Depending on what you and your horse need, there are several different kinds of livery options.
Livery, or boarding as it’s also called, means that you don’t keep your horse at home but rent a field, stable and related services from someone else.
Stabling your horse is one of the biggest running expenses you’ll have on your horse and how and where you choose to house your horse can significantly affect how much keeping your horse is going to cost you.
The more work you can do yourself, the less you’ll pay for someone else to do it. But if you have a busy schedule and still want to enjoy owning a horse, you can find stables that will help you make the most of the time you get with your horse by taking care of all the day-to-day care.
When you don’t have a lot of time to take care of your horse, full livery is a good choice for you.
When you get full livery for your horse you don’t have to go out and see the horse every day.
Instead, your horse will be fully cared for by staff – mucking out stalls, feeding, turning out to pasture and even exercise or riding – and you can simply visit and ride your horse when you have time.
If you have a busy or unpredictable schedule, this is a great option for you. Full livery may also include access to special riding areas, such as an arena or indoor arena, and even tack and equipment use.
Full livery stables will also often have trainers and lessons available through them so that you can really make the most of whatever time you get with your horse.
You should ask what all your livery contract includes, as there can be additional fees for getting your rider or groom to take care of vet and farrier visits, blanketing and additional supplements or specialised feed.
The livery contract will outline which services are available for the same price and which services are additional.
When you have more time to spend with your horse, part livery can be a good choice because you’ll share care of your horse with the staff.
The day-to-day routine of liveries varies from yard to yard. Some livery yards offer staff care during the week while you’re responsible for weekends, and other livery yards may offer staff care during the mornings while you’ll be responsible for the evenings.
Some yards will include some form of exercise for your horse as a part of the partial livery service if you want it.
This is a good option for you if you’ve got a work schedule that prevents you from visiting the stable twice a day every day of the week.
DIY stabled livery
Any kind of DIY livery will usually mean that the property owner will rent you the fields, paddocks and any type of arena they have as well as the stable, but the work is all on you.
Mucking, turning out, feeding and any other care directly related to your horse is your responsibility. The property owner will take care of any costs and work related to maintaining the property itself.
Ask if hay and bedding are a part of the deal because this isn’t necessarily the case. If there are other renters on the property you can always negotiate if you can buy in bulk together to save on costs and then split the difference between everyone using it.
In some cases you can also find arrangements where the property owner buys the bedding and the hay and then you pay the property owner for whatever you use.
This type of livery is good for you if you’ve got a flexible schedule and you can go to the stable several times a day to care for your horse.
If you get along with the other renters you can often also work out agreements with them about feeding – that way if you feed all the horses in the morning one day, the other person can feed all the horses in the evening and save you some time.
Grass or pasture livery
Grass livery is where you’re basically renting a field from the owner and do everything yourself.
It’s typical that there will be other horses in the field (which is a good thing) but there usually isn’t a stable or the stable is a shared barn (called a run-in shelter) that the horses can walk in and out of as they please.
This type of livery requires you to attend your horse every day even when additional feeding isn’t required, to make sure that the horse is uninjured and in good health. Ask the owner of the field if they check in on the horses during the day.
Horses in grass livery live outside all year long and only tend to seek shelter if the weather is too rainy, too windy, stormy or too hot. If you have a horse that needs blanketing you’ll either have to take care of it yourself or ask if you can pay the owner or manager of the property to take care of it in bad weather.
If you’re planning on keeping your horse outside 24/7 it’s much easier if you don’t clip him at all and let his winter coat grow in to keep him warm.
Your horse won’t get individual daily attention in an arrangement like this, but the manager or owner of the property will generally keep an eye on things.
This kind of livery can be good for a horse that is ridden only occasionally, dislikes being stabled or has a chronic condition, such as airway disease (RAO) or heaves (a chronic allergic condition).
DIY or self-care livery
With this model you basically rent a stable or field with a run-in shelter from an owner and then run it as if it were your own.
This works very well if you live very close to the stable as you will manage the property as if it were your own and take care of all the daily tasks.
The owner of the property won’t come to check on or care for the property daily or even weekly. Depending on your agreement they may come once a year or as needed.
This type of arrangement is good when you want to keep your horses as if you had them in your backyard and have a lot of time to take care of all the running tasks a yard requires.
Schooling or breaking livery
This is when the horse is kept at livery, either on grass or stabled, and livery yard staff is in charge of the daily care.
Your horse will also be trained in your chosen field (dressage, jumping etc.) 5-6 days a week.
If you’re stabling a young horse at a breaking livery he’ll be trained in the basics of riding and care.
Riding schools will sometimes offer what’s called working livery.
This is where your horse is stabled according to whatever model they offer at the school and you’re charged a reduced rate for allowing the school to use the horse in lessons or for hacking or trail riding.
You can talk to the school about what types of lessons you want your horse to be used for and how often.
This can be a good model if you can’t exercise your horse every day yourself but don’t want to pay a rider to do it.
Some stables may offer reduced rates if you pitch in around the stable and help care for the other horses and take care of the yard jobs.
When you do find a livery yard make sure to have everything written down in the contract so you clearly know what your responsibilities are.
Find a way to keep track of all the jobs you do so that you can communicate to the staff and owner which jobs you’re regularly taking care of to fulfil your contract.
Getting a renter is also something you might consider.
If you’re limited on budget for a stable that’s nearby or don’t have time to take care of your horse every day of the week, you can find someone to share the horse with you.
By allowing the other person to rent the horse from you, you’ll get someone to exercise the horse as well as some money to help cover the boarding costs.
Outline everything in a renter’s agreement so that you’re both clear on what responsibilities you have.
Find a renter who you trust and who has similar riding and handling skills and principles to yours.
Whatever livery you choose for your horse, remember that the welfare of your horse is always your responsibility.
Don’t assume that you can ignore your horse for long periods of time or that it’s the stable staffs’ problem if the horse becomes ill or needs special attention.
Whoever you end up sharing the care of your horse with, make sure that you trust them and that you have a system in place for communicating regularly and updating you on how your horse is being cared for.
When it comes to stabling your horse there are many options out there and you should always go and have a look at the place and ask questions before you sign a livery contract.
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