How Much Time Does Owning a Horse Take? FAQ

How Much Time Does Owning a Horse Take?

Weigh the costs and benefits of keeping a horse at home, boarding, leasing or taking lessons.

generic chestnut horse owner leather halter (Credit: AQHA)

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By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Gerrie Barnes

Does having a job, family or other time commitments mean that you can’t own a horse? Absolutely not! Time commitment is something to expect when owning a horse, meaning you need to determine how much horse time on a regular basis you have available. Before you buy a horse, know there are several options to meet your needs and the needs of the horse.

Full-Time/On-Site Ownership

This means keeping the horse on your own property and being responsible for its needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This type of relationship requires the most amount of time. First, there is the maintenance time: feeding/watering; cleaning stalls, barn, arena and related areas; cleaning tack; re-stocking supplies; and vet/farrier appointments. Then, there is exercise/riding time. Not only do you want to ride for your pleasure, but you need to be sure to build in daily exercise time for your horse or his health may suffer.

Boarding Ownership

Boarding can be a permanent arrangement and can accommodate horse owners with limited access to land, busy schedules and/or out-of-town commitments. Although boarding facilities and arrangements differ, a professional boarding facility can generally take care of many of your maintenance duties (described above). Your responsibility is to exercise/ride your horse.
There are boarding/training facilities that not only assume the maintenance duties, but will exercise and train your horse for you. Of course, the boarding cost is higher. The benefit, in addition to training, is that your exercise/riding responsibility is covered.

Leasing a Horse

Leasing means that someone else owns the horse. They are renting the use of the horse to you at an agreed-upon monthly rate. There are many types of lease agreements. Some horses are leased to only one person, and some horses have two lessees. Some leased horses are at a boarding facility, and some are at the owner’s own barn. Some leased horses even come home with you. Learn more about leasing an American Quarter Horse.

The lease rate is usually based on the total monthly cost, including the cost of boarding plus farrier and regular medical bills. In addition to agreeing on the lease rate, you will want to discuss and agree with the owner on all the variables of who does what and when. Also, clarify what you can and cannot do with the horse.

Since leasing frequently involves not only sharing costs but sharing responsibilities, there is some degree of time flexibility for you, depending upon the arrangement.

Leasing can also help you decide whether you want to own a horse at all. A lease-to-own agreement gives you the option of trying out a particular horse for a while without actually committing to buying that horse.

Take Lessons

This option gives you the most amount of flexibility. You don’t own the horse and are not responsible for maintenance or exercise/riding time.

If you find an instructor you respect who owns a few school horses, you can make an appointment once or twice a week (or more) that fits into your schedule. Depending upon the instructor, you can groom and tack the horse or the horse can be ready to ride when you arrive. At the end of the lesson, you go about your life and the instructor cares for his or her horse(s).

Learn more about Gerrie Barnes at her Barnes Ranch website. Gerrie is an instructor with the Certified Horsemanship Association and is an AQHA Professional Horsewoman.

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