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Hidden Costs of Boarding a Horse

Updated on April 1, 2014
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Cost is a Primary Factor

First time horse owners who will board their horses are usually excited about their new horse and overwhelmed with questions about finding the best boarding situation. Much of what goes into their choice will depend on the quality of the facility and care offered, what they plan to do with their horse, and cost.

Cost is another primary factor in choosing a barn, but what some novice horse owners do not realize is there can be hidden costs at many horse facilities that can add up to as much as double the basic boarding fee. One should ask what is included in the basic board package and what is not.

Ask Questions About Extra Fees Before You Commit


New horse owners need to know what is included in full board, pasture board or partial board. Full board usually means the horse will have a stall, be fed twice a day and turned out for free exercise and/or grazing. Other services may be included or a fee may be charged for individual services.


Pasture board normally does not include a stall. Horses may or may not be fed in addition to the pasture grazing. You should ask about this, and ask how feeding time is managed. Sometimes the horses are separated into individual paddocks while being fed and others feed the horses together. Some are supplemented with hay in winter. Some facilities require owners provide their horse’s feed and hay. Ask questions and be sure you clearly understand what is included with pasture board.


Partial board can mean many things. Basically the owner provided some or all of the supplies: feed, hay, shavings. Often you will also be expected to share the workload. Get all the details. This can save money and give the owner satisfaction in participating in their horse’s care. On the other hand, if work schedules and distance make time short then this may not be the best choice.


Once you have learned what is included in the basic board price be sure ask what other fees will be charged and when payment is due before signing a contract. Those extra fees should be spelled out in the boarding contract.


Riding lessons, horse training or exercising are charged extra at most facilities. Sometimes a lesson barn will have a package deal with board and lessons included in one fee. You will want to ask about this and find out how many lessons are included in the package.


Show fees are a common example of extra expenses, and they can mount up to a substantial amount. Fees may include grooming, hauling, training and instruction, and the trainer’s food, lodging and other expenses. Some of the fees will be divided between clients if several horses are taken to the show. Be sure to ask. Clipping, hoof polishing, bathing, and braiding are sometimes negotiable if you know how to do these things yourself. If not, then you will be charged. Also, be prepared to tip the groom for taking care of your horse at a show. Grooms work very hard at shows for traditionally low pay.


 Vet and farrier services have to be paid by the client in advance or at time of service. If you cannot be present to hold your horse then the barn may charge a handling fee.


Administering oral medication and supplements, tending wounds, bandaging, wrapping, and other first aid/special care may also carry a fee. Some barns charge a small fee for adding supplements to the feed or other extra daily care.


New horse owners, once they have narrowed down the search for a place to house their horse should take the time to sit down and talk to the manager or barn owner. Ask for a complete list of services and ask what is included in the board, what is extra and what services are mandatory. Ask that these be attached or included in your boarding contract before you commit to boarding your horse since the extras may add a surprising amount to the cost of boarding a horse.




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    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      DWCU it varies. You need to discuss these issues with the barn manager/owner and be sure it is covered in your boarding contract.

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      DWCU 7 years ago

      Do full board stables charge for washing a muddy horse? Do they charge to apply fly spray? Do they charge extra to clean hooves or are these the responsibility of the owner.

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      Ellie 8 years ago

      Hi Donna,

      Just read in story based in the U.S. in our local newspaper about how people these days, given the bad enconomic situation, are giving up their beloved horses. Some owners don't want money for them and are searching for new homes, while others are setting them free to fend for themselves. Made me feel very sad... It's not that they don't love them but when you don't have a home anymore and/or money, many have no choice.