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Costs - Boarding vs. Keeping horses home

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  • Costs - Boarding vs. Keeping horses home

    This question is more for DH...

    We are in the 3rd attempt at selling our home and hope to buy a small acreage, build a small home and barn. Hopefully a personal sized indoor...his idea.

    HE seems to think it is cheaper to board as we will be paying higher property taxes with a barn on the property.

    Right now I'm paying $550 a month which is very reasonable in this area with an indoor. Normally board with an indoor goes for 600-700 easily.

    My question: I don't need itemized break downs for bedding, hay, grain, etc.

    But for those who have horses at home. What is your total cost per horse per month?

    Any those who have boarded - How much have you saved from boarding to having your horses at home.

    Thank you...
    MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

  • #2
    Not including supplements, vet or farrier care-just hay, grain, bedding-$150-$200/month/horse.

    Hay is the biggie-esp in the Northeast.

    Other considerations-you'll need to get a tractor and various implements. Are you doing the stalls or are you hiring someone?

    If you ever go away, you'll probably have to hire someone and that gets expensive fast.

    It is a labor of love and you need to love the lifestyle. You might want to peek at the "around the farm" forum to get an idea of all that having horses at home entails. I wouldn't trade it for the world but my family feels differently.

    Just some things to think about.


    • #3
      I don't have a precise answer, but...

      Hopefully I can be a little help. I notice you are in CT. In NH, If you own 10+ acres, you can have it put in "current use" for tax purposes. To give you an example, my horses stay at a family member's farm where they have a barn, a large hay shed, several out buildings and a house with about the same sq. footage as mine. They have 15 acres. My home is on 1.75 +/- acres and our taxes are twice as much!

      With 3 horses, I was spending about $3500-$4000/year on hay. My warmblood is a huge hay eater. My horses get free choice hay. Grain depends on the brand and number of pound your horse gets per day. Because I feed a lot of hay, I don't feed much grain. Call your local grain store and ask how much a bag of X costs, and you can figure out how much grain would cost per month based on the number of pounds horse is currently eating. Bedding depends entirely upon what you use and how deeply you bed. If you have a source to get sawdust, you will save major money. If you want to use pelleted bedding, there is currently a thread on it. Again, find out how much it is per ton and how many bags are in a ton in your area. Bagged shavings have become increasingly expensive. I use approximately 3 bags/week per horse. Sometimes my big girl will get 4 bags/week. Shavings prices seem to vary from state to state.

      I don't know what your plans are for manure, but I would suggest either using a company that hauls it away in a dumpster, buying a spreader and spreading it in a field that is not in use, or setting up a compost system. We use a dumpster. I would prefer to compost and spread, but we lack a sacrifice field at the moment.

      I hope I was able to offer a little help
      Last edited by Invite; Dec. 20, 2009, 11:19 AM. Reason: more info


      • #4
        Ditto mkevent on the "labor of love" aspect. If you don't love the lifestyle, it won't be worth it for you.

        You asked about a "per month" cost. For my one horse at home, I buy her hay once a year and store it...it costs about $650, depending on the year (5+ tons). Other than that, I have in my budget $300 per month for her. That's beet pulp, corn oil, joint supplement, thia-cal, vet and farrier costs and lessons ($70-140/month). There are months I use it all and months I use very little of it (winter).

        But...you also mentioned higher property taxes, which is true. And I spend a lot more time at home doing chores because she's here than I would if I boarded. And when I'm out of town for work, I need to hire a housesitter (but would for the dog and cats anyway). And I need to be home at certain times to feed, so it puts a crimp on some things I would otherwise do. So, if you don't want to do this because it's fun and you like the day-to-day stuff, you won't find it worth it. If this is the way you want to live, it's the best thing in the world!


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by mkevent View Post
          Not including supplements, vet or farrier care-just hay, grain, bedding-$150-$200/month/horse.

          Hay is the biggie-esp in the Northeast.

          Other considerations-you'll need to get a tractor and various implements. Are you doing the stalls or are you hiring someone?

          If you ever go away, you'll probably have to hire someone and that gets expensive fast.

          It is a labor of love and you need to love the lifestyle. You might want to peek at the "around the farm" forum to get an idea of all that having horses at home entails. I wouldn't trade it for the world but my family feels differently.

          Just some things to think about.
          MK, We are looking at small barns, probably 2-3 stalls. 3 stalls max.

          I've had horses all my life (I'm 49) and currently work at a barn, so pretty much know what goes on from day to day and all the labor involved.

