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Cheaper to board or to keep horses at home?

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  • Cheaper to board or to keep horses at home?

    I currently board two horses and we're in the process of building a house/barn on property that we've purchased. In discussing with my husband the costs of keeping horses, it sort of dawned on me that it may not really be cheaper to keep horses at home.

    Granted, I don't pay expensive board on my two horses... $400/mo for one horse and $200/mo for the second horse.... and I spend quite a bit in gas money and wear and tear on my car going back and forth between two different barns each month. Just making rough calculations in my head... once I have my pastures set up and am only supplementing hay for a limited portion of the year, my feed costs would be much less than the $600/mo I currently pay. I'll have 2 horses on about 4 acres to start and can eventually expand my pastures. Granted I know there are plenty of other upkeep costs to consider also in terms of fencing, barn upkeep and supplies, equipment. etc.

    DH sort of rolled his eyes and asked me if I was sure the responsibility of feeding horses every day, dealing with barn chores, not being able to travel as easily, etc was worth the couple hundred dollars a month that I'd be saving in board (when I could pay someone else to worry about all of those things!) Since I've dreamed of having my horses at home for quite some time and currently have one horse boarded 30 mins away and the other horse boarded 1 hour away.... my answer was of course, yes Not to mention I have somewhere for my senior horse to retire without having to worry about boarding him.

    Did you find that you actually saved money or spent more money to keep your horses once you moved them home?
    Last edited by SkipHiLad4me; Nov. 27, 2012, 03:19 PM.
    "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

    Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!

  • #2
    I moved my horses to my house 2 years ago. It has been great. I can't tell you how many times I was in tears trying to come up with board money or work off board with a full time job.

    I now have 5 horses, one is a rescue I plan to rehab and find a home, but the other 4 are mine. A broodmare, her 4 year old son, her weanling and my old retired hunter.

    The only thing I find that is an issue is keeping the 4 year old ridden and not bored. He would be better at a trainers, but the others are all very happy to be at home.

    It is work, but I have got it down to an art. Sure there are days I want to stay in bed all day, but they actually help with my stress most of the time!

    It is hard to travel, but luckily I only take a trip or two a year and have a neighbor that helps with the horses.

    Hay has gone up so it is still pricey to feed them, but it is nice to look out the window and see them happily munching on grass!


    • #3
      It costs me about 450 to 550 a month to feed the 5 I have and that is feeding them triple crown and grass hay.


      • #4
        If you're not counting your time and the original shelters/fencing- it's waaaaay cheaper to keep your horse at home. I feed my two horses anywhere from 120-180 a month. Can't beat that. And they eat good ;-)
        Sounds like a Mastercard commercial........Price for shelter-$3000. Price for fencing-$500..... Sitting in your camp chair on a summer evening, sipping a cool glass of wine and hearing your ponies chomp their hay while they eyeball you for cookies....PRICELESS ;-)


        • #5
          The more horses you have at home, the cheaper to take care of each of them

          By that I mean - if you have pasture and need to mow it and seed and fertilize it, that costs the same whether it's 1 horse or 5 (assuming adequate acreage).

          I spend about $1000/year on seed and fertilizer, about $900 on hay for the Winter (for 4 horses), so if that was "board" that would come down to $40 per horse per month LOL

          I spend WAY less than the difference between that and board on gas/diesel for mowing and dragging, including dragging the ring. My barn electricity is $20-ish/month. I don't have high bedding costs because the horses live out.

          Since you already own the land, its property tax is not part of the equation, unless you'd sell it if you didn't bring horses home.

          BUT, you tax will increase once you put a house and barn on it. So, add that to the cost of keeping them at home.

          You can keep basic maintenance to a minimum by choosing carefully. For example, my Horseguard electric fence was far cheaper to install than board fencing, and SO much lower in maintenance, usually requiring nothing more than a re-tighten, occasionally requiring an inexpensive metal splice for a damaged section. We use a solar charger, so no electricity cost there and it's plenty strong enough for our needs.

          Yes, for the 4 horses, it's far cheaper than boarding. But then again I wouldn't have 4 horses if I still had to board - 2 would be it.
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


          • #6
            'Cheaper' is relative...your time is also worth money. Theoretically, keeping at home might result in less cash outflow, but not necessarily so and it may vary by geography, too. As much as I would love to be able to make nice with the horsies every day as I could if they lived on our property, there's no way we could handle the physical work due to careers and my business travel. So we board.


