There’s a variety of options available to board your horse, and so many different situations where you might choose one over another. Sometimes budget is the most important concern, other times it’s location. I’ve kept my horses at home, and I’ve boarded them out. I’ve been at many different places for different reasons, it really feels like it’s always been a different situation, a different need, or a different budget at any given time.
There’s a wide variety of barns available that cater to different needs. Other than different barns focusing on different riding disciplines, barns also have different levels of services to offer their clients. Knowing what things you need, what things would be nice, and what budget you are working with will all help you find the ideal barn.
Questions to Ask for Any Boarding Situation:
- Are farrier/vet appointments scheduled? Does someone hold my horse for me?
- What training services are offered?
- Am I required to be in a lesson program?
- What are the daily open hours?
- Are there any restrictions in what I can do with my horse? (rules such as, no jumping outside of lessons)
- If the barn is having an event, do any riding restrictions go into effect?
The good news is that most barn have websites that detail exactly what is included in their services. Hopefully they list their price as well, but it’s very common that they don’t. Barn websites often don’t get updated often, and barns don’t want to be tied to a price they listed two years ago when their costs have now significantly gone up.
You should have an idea of what you’re looking for though – if you’re not quite sure yet, here’s a break down of the different terms used to describe different boarding situations. It’s doesn’t have every term because names can vary by region, but you’ll get the basic understanding.
Full Care Stall Board
The horse is fed, watered, and cared for. It’s every need is noticed and brought to your attention or just cared for with no action required on your part. Farrier and vet appointments are scheduled and a worker will present your horse to them at the appropriate time. Blanketing, wraps, fly spraying, grooming are standard. Someone will probably tack your horse up for you and have it waiting for when you show up. When you’re done, you can hand it off and be done.
You actually wouldn’t need to visit your horse at all, you can just trust that everything is taken care of. This is the highest level of care you can get for your horse, and is perfect for someone who travels a lot, has a consuming job, or other obligations that require attention… and has lots of money, because you should expect this to be expensive – around here it’s at least $1,200, if not more.
- Busy people
- People with big budgets
- People who want to trust someone else to take care of everything
- High maintenance horses that need medicines, coddling or some kind of extra care.
- Show horses that need to be in a program
Still in the stall board family, but not quite at the level of full care, is just plain old stall board. Stall board means your horse lives in a stall, at some point exits the stall for turnout, the stall is cleaned, and bedded, and the horse is placed back in the stall. The horse will be fed and watered. Blanketing in the winter is pretty standard, and fly spray if you provide it in the summer. You can expect your horse will be safe and have a basic level of care (enough that you could go on vacation with no worries), but don’t expect anything outside of that.
You would be responsible for your horse’s grooming, tacking, care appointments, and exercise/training rides. You can pay for all these things to be taken care of, but it’s not generally included in the board.
Sometimes stall board is required for horses in training; the trainer doesn’t want to have to spend extra time fetching a horse from the field and scrapping off a layer of dirt.
Stall board is not cheap, but it is a good choice for the average amateur rider with a job, relieving them of the tedious aspects of horse care but allowing them to enjoy riding and the fun parts. In my area, I’ve seen it as low as $550, but it’s usually around $700.
- Owners who have a job, but otherwise have the time to come visit their horse
- Owners who want to be involved with the care of their horse
- Owners who want to be part of a trainer’s program
- Owners who want a good balance of enjoying their horse time and the pesky essential non-horse time
Pasture board is a great option for horses and their owners – it’s cheaper, as it takes less labor and supply costs, and horses (usually) love being outside.
I am a great believer in pasture board. I believe it’s the #1 best thing you can do for your horse’s health and well being. Horses that can move around at will, roll, play with their friends, and graze are just happy horses.
That being said, not every situation is suitable for pasture board. People who don’t have a lot of time might not like having to fetch their horse from the field or scrape it clean every single time.
Pasture kept horses can look rougher, too. Their are out in the sun and weather, and their coats might end up sun bleached, dusty or oily. They can be plagued by flies, and the constant hoof stomping might break down hooves. They might not like being out in the heat. Some horses also require medicines or special care that might be too hard to administer in a field.
But, for all its downsides, it’s a great option for a budget owner, someone who has lots of time, or someone who doesn’t mind getting completely covered in dirt every visit.
- Owners on a budget
- Low maintenance horses
- Young horses that want to play
- Old horses that need to move
- Horses that don’t have medical issues
- Horses with lots of energy
- Owners that don’t mind a hike every time they visit their horse
If you are looking for bare bones, nothing provided, this is it. You get an empty stall, and some kind of turnout (usually, not always). You can use the facilities, but nothing else is provided. They do nothing for your horse, provide no supplies, nothing, zlitch, nada. You get your own shavings, buckets, and anything else you need. You clean the stall, do all the feedings and turnout. No one is there to help you. You are solely responsible for everything.
The good news is that this can be super cheap. The bad news is that there’s a very good reason why it’s cheap.
This is only for those who plan to be at the barn every day, for hours at a time, or hire a staff to look after their horses. It’s very common for trainers rent dry stalls as a place to run their business. Chances are the average recreational rider is not going to want this option, but it is the responsibility is equivalent to having the horse on your own property, minus actually owning the property. Minus the convenience factor of it being on your property – Imagine if there’s a snow storm or some equivalent and you can’t reach your horse to feed it… what a nightmare!
- People who plan to spend hours at the barn every day and don’t take vacations
- Very specific situations where the property is located directly next to your own home allowing easy access
- Very experienced owners who don’t need any guidance or help
It’s important to find the right situation for you and your horse. Peace of mind and having the right balance of your time is essential for your well being. If you’re able to work at your job and take care of your children, while also knowing your horse is being cared for, full care will give you the peace of mind you need. Or, if you are able to spend all your free time with your horse and love to be involved, it’s important to be at a place where you can do it.
A mismatch of your expectations vs what the barn offers is going to cause conflict, so vet your barn carefully. Ultimately only you can decide what type of situation will work best for you.
Make sure you know what your horse’s turnout should look like – Here’s what you need to know for a safe pasture.