          We also live in a pretty big horsie area and probably wouldn't have trouble finding a friend, or horse sitter to take care of my mare when we go away.

          My mare has Uveitis and a Cataract in her right eye. My fear is that if it should go to the other eye, she would basically be retired since she is my trail pony.

          If that were to happen and I need to purchase another horse, there is NO way I could afford to board two horses.

          I'm a hands on horse owner and go to the barn practically every day. And since moving to this new barn, it is also costing me an extra $100.00 in fuel a month.

          Thanks for your calculations.
          MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

          Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


          • #6
            Huntertwo -- you posted just before I was ready to respond. I brought my retiree home almost 4 years ago. Sometimes I still wonder which was cheaper -- boarding or home care. But this is what I know for sure -- if you have more than one horse, you can definitely come out ahead by having them at home. I mean, most of your "fixed costs" are there from horse #1, add horses two and three (or more) and the increase is incremental. It is not TWICE as much for two or THREE TIMES as much for three.

            This can be a terrible trap, however ... by which I mean that if you have one at home, you will definitely have two, and most likely four before you are done! (Why four? Because with four horses, you can take two out to trail ride and no one is left home alone.)

            The other consideration is that, of the money you are spending to have one horse at home, at least a portion of it is going to equity -- paying the mortgage, paying for the barn, paying for the property improvements -- instead of just rent (which is helping someone else pay the mortgage, etc.). At the end of the day, you likely will get at least SOME of that money back when you sell.


            • #7
              Originally posted by mkevent View Post
              Not including supplements, vet or farrier care-just hay, grain, bedding-$150-$200/month/horse.

              Hay is the biggie-esp in the Northeast.
              Several years ago I talked to a friend with a horse at home. This was her estimate as well. Im sure bedding & hay & probably grain if needed have gone up as well. Id lean twoard the $200+ especially if you need lots of hay. That is quite changable.
              “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


              • #8
                I spend roughly 200-220 for two horses a month, one eats much less than the other so he's who evens it out for my hog horse. That does not include supplements, but it does include hay and grain for them. I get hay for an amazing deal though, so it'll be higher in your area most likely.

                I board my mare for $225 a month, an amazing deal in this area. I traded riding facilities for amazing care But in this area I'd consider the average board to be around 250-300 dollars a month (no indoor). So I do save, but... if you factor in your labor, cheaper to board.

                My boyfriend has a tractor and a skid loader, and numerous other farm type equipment. So there was no investment. I will be investing in fencing this spring though, another 13 acres. So it will take a while for that to pay off.

                Long term, I save but not much because boarding costs aren't high here. I live in Central PA.


                • #9
                  I spend about $2000 a year for my two horses. (Not including vet/farrier/stuff you'd pay even if you were boarding.) How? I have lots and lots of pasture, so they eat that from April to November/early December, with minimal hay. Then hay during just the few cold winter months. Bedding only during the winter months as well, as they're out 24/7 in the warmer months.

                  Boarding around here is $500 a month, indoor or no indoor. So $12,000 for two horses. That's QUITE a significant cost savings for me, slightly higher taxes or not.


                  • #10
                    I guess the first question is how much small acreage are you looking at and how much will it cost? Will you pay cash or obtain a mortgage? Interest is a pure cost, but you might justify the land price as an opportunity for future appreciation in value (although recent history should temper that assumption).

                    You also have the costs of improvments to make land equine appropriate.

                    A barn is a big cost (figure $25+/sq. ft. in your area for a pretty simple structure; a "personal indoor" will run close to the same; you can probably combine the two structures if you do it right). Again, will you pay cash or get a mortage? Here you'll have real depreciation costs, maintenace costs, etc. Just how much they will be will depend upon what you build. A lower cost building will likely have higher maintenance costs (in both time and dollars). And taxes.

                    Then there's fencing. A simple fence (t-posts, insulators, electric wire/tape, and a charger) can be put up very cheaply. It does require maintenance to keep plant growth off the wire. Snow can short it out (but if the horses are "trained" to wire then this might not be an issue). Costs go up from here all the way to "plastic" estate-type fencing that can exceed $10 a foot.

                    If you keep the horses at home who cares for them while you go on vacation or travel for business? Or are you going to be "tied to the land?" This is another real cost (and finding a reliable "farm sitter" may be a daunting prospect).

                    Boarding horses is like living in a full service hotel. It costs something, but requires little personal input. It's not for everyone, but is just right for many.

