We recently made the switch from our full-board barn to a self-care facility where we’re in complete control of our horse’s care.
After a few years of having someone else take care of our horses, it’s safe to say that we won’t be going back to a full-board barn for several different important reasons. Not that full-board isn’t a good option, because this is great for a number of people.
Since July of 2022 we have been the only ones taking care of our horse, and won’t be going back.
This article will lay out the pros and cons of each, and discusses why we made the switch ourselves.
We describe full-board here as putting your horse at a facility that someone else manages. All aspects of the horse’s basic care are taken care of, but the horse exercise and getting him under saddle, safely, will still fall to you as the owner or lessee of the horse.
Being in a full-board facility has clear pros. First up, is the simple fact that if you can’t make it to the barn each and every day, your horse will still be fed, watered, and have his stall cleaned.
Another positive to having someone else take care of your horse is that if you’re green, or new to this whole endeavor, a more experienced person will take care of it for you. Having a horse is not like having a dog, cat, or fish.
They come with their own set of problems, and if you don’t recognize that your horse is sick fast enough, you’ll end up with a massive vet bill instead of a smaller vet bill.
Where there are positives, there are also negatives. The first negative is that you won’t have the same bond with your horse as you would if you were the one providing all the care.
He’s still your horse, but in a full care facility, someone else will usually be doing all of the feedings, putting out hay, watering, etc. He’ll get used to that other person loving on him, and in turn, because the horse sees that other person every day, they will develop a bond.
This cannot really be avoided, but each horse reacts differently to different people. Yours may prefer you to the barn manager. Or, he may not.
Another negative is that you’re at the mercy of the barn for everything. What I mean here, is that if you want to change your horse’s food, schedule, supplements, etc., you’ll probably get some kind of resistance.
We’ve actually had it both ways. Our first full care boarding facility was very open to what we needed. They’d make suggestions but ultimately the final call was ours to make.
The next barn was the exact opposite. We didn’t know what kind of food our horse was being fed, we were constantly criticized for the tack we wanted to use, and at one point they threatened to sell our horse because we weren’t riding him the way they wanted us to.
Yes, the horse was ours so I’m not entirely sure how that was going to work.
We pulled our big guy out of there shortly after that fiasco.
Finally, is the simple fact that you’re at their mercy for all of the money that you’re going to spend. If the barn needs to make extra money, raising prices is the easiest way for them to get that money.
One thing that really upset me, was that at our old barn’s request, we give a supplement called Daily Gold. It’s a good supplement and we still give it to him. The issue is that we bought the big 10 pound bucket for “our horse” every single month, only to find out that a bucket actually lasts us six months.
Why did they need us to buy it so often? Something is fishy about that.
Read Next: Does my horse need supplements?
And of course, if the barn administers medicine they’re going to charge you a lot for it. Horse de-wormer, for example, costs 12.99 where we live. We were shocked when we found out the actual price because the barn was charging us $50 to give it to him.
We describe self-care as taking care of the horse yourself either on your own property or at a barn where you rent the space on a monthly basis, but are still in control of the horse’s care.
I have to say that one of the main positives to taking care of your horse on your own is to build up the bond that you’ll have with your horse. When you are the one taking care of your horse, it helps him trust you more. You’re not just grooming and riding him, you’re also feeding him, giving him water, hay, and everything else.
He looks to you for his needs and starts to recognize that you are responsible for his care. When he relies on you, it forms a bond that cannot be broken.
In stark contrast when someone else feeds your horse, he looks to them. He may still like the treats you offer him, but he looks forward to seeing the person who feeds him breakfast and/or dinner.
You also have control over everything your horse gets. You learn everything that your horse needs and provide him with exactly that. You can choose which food, hay, and supplements if needed.
You can control the costs, adjust the amount of food given based on what you know your horse needs, and you’ll know everything he gets.
This may sound daunting, and for the new horse owner, it is. But we won’t be going back to letting anyone else take care of our horse because he’s better off, we know he’s not being abused in any way (we can go into that in another article), and more.
The main negative is that there are no days off. If you want to go on vacation, you really can’t unless you can find someone else to take care of the horse while you’re gone.
That said, I’ve found that the horse community is very tightly knit. Even in our area with multiple world-class horse facilities like Tryon, the local community is very small and we all know each other.
Because we’ve built up relationships with other horse nuts, we have no problem taking care of each other’s horses when the need arises.
Self-care can also be overwhelming. When we were new to this we were unsure of ourselves. After gaining a certain amount of confidence, we were humbled when our horse got sick.
Thankfully my daughter recognized that something was off and we were able to get the vet out right away to get him fixed up. Had we not picked up on it, it could have ended badly.
Choosing between self-care and full board is a tough decision. If you’re new to horses, having someone else to it until you get your feet wet is a good idea. But if you’re adventurous and want to reap the full benefits of owning a horse, there really is only one option.
Next up, read about how much a horse really costs.