Boarding 101: What Option Is Best For You And Your Pony


PonyEncyclopedia: Types of Boarding

When it comes to boarding your horse, not all facilities and boarding contracts are created equal. The price for monthly board can vary greatly, from a couple of hundred dollars or less, up to a few thousand (yep!). What you look for in a boarding facility depends a lot on your monthly budget, the number of horses you have, where you live, your riding needs, and the time you have available to spend at the barn. So when it comes to horse board, just what types of care are available? We’re breaking the most common types down below. 


If you have a love for all aspects of horse care and ownership, but not the land or facilities required to care for horses on your own property, self-care might be the option for you. With this type of arrangement, a boarder is responsible for providing everything their horse needs (feed, bedding, hay, grooming supplies) plus the daily care he requires (stall cleaning, turnout, grooming, etc.), outside of the roof over his head. If your budget is limited and you have the experience and skills necessary, self-care can be a great choice. But don’t underestimate the time involved to visit and tend to your horse every day. If you have a busy job, family or personal obligations, live far away, or like to travel, this may not be the option for you.  


If your geographic location allows it, you may have the option of pasture board, which is similar to self-care but typically less demanding. In this arrangement, horses live outside year-round, usually with other horses, on a large pasture with a run-in shed. Typically, your horse will receive his feed and water outdoors, with you or your barn owner/manager responsible for any extra attention such as blanketing, grooming, or administering medications or special dietary needs. Pasture board can be a great option for horses that are retired or laid up (though not all horses can handle extended turnout), or for owners looking for a more affordable boarding situation without the obligation of self-care. 


For those on a budget, partial care or part-board can help to reduce costs, but lessen the workload involved. In a partial-care arrangement, either the facility covers some of the care responsibilities (say, feed and morning turnout), or boarders can pool their resources and co-op care (typically mucking and turnout). While you’re typically looking after multiple horses when it’s your shift, partial-care doesn’t require your presence at the barn every day. With a part-board arrangement, your horse is shared with another person or the owner/trainer at the stable, typically in a lesson program, for a certain number of days a week in exchange for care or a reduction in your costs. Part-board arrangements can vary, not only in the amount of board each participant contributes, but also how your horse’s additional, associated costs are shared (supplements, farrier visits, grooming supplies, etc.).  


Just as its name implies, full-service board leaves the majority of daily horse care to the facility staff and manager. That primarily includes feeding, stall cleaning, and turnout—but often extending to blanketing, daily supplements and medication, grooming, night check, and as-needed holding for the vet and farrier. While prices and services vary from barn to barn, for those who can afford it, full-service is one of the most popular boarding options for a good reason: it’s convenient, leaves the care to the experts, and lets you spend your time at the barn riding and enjoying your horse without the stress of managing his day-to-day needs.


The crème de la crème of boarding options, full-service & training board takes the hardship out of horse owning and even riding—and comes with the price tag to match. Full-service and training board can simply be full-service board with a certain number of training rides, lessons, or exercise sessions for your horse included weekly, or it can be more hands-on than that. At top show barns, for example, this option can include daily grooming; tacking and untacking at shows and/or at home; laundry services; care, packing, and transport of tack trunks and equipment to and from shows; administration of medications; management of horse show entries and paperwork; scheduling veterinary, farrier, chiropractic, and other visits, and more. 

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