Horse Care Tips

Horse Boarding 101 (What it Costs, Types, FAQs)

horse in stall
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Written by Allison G.

What it costs to board a horse, and what you (should) get for your money

One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to horse ownership is finding a place to keep it! After all, horse are big, like to run around, and eat a whole bunch. As much as you’d wish they might, they don’t fit in an apartment and would be pretty miserable in that environment anyway. To further complicate things, there are laws regarding where and how horses can be kept, even if you have a large enough backyard. So what can you do? Board them!

When you choose to board your horse, you may initially balk at the cost. But, having a full understanding of what you get for those funds can help you feel confident about your decision. There are some significant pros and cons when it comes to boarding horses, and equally significant ones when it comes to keeping them at home. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is horse boarding?

Horse boarding refers to housing your horse at a facility that is managed by another individual for a fee. There are many variations between facilities and regions, so touring the grounds and getting a breakdown of what they include in their fee is of utmost importance.

Why board your horse?

You should board your horse if you do not have a place to house it on your property, want access to amenities that you wouldn’t normally have access to (e.g. arenas and trails), or if you want to have easier access to trainers and instructors.

There is often the added bonus of having the horse’s daily needs cared for by another person, depending on the type of board you chose, which gives you more flexibility to go on vacation or skip out on barn chores if you have a heavy workload or other obligations.

horse in stall

source: canva

Why keep your horse at home?

You can keep your horse at home if you have the space, facilities, and it is allowed on your property. Some places have an acreage requirement, and some have a zoning requirement. There are also many home owners associations (HOAs) that ban almost all animals, even if the space and zoning would allow it.

The advantage to keeping horses at home is that you can control every little part of their daily care—when and how often they’re fed, how much they’re turned out, what type of grass is in the pasture, and more.

The biggest disadvantage is you need to plan for vacations or when you’re sick, since there’s no staff members to handle their care for you.

What are the different types of equine facilities?

There are quite a few different options for boarding. When you hear the word “boarding,” you likely think of a large facility with big barns, arenas, parking, an office, and different paddocks and pastures for turn out. There is often a staff of stable hands that feed everyone’s horses on a schedule, clean stalls, turn them out, and maintain the grounds.

There are also smaller facilities, or even the option to board at small private barns. These may not have as many amenities, but are sometimes more conveniently located and/or cheaper.

Some places have instructors or trainers onsite, and many help out with scheduling veterinarian and farrier visits. Others facilities offer pasture board, where the horses are housed in a pasture 24/7 and aren’t kept in a stall, or keep horses in a large paddock with shelter instead of a stall.

horse in blanket outside

source: canva

In addition, there are more specialized facilities—like ones that only cater to senior equines in retirement, or a facility for a certain training discipline. If you need a young horse started, there’s a boarding option for you. You want your long-time partner to live out his days in peace and happiness, there’s a boarding option for you.

How does boarding a horse work?

When you board a horse, you enter into a legal contract where someone will house your horse in a certain way and provide for certain needs in an exchange for a certain amount of money—typically a monthly arrangement. They may offer other services for a fee on an “as needed” basis.

There is generally an understanding that you will board for a minimum certain length of time or you may be required to notify them a certain length of time in advance if you are leaving, so they can plan to fill your space.

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How does horse boarding make money?

A lot of people get a bit of sticker shock when they see the monthly cost laid out in front of them. Chances are the same people might have to pay MORE per month to do it themselves, but the costs are a little more spread out and harder to notice until you do the math.

Oftentimes the boarding barn owner does it more for the love of horses than to make a hefty profit. However, they should at least charge more for boarding than they need to pay to keep the facility afloat, otherwise they run the risk of losing the facility and you run the risk of losing a place to keep your horse unexpectedly.

Avoid underpaying for boarding, because it leaves you vulnerable to being forced to find a new barn, in a hurry.

Understand the cost of caring for a horse in your area and don’t give the barn manager a hard time if they have to change their fees to compensate.

Should I board my horse?

For many people, boarding is the best way to care for their trusty steed. Buying your own property is expensive, and maintaining a large enough parcel for horses takes a lot of time. If you have to work full time, it can be very difficult to care for a horse, care for the property, and find the time to ride without having to neglect family, friends, or health.

There may also not be large enough properties close enough to your work to be worthwhile, especially if you live and work in an urban area. Driving multiple hours to and from work will really interfere with the time you spend with your horse and you may be better off boarding.

Types of horse boarding

There are many types of horse boarding and many different sub-variations beneath them. There are differences in where your horse is housed (stall versus pasture) or how much work you do (self-care versus full). There are even different types based on discipline or other benefits, like training, retirement, etc.

What is full boarding?

Full boarding is where their barn provides basically everything your horse needs. The horse has a place to live, food, water, and there is someone on hand to clean and maintain the facility.

red horse barn

source: canva

Some include scheduling for the vet or farrier or offer other services, like feeding certain supplements, blanketing, etc.

