How to find a livery yard for your horse or pony

Finding the right livery for your horse or pony is vital not only for his/her wellbeing but also for your own peace of mind and happiness. Unfortunately there are lots of places offering livery that certainly won't give you peace of mind, equally there are lots of good liveries it's just a question of weeding the good from the bad.
Obviously location is of primary importance, it's not much good finding the perfect place if it then proves too far away for you to travel to daily and of course cost is a consideration.
You can find local livery yards by searching the internet or looking them up in your telephone directory, also take a look at notice boards in tack shops and feed merchants and don't forget word of mouth. Ask your horsey friends if they know of any decent yards in the area.
Shortlist the yards you are interested in and phone the proprietor to arrange a visit, at this stage don't be put off by those only offering full livery as this is sometimes negoitable to assisted livery or even DIY.
When you visit the livery yard be sure to take a good look at the horses already there, are they in good condition, well cared for and do they seem on the whole relaxed and happy? This is a good indicator as to how your own equine will settle in.
The stables must be well ventilated, safe and dry (no leaky roofs) and of adequate size for your horse eg. minimum 12ft x 12ft for a horse, and there should be lighting - it gets dark early in the winter.
Pasture should be of good quality with fencing in good repair, gates should be in good condition with working catches, check for poisonous plants such as ragwort and ask about weeding programmes and pasture management. Also check that the surface isn't riddled with rat or rabbit holes. Remember to ask who is responsible for poo picking, some yards do it for you others expect you to do it yourself.
Notice how tidy the muck heap is and find out how frequently it is removed.
What about water? Are there automatic waterers or will troughs and buckets need filling, are there sufficient taps and are hosepipes long enough? What provision is made for water if pipes freeze in the winter?
At this stage it is important to establish the turn out policy of the yard, some will let you make your own decision about turning out eg. on a rainy day, while others will insist that they decide on turnout. It's best if you can find a yard that allows daily turn out no matter what the weather.
Tackrooms should be tidy and large enough to provide enough storage for all those using them and they need to be secure.
Forage and bedding should be stored away from damp and contamination in an area that the horses do not have free access to. With regard to forage and bedding is this provided for you by the yard? If so is it of good quality, dust and mildew free? Is it freely available or will you be limited on use? Can you provide your own forage and bedding, is there storage provided? Also is there a place for you to store your hard feed?
You'll also need to establish the yards' policy on worming and vaccinations, what type of worming program do they operate? Does your horse have to be vaccinated if so what for? Are you happy with this?
Obviously you'll want to take a look at the riding facilities. Ideally there will be a large manege with an all weather surface, check that the constuction is safe for both horse and rider and ask about routine maintenance of the surface, also ask about availability of the manege.
If show jumps are available ensure that they are safely stored away when not in use. Cross country jumps, if available, should be inspected with a view to safety.
Ask about  local hacking, and find out if there will be someone present on the yard for you to leave your route  with should you go on a hack.
You'll also need to check the yard opening hours, will these be suitable for you? What happens if for some unforseen reason you can't make it to the yard, will someone be available to care for your horse?
Also what about general security, does someone live on the premises? Is it alarmed? Is there CCTV etc
You'll also need to discuss terms. Then go away and have a good think about it all you will almost certainly come up with some more questions that you wish you'd asked, so write them down and make a second appointment to view again before making a decision.

For more information on livery yards please see What type of livery should I choose for my horse or pony