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Horse Boarding Etiquette

Updated on September 18, 2014
Dressage Husband profile image

At 6 Stephen fell for a small Shetland Pony abused by other children, and often fed him his lunch. So began a lifetime love of horses.



The Need For Etiquette

This lens has been brought about largely due to the lack of etiquette displayed by many riders and boarders. The first thing that any would be rider and boarder needs to realise is that unlike a dog or cat it is not easy, and often impossible, to find a properly qualified person to look after the horse facility should the owners want a break. You can not just put on a leash and walk the horse to a friends or family members house. Even in the rare cases when you could, it is not the same as any other pet. The horse needs 24/7/365 attention, and all of its needs have to be properly catered for.

Horses can not be sick so if they get a stomach upset it can easily and quickly turn into a full cholic, which can and sometimes does lead to death of the animal within 10 to 24 hours. This fortunately is not always the case, but it is a risk that any owner and stable owner/manager will have to face at some point.

Now not all aspects of keeping a horse are this onerous, but there are many needs that have to be met, and unfortunately there is way too much ignorance displayed by people wanting to ride, and unfortunately this is encouraged by many badly run and ill informed riding schools and in particular trail riding establishments. Again fortunately not all of them.

This lens will re-educate and/or inform people as to what the horses needs really are, how they are met, what this costs (approximately in dollar terms) and what a reasonable expectation is and why.

All of the photographs used are from our own establishment.


A Good Sized Horse Stall In a Well Ventilated Barn
A Good Sized Horse Stall In a Well Ventilated Barn | Source

The Needs Of A Horse

1. A horse stall in a stable (10" by 10") - This is the minimum legal requirement in Britain and Germany.

2. 1 acre paddock for each horse plus 1/2 acre more for each additional animal. - So it can exercise itself properly.

3. Constant access to fresh clean water.

4. Constant access to clean fresh hay, or at least 3 feedings per day.

5. Feet trims by a properly qualified farrier every 5 to 6 weeks.

6. Worming on a properly vet approved schedule, at least 3 times a year, more in certain climates and conditions.

7. Annual shots and boosters given by a properly qualified veterinarian.

8. Proper exercise or riding 6 times a week for a solid 20 minutes after warm up. Lack of exercise often leads to behaviour issues.

9. Companionship with other horses - They are herd animals.

10. Secure fencing system to keep the horses in and predators out.

11. Riding ring of sufficient size and/or safe trails for them to be exercised on.

12. Clean living accommodation - Clean stalls at least twice per day.

13. Teeth floating at least once a year by a properly qualified veterinarian or horse expert.

14. Proper grooming on a regular basis, including trimming of the tail and mane, sometimes clipping of the coat.

15. Grain and Supplements as dictated by the animals work load and/or health needs.

16. Blanketing or proper shelter for inclement weather conditions.

17. Clean, cool and well ventilated stabling. - Many horses are adversely affected by dust and they may get heaves.

I am sure that I have not included everything and if other riders and horse owners want to add things I will have a place below for you to do so. The requirements should not be regarded as anything other than the basic minimum requirement for safe and healthy custody of a horse.

Now I am sure nearly all of you will have seen horses kept in considerably lesser standards than these. I assure you all of those animals were suffering, and the expression of this will either be in bad behaviour or in a general deterioration in the animals health. It will lack a clear healthy eye will have a lank dull coat, poor hoof condition either dry and cracking, overgrown or mal-formed.

Pine Grove Stable

A Good Sized 7 Stall Barn Backing Onto an Indoor Arena
A Good Sized 7 Stall Barn Backing Onto an Indoor Arena | Source

The Costs Of An Average Small Stable

Based On Our Experiences

There are many costs associated with setting up and running a stable, obviously not all stables are new and my figures are based on 2003 experiences brought up to date. This is just to give an approximate idea of the investment your stable owner has had to put in.

