Choosing your horse’s home

Look at as many yards as possible until you find one that suits your horse’s needs and your budget

Any horse owner only wants what’s best for his or her horse. As much as we’d all love to have our horses home with us, under our watchful eye, this simply isn’t a reality for the majority of horse owners in South Africa. This means we end up putting our horses into livery, trusting the stable managers to keep an eye on our beloved horses when we’re not around.

There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing a livery that suits your and your horse’s needs. This month we help you work through some of those checkpoints, so that you can make the best possible decision for your horse.


  • Budget
  • Location
  • Facilities
  • Feeding
  • Discipline
  • Coaching
  • Other services

Money matters

Ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend on your horse per month, and subtract the cost of the farrier, insurance (if you have) and any other routine monthly costs, such as supplements or physiotherapist treatments. Include at least another R500 that can go towards covering the cost of a vet callout fee if the need arises, or towards replacing fly spray, fly masks or grooming items. You will also need to factor in the cost of lessons, depending on what the instructor charges and how many lessons you require in a month. Once you’ve done all the subtractions, you’ll be left with what you can afford to spend on monthly livery.

Ask your personal network of friends for yard recommendations that fit your budget. Only go and inspect a yard that suits your budget, because the last thing you want to do is fall in love with a place you can’t afford. When you go visit the yard, be sure to ask what other costs you can expect besides the livery, such as a grass levy or compulsory supplements. Be honest with the yard manager about what you’re looking to spend, so that you don’t end up with surprises on your monthly bill.

At what cost?

The average South African livery yard costs between R4,000 and R5,500 per month. Prices can vary upwards or downwards depending on the quality of care, living, facilities and the yard’s location. Smaller yards can be around the R3,000 marker, while professional yards are usually above R6,500. To put things into perspective, we’ve calculated the approximate cost of keeping the average horse versus the competition horse. This comparison does not factor in services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, saddle fitting or insurance.

ServiceAverage horseCompetition horse
Supplements and lucerneR150R1,000
LessonsR1,000 (R250x4)R2,800 (R350x8)
Professional schooling R1,000 (R250x4)
Show preparation R500
Competition fees (including two class entries, boxing, groom, groom’s lunch)R1,200 (one show per month)R2,500 (two shows per month)
Miscellaneous (carrots/fly spray/vet callout/grooming items)R500R500


Good paddocks with natural grazing should be a top priority

The first thing to ask the stable manager about is the paddocks. What size paddocks are available, and is there the option of turning your horse out with other horses or individually? How is water provided in the paddock, and is there a shelter for shade? How much natural grazing is available, or is there a cost for providing additional grass in the paddock? Bigger competition yards tend to not provide large, social paddocks, as this increases the risk of injury. Turnout time is usually only for a few hours in the morning, as competition horses are usually exercised in the afternoon. This type of paddocking should never be considered if you are only a leisure rider who rides a few times in the week.


The facilities should cater to your discipline

When it comes to the arenas, most yards have a lunging arena and either a dressage or jumping arena. Consider your own schooling and what you enjoy doing, because if your aim is to jump higher grades, you won’t have too much success putting up courses in a dressage arena. If you’re a jumper, you’ll also want to be somewhere where jumping equipment is provided for building courses and gymnastics. If you’re a dressage rider, you’ll just find yourself frustrated trying to practise a test in a jumping arena or having to manoeuvre around all the jumps.


Inspect the stable thoroughly and look at the size of the stable, the stable doors, the type and amount of bedding, how grass is provided (in a hay net or on the floor), and the water supply and amount. The stable should be large enough and airy, with sufficient ventilation. Doors should be intact, with no loose bolts or missing pieces of wood. The bedding should be thick and clean, with rubber matting as a bonus! Ask about how much hay is provided to the horse when stabled for the night, and how they monitor water intake. Assess the fly control and ask about what measures are put in place to keep flies to a minimum, besides spraying the horses every day.


The full article appears in the April issue of HQ (121) > Shop now