It’s the dream of many horse owners: to look out the window and see their horses grazing right outside.
Although boarding at a stable is a convenience some can’t imagine living without, there’s definitely something about keeping one’s horse at home that keeps people gazing at real estate ads or imagining just how their little acreage could be turned into farm of their own.
But keeping horses at home is a big step. Here are three things to consider before you decide to fire your barn manager and bring the horses home.
1.Do you have the time?
If you’ve never managed a stable or kept horses at home before, you might be surprised at how much work is required. Yes, if you ride for an hour a day, feed twice, and muck out a stall, that’s about three hours, right? How much more could there be?
There’s a lot more to keeping horses than that. The upkeep of the grounds and facilities, no matter how meagre or modest, is going to keep you sweating from early morning until late at night. There is always mowing to be done, fencing to be repaired, pastures to be mucked.
Most people see their leisure time disappear when the horses come home. And that’s to say nothing of their vacations. Hiring a farm-sitter adds an expense that can really bite into a vacation budget.
2.Do you have the space?
It’s not just about the old golden rule of an acre per horse (something which actually varies from place to place, depending on your climate, your soil, and the appetite of your particular horse.) You need space for a shelter of some sort, whether it’s a run-in shed or a center-aisle barn. You need space for turn-out. And don’t forget a riding area: a small paddock that is your only source of grazing will get pretty beat-up if it does double-duty as a riding arena.
Talking to local experts about how many horses your land can support, as well as where to place facilities to avoid drainage problems and maximize use of your property, is an essential step in assessing whether or not you have the space to keep your horse at home.
3.Do you have the knowledge?
Horses colic. Horses choke on their feed. Horses run through fences and tear up their legs. They do all of these things and more with shocking regularity, and for some reason they do it on a Sunday evening when your vet charges an extra $200 weekend fee.
Take careful stock of how much you rely on your barn manager and your veterinarian before you bring your horse home. You need to be comfortable with blood and know how to stop it from flowing. You need to be able to wrap a leg, soak a hoof, and give an injection. And you need to know when those things are necessary, and act in an unemotional and efficient manner. Horse owners are often called upon to act as unofficial veterinarians because farms can be remote and a vet might be hours away at another call. Be absolutely honest with yourself about your abilities, because at some point your horse’s life may depend upon them.
Keeping horses at home is a dream shared by many, but there is a reason why there are so many boarding stables: it’s just not easy to do. Go slowly, do your homework, and check your gut many, many times before you decide to bring the horses home. And who knows — it might be the best thing you ever do!