Boarding’s Biggest Challenges – # 4 , Affordability

Again, thanks so much to all of the people who responded to our boarder survey. I’ve been writing about the first question ‘what is your biggest boarding challenge?’. You can find the first two posts under the Blog tab above.

Your biggest five challenges in order of importance are:

  1. Good quality, consistent care
  2. Cleanliness
  3. Positive, friendly barn culture (no drama)
  4. Affordability
  5. Lots of turn out time, tailored to each horse’s needs (this was discussed in our first boarding post)

This post wraps up the top five challenges, as we discuss:

  • Affordability

I confess to being puzzled by affordability. There are some training barns and barns in close proximity to Halifax that can charge more because of supply and demand, but for the most part  – We don’t have a boarding affordability problem in Nova Scotia.

I can guarantee you that most boarding barns in Nova Scotia do not make a profit from boarding. It isn’t possible to provide adequate horse care in Nova Scotia, be competitive in your boarding fee, and make a living wage.

Here’s our dirty little secret – Almost always boarding in this province is subsidized. Here are some of the ways it’s done:

  • Owners have another income and depend on that for living expenses.
  • Owners teach lessons to boarders (or hire teachers); boarding is a ‘lost leader’.
  • Owners grow their own hay and provide it to boarder horses at below market value.
  • Owners work in their barns for less than minimum wage.

Beyond forage, feed and bedding, here are some of the expenses a reputable boarding barn covers. I’m not talking about a high end show barn. I’m talking about a reputable, properly managed boarding barn.

  • property insurance
  • liability insurance
  • property tax
  • sales tax
  • electricity (including heated buckets and indoor ring lighting if needed)
  • heated tack room (and viewing room if that is on your have to have list)
  • yearly aggregate for driveway and parking lot
  • riding ring maintenance (dust reduction chemicals, footing upgrades, watering, raking, purchase and maintenance of good quality rake)
  • fencing maintenance
  • advertising and responding to requests for sponsorship
  • manure management (movement to on-site composting or hauling away)
  • purchase and maintenance of a large quantity of various tools
  • labour

I may be looking at this the wrong way – people may understand that they are paying a reasonable amount for boarding in Nova Scotia but it’s still a lot of money to come up with every month.

This article provides some good insights into horse boarding costs and why they vary.

We’ve tried various means to make boarding more affordable – self care, trading for labour – but there’s no perfect solution. Also, now that I’ve indulged in my little vent I should note that as a horse owner I recognize that board is only one of the big expenses that come with horse ownership – there are vet bills, farrier, tack, blankets, training, etc. The list is very long!


Having a horse often means that careful prioritizing is necessary and a plan for emergencies needs to be in place.

Here are a few ideas for saving money in your horse budget:

Thanks for reading.