Checklist for Sending or Receiving a Horse on Trial

Photo © Jump Media

By Sabrina Brashares / Jump Media

When you are sending or receiving a horse on trial, it is important to make sure the experience is as pleasant for them as possible. When horses arrive at a new and unfamiliar barn it can be stressful for them, so plan to gather all of the details about the horse ahead of time to help keep them comfortable, healthy, and happy in the new environment.

  • Written Statement Concerning Details of the Trial: Before sending a horse to an unknown barn, write down a list of important details so that both sides understand what the arrangement of the trial is. One of the specifics in this document could be any work or exercise restrictions for the horse. For example, write down the maximum height you are comfortable with your horse being jumped and how often. You can also include a description of the care the horse should receive. If the horse has scratches and needs a certain cream or to be ridden in socks, that could be outlined in this document. Additionally, you should write down what should happen in case of an injury. Include all necessary phone numbers so that the receiving barn knows exactly who to contact if the horse gets injured or becomes sick.
  • Grain/Supplements: When sending or receiving a horse on trial be sure to confirm what type of grain they get and if they require any additional supplements. Since grain can affect a horse’s energy, it is important to keep their feed similar to what they are used to at home. Grain can also affect gut health, so consider sending the horse with prepared feed or a bag of grain, or confirming that the receiving barn has the correct grain.
  • Forage: Different horses eat different types and amounts of hay. While some horses are easy keepers, others need more hay to maintain their weight. You should explain or ask about the amount and type of hay the horse normally gets for morning, lunch, dinner, and night check. Knowing if the horse eats from a hay net and if it needs its hay soaked or steamed is also important. Note if the horse has a hay allergy and requires dengi or alfalfa cubes
  • Stall: Putting a trial horse in a specific stall may not always be an option, but it is nice for the barn to know if they are happier next to a mare or gelding, for example, or if they prefer a quiet stall by themselves. Some can kick or get nervous next to certain horses so suggest that someone keep an eye on them as they settle in.
  • Quirks and Temperament: Explain or ask about any quirks the trial horse may have, either on the ground or under saddle. Knowing if a horse is head shy, girthy, difficult to mount, or bad with traffic in the ring can keep both the horse and rider safe. The horse’s behavior around other horses in the barn should also be noted so people can give the horse extra room if necessary.
  • Grooming: While some horses enjoy being groomed, others can be difficult about it. If this is known ahead of time, everyone can take necessary precautions. Also, some horses are not great on crossties, especially if there is no wall behind them. 
  • Blanket/Sheet: Depending on the time of year, plan to send or ask that the trial horse is sent with a stable sheet. It is also good to know if the horse tends to run hot or cold so the barn staff will know whether or not to use the sheet each day.
  • Turnout: While some barns do not want trial horses to be turned out, others prefer that they go outside. If a horse will be turned out, confirm if bell boots or other items need to be worn. If the horse is good in turnout but needs a friend that is also important to mention.
  • Lunging: Some barns might give a trial horse time on the lunge line since they are in a new environment and possibly not getting turned out. If you do not want your horse to be lunged or if your horse is not good on the lunge line, be sure to clarify that upfront.
  • Tack: Help the trial horse be comfortable during work by discussing the type of tack it normally uses at home and at shows. For example, many horses hack in a different bit then they jump in, so be sure to explain or ask about options. Knowing the correct saddle size is also crucial so the horse does not end up getting sore. 
  • Equipment: Take the time to talk about the additional equipment the trial horse normally goes in while being worked. Items like boots, polos, bell boots, and earplugs are often regular parts of a horse’s gear that serve important functions and can cause a change in behavior or safety if forgotten. 
  • Normal Ride: It is helpful to describe the type and level of work the horse has done recently so everyone is on the same page and the horse is not over-faced. Also, if the horse needs a little extra warmup time at the walk to loosen up or get comfortable in their surroundings, that is useful to know. 
  • Aftercare: Every barn does things differently, for example, some barns bandage a horse after it jumps while others do not. If you are sending a horse on trial and have specific aftercare instructions, this is an important detail to define and make clear. 

The ultimate goal of every trial is for the horse and rider to match. The more information the receiving barn has about the horse, the more likely they will be able to make the trial a positive and safe experience for both the horse and rider.

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