By: Susan Stafford-Pooley
So, you finally have a horse of your own – but where are you going to keep him?
Even the most economical housing choice for your horse will set you (or your parents) back a fair bit every month. Let’s look at the options, ranging in price from cheapest to most expensive:
Home Sweet (your) Home
If you already live on a farm and have a barn, or have a large fenced property on which zoning bylaws allow livestock, then consider yourself lucky! Your expenses will include feed (hay, grain, supplements), bedding (straw or shavings), barn cleaning tools, and regular vet and farrier bills. If you don’t have a barn, horses can live outside reasonably well as long as they have a roomy run-in shed with the opening facing away from the prevailing winds, deeply bedded with clean straw.
Advantages: Being able to walk out the door to the barn or paddock and ride or interact with your horse whenever you want.
Disadvantages: You will have to perform all or most of the work yourself – mucking out, feeding, loading supplies, being there for the vet and farrier, minor repairs, etc – even if you’re tired or have homework. If you want to go away for a weekend or a vacation, you’ll need to have someone horse-sit. Also, if you only have one horse, he can become lonely without herdmates.
A friend’s farm
A friend may offer to put your horse up in her barn for a reasonable monthly fee (say, $100-$200), as long as you help with the chores and/or feed expenses. Make sure you settle everything before you move in to avoid misunderstandings; for instance, will you be expected to come every day to help out, or only alternate days? Can your trainer come to their farm to teach? When is the board due, and what does it include?
Advantages: Your horse will have company, and you will have a friend to ride with. If you go away, your horse will still be looked after.
Disadvantages: If anything goes wrong (you fail to meet your obligations, you think your horse is being underfed, etc.) it can ruin your friendship.
A boarding stable
If you want to take regular lessons and show, and be certain your horse is getting the best feed and care, you are better off keeping him at a boarding stable with a good reputation. Make sure the focus is on the discipline of your choice; for instance, there is no reason to board at a dressage barn if you want to do hunter/jumper. Make sure you know exactly what your board includes: how often your horse will be fed, the hours you are allowed to ride, turnout, do you have to be present to hold your horse for the vet and farrier, plus ‘extras’ such as having boots put on for turnout, additional bedding, feeding supplements, etc.
Advantages: You will be riding and training with people who have the same interests, your horse will be getting wonderful care, and you do not have to perform any of the labour.
Disadvantages: The cost for this type of facility can range from $300 to $1,000 per month or more, depending on services, extras, whether lessons are included, etc.
You may be able to switch it up a bit – pasture board your horse at a friend’s place in the summer, then move him to a facility with a cozy stall and an indoor arena for the winter. (Just make sure everyone involved knows the plan; barn managers hate “surprises.”) Do some research, ask around, and choose the best option for your particular situation and your horse’s welfare.