There is little better in the world than opening the curtains in the morning and seeing your horses happily grazing in their paddock just outside the window.
For the past twenty-six years I have been in the fortunate position to be able to do just that and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have two fields, one of about five acres and a small one acre paddock too. I currently have two retired highland ponies and used to have three and this is just about the right amount of land for this number of horses.
Every horse owner is different with individual needs, circumstances, financial situation, as well as goals and dreams for what they would like to do with their horse, so it’s important to work out what is right for you and your individual lifestyle.
It may be that you dream of keeping horses at home and anticipate that this would be a cheaper option than any level of livery, but remember that there are many costs involved, some of which you may not think of, on top of the obvious costs of actually having to buy or rent the land.
When keeping horses at home the responsibility is yours and yours alone.
There isn’t somebody else who will do the repairs, maintain the land or keep an eye on your beloved animal when you aren’t there. Are you ready to take on these tasks or to pay somebody else to do them for you?
This piece isn’t going to give you a full breakdown of costs as there are so many variables that I don’t think it would be possible. However, I have asked some friends and colleagues to share examples which will give you something to think about if you plan to go down the route of keeping horses at home.
I’m using the plural here of course…. Not many owners these days would keep a single equine on its own as we know how important it is for these wonderful animals to have companionship.
Do you need another horse - or even perhaps even a third if you plan on taking one horse away to shows for more than a few hours???
If you are planning to be away from home for work or holiday you may have to pay someone to look after the horses whilst you’re gone. The cost for this is around £25/day which needs to be budgeted for on top of your holiday costs.
Do you have somewhere suitable for storing hay, bedding and other feed or are you going to have to have something built?
On a yard it’s likely that the owner, or manager, will be responsible for ordering hay and bedding but at home you will be needing these in smaller quantities and will therefore not have the benefit of bulk orders and reduced delivery charges.
Do you have stabling?
Perhaps you want your horses to live out 24/7 but they will need some shelter at least - a very basic field shelter will cost about £3000. Stabling will cost a lot more than that. A basic kit of four rubber mats for a standard size stable will cost around £250-£300.
Do you have somewhere to ride safely?
On a livery yard you are likely to have an arena for schooling which, if you’re lucky, will have lights for evening riding in the winter. A local friend recently built an arena at her property. They did a lot of the ground work preparation and work themselves but nevertheless the cost was around £10k. Again, employing someone to carry out the whole job you would be looking at a lot more than that amount. Is this something that you could budget for at home?
Another friend was a bit shocked when she decided to install mirrors in her arena. The cost was £1000 for the mirrors, £1500 for the timber frames plus £1500 for labour!
Have you got the hardware for field maintenance?
Your field will need ongoing care and management for grass and fencing meaning there will be inevitable pieces of equipment required... for example, a wheelbarrow will set you back about £100. Others examples shared by friends of recent costs include...
£970 for new strainers and hanging a gate, £2000+ for 100m of fencing plus a gate, £1000 for 60m of post and rail fencing, £380 for scraping mud off a hard standing area.
Last year I paid £120 to have the grass cut in my small paddock and I’ve recently had some strainers replaced and bought some new electric fencing tape which has easily added up to a few hundred pounds.
Do you need electric fencing to divide your field? A starter kit for 400m of electric fencing will set you back about £1000. Is your field very muddy? Mud control mats will cost about £30/square metre.
A lot of the above examples are one off costs but it all has to be budgeted for.
People rarely talk about the potential emotional costs of keeping horses at home...
There are, of course, many benefits to being away from livery yard politics and interpersonal squabbles. You may long to be in a position of being able to make your own decisions without any judgement from others, as well as saving travelling time and costs.
The emotional downside is that it can be lonely with nobody to chat to, compare notes with or to ask for advice from.
Before making a decision to leave a yard environment, I think that it's important to be comfortable spending time in your own company rather than being surrounded by other like minded folk and to understand that you are taking on a 24/7 responsibility that you can't delegate if you are busy, unwell or just need a break.
For me the advantages of having my horses at home outweigh the disadvantages. I have to admit that I have never totalled how much I spend each year - perhaps because I’m a bit scared to!
As I write this I can see them out of the window and, for me, that is worth more than money can buy.