How to Choose a Horse Boarding Facility [complete guide to types of equestrian stables]
Choosing a great horse boarding facility begins with knowing what to look for and what to avoid. You want a clean operation that is run by good people experienced with horses and where they always keep the health and safety of your horse as a top priority.
I am going to cover all the common horse boarding questions in this article to help ensure you find and choose a good facility that you can trust and depend on.
It’s not always easy to ensure your horse will have the proper care from a boarding facility, but with this guide, you will be able to pick out some of the top warning signs that a facility isn’t going to meet your needs.
Also, I include the things to look for in a good horse boarding facility that will help put your mind at ease that you have in fact made a good choice.
What is Horse Boarding?
Horse boarding is basically finding a place for your horse to live. Also called a boarding stable, this will be a great place to keep your horse if you don’t have room to keep them at home.
You can frequently visit your equine partner and make sure they are properly cared for even if you have a busy schedule.
Most boarding and training facilities have a large covered arena for you to ride in, and the opportunity to take lessons.
Important Qualities for ALL Horse Boarding Facilities
Choosing the right facility can be stressful if you aren’t sure what to look for. Here is a short checklist that will set you on the right path.
What to look for in a Quality Horse Boarding Facility:
- Clean stalls.
- Fresh water should be available to the horse at any time.
- Clean, organized feed rooms.
- High-quality hay.
- Additional available services, such as blanketing, turnout, and special care if your horse needs it.
- A reputable business owner, manager, and trainer.
- Check the other horses to see what their care looks like.
- Read reviews about the facility.
- Check to see how the isle ways, walkways, bathrooms, and other areas are cared for. This is a tell-tale sign of how well your horse will be cared for.
- Blanket washing services.
- Wash racks that are clean and maintained well.
Most facilities will care for your horse very well. Some will not, or even be abusive. Talk to some of the other boarders if you can and ask their opinions.
If you are dealing with a private facility, it can be a bit harder to tell what the care looks like. Just use discernment and keep an eye on your horse.
Frequent check-ins will ensure that your horse is being cared for in a way you agree with.
Types of Horse Boarding
All horse owners should know about the different boarding options that are available to them.
There are a couple of different options when it comes to boarding. Your choice will depend on your budget, personal needs along with your horse’s daily needs.
Horse Boarding Options
- There is full boarding available, where the barn provides all of the care, full-time, and any extra services for the boarding horses. This is amongst the most popular option.
- Partial-care boarding is a great option depending on the number of horses you have that need to be boarded.
You usually will be responsible for feeding your horse once a day, or responsible for cleaning stalls. There may be an additional fee if you require help with any barn chores.
- Self-care is where you take care of your horse’s needs entirely, but still, have access to the use of the facilities for everything you desire.
Self-care board is a great option for those who really have a deep love of horses and very much time to dedicate to their horses.
When you use self-care boarding there are a lot of times, options to further bring down board costs by caring for other people’s horses.
- Pasture boarding can be extremely affordable, and the equestrian center will generally provide your horse with alfalfa hay, grass, hay, or timothy.
A pasture board is also a wonderful option during the summer for older horses. There are generally much lower rates for pasture boarding than the other above-mentioned options.
Full Care Boarding and Full Service Boarding Facilities
Full care boarding is a great choice if you want to ensure your horse is cared for properly. This is especially important if you have a hard time getting off work each day to provide consistent care.
When choosing a full care boarding situation, you can also have access to horse training, horse sales, and school horses if you have a younger prospect that needs a trainer to ride with.
Most trainers require your horse to be boarded full-time in order for any training services to be performed.
Horse Pasture Boarding
During the summer and warmer months, if you have a horse that tolerates it, pasture boarding is a great choice. It is also economically more feasible.
Your horse will be able to enjoy being in a beautiful place, with acres of property to roam around on. The open space to move freely is really good for horses with arthritis or other health reasons that need constant mobility.
During the cold weather, you will want to ensure your horse has a covered area, has access to box stalls, or change your boarding contract to bring them in at night depending on your climate.
Horse Stall Boarding
Stall boarding or stable boarding can mean a couple of different things. It ensures that your horse has access to a stall, but the terms of this boarding agreement will vary based on the boarding facilities’ agreements.
Horse Stable Boarding Agreement
Horse Stall Boarding agreements can include:
- Full-time care
- Part-time care
- A stall only, with no access to other amenities.
Makes sure you talk with the owner, barn manager, or trainer at the facility that deals with boarding and agreements to ensure you choose the right choice for you and your horse.
Self Care Boarding
Self-care boarding is perfect for 4-h kids, pony club members, or even full-time equestrians. Some facilities don’t offer self-care.
It is a good idea to check a facility’s website or call them to double-check that they offer self-care before going to check out the facility.
When you are using self-care boarding you will usually be in charge of all of your horse’s care. This is another option widely used when leasing a horse.
