Boarding vs Keeping Your Horse at Home

Hay friends!…get it…“hay”. Okay it’s cheesy but I couldn’t help it. Let’s talk about boarding! Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the resources or space to keep their four legged friends at home. There’s also probably people who have the resources, but prefer to board instead. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have my horses at home. Currently, I just don’t have the acreage or the barn to keep Cash with me. So, instead I board him. I’m going to share my experience with both situations. 

As mentioned above, I grew up with my horses in my own backyard. So I can tell you first hand how much work it is!  Granted, I was blessed with wonderful parents who did most of the hard work for me. But 12 yr old Alli definitely didn’t see it that way. Looking back, there was so much work that I got out of due to the fact that I was just a kid.

 First off, there’s a lot of poop scooping required. Some people clean stalls daily, however I usually did it a few times a week. Then of course there’s all of the feeding responsibilities. I hated getting up extra early before school to feed my horses in the morning. Now, I would give anything to start my day off by seeing Cash! Hay has to be purchased and loaded into a loft or wherever you store it…which can make for a long, hot day in the summertime! Once again, I was lucky to have a dad and some brothers that did most of this for me. The manure that you clean out of the stall doesn’t just disappear…it has to be removed or spread. My dad bought a manure spreader and usually took care of this every summer. There’s also lots of upkeep required for the barn and fences. Believe it or not, some horses can be pretty destructive. 

Pictured is my childhood horse, Murphy, and our barn. Yes, I’m fully aware there’s a lunge line hanging and that its not safe. I never said I made the best choices in high school. This is the horse responsible for all the chewed stall walls.

*tip: My childhood horse used to chew on the stall walls A LOT. My dad poured a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the wood and he stopped chewing it. This may not have been the best solution, but it worked! 

Water troughs need to be cleaned and filled with fresh water on a regular basis. Horses need to be groomed and have their hooves picked out. Barn doors need to be opened on nice days, and closed on the rainy ones. I remember as a kid having to go out late at night and close up the barn if the weather got nasty. Of course everything mentioned above feels 10x worse in the winter when you can’t feel your fingers or toes!

But, do not fear! There is another option if everything above doesn’t sound appealing. Boarding is another great way to ensure your horse is cared for. Until this past August when I bought Cash, I didn’t have a clue about any of this. I started by calling around to all facilities within driving distance. I made a Word document listing the facilities, their prices, drive time, and extras that I liked. Board prices vary a lot. I saw anywhere from $275-$535 in my area. It depends on many different things, such as amenities (indoor/outdoor arena, wash rack or stall, trails, pasture board vs stalls, etc.), self, partial, or full care, whether or not grain is provided, and so on. There’s a lot to take into account when choosing the best barn for your bud. I found it helpful to make a list of things that I had to have, things I would like, and things I could live without. Drive time was also a key factor for me. Driving almost an hour to see my horse was not something I was interested in. 

It’s also a great idea to visit some of the barns you are most interested in. This way there aren’t any disappointments later. Assess for any safety concerns regarding the stalls and pasture fencing. Ask about what type of feed is provided, and what kind of hay is fed? Check out where the feed/hay is kept. Is it stored properly so that rodents (or opossums) can’t get into it? Is there an easily accessible water source in turnout areas? Another important question I learned is to ask how much feed/hay is included in the cost of board. Those of you with hard keepers…this could easily ramp up your monthly bill! 

If the facility gives lessons it is important to ask what the rules are for riding. Some barns do not allow other boarders to ride during lesson times, while some do not mind. Ask what services are included in boarding costs. As simple as applying a blanket or fly spray sounds, you may find extra charges on your bill for these services. 

Turn out is another huge topic to address. Ask about daily pasture time, weather permitting. It’s important to know how your horse will be introduced to the other horses, how many horses he/she will be turned out with, and if they will be monitored during the first few meetings. Some horses just do not get along. Making sure horses are compatible is essential to safety for everyone involved. 

I have boarded at two different barns so far, and each has been wonderful! There are some things that I’ve liked better at each barn. For me, it came down to cost and drive time. I spend almost every night at the barn, so a shorter drive was priority. I also choose to bring my own grain because I wanted a higher quality feed that is specific to my senior horse’s needs.  

I have been fortunate enough to have overall good experiences with boarding, but I still hope to have my own barn at home someday. 

The important takeaway from this is to consider what option will best fit your lifestyle. If boarding is the best route for you, make sure to do your research to ensure both your needs and your horse’s are met. 

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