If you’re thinking about getting a horse, one of the first questions you’re going to have to ask yourself if “where am I going to keep it?” Lucky for all of us horse-people who don’t have the luxury of owning land, you can keep your horse at a boarding stable. These stables charge a monthly fee in order to house your horse and provide for the horse’s needs.
So, how do you choose the right boarding stable for you and your horse? There are a number of things to keep in mind when it comes to deciding on the perfect boarding stable:
- monthly boarding fees
- boarding options
- turnout for the horses
- facilities available
- on-site trainers/instructors
- tack & supplies storage options
- stable activities
- horse friends
Before you start researching boarding stables, make a list of all the wants and expectations you want in a stable. This will help you to narrow down your list. Having an idea of each point above and what your options are within the specific points will help you to clearly picture your ideal boarding stable.
Monthly Boarding Fees
One of the most important aspects to remember when it comes to looking for the right boarding stable for your horse is how much can you afford in monthly boarding fees. Horse boarding fees can range anywhere between $150 to thousands of dollars each month.
Many people will be surprised to learn that the original price you paid to buy your horse won’t be your biggest expense. The biggest expense you’ll take on from owning a horse will be boarding fees. These fees can quickly add up to $2,000+ a year depending on the stable you choose.
The average cost of horse boarding in the United States is $350-$400 a month. It can be easy to find boarding rates both cheaper and more expensive than this.
Researching stables in your area before purchasing a horse will help you to know the type of expenses you will be taking on. Having a budget planned ahead of time will help you to know what stables you can and can’t afford.
If you’re on a tighter budget when it comes to owning a horse, do not fear. There are many ways you can save money when it comes to boarding. Check out our article, 16 Tips for Owning a Horse on a Budget.
There are a number of boarding options to choose from when it comes to determining the right boarding stable for your horse. Some stables will only offer certain boarding option, so knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time will help you decide on the perfect stable.
The most common horse boarding options to choose from are:
- full-care board
- pasture board
- self-care board
These boarding options can range in price and determine what amenities are available to the horse.
Full-care board is usually the most expensive boarding option, but also comes with the most benefits. With full-care board, your horse will usually get its own stall, will be provided with grain, hay, and water, and will be turned out on rotation. A barn staff will take care of the daily needs of your horse.
Pasture board will still ensure your horse quality care while being a more affordable boarding option. When you choose to pasture board your horse, your horse will be turned out 24/7 in a pasture will adequate shelter, water, and other resources. Barn staff will still take care of the daily needs of your horse, such as feeding and blanketing.
The self-care boarding option is the cheapest option to choose from. When you decide on this option, you are simply paying to keep your horse on someone else’s land. You are solely responsible for your horse’s care, like feeding, blanketing, turn-in and turn-out.
Boarding fees are just one expense in a list of many when it comes to owning a horse. To see the monthly average of the above boarding options, check out our website, What Does it Cost to Own a Horse? Complete Expense Guide.
Location can play a big role in choosing the perfect boarding stable for you and your horse. I personally hate driving, so the boarding stable I can find closer to my house will usually be the one I always go with. It’s nice knowing I can just zip down the road and see my horse.
If you compete regularly, you will want to consider choosing a riding stable that is closer to a popular equestrian center. Not only do these centers have competitions every weekend, but you can usually pay a fee to go ride on the premises during the week.
If you live in a city, the closest boarding options may be really expensive. If you’re willing to travel and you’re looking for a cheaper boarding option, looking beyond your city’s reach may be the perfect location to find your boarding stable.
Depending on what facilities a boarding stable provides can greatly determine the type and number of riders that are interested in boarding there. Equestrians will usually look for facilities that cater to their specific discipline: jumpers will want a nice jumping ring, trail riders will want nice trails.
The facilities available can make or break a boarding stable. Here is a list of the most common boarding stable facilities that horse owners look at:
Make a list of the facilities you have to have when it comes to choosing your boarding stable. Beyond that, make a note at which the quality of the facilities should be kept. Unkept facilities can make for dangerous situations for you and your horse.
Stables are a big part of the horse boarding experience: your horse will stay in a stall to eat; you’re horse will be tied in the aisle to be tacked up and groomed; your tack and supplies will be stored in the tack room.
When it comes to stabling, the first thing I would look at is the stall that my horse will be staying in. Is the stall big enough for my horse? Does it have proper ventilation and lighting? Are there any hazards my horse could potentially get injured on?