                    Good luck in making your decision.

                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                    • #11
                      I don't think at home is cheaper, if you were compare apples-to-apples. I am always amazed when people only cost the feed-and-caring of the critter and none of the other costs.

                      For example, you'll probably need a tractor which will probably be in $7500-15K range.

                      The age old argument on this board, is that the tractor continues to have value, and thus it could be sold and perhaps recoup some costs. However, my thought is it cost me procurement $$ now, maintenance, new implements, etc.

                      I recently put up 3-rail fencing and improved the ring surfaces (mid five figure range). Yes maybe when I sell it will have value; but I doubt a 30-year old fence will be worth much then. I consider these operating costs, because I wouldn't need them if I boarded.

                      Another big sticker shock was there is no "borrrowing" simple things now. Every rake, shovel, wheel barrow, pick ax, sledge hammer, hose, post hole digger, cross tie, is now your costs. Sounds nickel and dimey, but as I glare down the row of neatly arranged implements of destruction, there's another couple grand.

                      Lastly, yearly seeding, fertilizing (2X) and liming the fields has escalated. Probably averaging $75/acre per year.
                      Experience is what you get, when you didn't get what you wanted.


                      • #12
                        Purely horse care costs me around $100 per horse per month, not including the meds and supplements for the old guy. I keep them out so no bedding costs (and it helps keep the work down!), so that's really just hay and grain. I'm not including vet/farrier care since that's about the same whether you board or not.

                        I think for one horse, with the costs of owning and maintaining a property you're probably going to be looking at about the same cost as boarding, if not more. However, if you have multiple horses (I have four), you'll definitely come out ahead. I know I could not possibly afford to have this many if I boarded.
                        exploring the relationship between horse and human


                        • #13
                          Let me add in with my estimate that like another poster, my horses are only hayed during the winter. They are kept outside and are currently in an 8 acre field, so there's a ton of grass for them to get fat on. I think that's why it's so cheap for me to keep my horses, if I had less acreage to use it would be really expensive.


                          • #14
                            If you don't already have the property and facilities, then I would say it is definitely cheaper to board several horses. But if you are buying the property anyway...it depends. My marginal cost per horse is very, very low. My fatties cost me nothing (other than vet, farrier, etc which I would still pay if I were boarding them). My young horses cost very little to feed. Maybe $50 per month in grain and another $50 or so a month in hay in the winter. I have a local farmer make round bales on my pasture in the spring. This is no cost to me (he keeps half). If you do all the work yourself, then it is much cheaper to keep them at home. HOWEVER, the fixed costs are where you get killed. The barn is expensive. Add to that higher tax rates (? we don't have that) and it starts adding up. A riding ring.... add another $10-30K for an outdoor. Indoor...I can't even imagine. Fencing. A tractor. All the small things like buckets, rakes, wheelbarrows... it really adds up. I once calculated my fixed costs per horse and it was about $200 per horse. And that was with a lot of horses! It would be astronomically higher with just a few horses. This also did not include maintenance costs...fixing the driveway, adding footing to the arena, seeding/fertilizing pastures.
                            Having said all that, I would not trade it for the world! Just be careful on the size barn that you build. You WILL fill the number of stalls and then some. Congrats on buying the acreage!


                            • #15
                              Huntertwo-I hope I didn't sound condescending when I suggested peeking into the "around the farm" forum-it was more because it gives a real taste of what life is like better than I could describe it. For example, I always wanted to get a goat and after reading all the goat threads, I definitely know that getting a pet goat would be the wrong decision for me-esp when people go into detail about them climbing onto everything and pooping everywhere!

                              The fact that you've been doing this a long time and are no stranger to barnwork is great. I do know that my family sometimes resents that our lives do tend to revolve around when the horses need to be fed, or when my barnwork is done, etc. While I love this lifestyle, my husband has had a bit of a hard time accepting it and it sometimes causes discord.

                              I will admit, the reason we have a farm is because I convinced DH we'd save money over boarding!

                              Good luck!


                              • #16
                                For one horse, I would stick with boarding. If the boarding situation is good; then it is "cheaper" when wear and tear on the owner is considered. I own a farm and have 20 horses, so boarding is not an option. I keep it fairly simple with horses on 24/7 turnout, but it still is hard work.

                                The comment about the farm equipment is not a joke. Even on 10 acres, you'll need mowers, weed eaters, lopers and a chain saw. We started without a tractor, got an ancient one eventually, and then spent real money on a big Kubota last year. Farm maintenance is lots of work, especially if you plan to keep your day job. If you like it, great but be prepared for some pretty wild times along the way.

