpful.

  4. Hmm. I was able to export it to Excel, I wonder why you are having trouble. I don't know how to provide a file through the blog for download, but if you want to email me at, I can just email you the file. That might work better.

  5. Oh wow...I have finally found a friend more neurotic than myself. Marissa this is priceless! I am not barn shopping anytime soon, but you bet your butt I will be using this next time I do!

  6. Very good! It's funny, finding that perfect barn is like finding a soul mate!

  7. It sounds like you and I have visited the same barn:
    The Junkyard barn with baling twine/duct tape fencing, with a surprisingly hostile holier-than-thou attitude given the state of the barn and their disbelief in bedding, let alone mucking.
    I laughed out loud. Love this post!

    I'll put up with a lot if the feed is top notch, the fencing safe, the paddock/shelters clean, and the atmosphere somewhere north of Hostile.

    My barn is shleppy to look at (compared to some training barns), but all the care and upkeep criteria are kept to the letter. Including immediately fixing what's broken, and knowing each and every horse.

    I do admit to Barn Envy when I visited a local top barn (Basic stall board north of $1000.00 a month: NOT including training, graining, blankets, turnout.) so gleaming you could have a black tie dinner for 12 in the wash rack.

    You could call them on your way over from work, should you suddenly decide to ride, and your horse would be groomed, tacked up, booted up, warmed up, and back in cross-ties waiting for you by your stated arrival time.

    It was a barn Disneyland to Ms. Podunk here. ;)

  8. Definitely useful. We should use something like this to track boarding facilities that we use at work.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.