Horse Boarding Facilities
The main types of horse boarding are pasture, partial board and full board. Speciality horse boarding facilities include: stallions, foals, older horses. Each of these are explained and discussed below.
Once one has decided on the type of facility for boarding your horse, the next step is to choose which of the local boarding stables best meets your and your horse's requirements. Click on Evaluating Horse Stables for tips on how to separate the good from the bad.
Pasture is simply a fenced in area. It provides food (grass) for the horses and exercise but does not include a stable (box) and consequently tends to be much less expensive than other types of boarding. There are normally a number of horses on each pasture, providing a social group. It may include the following facilities:
- Shelter. A shelter can protect the horses again wind and rain (especially important during cooler months), provide shade during the hot months and may provide some respite from biting insects. Check how well and often the shelters are cleaned out (infrequently cleaned shelters can become a manure pit). If there are multiple horses on the grounds, the shelter should either be open on one side or have at least two doors (to prevent a weaker horse becoming trapped by a stronger horse during a fight).
- Water. This may be naturally occuring water or a large tub of water. Ensure that the water is of satisfactory quality. In the case of a large tub, ensure that it is not allowed to become empty or fouled.
- Woods. A piece of woodland provides shelter and stimulation for horses; if well maintained it is a definite plus.
Check what other horses will be on the pasture with yours.
- Size, Age and Strength. The horses should be of approximately the same size, age and strength. Mixing young, strong horses with old, weak horses can result in the stronger horses bullying the older horses. This can result in injuries, stress-related illness, or simply that the older horses are not left in peace to eat and relax sufficiently.
- Stability. Long term pasture rents are better than short-term, as each time a different horse is introduced there is stress and potential issues.
- Numbers. If there are only 2 or 3 horses per pasture, it is relatively easy to see the relationships between the horses and ensure that they are compatible.
- Stallions. Mature stallions need to be on their own, to prevent fighting and inadvertent mating. Fencing for stallions normally needs to be much higher and more sturdy than for other horses.
The level of service associated with the pasture is important. Does an experienced horse person check the horses periodically? How often and how closely? Are the fences examined regularly for holes or breakages? Is the water kept clean?
In this case the stable manager provides stall space (a box), along with paddock and/or pasture. However, caring for the horse is the responsibility of the horse owner rather than the stable manager.
There are a number of variations on this:
- Stable manager provides only the stall, plus paddock/pasture. Everything else is the responsibility of the horse owner.
- Stable manager also provides bedding and hay. The advantage is that by buying in bulk, the stable manager can purchase these for a lower price than the individual horse owner. In addition, the stable manager can stock them on-site, which is more convienent forthe horse owner than if they have to bring their own.
- Stable manager does some of the work. In this case, certain activities are done by the stable manager and others are left to the client. The division of the activities is up to the stable manager and client, but includes: daily mucking out and repacement bedding, cleaning and checking of hooves, grooming, general surveilance for health issues and associated contact with vet, worming, exercise.
One needs to consider what happens if you are unable from time to time (e.g. work commitments, family crisis, away on holiday) to perform all the agreed daily requirements. Do you need to find a friend to do these or will the stable manager do them for you? In the latter case, what are the additional fees?
Full board includes all the routine items normally required by a horse. The monthly fee covers the facilities (stall, paddock/pasture), materials (bedding, food), and labour (mucking out, feeding, keeping an eye on the horse's health).
Additional services which might be provided include: regular brushing down of the horse, periodic shower, exercising.
In addition to the basics (pasture, paddock, stalls), additional facilities which may be present include: exercise/training ring, arena, tack room (with or without individual lockable facilities), changing room, food and drink facilities, horse shower, warming lamps, medical facilities. Their may be on-site horse trails, or public horse trails nearby.
Many of these facilities do not pay for themselves, so are paid for by higher boarding costs. If you make substantial use of the facilities, then you may wish to board your horse with a stable that can provide them. If you don't use such facilities, it may be cheaper to use a stable providing more basic facilities.
Some stables specialize in certain services or types of horses. For example:
- Training. Some stables offer training, for you or your horse or both. This allows you to train without having to go off-site.
- Older Horses. Older horses have specialist needs. They may require food supplements, due to dental problems which prevent them for eating sufficient grass and hay. They may need a diet which is lower or higher in certain nutrients to compensate for aging organs. They are less robust and need more care (e.g. warming jackets and rain jackets in winter). They are prone to bullying by younger horses. Stables which specialize in older horses have more experience and understanding of such special needs.
- Stallions. Keeping adult stallions requires specialist facilities and expertise. Fences need to be higher and more robust than for other horses, otherwise the stallion may well go over or through them. If there are other in neighboring pastures, single fences need to be converted to a double line of spaced fences, to maintain separation between the stallion and the other horses. Stallions cannot be put on the same pasture as other stallions as they will fight (to the point of serious injury or even death) and for the same reason one should not put a stallion in the same field as a gelding. Even putting a stallion in the same pasture as a mare can lead to serious injuries to either or both (which is one of the reasons that breeding is often done under tightly controlled conditions). The behaviour of stallions is also less controllable, especially when there are mares nearby, so they should have experienced handlers.
- Foals. Young horses are educated and socialised largely through play with other young horses. The private owner and the smaller breeders may only have one or two foals at a time and consequently cannot provide this valuable experience. By sending the foal to a specialist foal boarding stable, they enable their foals to mature naturally.
- Medical. A few stables specialize in injured and cronically ill horses. Although they may not be trained vets, they will have more experience and expertise than the average stable manager in routine medical treatments such as: icing tendons, cleaning wounds, changing dressings, administrating medications and injections, treating an ulcerated eye and other such common procedures.