            • #7
              I always see it as "what is your time worth?" over a dollar figure. You have to put in YOUR time to get up and feed, turnout, muck stalls, do the upkeep around the farm, get hay into the barn yourself. It is not just tossing them a flake or two twice a day.

              Cost of keeping them at home is certainly a LOT cheaper for me in dollars, than boarding would be. Hay is purchased in large quantities, cheaper from the farmer than the feed store guy. Grain is purchased at the elevator, mixed to my specifications, again in quantity for a better price. 400# lasts about 8 weeks with the small amounts we feed the 5-6 horses. We also feed wet beet pulp, but not huge quantities, horses stay plump. Same with bedding, a wood fiber mix. However I have to figure about 2 hours a day of ONLY cleaning stalls and feeding, turnout and bring in, as part of my package in daily horsekeeping. Often there is quite a lot more in a day, spreading the manure, checking fences, mowing and dragging, fertilizing fields. I am probably a bit faster because I have equipment to use, not just the fork and wheelbarrow for cleaning.

              Husband says he doesn't EVER want to know what we spend a month on horses! I cut corners wherever possible, without lowering the quality of care. They don't NEED name brand feed or various expensive name supplements to stay in good health or keep working. Lots of good local hay available, various cuttings and mixes, usually for reasonable prices, though hay isn't tested like Tamara's. I can't afford that kind of "pedigreed" hay, though Tamara certainly deserves what she charges for her hard work producing it!!

              Still our horses LOOK GOOD, work hard, are shiny enough to blind you, with hard, tough hooves. One of these years I am going to keep all the reciepts and add things up for a breakdown, per horse expense. Just to find out because of curiostity. $500 a month SOUNDS like a lot, but could be what we are truly paying, just spread out more.


              • #8
                The cash outlay is lower but DH and I spend 4 man hours a day feeding, cleaning maintaining the place for the 2 horses, chickens, lots of bunnies and a few pigs. We have to plan to return from anywhere in time to feed before it gets too dark (and cold). Just the two horses would be easier, but we don't have a nice arena, an indoor, on site trainer, we get together with the neighbors to get a farrier to come out, there are trade offs that aren't just money.
                I really love sticking my head out the window and seeing the pony taking a sun bath though.
                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                Incredible Invisible


                • #9
                  It depends on what you count.

                  If you pretend you would already have bunch of fenced pasture sitting around, and pretend you'd already have and maintain a tractor then it can be pretty cheap to have horses at home.

                  If you count those expenses and feeding and medicating the companion that you would not need if you were boarding, and try fighting the mud that would not form without help and try to give your time any value at all, then keeping a couple of horses boarded looks like really good value.

                  It's nice to look out the window, and it's nice to not worry about the cost of one more if a horse is heading towards retirement, and it's convenient to not have to drive out before dawn to show or compete, but I don't know that I'd call it cheaper.


                  • #10
                    You can certainly make at-home care as $$ and time consuming as you want LOL

                    We certainly don't spend 4 man hours a day taking care of the animals - 4 horses, 2 dogs, 12 chickens, 6 cats. But, we have enough acreage that 4 horses out 23 hours a day still don't require intense pasture management, and as a result I have very, very little in the way of stall upkeep time. So, not counting riding, management in the Winter is about 30 minutes twice a day - roughly 10 to fix feed and put it in stalls, roughly 20 to fill up the wheelbarrow with hay and put it in the pasture. Maybe 40 minutes on a rough day LOL Time occasionally increases if I need to bring them in at some other point to put blankets on.

                    But I planned things that way - I made sure a normal day would always have time for riding. I did not want to be a slave to the farm and not have time to enjoy it.
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                    • #11
                      OP, I am in a similar place. We are fixing up the farm house and I currently board.

                      Boarding is cheaper for two if you factor in buying a farm, but since you already bought one that changes things. Obviously, the big kick is the upfront cost. Fencing, water, electric, storage, tractor, seed, fertilizer, weed spray & boom, hoss of a mower & the gas to run it, snow removal if applicable, shelter, shelter for hay & bedding & I would make sure you have adequate insurance if one gets loose and causes a wreck. It will take a while to break even. Also, will two horses work at home--or do you need a third to keep someone company? Then you look at amenities, for example, building a heated indoor and barn (as the extreme) vs. boarding at a facility with this.