Full horse boarding typically includes:

  • A stall or other shelter
  • Food and water
  • Shavings for stalls
  • Equipment to clean stalls and maintain the facility and grounds
  • Turnout (usually)
  • Space to store your tack
  • Place(s) to ride like an arena

What is training board?

Training board is where you house your horse at a facility for the purpose of training. It is easier and cheaper to do this than hire a trainer to come to your house, or even to your current boarding barn. Training board is usually only for the duration of training, so once that’s complete you may need to find a new barn so your trainer can accept another client.

Training horse board typically includes:

  • Everything that you get in full board (usually)
  • Regular training sessions by a professional
  • Space to store your tack
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What is stall boarding?

Stall boarding specifies that your horse will be housed in a stall. Usually, they’re given a certain amount of time turned out in a paddock or pasture, but sometimes they’re basically kept in a stall all day and night. It is up to you to make sure you understand how much time your horse can expect to be inside. Some facilities are not in a location that allows for extended turnout—especially some urban boarding barns.

horse stalls

source: canva

Stall horse board typically includes:

  • A dedicated stall
  • Food and water
  • Shavings for stalls
  • Equipment to clean stalls and maintain the facility and grounds
  • Amenities will depend on the facility
  • Space to store your tack
  • Place(s) to ride like an arena

What is paddock boarding?

Paddock boarding is similar to stall boarding, except instead of a stall your horse is kept in a paddock with a shelter. Some facilities will house them here all day, while others still offer turnout in a larger, grassy pasture.

Paddock horse board typically includes:

  • A paddock with shelter
  • Food and water
  • Shavings for stalls
  • Equipment to clean stalls and maintain the facility and grounds
  • Amenities depend on the individual facility.
  • Space to store your tack
  • Place(s) to ride like an arena

What is pasture boarding?

Pasture boarding is probably what your horse would choose! The horse is kept in a pasture all day with access to a run-in shed for protection in inclement weather (or the hottest, sunniest part of the day). These facilities may or may not have arenas, trails, and other features, so do your homework.

horses in pasture

source: canva

Pasture horse board typically includes:

  • A pasture with run-in shed
  • Food and water
  • Shavings for stalls
  • Equipment to clean stalls and maintain the facility and grounds
  • Other amenities vary based on facility
  • (Depends) Space to store your tack
  • (Depends) Place(s) to ride like an arena

What is self care boarding?

Self care boarding is exactly what it sounds like. The facility offers the physical space, but all of the care tasks need to be done by you. You have to come and feed, supply the feed and hay, scrub and fill the water buckets, arrange for the vet and farrier to come, clean the stalls, bring in shavings, and turn your horse out. This option is more labor intensive, but is usually cheaper.

Self care horse board typically includes:

  • A stall, shed, or other space to house the horse
  • Access to water and electricity
  • A place to dump soiled bedding and manure
  • (Depends) Space to store your tack
  • (Depends) Place(s) to ride like an arena

What is partial care boarding?

Partial care is a hybrid of full and self-care boarding. This can be a good option to save a little money, but requires more work on your part. Often, with partial care, you are expected to supply the hay, feed, and bedding, but the barn provides the housing space and has staff to feed on a schedule.

If they provide the feeding service, you may be required to set up your horse’s rations in advance. Some require you to clean the stalls and may or may not supply bedding. You should find out what they expect you to provide and what they need you to do before signing on.

Partial care horse board typically includes:

  • A stall, shed, or other space to house the horse
  • Access to water and electricity
  • A place to dump soiled bedding and manure
  • Staff to feed what you provide
  • (Depends) Space to store your tack
  • Place(s) to ride like an arena
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What is retirement boarding?

This is a bit newer in the grand scheme of horse boarding, but as our equine partners live longer more people need to consider what to do with them in their golden years. There are facilities that specialize in senior horses, or horses that cannot be ridden or worked. Due to the special needs of older horses, it can be a great choice to board them somewhere that understands how to care for their needs.

Some even include the handling of the horse when it passes away or needs to be euthanized. Some can send the horse for cremation while others offer burial in a special part of the property. It’s easy to forget that handling a deceased horse is difficult, so having this option from people that know what they’re doing can give you peace of mind.

Retirement horse boarding typically includes:

  • Everything that regular boarding includes
  • Specialized facilities and knowledge of senior horse needs
  • Burial/cremation (sometimes)
  • Specialized diets for senior or special needs horses
  • Medication administration

What does it cost to board a horse?

Board cost varies a lot based on the labor the facility provides and the amenities offered. Check out our article about average horse cost state by state.

What factors influence the cost?

Location is one of the biggest variables when it comes to cost. If the boarding barn is in an expensive area you can expect to pay more. The amenities they provide, and the overall quality can all change what you can expect to pay. It makes sense, when you think about it.

Full board at a fancy barn in New York City is going to be a lot more expensive than full board at a small, casual barn in remote Montana. Part of that is the actual cost for the facility to exist and another part of the cost of feed, bedding, labor, to name a few.

