In this article, I’m going to break down and explain all of your options for different types of livery so you understand what types of livery you can expect to find, and have a good idea of how much it might cost to stable a horse…
What we’ll be looking at…
Guide to Types of Livery and Prices
There are lots of livery options available which will effect the cost to stable a horse; you just have to weigh up what’s best for your needs and budget. For anyone inexperienced, I would always recommend stabling a first horse or pony at a larger yard with plenty of people around to help, and getting assisted DIY livery as a minimum.
The prices given below are just a rough guide, based on my area in the Home Counties of England in the U.K., prices will also vary according to the facilities on offer at the yard (understandably, a farm type yard with some stables and a small outdoor ménage will usually be cheaper than a large equestrian centre with multiple facilities!), so you need to also consider your goals… if you just want to be a happy hacker, basic facilities will be more than sufficient, and therefore cheaper, but if you want to compete, it’ll be a lot more expensive as you’ll want access to good facilities – ring around your local area to get an idea for prices where you live.
These are the main types on offer in the U.K. (having spoken to friends living abroad, there are many parallels across the world, albeit with different names/price tags) …
Going it alone…
Rent or Buy Private Stables or Grazing
- You may be lucky enough to have your own stables and grazing at home, if not, sometimes private yards or paddocks come up for rent or sale.
- I’m sure we’ve all had the romantic dream of our own set up, but it’s not for the faint of heart – you will need to ‘know your stuff’ and will be responsible for everything!
- If you have the time and knowledge, it can be very satisfying as it will allow you to have full control, but unless you have a decent budget, you will have to compromise on the excellent facilities and support a livery yard can offer. I would definitely advise less experienced owners to steer clear of this option for a good few years at least!
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): an hour upwards, depending on your set up
VISITS PER DAY: twice
ESTIMATED COST: Cost of purchase or rent and electric/water bills, plus insurance, maintenance of buildings and paddocks, paying for muck heap removal/muck trailer emptying and possibly even a groom for daily help or holiday cover £…varies!
The Most Common Types of Livery…
- Grass livery means you get grazing for your horse, and you are responsible for all of the daily care – twice daily checks, poo-picking, feeding, etc.
- You will need to have the type of horse that is happy to live out year round. It’s also worth checking if you are allowed to section the field with electric tape if you need to restrict summer grazing, or preserve areas in winter (some land owners are not keen on this in case the ground is damaged in small areas).
- Some grazing comes with a field shelter which is a huge plus, if it doesn’t, you ideally want there to be natural shelter such as hedges/trees so your horse can shield itself from the wind, or get shade in summer. I personally don’t like not having a stable in case the weather is atrocious, or my horse needs box rest, etc, and I’ve generally had fully clipped horses in full work during winter which means this wouldn’t be ideal.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): from ½ an hour in summer, possibly up to 1½ hours during winter
VISITS PER DAY: two
ESTIMATED COST: from £10 – £25+ per week, or approx £520 – £1,300+ per year
SUITED TO: mainly for happy hacker/leisure riders with time to visit twice a day, and a hardy type of horse/pony!
- DIY livery is one of the cheapest options, and generally means you get a stable and grazing for your horse, (sometimes hay and bedding is included), but you have to ‘Do It Yourself’ – all of the daily care from turning out in the morning to bringing in later in the day, and everything in between.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): from ¾ of an hour if living out in summer, up to 2 hours in winter
VISITS PER DAY: two
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £25 – £40+ per week, or approx £1,300 – £2,000+ per year
SUITED TO: experienced owners with plenty of time for twice daily visits and all the tasks that go with it.
Assisted DIY Livery
- Just like DIY, with the added benefit of a list of ‘extras’, usually payable per task (such as feeding, turning out, mucking out, bringing in, etc), and it usually means someone experienced is around if you need advice.
- This is a great option for a lot of owners who think they would have time for DIY, as it allows you some flexibility – for example; if you don’t want to visit the yard twice a day, if your schedule changes, or maybe if you go on holidays regularly (or even if you just want a lay in a day or two!).
- Do be aware that these costs can add up though if you want lots done, and in some cases, it may even be better to go onto Part Livery.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): ½ an hour to 2 hours depending on arrangement
VISITS PER DAY: once or twice depending on arrangement
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £35 – £60+ per week, or approx £1,800 – £3,000+ per year
SUITED TO: owners who have time, but would like additional support and flexibility.
