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Horse Barns

Stable Advice: Time for Riding

Editor’s Note: Stable Advice is a place for our readers to offer their advice on some of those uniquely equestrian problems. These aren’t the questions that you’d normally ask your vet or trainer. These are questions about horse life, like dealing with interpersonal struggles at the barn, juggling horse commitments and “real world” obligations, and generally navigating the challenges of living in the 21st-century horse world. Think of this as a place to share advice with a group of your best equestrian friends.

If you’d like to submit a question for a future column, email it to and use the subject line “Stable Advice.” Any questions we use will remain anonymous.


This month’s question:

My family keeps our two horses on our 7-acre property. The horses have it great and we know they are loved and cared for. I enjoy the peace and privacy of having them here. Since we’re in charge of their care, we never have to worry about how they are treated.

The downside is that I spend so much time on chores that I don’t get to ride much. When I think I have a free moment, something always comes up, like fence repairs or dealing with hay suppliers on top of regular chores.

I am considering boarding to have more free time with my horse as well as access to amenities we don’t have at home, like a wash stall and an all-season riding ring. But I’m afraid I will miss our tranquil relationship and having full responsibility over my horses’ care.

Is boarding a good solution? Are there any other ways to make time to ride and enjoy my horses when there is so much work to do for them?

This month, Noble Outfitters is sponsoring the Stable Advice column in Horse Illustrated with prizes for the featured response: a Classic Quilted Belt, a pair of Peddies, and a Bits N Pieces Bridle Bag. If you’d like to be considered for a prize, make sure to include your contact info in the email field of the comment form (emails will not be publicly displayed.)

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View Comments

  • The down side of boarding is the gossip and the in fighting. Also, not knowing what is going on with your mares when you are not there. The stable owner was giving lesson on mine and I didn't know it. I had no idea what she was doing to my horse. So, what's a little time for the health and well being of your horse. I would really give some thought to that.

  • I used to be a horse owner - it took most of my time, followed by nagging of other family members... I used to work as a rider and a groom abroad, I enjoyed it and I would be glad to do it again. If you want to ride properly your horse, it is necessary to have at least one peroson to give a hand, doing either some chores or helping you with many other stuff, particulary if you own a farm... I know both sides. From my experience, and having suffered a great loss of my thoroughbred pregnant mare, due to the negligence of the stud farm owner, I would never trust my own horse to someone else. Being responsible and loving horses, wheter they are yours or not, are two the most important issues. I wish I could find such a job again somewhere...

  • What you have is the perfect set up and the dream of many of us - having your horse(s) with you! Set some time aside, e.g. 2-3 times per week where you ride your horse, make it an appointment and go for it. You don't want to pay extra boarding, you don't want to take out extra time to drive to the boarding facility (if you are already time strapped), you don't want to deal with barn drama. Take advantage of the liberty you have now, turn off your phone, saddle up and take a ride!

  • Your current set-up is perfect - if what you need is a hand, hire one! Rather than leave the care of your precious horses to someone who might not have the same philosophy of care as you do, it's better to keep them home, supervise what is done, and hire someone to actually do it. The conditions at boarding stables are not always what you might actually want as far as level of care, oversight, and especially the personalities of other boarders, owners, hands, etc. You cannot imagine the prima donnas you can encounter who will shatter the peace you currently have with your horses. Keep'em home and hire some help is my advice! Good luck with whatever you decide.

  • I think it may depend on how far away your horse would be if you boarded it. If you kept the horse at home, could you regularly allow one hour a day first thing in the morning, or first thing after dinner or before bedtime, to ride and groom your horse? Considering all your chores, you may need that time with your horse as much as he needs that time with you. If you can't commit to one hour a day, is there someone else at home, or a rider neighbor, who can commit to riding the horse and grooming it on a regular basis? If not, I think your horse would be happier being boarded in a stable with other horses, where you or someone else, even a student rider, could ride him on a regular basis. If you were to board your horse, how long would it take you to walk or drive to the horse, ride him, and go back home again? Would that be less than the amount of time you spend on barn chores for the horse? Like a child, a horse can feel neglect even if it is unintentional on your part. If you can't devote time to your horse, you should probably consider leasing him or selling him.

  • Being able to keep your horse on your own property is something that isn't an option for a lot of people, but just because you can do it doesn't mean its whats best for you. Boarding your horse has both positive and negative outcomes. On one hand if you board you could have access to thing that you don't have at your home like an indoor arena or a round pen. But you also may not be able to see your horse as often as you would as you did when you kept them at home. If you find you want to keep your horses at home than maybe you could hire someone to help you with your chores. Either way if you hire someone or choose to board you will have more time to ride and if decide to travel you would know your horses are being taken care of.

  • Look at which tasks you can delegate without worry. For example, it does not take a rocket scientist to fix fence. You can probably find a handyman on Craigslist who will work for $10-$12 an hour. Just feeding and mucking 2 horses shouldn't take long, so I would do that part myself and delegate out the "property maintenance" tasks so that I had time to ride. As far as wishing you had the amenities of a boarding barn - call around, many barns will let you haul in to use their arenas for a fee. We do that!

  • There are certainly pros and cons to both situations.
    Having owned and operated a breeding training/boarding farm for my entire adult life and helping those who have taken "our babies" home, I've seen just about everything you can imagine.
    As with any major decision you should do your own pro/con list and decide which is best for you in the long run.
    Some things to consider. You can always hire part time help at your own place. There are always horse crazy kids or even a mom who could use extra money. This comes very true/real if you want to go on vacation. Also you can always board your horses for a short term if needed. This comes in very handy for emergency situations.
    If you are concerned about where you might board as far as taking care of your is your responsibility to get references and ask around.
    When you narrow it down ask "grooms" ask other boarders that are there ask the owners lots of questions. They should not hesitate to answer the simple/mundane. If so question their knowledge and experience.
    The barn manager or grooms are not your friend. Do not assume because they are nice to you they are doing the right thing. They want your business. The groom doesn't want you complaining to the manager/owner.
    Look at all the water buckets. In the fields and in stalls. If the water buckets aren't clean...chances are they are not detail oriented and won't notice,nicks, cuts and gashes...or colic till its to late. Look at the feed room. Look at the tack room. Look at the office.
    Expect to take your tack and all your belongings with you every time you are going to the barn. Saddle bag, wraps, rags scrapper. They have a tendency to go missing.
    A quick tip to keeping your fencing in good shape. Put a solar hot-wire fence inside all your top rails. The property is only 7 acres. This will save you a lot of time working with fencing.

  • There are definitely good and bad sides to keeping a horse at your home. An option could be boarding at a small or private barn to avoid the rambunctious and business of a public barn. Also, you could see if you could hire someone to help care for your horses, even if it's just once or twice a week to give you a little extra time in the saddle. Everyone has different preferences, it really just comes down to what works best for you, your horses, and family!

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