                      That said, I did the math and if I do a basic 24 x 12' run-in with 24x7 turnout it is definitely cheaper to keep the horse(s) at home. The more horses, the cheaper it is (vs. boarding) until you get to the point you don't have enough land and then the management/wear cost goes up. Now if I want an indoor for a horse in training for the winter, I can board that one horse and keep others at home.

                      Looking at adding an outdoor pushes the breakeven back a ways. I'm trying really hard to only do things that will increase value or at least come close to getting my money back out if we ever sell. Around here an outdoor is probably not a great ROI. Then there is the other downside you mentioned. Vacations and friends--I DO enjoy the social aspect of a boarding barn.

                      However, I said I was never buying another horse until I had somewhere to retire them if they got hurt, or ended up being too "quirky" to place well, or so on. So I had to buy a farm!
                      Last edited by TrotTrotPumpkn; Nov. 27, 2012, 04:19 PM.
                      DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                      • #12
                        She's got 2 horses on 4 acres and will be expanding her pasture. If she lets them live out, I really don't see lots of daily work on her plate. Yes, there will be pasture work, barn work, etc...but if you add up all the commuting time compared to the lump sum time of the work she will incur now, I think it will more than even out. I've got 2 horses that have a run in, they have a creek for water and I usually feed round bales. There are many days that if I want,all I have to do is go out, check over, give cookies and check the fence for damage. Certain times of year, if they're getting too plump, they don't get bucket feedings at all- all they get is a handful of beet pulp mixed with their vitamins...I can do it in ten minutes total. All depends on her layout and what level of maintenance her horses need. Some days it takes me 3 hours of work, but nowhere near everyday.


                        • #13
                          The start up costs of fencing, building the barn, buying all your supplies( rakes, forks, wheelbarrow, buckets etc) and buying a years worth of hay may seem steep at the beginning but you will save a lot of money on 2 horses at home over the long haul. To keep from wasting hay find out how much they are fed now where they are and start out feeding the amount they are used to and adjust as needed.

                          The work involved depends on if you stall them or let them come and go as they please. I have 3 at home. We grow most of our hay but I still buy supplemental grass hay. Mine come and go out of the barn as they please. It takes me 30 minutes in the morning to hay, water and pick up manure they have left for me in the barn. Evening it takes about 15 minutes to hay and water.

                          The hardest part is finding a caretaker you can really trust to do a good job when you go away. If you can find one asap so much the better.
                          Last edited by candyappy; Nov. 27, 2012, 04:35 PM.


                          • #14
                            There are certainly ways to streamline the operations but 4 man hours is two hours in the AM and in the PM if I feed entirely by myself. Having many different species with different feed requirements makes things take longer, that's for sure.
                            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                            Incredible Invisible


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ReSomething View Post
                              The cash outlay is lower but DH and I spend 4 man hours a day feeding, cleaning maintaining the place for the 2 horses, chickens, lots of bunnies and a few pigs. We have to plan to return from anywhere in time to feed before it gets too dark (and cold). Just the two horses would be easier, but we don't have a nice arena, an indoor, on site trainer, we get together with the neighbors to get a farrier to come out, there are trade offs that aren't just money.
                              I really love sticking my head out the window and seeing the pony taking a sun bath though.

                              My son and I also spend anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the am doing farm chores and about 1 hour in the evening. The OP should have a lot less to do than you or I do. We milk a couple of cows have chickens a herd of goats and pigs in addition to the 3 equines. If I just had the horses to care for it wouldn't take me anytime at all. The routine everyday care is a part that I love about having animals at home. Keeps you fit too!


                              • Original Poster

                                Yes I wouldn't be surprised if 2 horses quickly turns into 3 DH has made waves about possibly getting an equine of some sort and even if he doesn't, I would love to eventually get a large pony that I could ride/drive and who could tolerate various nieces and nephews. I'm planning on a 4 stall barn and I've always heard on this forum that you can expect to have an equal number of horses as you have stalls... or even one more horse than you have stalls!

                                We have 24 acres total. 13 acres is currently in timber (10yr old pines). The 5 or 6 cleared acres where we are planning to build is in sod. Even though the grass isn't what I really need for pasture, I'll be able to overseed that with something much more easily than having to start pastures from scratch. So I'm guessing I'll have around 4.5 acres left over for pasture to start with. Because the timber isn't a factor in keeping the present use value for taxes (the sod was the kicker!), I plan to clear some of those for more pasture eventually and probably room for a riding arena. So the pasture land isn't a problem. We'll probably need to clear more pasture land if we ever want to try to get the present use value back (have to have 10 acres minimum).

