Where to keep your horse is as important as any other decision involved in horse ownership. Buy a few acres and a horse or two and live the dream. Isn’t that what we all want? Sign me up!
If you have experience with taking total care of your herd, however large or small that may be, great. But if you are new to horse housing, make sure you know what you’re getting into. That’s especially true as we age. Physical demands sap us faster than we like to admit. Stacking hay, hauling water, mucking stalls, hitching trailers – who needs a gym? It’s a great fitness routine. But most of us don’t have the stamina we used to. That’s before you consider the effects weather has on our conditioning. Long, hard winters and longer, hotter summers seem to be the norm now. Pesky medical conditions can pop up without warning, from arthritic knees to unreliable hearts to some form of cancer. Horsewomen tend to be a stubborn lot. We don’t like to admit our limitations. But this is a time when an honest assessment of your current and future health and abilities is vital – for your sake and that of your horse.
The other consideration is your depth of knowledge. What do you know about pasture management and whether the field has the best forage? How much do you know about equine nutrition? Do you have a reliable source for quality hay? Can you detect the signs of colic or other illnesses? What about your abilities for first aid? Can you handle the maintenance of your barn, fencing, and equipment? You’re good to go if you are comfortable with your answers. If not, consider boarding.
If you board, your horse is getting total care while you learn how to take over at your own place successfully. There are several types of board.
Full Board is just that. You pay a fee, and the horse is fed, housed, and tended to. Depending on the contract, he may be in a stall part of the time or always turned out; blanketed in winter and fly-sheeted in summer. Some stables arrange for farriers and routine vet appointments. The barn manager should be well-versed in equine nutrition and willing to discuss your horse’s needs. This is a good option for equine newbies.
Part Board and Self-Care Board
Part-Board and Self-Board are cheaper. Depending on the stable, some services are provided, but you have greater responsibility for daily care. You might have to provide your own feed or hay, maybe even do the daily feedings. Blanketing is your responsibility as are farrier, vet, and dental appointments. If there is an option for using a stall, it will usually be up to you to put the horse in and turn him back out. You need to balance the potential financial savings with the added daily time commitment.
This is a brief overview of the details of housing your horse. What are your experiences as a DIY owner or a boarder? Join the conversation on the Riders of a Certain Age Group on Facebook.
There’s more on my website: www.ridersofacertainage.com. Even more in my book — which you can order from the website! — Riders of a Certain Age: Your Guide to Loving Horses Mid-Life and Beyond.