- Part Livery usually means that the yard will do all of the basics for you, for example, feeding, changing rugs, turning out, mucking out, bringing, etc, which means your horse’s basic needs are taken care of even if you don’t make it to the yard every day. You are just responsible for exercising and grooming, etc.
- Some yards also offer Weekday Part Livery, where Mon-Fri is Part Livery, but weekends are DIY or Assisted DIY – this is a great compromise for people who work during the week, but are happy to do more for themselves at the weekend.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): ¼ – ¾ of an hour
VISITS PER DAY: ideally once (to groom at least, but basic needs taken care of if you miss a day here or there)
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £70 – £100+ per week, or approx £3,600 – £5,200+ per year
SUITED TO: owners who lack some time for the daily tasks and want to prioritise riding/grooming.
- Full livery is much like Part Livery, but usually includes grooming and exercise (and sometimes even tacking up for you and tack cleaning!). Prices will vary according to the yard, how often the horse is exercised, and how many additional services are offered. It can be a good option if you have a very busy lifestyle and unpredictable schedule as it gives you peace of mind that your horse is totally cared for and kept exercised – but it doesn’t come cheap.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): ¼ – ½ an hour
VISITS PER DAY: optional depending how often they are exercised (as all of your horse’s needs should be cared for)
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £100 – £140+ per week, or approx £5,200 – £7,300+ per year
SUITED TO: anyone who lacks time due to work or other commitments, but has plenty of funds.
- Competition Livery is like a turbo-charged version of Full Livery, and the sky’s the limit on what may be offered and what it can cost; from a ‘luxury’ version of Full Livery, where the horse will be kept immaculately groomed, then tacked up, etc, when you visit, and kept well schooled for you, right up to a complete package where it will be produced and competed for you (you don’t even have to be a rider if you just want to see a horse you own ridden on the ‘big stage’ competition circuits).
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): optional (as all of your horse’s needs are cared for)
VISITS PER DAY: optional (as all of your horse’s needs are cared for)
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £140 – £250+ per week, or approx £7,300 – £13,000+ per year
SUITED TO: owners who wish to have their horses completely produced for them, or work long hours and are very serious about competing.
- Working Livery can operate in many different ways, but generally means your horse will be used for lessons at the equestrian centre (or even college) your horse is stabled at, in exchange for a discounted livery rate.
- You will need to have a horse or pony suitable for this kind of role, who is fit enough to cope with lessons and is safe for less experienced riders (and doesn’t mind being ridden by a lot of different people).
- You need to be very cautious, and make sure you only opt for this kind of livery at a stable yard with a good reputation, as some places will take advantage and over work your horse or pony.
- It’s not for everyone, as you won’t have control over who rides your horse or pony, and you will be limited to when your horse is available to actually ride yourself.
TIME REQUIRED EACH DAY (ex. riding): 0 to 2 hours depending on the agreement
VISITS PER DAY: from zero to two depending on agreement
ESTIMATED COST TO STABLE A HORSE: = from £50 – £100+ per week, or approx £2,600 – £5,200+ per year
More Specialist Types of Livery…
These are the more specialist types of livery available. I haven’t included the cost to stable a horse here as they tend to be more bespoke and varied…
- Much like full or competition livery, hunter livery is tailored to owners that hunt. During the season, exercise will be focused on fitness for hunting. Horses will usually be prepped and plaited on hunt days, and transport is often provided. During the summer months, out of hunting season, some owners will turn their horses away, and a full care grass livery can be offered, or some will continue to work through the summer on full livery.
SUITED TO: owners who wish to hunt.
- Similar to full and training livery, with the addition of the yard taking over the sale of your horse or pony, and dealing with viewings, etc. Quite often, the yard will take a percentage of the sale price in commission.
SUITED TO: anyone with limited time to deal with selling their horse, or who wants to take the stress out of the selling process.
Breaking & Training Livery
- Breaking & training livery does exactly what it says on the tin – you can send your horse to these yards to be broken in, or trained on, for you. Also, if you have a specific behavioural issue that you need help with, such as napping, these yards can often offer a type of ‘rehab’ for your horse.
SUITED TO: anyone who needs someone to start their horse for them, wants help training them on, or to work on specific issues.
- When a horse reaches retirement age, or can no longer be ridden, a lot of owners who want to ensure their horse lives out the rest of their days well cared for may not have the time or finances to keep them in normal livery, so retirement livery offers a great alternative. Usually, retirement livery yards will offer full care of your horse, with options from living out year round, to barns in winter, or even stabling at a slightly reduced rate to normal livery (as exercise and facilities such as a menage aren’t required).