                                I don't count my time as part of the cost of keeping the horses. I know it's going to be a lot of work but I look forward to being the one who is taking care of the horses every day. We don't travel much as it is anyway because we have 3 dogs at home that have to be boarded if we leave, so hubby is more worried about the travel than I am. For all the years I've been a horse owner, I've always had to board. I will miss seeing other people out at the barn but there are other horse folks in the area and I have a truck and trailer if I want to go to someone else's barn. I'm so used to having to DRIVE somewhere to even see my horses that I won't even know how to act if I can walk out my back door and see them.
                                "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

                                Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!


                                • #17
                                  I depends on how many you plan to have at home vs. boarding. If its one horse, its almost cheaper to do boarding, because you still have to build shelter/fencing/etc. So the more you have, the more those costs are spread out amongst all of the horses.

                                  Currently, I have 3 at home. A mini, a shetland, and a haffie. Granted, all ponies, so cheaper to feed overall. But there's no way I could afford to board them. Board is a set rate, whether they eat 1 flake or 4.

                                  Keeping them at home, and saving costs, comes down to amenities as well. It can be done economically.

                                  For instance. If its nice out, and the grass looks good, I'll pasture feed and leave them out. Saves me TONS of time, saves me bedding, which is honestly one of my biggest costs. I don't bring them in unless its really bad out.

                                  Good pasture management can save you hundreds on hay. I can sustain mine on pasture alone for at least 4-5 months, and then I only end up buying hay 1-2 times/yr.

                                  Turnout, stalls, and night prep for me in the am takes me approximately 1/2 hr. In the pm, its a 10 min job, max, bringing horses in (that's because my 5 year old is pokey and takes forever to get her pony)

                                  Another consideration is gas money to and from the barn that no longer exists.

                                  Yes, going away is not as convenient. So if you are a weekend vacationer, it might not pan out financially. But if you're a 2x/year vacationer, it probably evens itself out.


                                  • #18
                                    Depends on what you spend on the "home" part

                                    I would be miles ahead both in money and time if I boarded my horses somewhere else. I keep them at home, go out to the barn in the dark to turn out, turn in when I get home from the real job (in the dark).

                                    My twin sister enjoys mini vacations at our house when we need a vacation, (she likes the garden tub, the views, AND I pay her!) so that part is easy for us.

                                    I get to sleep in once in a while on nice summer mornings after the "boys' have been out all night. Other than that, it's 7 days of early mornings a week.

                                    In order to see if you're committed, go to the barn you board at twice a day, every day, at the same time and do your own chores. See how many days you blow it off because it's easier to let someone else do it.

                                    If you make it thru a couple of weeks and don't bail because it's cold, nasty, you had a bad day or your tired?

                                    You just might make it.


                                    • #19
                                      For us, $$ wise, it is probably about break even - we built a new barn, new fence and a new riding ring when the horses came home. I like not having to spend 3 hours on the road every day, not paying someone else to take care of my horses when I can do it better myself and I love being able to multi-task housework and barnwork at the same time!

                                      The down side is that it is a 24 hour a day/7 day a week responsibility - I spent one Thanksgiving night in the barn with a sick horse - not fun but no one else is going to do it. Farm sitters are expensive so we don't travel except for day trips or if someone stays home, and there are days when I would love not to be walking out the door at 7 am or 10 pm, especially in the winter. Weekends are planned around getting hay or bedding, and maintenance or improvements that we don't get done during the week. We spend about 4 hours a day taking care of 5 horses.

                                      Being able to look out my window and see our guys content in their fields makes it all worth while.


                                      • #20
                                        No doubt ... Way more expensive to have two horses at home than boarding. When we boarded, only had a 1/4 acre of house and yard to maintain. 30 acres requires tractor, bush-hog, fuel, tools, fencing, etc. Hundreds of thousands of $$. But, life style is most of the payback, horses out the front; back; or side windows, truck and trailer is within sight of the house, space to have fun toys , privacy since the neighbors are hundreds of yards away, ....That and being able to train horses to come to me instead of chasing them. Well worth the expense & effort.
                                        Equus makus brokus but happy