Whether it’s three horses or 30, transplanting your equine operation can consume weeks of your life. The challenge is to move your entire barn with minimum disruption—you, your staff, and your clients want to settle in and resume daily routines as quickly as possible.
On top of the logistical issues, bear in mind that people and horses resist change, so your goal is to focus on the benefits of the move: a better location, more amenities, more space or whatever the advantage(s) may be.
To smooth your move, learn how other stable managers orchestrated their relocations. The barns featured here transferred from 20 to 25 miles—but their experiences in planning and conducting the move apply to any distance.
PLANNING YOUR CAMPAIGN
Careful planning helps you launch your move. “It’s endless work, with endless details, to make sure everything is in line,” says California dressage trainer David Wilson. He’s moved his barn, complete with clients, four times in the past 20 years. His most recent move was 25 horses from Riverside to Chino Hills.
Cheryl Reyenger describes the hardest part of moving to Rivendell Farm, Gainesville, Georgia: “It was finding a place to move to. It takes months of looking to find a place that meets your needs and your clients’ needs.” Rivendell’s goal in the move was to be closer to its hunter-jumper clients.
Ultimately, your reasons for moving influence how you plan the move. If your lease is up, or you’re feeling unwelcome at a facility, your search and relocation will have to be speedy. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your homework. Make sure you understand everything about the new facility. On the other hand, a more leisurely approach to shopping for a new facility affords you time to be more thorough.
GETTING TO KNOW THEM
Walk through the new facility to check its readiness. “We had to work the arena and install plumbing in the barn, to make it more of a public facility,” says Kristy Doty, who moved to a former breeding barn in Cave Creek, Arizona. “We had to put in wash areas and did a lot of dirt moving.”
THE TARGET IS LOCKED
With your destination confirmed, take a few weeks to plan the setup of your new facility and schedule the move. Hunter-jumper trainer Kenny Laymon, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, says, “I planned the move over a couple of weeks, and then took another 10 days for the move.”
By planning ahead in the new facility, you can eliminate several steps. For example, getting your racks and hooks set up in advance will allow you to slide your items onto them, rather then dumping them in the middle of the tack room.
Start your planning by listing everything that’s going with you:
• Horses. Assess the horses to predict how easily they’ll adjust to a new environment. Laymon advises, “Have the stalls set up with food and fresh water before you move the horses. Then everything seems reasonably familiar, and they can go right onto their normal schedule. They move right in, eat, and settle in so much faster.”
• Tack. Plan to sort tackroom items by horse, or by type. “Make a checklist of what everyone’s got,” says Wilson. In his barn, he has clients label every piece of tack they bring in. “They use a nonerasable ink pen to write their name on it, and they bridle tag it.” He also files property lists with clients’ training agreements.
• Portable property. Decide what you’ll take: farm equipment, fence panels, hot walker, stall mats and saddle racks—and figure out how you will transport them. If you own a modular barn, you might even move the barn itself. List even small items, like grooming and medical supplies, buckets, hoses, stall guards, mounting block and stall signs, so nothing gets left behind.
• Feed. If you are moving far enough away that you will have to change hay, bring some of the old forage for the transition.“We bought hay the horses were already eating and took it with us,” says Laymon. “That helped them adjust to the new feed.” Wilson recommends arranging a pre-move feed delivery to the new location. “We calculated our feed down to the last bag every month. We worked with the feed company to calculate to that date, and then had a whole new shipment at the new place.”
Once you’ve made your lists, enlist the team who will help you move. Confirm your plan with your crew, especially those who will help with the heavy lifting.
Consider which vehicles you’ll use, and how many trips you’ll make back and forth. Laymon made three trips with horses in a four-horse trailer, and two trips with equipment, traveling 22 miles each way. Reyenger and her partner, her daughter Rachel Abel, moved seven horses in five trips within a month. “We used a four-horse trailer to move a lot of the stuff, and we also had a moving truck,” says Reyenger. Because Rivendell only had a two-stall barn when they moved in, the move wasn’t complete until they built a 14-stall barn.
Doty moved three horses to her new Kemah Farms. “The hardest part was that we wanted to get everything up and running as soon as possible,” she says. “We moved everything in one day.” Wilson hired a commercial shipper to haul the horses. “I had three rigs come all in one day. We were out of there in two hours, lock, stock and barrel.”
Confirm pre-move arrangements with your current barn’s manager or property owner. And if you own large-ticket items you don’t want to take with you, like hay or bedding or farm equipment, perhaps you can you sell them to the new barn owners, or find another barn in the area who will buy them.
PACKING AND HAULING
Even with professional movers or the help of friends and clients, “Be ready for a lot of hard work,” says Doty. A team of six helped Reyenger move: “Two husbands, two wives, and two friends. Our clients moved their own tack trunks and tack. In terms of physical labor, the actual move is the hardest part.” Laymon also enlisted clients’ help. “It was late spring, and I asked them to take their winter blankets home to clean, and then bring them to the new barn.”
Ease the labor by packing for fewer trips from barn to trailer. Plastic storage tubs with lids are inexpensive, stackable containers for consolidating the hundreds of small items housed in your barn.
“We had trunks and boxes,” says Wilson. “We organized everything per horse and owner. We had one trunk per horse, and everything went in that trunk.”
Laymon says, “My show teams each have tack trunks. So all I had to do was load a box.”
Just like moving a household, on that last day you’ll make one final sweep through the barn. Check tackroom, feed room, aisles, stalls, lofts, and exterior walls for anything you might have forgotten, and say your goodbyes to the old place.
SETTING UP THE NEW BARN
Organization pays off when you’re moving in. “The hardest part is making sure that your customers do not feel anything is lost in making the move. They felt no pressure, and they all picked up and moved with me,” Wilson says. “If you move on a Monday, your clients will want to come out on Tuesday. We worked all night to set up the ring, so they only missed one day of lessons. Everyone was comfortable and happy and could move forward right away,” he adds.
Laymon focused on setting up the tackroom. “The hardest part of the move was taking apart the tackroom, and resetting it up in a new facility. You get used to a setup.” In order to create familiarity, “I set it up similarly, using my own bridle and saddle racks,” he adds.
Moving equipment, clients and animals will never be an easy task. But with a little organization and a lot of help, changing venues can go relatively smoothly, making everyone happy, and allowing you to concentrate on your business again.