Next, I’d move to the tack room; is my tack safe in there? Is the air damp and musty? Is there adequate storage for all my stuff?
Understand your own expectations before walking into a boarding stable. These expectations will help you to determine exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to choosing a boarding stable.
Ah, now the fun begins! If you compete in a certain discipline, you’ll want to focus on finding a boarding stable that has the facilities where you can practice and improve at said discipline. Since training is usually done in the arena, that’s the place to start.
Does the arena at the boarding stable cater to your discipline? If you’re a jumper, is there an arena that has jumps and adequate footing? If you’re into penning, is there an arena with shoots for the cattle and horses?
Having access to the proper facilities can determine the continuation work in your specific discipline. The worst thing that can happen is that you choose a boarding stable where you are no longer able to train because you lack the proper facilities.
The thing I consider to be a make-it or break-it boarding stable is the turn-out provided for the horses. When I look for turn-out, I look for pastures that have good grass for grazing and space where it can provide for all the horses in the pasture.
If you visit a boarding stable and the turn-outs are over-crowded and there isn’t adequate food, I would recommend looking elsewhere. Horses are built to run and roam; if they’re being kept in a small space, then that natural behavior is taken away from them.
Another aspect I like in my boarding stables is trail access. I enjoy trails; they challenge the horse and offer a nice get-away from routine ring work. After all, it can get boring riding in an arena over and over and over again.
Trail riding may be your discipline; if so, then finding a boarding stable that offers trails is a must. If you’re interested in getting into trail riding, click here to read our article, 16 Horse Trail Riding Tips.
Many horse owners choose their boarding stable based on the trainers or instructors that work there. Having an instructor on site can lead to more consistent training for you and your horse.
If you are looking into getting a horse, I highly recommend to first find an instructor to work with. Take a few lessons from them and see if its a good fit between you. If this is the instructor you’d like to continue to work with, consider their stable as your boarding option.
Here are some things to keep in mind when basing your boarding option off of a particular trainer or instructor:
- Does the instructor specialize in the discipline I want to train in
- Do you have the budget to take lessons from the instructor (it’s important to pay for someone’s time and not automatically assume you can get free sessions just because you board at their stable)
- Does the instructor communicate well and cater to your ways of learning
- Can the instructor take on more clients
- Do you agree with the training methods and the approaches that the instructor takes
The list could go on and on. If you’re a barn regular, then chances are you’re going to see your instructor quite frequently. Establishing a good and respectful relationship can go a long way at making your boarding experience enjoyable.
Tack & Supplies Storage Options
Having good tack and supplies storage is a must to some horse boarders. Tack is not cheap, so finding a boarding stable that offers safe, secure, and proper storage is important.
When you visit a boarding stable, see what their security measures are for protecting not only your tack but also your horse. Do they have a secure entrance to the barn? Do they lock the tack room and the stable at night? Is there someone who lives on-site who watches over the horses and the stables.
When you’re looking at the tack storage options that a boarding stable offers, you will want to find a stable that offers an airy open environment for tack. Sometimes if you put tack in a musty dark environment, mold and mildew can grow. If you want to uphold the quality of your tack, then be aware of the storage options available.
If you like to compete in horse shows or take part in other barn outings, finding a boarding stable that caters to this will be beneficial. Show stables will usually take care of planning, scheduling, and even trailering you to and from competitions. This can be a much more enjoyable experience than having to go all by yourself.
Growing up, I boarded at the best stables; it was a great family-oriented atmosphere. They’d put on schooling shows, summer camps, and barn get-togethers. If this is what you’re after, the best way to find these stables is to read reviews online. Reviews are usually left by current boarders, and you can get the low-down on all the activities.
If you want to be able to train with some top-notch riders, find a stable that hosts clinics for professional riders and trainers. Just by keeping up with the clinics in your area you should be able to see a pattern in locations where the events are being held.
What’s one of the best things about owning a horse? The friends you’ll make! No one can deny that your fellow horse friends will be some of the best friends you ever make. Find a boarding stable where you’ll have the capability of making more friends.
If you’re looking for a new boarding stable, then asking your horse friends is a great way to find the right one. They’ll usually recommend their own boarding stable! You can also be at ease knowing that your friend will tell you the truth about the stables they know about and whether they think it’s a good idea to board there or not.
I hope this article helps you to choose a great boarding stable that you and your horse will love. Once you’ve lined up the ideal boarding stable, then it’s time to go get your horse! If this is your first time owning a horse, check out our article, 50 Tips for New Horse Owners: Everything You Need to Know.