1. Initial Purchase of a home on a large enough plot for a stable - $250,000 (Nova Scotia low estimate)

2. 7 stall show barn with heated tack room and washroom - $150,000

3. Indoor Riding Arena 72' by 144' - $180,000

4. Land Clearing and aggregates for road etc. $80,000

5. Outdoor arena 80' by 200' $25,000

6. Fences and other such - $15,000

7. Riding Tack and equipment - $20,000 (This is collected over time fortunately)

8. Foundations and septic systems - $50,000

This is not fully comprehensive, but for a modern stable of fairly modest size the owner needs to have or be able to borrow over $500,000. This is more than most people save in an entire lifetime! So do you think you should respect the stable owner, even if they are always looking dirty and shoveling horse shit?

So let's put this into financial context the opportunity cost at 5% of investing in the stable and not getting richer is $25,000, which putting it into context would be an adequate salary to put a person into the top 5% of earners worldwide. If the stable were extremely nice it could easily cost over $1,000,000 and the opportunity cost would be $50,000 which would be a top 1% salary for earners worldwide. Many stables are much larger than I have envisioned, the figures were based on my own experience.

Next horses are 7 to 8 times our weight and do not realise they should not kick or chew on their homes, so they do. There is a significant amount of maintenance required to keep the stable safe and sound. If we say just 1% that is an extra $5,000 pa.

So for 7 horses we need $30,000 pa, but I have low balled on the figures so assuming $35,000 that is $5,000 per horse pa or $416.67 per month. I have not yet added in anything for feed lighting, heating etc. In our case the electricity cost is $18.29 per horse and including feed $229 a month per horse.

The horse board per horse would be $645.67 before we get to adding in anything for labour etc. The actual board charged, due to competition and the lack of resources of riders and horse owners is $475, taxes included. This means we are paying out $170.67 a month for each horse plus the tax on the $475 which is $61.96. This has to come out of after tax earnings so the actual cost to us is nearly twice that.

So the question is should boarders have a right to expect us to administer feed, medicine and supplements? With no compensation, would they be able to do that financially? Remember the horses need care 24/7/365.

Many stables are much larger than ours and would have an economy of scale to a degree, but this will give you the general feeling for the finances. With size there is more risk, more potential for catastrophic loss and the need to pay salaries for support staff. The problem appears to be that many stable owners are not understanding their full costs, having inherited the farm, and they are not aware of their opportunity costs, or are just eating them but should they have to?

Dressage Books On Amazon - The Correct Way To Ride

We run a dressage stable and believe that it is the correct way to ride. The word is actually French for the proper gymnastic development of the horse. The current sport of Dressage does not always follow that concept unfortunately.

Jane Savoie's Dressage 101

Jane Savoie is one of the Worlds best known coaches and has trained three different Olympic teams as well as written some of the best training books on English Riding, particularly dressage.

Training a Young Horse To Dressage

A horse is never too young to be dressaged. This book teaches how to do it correctly with a young horse.

There Are Arguments About How To Ride Correctly

This book goes into why all horses need to be dressaged and why it is never correct to use any forceful means in horse training.

It Is Best To Learn From The Best

This book has the combined wisdom of four of the best Dressage Masters in the World.

Caprice And Rowan Scratching

Happy Horses Scratching Mutually
Happy Horses Scratching Mutually | Source

Reasonable Expectations On The Rider and Boarders

Given the benefits that Riders and Boarders get by being at the stable it seems to me reasonable that they be expected to do the following, and this is just the stuff that should be obvious to them.

1. Pick up all droppings after their horses no matter where they are.

2. Clean and sweep any areas of the stable they have used.

3. Clean any other stalls that they have time to do when they visit, sometimes all of them.

4. Clean windows and stall areas when they visit.

5. Ensure that everything is returned to where it came from tidily.

6. Remember that it is a private members only club (no more than 1 or 2 respectful guests)

7. Do not expect to bring in a private coach without a facility charge.

8. Volunteer time and/or labour to help with maintenance etc.

9. Pay for any damage specifically caused by their horse.

10. Only use the facility for reasonable amounts of time (limit total time to 1 hour) the facility is shared.

11. Expect to pay facility charges if they bring more than 1 or 2 guests at a time.

12 Respect the owners rights and needs so do not hog holidays and weekend times.

13. Realise that the owner probably knows more about horses than you, not the other way around.

14. Respect the discipline of the owners, they chose it for a reason.

15. Volunteer to help with bringing in hay, fencing and any other areas that require physical labour.

16. Remember that your horse contributes 1/7 of the work load and you should be responsible for it if you wish to own.

These appear to me, as a non rider (until I married Shauna), only reasonable, my experience is as an auditor and IT manager.

