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Boarding or Keeping Your Horse at Home: What’s Best for You?

Both boarding and at-home care have their pros and cons, so consider your situation carefully before making the best decision for you and your horse.
A woman leads a paint horse in western tack out of the barn

Caring for a horse is a big responsibility—one you can choose to undertake yourself or lean on others for help. If you own enough property to house a horse, keeping him at home might sound like a long-awaited dream come true. For many equestrians new to the horse ownership game, boarding is the better alternative. Both equine housing options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to consider your lifestyle, finances, and needs before making your choice. In this article, we’ll help you make an informed decision about what’s best for you and your horse.

Boarding vs. Housing at Home

When you board a horse, you pay a fee (typically monthly) to keep him on someone else’s property. The setup can be as simple as a pasture with a shelter and DIY care or as elaborate as a full-service facility with staff to perform every task and chore. If you don’t own or rent land suitable for horses, your decision-making process ends here: You’ll need to find a boarding stable.

If you can house your horse at home, you’ll need to ensure the property is equipped with (or you’re willing to invest in) the basic necessities every horse needs: some type of shelter, room for pasture, safe fencing, a water source, and storage space for feed, hay, and equipment. And, unless you plan to hire staff to help, you’ll be responsible for every aspect of your horse’s care and property’s maintenance.

Things to Consider

Horses looking over their stalls doors in a barn.
Boarding facilities often offer more amenities than you’d have on your own property. | Getty Images

Here are some important factors to consider when weighing your horse housing options:

Costs: Let’s face it: Horse-care costs are never certain. But if you want a predictable spending plan, boarding is more likely to provide that. At home, you’ll need to account for fluctuating feed and commodities prices and the unexpected fencing repair or pasture renovation.

Time: Keeping horses at home is time-consuming. If you work a tight schedule or travel frequently, you might have lower stress and better peace of mind boarding him. Boarding your horse also allows you to spend more of your valuable time grooming, riding, and hanging out with your horse than doing farm chores.

Convenience: Both boarding and at-home housing are convenient in their own ways—your choice between the two depends on your priorities. At home, you don’t have spend time driving to the barn and you have complete control over scheduling and purchasing decisions. At a boarding barn, fees like veterinary farm calls are split between clients and you don’t have to worry about finding and stocking feed and supplies.

Knowledge: If this is your first time (or first time in a long time) owning and caring for a horse yourself, be prepared for a learning curve! At a boarding barn, you’re surrounded by fellow boarders and experienced horse people who can provide you with guidance and advice.

Priorities: Did you buy a horse so you can ride and take lessons, or do you simply enjoy the care-giving and camaraderie? Boarding your horse can give you access to trails, arenas, and even a professional trainer, while keeping your horse at home allows you to spend endless hours with her.

Companionship: This goes for both horses and humans. If you keep your horse at home, consider that horses are social animals, and you might need to provide yours with a buddy—whether that’s another horse, pony, or companion animal like a donkey or a goat. And if you’re a social butterfly who enjoys riding in groups and spending time with likeminded horse lovers, boarding might be the best option for you.

Amenities: Consider all the luxuries you’d like with your horse housing situation. Boarding facilities often offer more amenities than you’d have on your own property, including arenas, wash racks, trailering services, and climate-controlled tack rooms. Access to these perks might make boarding worth the expense.

The Choice Is Yours

After weighing the pros and cons of boarding vs. keeping your horse at home, the best choice for you depends on your personal situation, preferences, and budget. Consider factors such as your available space, resources, and the amount of time and attention you can give your horse. No matter your decision, prioritize your horse’s health and welfare above all else.

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