Average monthly to board a horse (by type):

  • Full board: $400-$2,000+
  • Training board: $550-$2,500+
  • Stall board: $200-$2,000+
  • Paddock board: $200-$1,000
  • Pasture board: $100-$1,000
  • Self care board: $200-$1,000

How can I be a good horse boarder?

It’s fairly easy to be a good horse boarder, and just takes common sense and some human decency. Clean up after yourself and your horse, don’t skip out on any care that you’re supposed to provide, pay your bill on time, and don’t try to cause problems with other boarders or staff.

Don’t treat the staff like your personal servants and go around demanding that things be done a certain way.

Different facilities are handled differently. If you see someone NOT doing their job that’s a different story and you can always kindly suggest they maybe change something, but ultimately, it’s not your decision and you can leave if you don’t like it (based on the contract you signed).

Choosing the right horse boarding facility

You should pick a facility that provides what you need and is conveniently located close to where you live. You should always actually visit the location and talk to the owner, staff, and boarders to get an idea of how well it’s run.

If a boarding facility has a constant turnover of staff and clients, it’s a red flag!

Below is a list of potential questions, but keep in mind that this list is NOT exhaustive and it’s a good idea to think about what is important to you.

Questions to ask:

  • What type of board do you offer?
  • What is included in board?
  • What do you charge for the type(s) of board you offer?
  • What are the barn rules?
  • What are the barn hours?
  • Are boarders provided with a space to store tack and supplies?
  • If there is a tack room, is it climate-controlled?
  • Do you offer additional services as needed, like blanketing or giving medications?
  • Is there a farrier/dentist/veterinarian they use, or is the boarder in charge of finding and scheduling them?
  • Is there trailer parking?
  • Is there a laundry service for blankets, saddle pads, and other horse gear?
  • How often are the stalls cleaned?
  • How much time do the horses have turned out?
  • Are lessons and training provided or offered and are boarders allowed to ride during lessons?
  • How big are the stalls? Are there mats?
  • How often are horses fed? What kind of hay is provided?
  • Are there trails we can ride on?
  • Are there security cameras?

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is it profitable to board horses?

It can be profitable, but oftentimes the individual that owns the barn is only making a small amount per boarder. It can be tempting to complain about increased costs over time as you board, but if you crunched the numbers, you’d be surprised how little many boarding facilities actually keep as profit.

horse boarding book

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Is it cheaper to board a horse or keep it at home?

It can be cheaper to board a horse than keep it at home because many boarding facilities buy in bulk or split certain costs over a number of boarders. You will pay a lot more to replace your own fence than what you end up spending at a boarding barn, because facility maintenance costs are a smaller portion of your monthly bill.

horsekeeping book

Click to see this book at Amazon

If you are paying for services you don’t need, however, you may end up paying more than you would if you kept your horse at home. You may not be paying for arenas, fancy fencing, automatic waterers, etc. at home, which can reduce your costs, but at reduced benefits.

Do horses like being in stalls?

In general, they would prefer to be outside in groups. Horses were designed to walk and graze all day and (usually) love to interact with their herd. When they’re kept in stalls, they can become bored and develop behavioral problems (e.g. cribbing, weaving) or gastrointestinal issues if they are not supplied with enough forage.

Some horses really enjoy the option of having their own stall where they can eat without being bullied or bothered though. If they are familiar and comfortable with stalls then they generally don’t mind short stays, especially when the weather is atrocious and they want to be somewhere warm, dry, and full of delicious hay.

Is pasture boarding safe?

Pasture boarding can be safe, but there is always a risk. Stalls are not free of risk either, since they can have hidden hazards and cause psychological and physical issues. If a pasture is well maintained with safe fencing and good weed control, though, it can be very safe. Groups of horses should be selected to avoid interpersonal issues, and they should still be checked for injuries and other problems daily.

Can I keep my horse at home?

If the laws and regulations allow it, yes you may. Just keep in mind that you will need to be there to care for your horse every day and are responsible for maintaining (or even building) the fences and stall/ shelter. Just like how there is a lot to think of with boarding there’s a lot to consider when you keep your horse in your own yard. Finding a reliable horse sitter can be difficult and expensive, depending on where you’re located.

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Does horse boarding include feed?

Horse boarding may or may not include feed. This is one of the things to look into before signing that contract.

Parting Thoughts

If you’re leaning toward boarding your horse instead of buying land, you can feel confident that it may very well be the best choice for you and your horse. Having a team of experts on hand and having the advantage of being able to just go out and enjoy your horse instead of spending hours mending fences and getting deals on hay is wonderful. While you may not get to pick exactly how the horse is managed, it might be more than adequate to keep them healthy and happy!

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About the author

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Allison G.

After earning my B.A. in Animal Sciences, I went on to work for an equine vet, volunteer at a therapeutic riding nonprofit, and dabble in equine photography. I now keep two horses at home on my small farm and ride them English and Western. My writing has also be featured on FEI.org.