To me the only proper approach is to Dressage your horse:-


Horse Boarders Responsibility

Should Horse Boarders Help In The Stable?

See results

What Do My Readers Think?

Who Gets The Best Deal The Owner Or The Boarder?

A Humorous Look At Horse Etiquette

Stable Manners is a book on stable manners or barn etiquette that takes a humorous approach.

Stable and Boarding Etiquette Books On Amazon

This book is aimed at the younger riders

eBay A Great Way To Buy Dressage Items For Less

If you watch the items as they come up you can often pick up a deal from eBay.

What Do You Think About Horse Boarding Etiquette? - This Is The Place To Add Anything I Missed Or Give Your Perspective

Submit a Comment

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @Echo Phoenix: Those are sensible comments, I just wish everyone realized that they need care 24/7/365 so taking long periods away is just not possible unless the boarders offer to help out at these times.

    This is only fair as they did not fork out the capital necessary to buy a stable. However they did purchase the liability of horse ownership. Why do they then expect to be subsidized by stable owners?

  • profile image

    Echo Phoenix 

    5 years ago

    If you are going to own a horse but need to board it then you should make time to care for it properly or what is the point of ownership? I personally would love to own a horse(s) yet I will only do it when I have the means to care for it myself on my own property because I feel the horse deserves this ultimately :) Still, my hat is off to stable owners for providing this service for others.

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @Virginia Allain: I am hoping by making people aware that the situation will change for the better for the horses. Of course there are may pampered animals too that belong to people for whom the cost is no object, but the vast majority are kept in poor conditions due to a lack of knowledge and to some extent concern.

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @Nightcat: That really is not OK, although I have nothing against bats per se. The barn is often run down due to the difficulty in finding boarders that will actually pay a fair price for the board and work required to properly care for their horses.

  • Virginia Allain profile image

    Virginia Allain 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    I've never had a horse, so these details of taking care of the stables had not occurred to me. It's good to have the guidelines posted up front so everyone knows what is expected.

  • Nightcat profile image


    6 years ago

    This is lovely! Too many boarders and owners seem to think horses can live in any condition. The worst stable I ever road at had bats, birds, and a messy run down barn. The poor horses! All those other animals weren't cute and the poor horses lived with the droppings.

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @anonymous: Tipi, everything I know was learned since I met and married my current wife and you have read us perfectly. We treat the horses (animals generally) like they are our children that never leave home. The animals give unconditional love and to do anything else would be to betray that trust.

    Those who do not agree will one day have to explain their actions to the Creator at least that is one sin we do not have to worry about. If you want one enough you will find the way. We did now we have three and board two others. They can teach us all so much so I hope you find a way.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    You know your stuff about boarding horses, and sound like a very kind person who treats horses with great respect. I really like that. I love horses, have always wanted to own one, but not in the cards, yet. :)

  • Jo-Jackson profile image


    6 years ago

    I like your rules. I have occasionally taken in horse boarders on my cattle stud and are amazed at people who don't understand about hoof care or the most basic requirements of a horse. I have ended up with 2 mini ponies and an arab mare whose owners stopped paying and never came back for them!

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @weallmatter: All horses are majestic don`t you think?

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    What a majestic animal!

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    @JenwithMisty: Jen Thank you for your comments, I think you are actually a good boarder as you are truly honest. We really only want to make them aware of the real costs and time requirements of looking after their horses properly. Your comments will help with this.

    The thing is many riders only ever board and have no idea of the work they are expecting the stable owner to do for free. Maybe they should all take a holiday and volunteer to look after all of the horses for two or three weeks and that might adjust the attitude correctly? They would certainly then know what it actually involves.

  • JenwithMisty profile image

    Jen withFlash 

    6 years ago

    I think it's very reasonable to expect boarders to clean up after themselves and help a little with other things while they are there.


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