SUITED TO: owners of retired horses who want them cared for.
- Livery for racehorses in training. Prices vary hugely depending on the prestige of the yard and level of training, but none will be ‘cheap’!
SUITED TO: owners of race horses.
- From the usual livery packages, to full on training, at a polo yard.
SUITED TO: polo players.
Broodmare & Foaling Livery
- Stud yards that offer livery for broodmares, and foaling, usually with specialist care and larger stables.
SUITED TO: owners of brood mares.
As mentioned in Buying a Horse – The Ultimate Guide … I’ve kept most of my horses DIY (or assisted DIY where some one turned out for me each day, and I did everything on my one visit in the evening to save me getting up early and driving to the yard twice!). I’ve also stabled weekday part livery where some one turned out/brought in and did all the mucking out for me Mon-Fri, which was a lot more expensive, but allowed me more time to groom and ride.
Things to Consider when Choosing a Yard…
So, now that you have a good idea of the types of livery available, what might suit you, and a rough idea about the cost to stable a horse, you can begin looking for a yard. When looking for somewhere that offers the livery package you want, it’s also worth considering the following points…
- Opening times – some yards will only allow owners on-site during certain opening hours, so double check this to make sure it works with your schedule.
- How busy is the yard? – apart from deciding what kind of atmosphere you want (whether it’s quiet or bustling) will be down to your personal taste, but how busy it is can impact how readily available the facilities are; for example, most livery yards, especially larger ones, operate a slot booking system for the school, particularly for the busier parts of the day, so check this out.
- What are the turn out arrangements? – Do they have restricted grazing in winter? Do they allow you to ‘strip’ graze in summer if your horse is prone to weight gain or laminitis? Is turn out individual, in pairs, or a herd? Is the grazing mixed, or segregated into mares and geldings?
- Facilities – what facilities do you need? For example, if you want to compete or are a keen jumper, you’ll want a school and jumps available. And if you can only ride in the evenings after work, you’ll also want floodlights. Bonuses may include a horse walker, a field to ride on grass in preparation for summer shows, an indoor school, or even a XC course. If you intend to go to the yard before work, are there shower facilities at the yard or your work, or will you have to go home in between? … Just prioritise what’s important to you.
- Hacking – what is the local hacking like? Do you have access to bridleways or off road hacking, or will you need to ride on the roads? If you’re a happy hacker, this is going to be very important, although most riders will want some decent hacking.
- Storage – it’s easy to forget quite how much kit you can accumulate when you own a horse! What are the storage facilities like? And can you keep your tack on site in a secure tack room? One of the yards I was at had a spate of burglaries, so they banned tack from being kept at the yard, which was a real pain for me having to lug all of my kit home – I used to go straight from work, so it meant a detour on the way, plus, I had to make space at home and put my tack on the house insurance.
- Flexibility – is the yard owner flexible in offering help/extra services if you are unwell, or go holiday, for example?
- Distance from home – set a parameter for your yard search. As you’ll usually be visiting once or twice a day you’ll want somewhere relatively close to home (or your usual daily routes, such as work or a school run).
- Security – is the yard locked at night? Is the tack room secure? Does someone live on site?
- If you have a trailer or horse box, is on-site parking available for it? If there a parking fees, you’ll also have to factor this into the cost to stable a horse.
- What is included? This will of course impact the overall cost to stable a horse – e.g., is hay and bedding, or feed, included? Is use of all of the facilities on site included, or will you have to hire some of them? A few of the yards I’ve been at had a coin meter for the school floodlights, at around 50p-£1 per use, which may not sound a lot, but it does add up if you’re on a budget!
- What are the yard’s rules and requirements? – for example, some yards might not allow children on site, and some don’t allow dogs. Some will require that your horse is fully vaccinated and insured (which I’d recommend anyway!). My friend was at one yard where the rules stated the paddocks must be poo-picked every single day (rather than a big clear up once or twice a week), which wouldn’t be convenient for some people.
- Anything else specific to your needs?
The Cost to Stable a Horse has been Covered… What Else?
So, the options for types of livery have been covered and the estimated cost to stable a horse is sorted… What else do you need to factor in? Sorry to break it to you, but quite a bit more! You’ll also need to tot up all of the extra costs… feed, hay and bedding (if they’re not included in your livery), shoeing, vaccinations, worming, insurance, back/dental checks, and more!
For an in depth look at each of these costs, check out How Much Does it Cost to Keep a Horse? – The Ultimate Guide.
Some Useful Links…
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