Horse Boarding vs barn. Which is right for you?

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If you’re considering getting into the equestrian lifestyle and committing to horse ownership, there are few things more important to consider than where your horse (or horses) will live and be cared for. On one hand, if you have the space, you can always opt to do your own horsekeeping, though it will involve significant investment on your part. On the other hand, there are likely to be boarding facilities in your general area that can do most of the work for you so that your free time can be spent enjoying your time riding or otherwise bonding with your animal.

There are benefits to each option, as well as some drawbacks that should all factor into your eventual decision. Since many boarding facilities will have all the gear and care that your equine companion will need, it takes a lot of stress off your plate. But keeping your horse at home in your own barn can mean saving a lot of money over time. Let’s dive into which method might be right for you.

Boarding Your Horse

Boarding your horse involves signing a contract with a boarding facility that outlines the cost and terms of your horse's care. In most cases, boarding your horse will allow you to have a third party provide all of their general care, from mucking out their stable to daily feeding and even grooming needs. Not only will the facilities have all of the gear needed to provide care for your horse, but there will also be other riders and horses there, providing crucial social interactions for you and your horse.

Types Of Boarding

Depending on the age and purpose of the horse you’re getting, you may have varying needs from your boarding facility. The different types of boarding arrangements can make sure the needs of you and your horse are met while keeping the price within your budget.

  • Training Board

If you have a green horse or any horse that simply needs more training, and you don’t have the time or experience to take care of it yourself, a training board may be best. It will often cost significantly more than other types of boarding but is often the best way to ensure that your horse receives the proper attention and training that it needs. 

  • Pasture Board

One of the cheaper methods, a pasture board allows your horse the run of a pasture, as well as a run-in shelter from the weather. They will have daily checks for injury and general health, and they will have continual socialization with other horses. This is usually only an option for very healthy horses.

  • Self-Care Board

One of the more affordable options for boarding is self-care boarding, which means that while you will have access to the general facilities, you will be responsible for all of your animal’s feeding and care. The compromise with this is that you must be able to commit to visiting once or twice a day to finish chores, feed, water, and otherwise care for your horse.

  • Full Board

This is a full-service boarding type and will generally include care for all your horse’s needs. They will be fed, watered, turned out, and blanketed, and the price of the feed, hay, and even bedding will be included in the monthly boarding fee. In most cases, your horse will also have periodic vet and farrier appointments, and you and your horse will have full use of all facilities. This is the most expensive type of boarding other than a training board.

  • Part Board

A part board will generally cost a portion of a full board, and while the facility will take care of some of your horse’s needs, you will be responsible for the other portion. Depending on the contract you have with the boarding facility, this could mean that you need to pitch in with chores, or it could mean that the facility has the ability to use your horse a certain number of days a week for riding classes or trail rides. 

  • Retirement Board

If you are rescuing an aging horse, a retirement board may be an option for you. They specialize in senior horse care, or care for injured animals. They will often be at special facilities, but they will also provide all required care. Generally, this will be as costly as a full board.

Home Horsekeeping

The alternative to boarding your horse is to keep them on your property in a barn or stable equipped to safely house them. This means you’ll be solely responsible for not only seeing to their daily needs, such as feeding, haying, watering, turnout, and blanketing when it’s cold, but also to the daily chores like mucking out the stable and providing adequate exercise, and grooming to maintain optimal health.

 

Performing your own horsekeeping also comes with some risks and expenses as well. You’ll have all the time in the world to bond with your companion, but if something were to happen while you’re out riding on private land, you may find some challenges in getting help. It may cost more initially to get set up, but you’ll likely save a lot of money long-term since you won’t be spending $10,000 or more each year for someone else to care for your horse. 

Before You Begin

If you’re ready, there are some things you’ll need to make sure you have before you bring your horse home. Here’s a basic list of gear to have on-hand, in addition to a secure barn and safe pasture:

  • Food & Water
    • Feed pan
    • Feed container for storing feed away from pests and vermin
    • Watering buckets or a trough, with provisions for heating to prevent freezing
  • Barn & Pasture Care
    • Stable broom
    • Manure fork
    • Pitchfork
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Dry storage for hay, feed, and tack
  • Grooming Essentials
    • Halter
    • Leads
    • Curry comb & mane comb
    • Brush
    • Washcloth
    • Blankets
    • Sweat sheet
    • Fly repellent
  • Tack
    • Saddle
    • Saddle pad
    • Bit & bridle
    • Helmet
    • Stirrups
    • Leg support or protection if needed

Weigh Your Options

There is a lot to consider before deciding if you’re going to keep your horse at home or board them, but carefully considering your options will go a long way toward finding the best choice for you and your horse. Make sure you are aware of the expense and time requirements of keeping a horse in a home barn, and if you choose to board, read and fully understand your contract terms and the price you’ll need to pay.

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