Moving yards is almost as bad as moving house, isn’t it? I can’t say it’s something I’d undertake lightly.
However, having recently done it so that Phoenix is at a yard with winter-friendly facilities because she’s now in more work and I need the ability to ride after bedtime if needs be.
I’ve come up with some, well I like to think of them as, helpful tips.
- Use the opportunity to have a big sort out of your things. Take rugs to be cleaned. Ask yourself if you really need that ancient whip with a wobbly end. When Otis moved to his retirement field and I was effectively horseless, I had a good clear out and sold things I definitely wouldn’t need or use again. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve gone through what was left in my garage with Phoenix in mind. For example, does that stable rug of Otis’s fit her? Will that saddle rack fit over her new stable door? So I’ve had quite a sort out. I’ll accumulate more, I’m sure, but it’s nice to have a declutter.
- Organise your things in the yard into boxes so that moving is simple, and you’re not making endless trips to the car with forgotten haynets or spare stirrup leathers. Plus you’re less likely to forget anything.
- Plan your move so that you can be around for any teething issues. We decided to move Phoenix on a Friday so that the new yard was quiet when she arrived, and I was around over the weekend to provide a familiar face and meet all her needs should she be unsettled.
- Check the isolation procedure, if the new yard has one. A lot of yards require worming on arrival, so ensure you’ve got a wormer or have a recent worm egg count result. Some yards require horses to be stabled for forty eight hours in isolation on arrival. If your horse would find this particularly stressful; perhaps they’re young and never been stabled, or they struggle with separation anxiety, I would definitely recommend speaking to the new yard to see if anything can be done to reduce your horse’s stress.
- Plan your moving day so you have plenty of time to observe your horse settling in. We moved all of my things to the new yard first thing in the morning, dumped it in Phoenix’s stable, and then went to pick her up. Then I unpacked and organised my things while she settled in the field. Once I was finished, she’d been there an hour and quite content. Then I went back to the yard later in the afternoon to check her again before dark.
- Plan a couple of quiet days while your horse settles in. They may not seem outwardly disturbed, but internally there’s a lot of new things to process; new equines, new field, new yard environment. This may result in them lacking in a sleep because they aren’t fully comfortable in their surroundings so don’t have sufficient R.E.M. sleep, as I blogged a couple of weeks ago. I definitely found that Phoenix tired more easily when I rode her the first day, so I kept it short and sweet, being much more of an introduction to the new arena than anything else. I’ve found that Phoenix is very settled in the field, but slightly more anxious in her unfamiliar stable, so on the first day she just had her feed in there and spent a very short time in there. Then the following day slightly longer, all the time with hay. Gradually I’ve left her there for longer, and then yesterday she spent a couple of hours in there until being turned out, seeming farm more relaxed about the situation.
- In the first few days I would be guided by your horse. Just ride them according to how they feel, or have a gentle hack in company so they can begin to take in their new surroundings. Some horses may benefit over the first couple of days or just being introduced to their new routine, so coming in and spending a few minutes being groomed in their new stable, having a hard feed in there and just generally absorbing their new environment. I think how well a horse takes to a yard move depends on their age (if they’ve had experience of a stable then they’re less phased by a new stable), their experience (if they’ve done a lot of competing then they are used to different environments and possibly staying overnight at competitions and camps), and their temperament – some horses just accept change more readily than others.
- Although not always possible, I would definitely look at moving yards and keeping my horse’s general routine the same for at least a couple of weeks. For example, they’ll find it more stressful moving from living out twenty four hours a day to living in with daytime turnout only. Either move so that they can continue living out at the new yard for a couple of weeks, or begin bringing them in overnight at the old yard during the run up to them moving.
- Introducing horses into fields is always the political, and delicate situation. Definitely speak to the new yard and the field mates, neighbours in individual turnout setups and those in the herd in group turnouts. If there’s a known leader to the herd, who can be quite bossy, (or even if your own horse is dominant!) having your horse on individual turnout adjacent to the herd field for a few days can help the horses introduce themselves, and then put the new horse in with the dominant horse for a couple of days, and then run the herd together. The horses will run, they will bite, and they will kick out while they establish their new pecking order.
- You can help reduce the running round effect when a horse enters a new field. Phoenix went into a field on her own for the first few days, with neighbours either side, so upon her arrival I gave her a hard feed and then turned her out with a pile of hay in the field. If there’s plenty of grass that’s not necessary. The idea was that she wasn’t starving, and would quickly settle to eat some hay. She barely looked at her neighbours but took to the hay before happily wandering around the field, replete and unlikely to run around in excitement.
- After a few days on individual turnout, Phoenix was joined by another horse. To integrate them I ensured Phoenix had had her hard feed and hay ration in the field, and the other horse was likewise fed, so that when the two were introduced hunger wouldn’t cause any arguments and they could concentrate on being friends. We also put out plenty of small piles of hay. Unfortunately Phoenix decided that all the hay was for her, especially that which came with the new horse. So the following day we gave them some time apart to ensure that they both ate sufficient hay, and then used my less exciting bale of hay in the field which seemed to help settle them. It usually takes a week or so for a new herd to establish their pecking order, but it’s beneficial for all if you make temporary accommodations to reduce the likelihood of any going hungry or getting hurt.
- Take enough hay with you to the new yard so that your horse won’t be put off eating new hay whilst also being slightly stressed by the move. Then you can introduce the new yard’s hay over the course of a couple of days. Obviously with the greedy horses and ponies this isn’t so much of an issue!
- Be aware that your horse may be unpredictable for the first few weeks as they settle in, so keep things quiet and be aware that the tractor on the new yard is scary because your horse isn’t as confident yet in their new surroundings.