                                Please be aware that developing a property for horses, as in putting in a barn and indoor, is unlikely to add value at resale. It might, but don't count on getting your investment into these buildings back at sales time. If you can't afford putting in the improvements and eating the loss, consider staying where you already have a stall and an indoor.

                                Finally, do you enjoy company where you board? Being on your own means that there will be little outside company, unless you take boarders which means more labor and costs. I've always found riding to be a social activity. One of the reasons we have boarders and give lessons it to have people around. It would be pretty lonely otherwise.

                                If you are determined to buy a farmette, then I would recommend going as turnkey as possible. You'll be getting the buildings and amenities at a steep discount in the current market.
                                Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                                • #17
                                  I am in CT, too... in horsey Fairfield county, but in my neighborhood (defined as within commuting distance to our jobs) buying a small farm of 5-7 acres with a barn and somewhere to ride was going to be in the $750k and up range. That pays for a lot of boarding, even up here where $1500-$2k monthly rates are quite common. And those places were nothing special, let me tell you... I don't think we looked at a single place that didn't need some serious work to make them livable! I'm not talking about just cosmetic stuff, either - I'm talking about tearing out kitchens, replacing all the bathrooms, etc. $$$$$

                                  We looked and looked and looked at properties, made serious offers on two, but didn't get either one (although one of those *just* sold about a month ago for under $600k after being on the market for more than 2 years, bet they kicked themselves for turning us down back then!!)

                                  Anyway, I have had horses at home before, and loved it - but I did not have other work and family responsibilities at the time, and lived in an area where the climate was a LOT milder than New England. I am fortunate that my DH is very supportive, but we eventually decided to stick with boarding.

                                  Between the costs of buying a property and improving it to the point where I could continue to train and compete the way I do now, and the reality that we would NOT be able to do an indoor - which would seriously curtail riding for a big chunk of the year - we figured we would actually be spending MORE, for me to be able to ride LESS.

                                  It's true that I could have had another horse or two without adding a lot of additional cost though. Once you buy the property, equipment etc ... the cost of feed and bedding for one more animal is really pretty minimal.

                                  Since I work full time and have to fit riding around that schedule, I doubt I'd be able to get more rides in during the week if I had horses at home. Those chores take TIME. Actually, getting additional rides is one of the things I really like about my current boarding/training situation. The fact that someone else is mucking/feeding/turning out etc is one reason I can ride another one if offered, and still get home at a reasonable hour.
                                  We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                  • #18
                                    What about having them home spring, summer and fall, and boarding at an indoor for winter? If I had 3 at home, I would board my show horse during the winter.


                                    • #19
                                      I had this very same conversation with my DH 10 years ago. We already had the relatively new home on 10 acres, with a 40 x 60 pole building that needed to be converted to a horse barn - I was boarding two horses that were in a full-service barn, plus had both of them in training, taking 3-4 lessons a week, and showing 2 x a month. I wanted to bring my horses home, and just COULD NOT accept that my DH kept trying to explain that it would be cheaper to leave them in a boarding barn/everything as is.

                                      Well.....he was right. Barn conversion was expensive. Fencing - expensive. Purchased tractor, manure spreader, bobcat, hay baler, hay rake, etc. Oh, and had to buy a horse trailer to have in case I needed to zip my ponies to a vet in a hurry.... and on and on.

                                      Bottom line, it is not cheaper to keep your horse/s at home. As others have already posted - you've gotta love the lifestyle, or else don't go there. (I also worked in barns, so I thought I was smarter than the average bear when it came to this.)


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Unfortunately in my area, land is very expensive. So, we are looking to purchase 2-3 acres and build a home with very little, to no mortgage.

                                        We have both read the book by Cherry Hill. "Horse keeping on small acreage".

                                        DH is in the concrete business and knows many people. He GC'ed our current home and was able to cut tons of deals with other contractors saving us a lot of $$$$.

                                        We talked about forgoing an outdoor arena, putting up a small indoor with pre-fabricated stalls.

                                        It is just so hard to find stables that manage the way I would like to take care of my mare.
                                        I'm going at noon everyday now with the winter months to give water, as no one is around during the day to break up the ice.
                                        This alone is costing me an extra $100 a month in fuel costs.

                                        Thanks everyone for your input. I really appreciate it.
                                        MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                                        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!