Barn chores with self-care:
- Turn out/ in.
- Feeding and watering.
- Working your horse and riding.
- Stall care.
- Supplementation and scheduling any vet appointments, dental work, or farrier services.
Partial Care Boarding
Partial care boarding usually means that the stable staff will take care of one feeding per day, turnout, bringing horses in, and stall care.
This varies based on the facility. You will be responsible for part of your horse’s needs along with providing them their sweet feed, other grain, or supplements.
Horse training is a vast market. Many boarding facilities will offer training with a trainer that is onsight and has a slew of other horses in training.
You don’t necessarily need to have your horse in full-time training to reap the benefits. Many trainers offer different training packages or charge an hourly rate for lessons.
The overall quality of training and lessons provided will depend entirely on the trainer, so be wise when choosing a facility and trainer.
A great trainer will emphasize correctness, and compassion, and have a firm foundation in equine fundamentals, science, and handling.
It can be a difficult task to pick the right horse trainer. Be warned that there are many people who call themselves horse trainers, but are barely above a beginner level themselves.
Horse Trainer Questions to Ask
- How long have you been riding and training?
- Who have you worked with or been an apprentice for at the beginning of your horse training career?
- Ask for references.
- Look up their website.
- Watch them at shows, and clinics, or ask to sit in on a lesson they are giving.
Horse Riding Lessons
No matter what level of rider you are riding lessons is a really good idea. It will give you the benefit of having an outside perspective on what is happening with your horse and riding position.
To become a great horseman or woman you need to be a balanced rider with a proper understanding of how and why a horse uses their body.
Disciplines and Trainers:
Depending on the discipline, your training needs will vary. Along with the methods used in training your horse and yourself.
It is a good idea to choose a trainer who has experience in the disciple you want to ride or show in.
Boarding For an Older Horse
Once a horse becomes a “senior citizen,” its needs drastically change. They can become prone to lameness and disease much easier.
Their dietary changes will be different than that of a younger horse as well. Vet care, floating, and farrier costs will more than likely go up as they will need more maintenance.
Selecting Boarding for Your Elderly Horse
- Choose a location or facility with experience caring for older horses.
- Create a good, consistent diet for your older horse.
- Adapt to their needs.
How Much Does Horse Boarding Cost?
Horse boarding prices can vary greatly depending on where you live as well as other factors.
Factors That Influence Horse Boarding Cost
There are many factors that influence the cost of boarding your horse. Costs vary by barn or facility. Some places charge $475/per month for full care.
Some places charge $2,500/ per month for full care, turnout, feed, and grain, along with training. When selecting a location it is important to determine your budget and preferences.
Horse Boarding Contracts
After you select a facility and determine your needs, the next step is the boarding contract.
A boarding agreement or contract is an important piece of paperwork that you should be provided with upon agreeing to board at a specific facility. Any facility that does not provide this should be avoided.
A boarding contract protects you, your horse, and the facility. It also is a good way to ensure that a facility has insurance and is operating legally.
Boarding Facility Amenities
Many facilities will gladly provide you with access to a variety of amenities (if they have them available. These amenities will raise the cost of boarding.
Some of the most common amenities to look for in a horse boarding facility are:
- Round pen
- Large covered arena
- Galloping track
- Outdoor riding arenas
- Daily turnout
- Tack room
- Trail rides/ trail riding
- Indoor riding arena
- Wash rack
These options give you the option to ride, train, and care for your horse in the best possible manner.
No matter what discipline of riding you prefer from barrel racing to western pleasure or even English riding.
Horse Boarding Related Questions
Is it Cheaper to Board a Horse or Keep Them at Home?
This answer will vary based on your setup at home. If you have a great spot that is fenced and have a shelter or covered area for your horse it can be much cheaper.
If you are looking to ride constantly, this may not be the best option if you don’t have an arena at home because then you will be hauling out to facilities and paying a fee every time you want to ride.
What Do You Need to Keep a Horse at Home?
Having your horse at home is fun and convenient. Keep in mind you will need to handle all of your hay, grain, supplementation, farrier, and vet expenses and deliveries.
This can become challenging if you don’t have the proper storage area or setup.
What Happens During an Emergency Situation at a Horse Boarding Facility?
Every horse barn will be different. Most larger facilities have live-in staff that are onsite 24/7 in case of an emergency.
During my time as a barn manager I lived inside the barn and checked on the horses at 7 pm, 10 pm, 2 am, and 6 am.
Most professionally operated horse facilities make sure that each horse is taken care of and checked on frequently.
For more insight, it is a good idea to check with each barn you are interested in and ask them what their emergency procedures are before you place your horse there.
Going to look at boarding facilities and potential trainers is a very exciting thing.
It can be daunting at first but keep these practical tips in mind and you will feel much more confident in the choice you make for your equine partner.