by Saskia Mier
To those who are perhaps not familiar with the term "livery", it is simply a yard of stables where horse owners pay a weekly or monthly fee to keep their horses on the premises and use the facilities. This is a common practice all over the world for those who would like to have a horse but do not possess the necessary space or facilities to keep it.
Luckily in Spain, this option is considerably "cheap" compared to other European countries, and it is ideal for those who work full-time or commute often between Spain and other countries. A good majority of stable yards, private or public, will offer this contracted service; however, you may pay a higher price in a public yard where lessons are held.
It is also likely you will pay slightly more depending on the level of facilities in the yard, although this is not always the case and you may even find a private yard owner with excellent facilities willing to offer a lower rate. The price generally includes a stable, bedding, water, forage, grain and field space (less common), as well as the horse feeding service and turning them out in the field if this is an option. There are, however, a few matters you need take into account when thinking about using livery services.
Stable sizes are usually a lot smaller than in central Europe; in Andalusia the legal size is 3x3 metres, but many will be even smaller; whereas in central Europe the legal size will be at least 3.5x3.5 metres, and more commonly you will see larger ones. It is also common practice to have stable doors that are entirely closed off, meaning the horse cannot look out. Stables will have an automatic water drinker or a bucket of water; either way the horse will always have access to water.
Bedding will vary, with the majority putting down a straw bed as it is a much cheaper material, but sawdust is also common. It's all about personal preference. As for the pellets, they will not be easy to come by in a yard but there are a few around. Feeding is an issue that can become tricky. Due to different customs regarding horse maintenance in Andalusia, equine nutrition is still very much a developing subject.
Although it is easy to find very basic feeds, there is still little choice in specialised feeds that tend to be suitable for each horse and their lifestyle. However, over the last few years many of the large feed companies such as Kentucky, Red Mills, Baileys, etc., have started to ship to providers in Spain, some of which are found in Andalusia - albeit at higher prices than the local Spanish feeds. Due to the difference in cost, many yards will only offer these basic feeds but, if you prefer your horse to have a different feed, yard owners will be happy for you to buy it in yourself.
Regarding forage, again customs are different and in Andalusia the common forage is straw. A huge percentage of farmers are involved in straw production and very few produce hay, which is always more difficult to come by, and usually at a considerably higher price. The most readily available will be oat hay, but you can also get your hands on ryegrass and meadow hay, with the quality varying enormously between farmers. Alfalfa is also very common in areas with plenty water, but is usually the most expensive forage.
Facilities will depend entirely on the particular yard. Most yards will at least be equipped with an arena, if you require such facilities. Another important factor is good hacking in the area, which will be entirely related to the yard's location. Expect to pay a bit more for the quality of the facilities.
Prices in Andalusia can be lower than in the rest of Spain: anything between 100 and 200 euros for basic livery, all depending on the yard. Within this price range you can also find livery yards that offer the extra service of working your horse, which can be handy if you are limited for time or spend periods of abroad, etc. Some yards have a teacher on site, and might be able to provide you with lessons within your livery price.
Overall, a livery yard is easy to find in Andalusia. How you prefer the environment, the people and, of course, the maintenance of your horse is completely up to you.