Would you do Natural Boarding?
So my husband and I have been entertaining the thought of starting a boarding facility offering natural horse care. We live in the Oklahoma City area.
It would offer only pasture boarding, but there would be small pastures, only 5 horses or less to pasture, with plenty of shelter offered. It would primarily be hay only with grain offered at additional cost to the hard keepers. There would be blanketing or fly masks if you provide them. There would be a large indoor arena that would be used as shelter to the horses in VERY bad weather (we're talking ice storm or snow storm, not thunderstorm). There would also be an outdoor ring, round pen (or two), and obstacle course.
Would you be interested in a place like that? How much would you pay a month? Anything else you would like to see offered? Advice for starting a boarding stable?
Erm... I wouldn't call that 'Natural Boarding'.
I would call it 'Full care pasture board' ;-).
Slapping 'natural' into something is starting to give things a bad rep in the horse world it seems. If something is truely natural I would picture horses running free, no fences, and no human interaction. Kinda of like BLM lands ;-).
Anywho, as for the price on pasture boarding... I wouldn't pay no more then 200 bucks if it included a full blanketing routine and fly masks that come off at night. If horses were in their own pastures and not grouped together 24/7 I would possibly pay a bit more... but other then that, pasture board is pasture board.
There's no such thing as 'natural' horse care. Horse care in and of itself is unnatural, since feral horses live without fences, blankets, shelter, hoof care, feed, veterinary care, etc. Oh, and they die between 10-15 years of age. :wink:
I tend to shy away from any place that offers 'natural' or 'holistic' care for my pets/livestock. They're animals, not hairy 4-legged children who don't speak well.
What you're talking about is pasture boarding, plain and simple.
Pasture boarding ranges anywhere from $150.00-$250.00 a month in most areas.
Okay, I understand. Wording is everything. I guess I labeled it natural because many "experts" on natural horsemanship recommend pasture keeping instead of stables, and I want to promote that. Do you think an all pasture boarding place could be successful?
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I've kept my horse at places where they just have paddocks with lots of horses - no arenas, no extra feed, no blanketing, and still there were always upwards of 20 people keeping their horses there, and often people on a waiting list.
It's really hard to estimate what the going rate is for somewhere. It is going to depend on the place of course, but location often plays a big part in the cost of something. Like I would pay $50 a week (in Australia we usually pay by the week) for just a shared paddock with access to a decent arena with no care if the boarding place was close, but I wouldn't pay nearly that much if I had to travel further to get there, even if they had the same facilities. How much I'd pay is also dependent on the quality of the pasture, of the fencing, how many horses share etc. Also depends on your competition, visit the boarding facilities in the area, and see what they offer and what they charge.
For full time paddock boarding I think pasture rotation is very important. At one place we used to rotate between 7 different paddocks, to give the others a "rest", to reduce worms and to let the grass grow back. You need to offer a good place to handle the horses if you're not providing stables, so places to tie up, tack storage, preferably stables for use with injured or sick horses, or even just to keep them overnight before a show..
Also don't think "natural boarding" is good terminology. It made me immediately think of huge green fields with naked people running after horses, trying to catch them or something. No idea why that came to mind.
I pasture board my horse but there is an area that I can turn into a stall of need be.
Before this place I had never had the option of a large stall (or any stall) if it was needed, and now that I have that option, I love it.
There are times that a horse just can't be out (aka an injury that requires stall rest, after sedation while the horse wakes up, etc) and if you have zero stalls you won't be prepared for those possibilities.
Also, there are always going to be 1 or 2 horses in a herd that hate each other with a burning passion. Do you really want those two stuck in a confined space together during really bad weather, stirring up the rest of the herd with their antics? I wouldn't.
I think you could be successful as an all pasture boarding place (depending on your area, for instance, here in Oregon, pasture boarding is "the thing") but I think it would be in your best interest to have 2 or 3 stalls (the number depending on how many boarders you have) available for any issues that might come up. Another thing you'd have to be very careful about is having a really really good pasture rotation system. Depending on your pasture size and the number of horses, you could easily end up with a dry lot/mud pit which is something many pasture boarders don't want.
