Since I got sidetracked relaying the drama around this situation, here's a little more on "ripoffs and rascals"
You are probably being ripped off for boarding if
1. Your horse is losing an alarming amount of weight over a short period of time
2. You are charged unusual or expensive fees that serve no purpose other than to line the BO's pockets (ex: Additional fees above agreed boarding rate due upon arrival)
3. You seldom see any hay on the premises
4. Stock tanks are empty, frozen, or not available to the horses 24/7
5. You are not encouraged to visit your horse as often as you like
6. You cannot reach the BO by email or phone in a reasonable amount of time
7. Your vet or farrier is hesitant to treat or work on your horse at the location
8. Your horse gets moved into other quarters without your knowledge
9. You never get a copy of your signed boarding contract
I could add a whole bunch to that list, but these are the major ones, and let me explain why they should be red flags to you as a horse owner.
Anytime a horse loses weight it should a cause of concern. Perhaps the feed program was changed. Perhaps the horse is suffering from an underlying disease process. Or has been turned out with other horses who are higher in the herd hierarchy than yours. It could be a number of things, but it is your responsibility as the owner to determine what the cause is, and to remedy it. This means actually asking questions, and persuing meaningful answers until you are satisified that the BO can remedy it-or you can with veterinary intervention.
A lack of hay on site is not necessarily critical, but it may show that the BO is not able to secure a steady supply of good quality hay. This could be poor management, or that its just plain difficult to find (which it is). Either way, make sure to be present at several feedings-so that you can see for yourself what gets fed, and how it is distributed.
A lack of water is a huge red flag in mind. In this day and age, there is no reason NOT to provide water 24/7. Stock tanks can be heated using extension cords if necessary. Yes, they are very expensive to run, but insulating the tank(s) and using timers should see any barn through the utility crunch of the winter months.
If you aren't welcome to come see your horse(s) at any reasonable hour-that would give me pause. My first question would be: Why not? What's going on you don't want me to see? All my boarders are free to come any time, and they know that. I appreciate a courtesy call but don't demand it-I do like to chat with the owners when I can, so I can address any concerns they may have.
The rest of the items on my short list are self explanatory for the most part. As a horse owner, you are entering into a partnership when you board your horse. The BO agrees to meet the terms of the contract and care for your horse(s). You agree to pay the BO in a timely fashion for that care. It's basic and simple, and I am appalled that there are local boarding operators who do not even provide sufficient hay and/or water. Yet they happily cash the checks, blow off the owners' concerns, or worse yet, just duck any questions altogether. These are the local rascals who are going merrily along, ripping off the customer.....and causing no end of extra work for people like me-who do deliver on their promises.