For folks with just one or two horses, the choice between boarding at a stable or converting their land into horse property is a tough decision. There are quite a few pros and cons for each possibility, so let’s look them over and weigh each option. There’s a lot to consider!
There are many advantages to boarding. A boarding situation often means that a professional with years of experience is overseeing the daily and extended overall care of your animal, and there will often be other horse folks around to offer advice. You might be able to more easily tag along to shows, trail rides, and other events. You might have the opportunity to participate in clinics and other educational opportunities, not to mention the camaraderie and social atmosphere that comes with life at a stable. Still, all these benefits come at a price—a monthly board bill—and you don’t have complete control over general stable decisions, or 24/7 access to your horse.
Keeping at Home
On the other hand, keeping your horse(s) at home offers advantages that boarding doesn’t give you. There’s nothing like having your horse living on your own property, where you can literally walk from your front door down to the barn or pasture and be with your horse in seconds—not to mention the delightful sight of him grazing within view of the living room window. This easy access means that you’ll likely spend more time with your horse—riding, grooming, working on new goals, and simply hanging out together. Having your horse at home puts you in full control of schedule and care decisions—you won’t have someone else’s rules telling you when and how to do something.
That’s not to say that keeping a horse at home is all fun and no work. After all, when a horse is on your property at all times, then you are the prime—and often the sole—source of care. This places at least some restrictions on your ability to be spontaneous. You may find that you’ll need to adjust work and social schedules based around your horse’s needs: “…No, that won’t work, I have to be back before 8:30 so I can feed…” People who enjoy travelling (or must travel for work), may eventually find it tiresome to repeatedly recruit friends and family members as part-time horse-sitters—something that isn’t a problem in a boarding situation. And of course, no matter how much you enjoy your horse, there will always be times when you’re not feeling well or the weather is bad and you’ll think, “I sure wish I could stay inside today!” But your horse is waiting, and requires your attention, rain or shine.
Another advantage—or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it—to keeping a horse at home is that you’ll be in charge of building and maintaining your own stable and fencing facilities. While designing your own barn and horse property can be fun and challenging, it’s also not an inexpensive or quick project. It also requires you to consider things like your climate (how will you prevent your horse’s water from freezing?) and predators (how will you protect your horses from stray dogs, wolves, mountain lions, etc…?).
How about you? Do you board? Do you keep a horse at home? Are you still debating this decision?
Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer
and professional photographer. He’s the author of several books,
including How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur
Press, 2014). Dan’s barn is home to Summer, a Welsh/TB cross, Orion, a
Welsh Cob, and Mati and Amos, two Welsh Mountain Ponies. Follow him at www.facebook.com/foxhillphoto.