I forgot to mention, but yes I want to have a couple stalls available. I hadn't fully thought thought out rotation, but I see how it is needed. What about run in sheds for each pasture that can be somewhat closed up in the worst weather, instead of using the arena? And would smaller pastures with only 2-3 horses be better than larger heard in bigger pasture?
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I pasture board although I am personally not of the natural horsemanship flavour. Here are some things I consider important:
- Herd density. Not sure what you mean by 'smaller pastures'? As a guide 1 acre per horse minimum, 2 acres is ideal. This depends greatly on what the quality of the pasture is and not only from a general upkeep perpective but from herd dynamics also. On excellent pasture, 1 acre per horse is fine because obviously there is plenty of food available but also because they don't have to compete within close quarters for that food. However 1 acre per horse may not work if food is limited and you have several horses competing for the one food source (i.e. your hay). Five horses on five acres that has no pasture and a hay ring is essentially the same as five horses in a small yard since that is where they will be spending most of their time.
-Shelter. I look for natural shelter as well as man made structures - some horses just don't like to stand in sheds no matter the weather conditions! Trees and plenty of 'em if it is possible.
-Access to facilities. If in the event of an emergency, can you gain access to stalls, yards, wash racks etc. Don't have to use them but sometimes a pasture boarded horse requires a couple of days stay in confined quarters for medical reasons. Much cheaper and easier than hauling them to the vet to live in their stalls for the weekend to tend to a laceration or abcess.
-Supervision. If I can't be there every day to make sure that my precious steed hasn't hurt herself or become ill for whatever reason, I am happy to pay extra for a place that monitors the horses constantly since I can't be there everyday myself.
-Fencing. Good clean fencing, preferably electric.
For a reference, I have my girl in a 25 acre pasture with four other pasture mates, electric fencing and reticulated water in addition to a large pond. She is fed grain twice a day and has free choice hay, since the pasture here in Texas after the drought is really of no nutritional value. The property has a 200ft X250ft arena with full showjump course, there are approx 20-25 stalls and additional yards and runs. I pay $275 per month.
Also, if I was going to start up a boarding facility, I personally wouldn't specify that it is for natural horsemanship or any other 'label' as it can come off exclusive and a little divisive.
Horse lovers are horse lovers. Some of us pasture board, some of us don't. If you market to one demographic only you may miss out on business from other areas of the horse industry without even meaning to lose them.
Sounds like an interesting idea. I would rather board in pasture with a three sided shed for incliment weather.
How big would each pasture be? Would this be for grazing as well as the hay you'd provide? How would the hay be distributed to ensure the lowest horse on the totem pole in the herd of 5 gets enough to eat? Would there be salt provided? How would you split up the herds of 5?
I wouldn't mind my horses in with another couple of horses, unless the other horses were very agressive and I couldn't get my horse safely out of the pasture.
Would you also have a quarantine pen for newcomers?
If my horse gets sick or needs in-stall vet care, would that be available?
Smaller pastures can be good, but a problem of subdividing so much is that there are lots of fences to maintain, and the paddocks start being a fair distance away from the rest of the facilities.
I honestly don't think you need to stable horses in bad weather. I mean I guess with snow you might? I don't know, never snows in Australia so I've never considered it. But in big storms and such, I've often thought it to be safer keeping a horse in a paddock (at least it is if they're a paddocked horse). A horses first instinct is to run when they are afraid, and if you lock them in an indoor arena they are not used to, with heaps of horses they are not used to, and very scary weather, they may very well freak out and get hurt. I remember when it was storming horses used to pace to stables, get really anxious, but if they were outside, they'd just turn their bum to the wind and be fine. Maybe ice would be different, but I don't think locking them in all together is a good solution. By doing this you could also be liable for horse injuries. If its required that they must be inside because of the weather in your area then maybe you should consider having stables.
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