The Joy of Boarding

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Note: This is day 22 of my 30-day blogging challenge. What the heck is a 30-day blogging challenge? Read about it here.

Snoopy
Uncle Snoopy and his old boarding stable crew.

Every time we post something on our Facebook page about boarding, we get a certain type of comment from a handful of at-home horsekeepers. These range from the sympathetic (“I’m so glad I have my horses at home now!”) to the baffled, (“Why not just keep your horse at home and take care of him yourself?”) to the kinda hostile (“If you can’t take care of your own horse, you shouldn’t have one.”)

These last two categories of comments didn’t make sense to me at first. I’ve always thought of having a horse at home as a luxury. In the areas I’ve lived, land is expensive and even if you have some, it might not be zoned for horses. Boarding is the default option for most people who live in or around cities and/or on the coasts. But if you live in more remote areas, land is probably easy to come by while finding someone else to house your horse might be a challenge.

And while I really don’t think there’s any need for hostility, I guess I can kind of see where that third group is coming from. If you told me you had a dog, but you kept it at someone else’s house and went to see it for an hour or two each day, I’d wonder how you could even call yourself a dog owner. It’s not a direct comparison, of course—the expectations for canine companionship are quite different from horse ownership, but you get the point. If no one around you boarded horses, it would seem like a weird way to have a horse.

Part of the reason we get these kinds of reactions is the nature of the boarding articles we share. A lot of them are problem solving: dealing with challenging barn managers or co-boarders and other dilemmas. If this was your exposure to the world of boarding a horse, you’d have every reason to want to steer clear. So today, I’m going to celebrate the boarding stable by sharing some of the things I’ve learned to appreciate about the arrangement in my 10+ years of boarding my horse.

  1. There’s always another set of eyes. Although I’m a big fan of peace and quiet at the barn, the fact that there are always people coming and going means that the horses are never completely unattended for long. If my horse colics in the field at 10 a.m. on a weekday, someone will notice. If he was in my backyard, it’s unlikely anyone would lay eyes on him until eight hours into this colic episode.
  2. There’s always another brain. I’m a reasonably knowledgeable horse owner, but I don’t know it all. If something seems slightly off with my horse or I want to get a second opinion on a piece of tack or a training technique, there are other horse people around to discuss it with. No need to try to explain something over the phone or via email to a far-off horsey friend.
  3. I can jet off to Vegas for a week. Mind you, I don’t do this. I have never done this and I probably never will, but it’s not my horse holding me back. At his boarding barn, he’s taken care of. If he were at home, I’d have to find someone willing to look after him anytime I wanted to leave town. I don’t travel much, but I do like to go home to visit my family once in a while, and I’ve had the amazing opportunity to take work trips to Italy and Brazil in recent years. I’m glad I haven’t had to pass up these opportunities because I had to stay home and feed my horse.
  4. I only have to own one horse. Not that I would mind owning multiple horses, but time and money are issues here. Some horses are fine on their own, but in general, they’re social creatures who are less stressed when they have companions. So if I had Snoopy at home, I’d need a Snoopy Jr., too, and then a Snoopy III to keep one Snoopy company while I had the other one out on a trail ride. In my present boarding situation, Snoopy’s got three friends in his field plus several neighbors over the fence and I don’t have to pay the feed, vet and farrier bills for any of ‘em.
  5. I can live in the city. I know, to some of you, that sounds horrifying, and I get it. It has its drawbacks. But I really like urban(ish) life. There are all kinds of stores, restaurants and other businesses within easy walking distance of my house. I can go downtown for various festivities, and when other people complain about how hard it was to find parking, I just shrug. In fact, the only place I really have to start my car to get to is the barn. Would I trade it all to be able to see my horse outside my window? Ask me again in a few years and I suspect I’ll say yes. But if you’d asked me any time within the past 10 years, I would have said no way. I wanted to live in the city in my 20s, and I also wanted to have my horse. I got to do both. Thanks, boarding!
  6. I don’t have to risk a jail sentence for the bank robbery I’d have to commit to buy a farm. It takes a lot of cash upfront to by property, even just a few modest acres. I don’t have it. Does that mean I shouldn’t own a horse? I don’t think so. Snoopy’s pretty happy at his boarding stable, and that makes me happy.

There are pros and cons to both boarding and at-home horsekeeping, but I hope this has helped to alleviate some of the negative perceptions that exist about boarding. I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave ‘em in the comments.

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Leslie Potter is Sr. Associate Web Editor of HorseChannel.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex.

7 COMMENTS

  1. We have a unique situation where we board but we do the feeding and cleaning of all the horses. We only have a few horses but it allows the farm owner to travel for work and know that someone is taking care of the horses and seeing after the farm while away on business.
    We like it because we share in the responsibility of caring for our horses but at an expense we can afford, financially and physically.

  2. I’m very lucky to have a family run barn, that provides me with a guiding hand. I need to be the patient one, sometimes hard to do, but in the end they got my back! Earl’s Performance Horses, shout to all of you. . . .

  3. I couldn’t have owned a horse if it hadn’t of been for boarding facilities. I’ve had good and bad things, but I enjoy having a horse even if I can’t keep it in my back yard.

  4. I think it’s a wonderful article. I have been a horse owner for 20 + years. I have had my horses at boarding barns, both good and bad. I have also been fortunate to have them on our property for the last five years. While it was the most wonderful experience circumstances with my health have caused us to have to move. My husband has always helped me with our horses, but he travels overseas with work often. While away I care for our horses. I have autoimmune issues so on the good days this is fine where as on the bad days it’s difficult. We are now moving to a city and I’m super stoked there is a boarding barn. As my husband said,look at it from the horses point of view. They are social herd based animals. As much as I like to think they enjoy my company, in all reality I’d say they are quite content to hang with their pals all day. I do go out every day though and I’d say they are pretty happy about that too. I think as long as they get to remain horses and enjoy grazing etc it can sometimes work out better. The boarding stable has more acreage for them to enjoy. There are a variety of horses and frankly it’s probably more exciting then our pasture. All that being said the key is the right barn. Each owner has different views on what meets their criteria. My biggest concerns are safety, a trustworthy staff, and a pasture type setting with a shelter. If it’s really nasty I like them to come into a stall, but by no means do I think they Should be confined 24/7. I’ve found they are happiest when they are in a natural environment 😉

  5. Love, love, love this article! I have lived in both city and country and while my heart is forever in the country, I am not able to afford it yet. Boarding has its setbacks, as does keeping a horse at home. Most boarding stables I have been to require you feed, blanket, and care for your horses. Most of us dream of that luxurious country home but just haven’t reached that point in our lives yet. 🙂

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