Can You Keep a Horse in Your Backyard? Things to Consider Carefully

Paul West/ Pet And Wildlife Care

Have you ever dreamed of having a horse grazing just beyond your back door? The idea of stepping outside to saddle up and ride through your own property sounds idyllic. But before you start shopping for saddles, take a realistic look at whether your backyard is truly suited for proper horse care. Really and practically, can you keep a horse in your backyard?

Key Takeaways – Can You Keep A Horse In Your Backyard?

  • Caring for a horse requires substantial land, facilities, costs and time on a daily basis.
  • Research your area’s zoning laws and regulations thoroughly before getting a horse.
  • Work proactively with neighbors to address concerns like odors, noise and property damage.
  • Routine veterinary and farrier care from professionals is essential for your horse’s health.
  • Prioritize your horse’s welfare and safety needs above all else in your backyard planning.

What It Takes to Keep a Horse at Home

Caring for a horse is a major responsibility. Here are some key considerations when evaluating your backyard’s capacity for horses:

Space and Facilities Needed

Horses require significant room to move around and get exercise. The general recommendation is 1-2 acres of land per horse. You’ll need adequate space for:

  • Shelter – Horses need shelter from weather and elements. A three-sided run-in shed is the minimum, but a barn or stable is better. Recommended dimensions are at least 12ft x 12ft of space per horse. Proper ventilation, drainage, and temperature regulation are also important.

  • Turnout Space – In addition to shelters, horses need room to move freely. Paddocks, pastures, round pens, or small fields allow horses to get outside daily for fresh air, grazing, and exercise. At least 1 acre per horse is recommended.

  • Exercise Area – Horses require regular exercise beyond just turnout, including focused riding, lunging, or other conditioning. Plan for a suitable space to work your horse safely like a riding arena. The area needs good footing too.

  • Fencing – All spaces must be enclosed by sturdy fencing at least 5 feet high to safely contain horses. Wood, pipe, or coated materials resist chewing and last. Plan and budget for installation of quality fencing.

  • Feed Stations – In paddocks and pastures, provide stations where you can replenish hay and feed supplements. Place them far from high-traffic zones.

  • Water Sources – Fresh, clean water must be available at all times. Install automatic waterers or heavy durable buckets secured from tipping over. Monitor daily.

  • Waste Management – Horses produce ample manure. Plan for composting areas, manure piles, and regular removal. Follow local guidelines for waste storage and disposal.

In summary, the more land you can provide, the better for your horse’s welfare. But quality trumps quantity – a smaller well-designed space is preferable over a large barren one.

Costs of Owning and Caring for a Horse

Owning a horse is a major investment. Upfront costs include:

  • Land – If purchasing additional land for your horse, larger acreages run $10,000 – $100,000+ depending on location.

  • Shelter – Building a barn can cost $20,000 to $100,000+. Sheds are cheaper at $5,000-$15,000. Permit fees add expenses too.

  • Fencing – Materials plus installation for quality fencing runs $8-$20 per linear foot. For a 2-acre pasture, figure $15,000 to $30,000.

  • Equipment – Feeders, waterers, walkers, tractors, trailers, etc. add up. Budget at least $5,000.

Recurring monthly costs add up as well:

  • Feed – Horses eat ample hay. With current hay prices, plan on $100 – $300 per month per horse.

  • Supplements – Grain, vitamins, salt blocks, etc. can run $50 – $100 monthly.

  • Vet/Farrier Care – Annual veterinary care like vaccines and dental floating costs $500 – $2,000+. Farrier visits every 6-8 weeks average $75 – $150 per visit.

  • Training – For continued development, professional training runs $500 – $1,000+ monthly.

  • Grooming & Health Supplies – Brushes, fly spray, ointments, wraps, etc. cost around $50 – $150 monthly.

Emergencies, injuries, property repairs, and other unexpected costs also factor in. Review your entire financial picture before committing.

Time Commitment for Proper Care

Can you keep a horse in your backyard? Remember that daily horse care requires consistent time and work:

  • Feeding – Horses need fed twice daily. Plan at least an hour each morning and evening for feeding, refilling water, medication administration, etc.

  • Grooming – Daily grooming and hoof picking takes 30-60 minutes per horse. Proper grooming is important for their health and bonding.

  • Barn Chores – Cleaning stalls, replacing bedding, maintaining barn temperature and lighting requires 1-2 hours daily.

  • Exercise – Horses need 30-60 minutes of focused exercise like lunging or riding at least 5 days a week, plus free time in paddocks.

Additional weekly and monthly tasks include:

  • Health Checks – Look over your horse’s body condition, feet, legs, eyes, and behaviors weekly. Address any concerns promptly.

  • Veterinary/Farrier Visits – Schedule vet exams, vaccines, and farrier trims every 6-8 weeks. Budget 2-4 hours per visit for appointments and travel.

  • Training – Continue developing your horse’s abilities and manners through regular training sessions if desired.

  • Pasture/Barn Maintenance – Maintain fencing, hazards in pastures, barn repairs, flies, etc. weekly.

In summary, plan on spending multiple hours every day tending to your horse’s basic care. Then block out sizable time weekly or monthly for health checks, vet visits, training, and maintenance. It is easily a part-time job!

Laws and Regulations for Backyard Horses

Before getting a horse, research what rules and permitting apply:

  • Local Zoning Codes – Many standard residential zones prohibit farm animals including equines. Check city or county codes for specifications.

  • Homeowners Associations – If part of a HOA community, review bylaws on livestock restrictions. Fines may apply for violations.

  • Permits – Your area may require permits for structures like barns or shelters. There may also be permits for keeping livestock.

  • Waste Management – Manure storage and removal regulations impact where/how you contain waste. Composting rules also apply.

  • Liability Insurance – Some areas require you carry liability insurance in case your horses cause property damage or injuries.

  • Equine Care Standards – There are often laws prohibiting neglect and mandating certain standards of humane care.

In summary, do your homework to ensure your property and plans comply with regulations where you live. If not permitted, explore ways to get proper approvals.

Impact of Horses on Your Neighbors

Even well-managed horses can affect neighbors via:

  • Odors – Manure, urine, and barn smells may waft to neighboring lots depending on wind, barn cleanliness, and waste storage.

  • Noise – Whinnying, hoofbeats, and noises from barn operations carry and may annoy some.

  • Flies & Pests – Horse facilities can increase flies and mice. Monitor diligently.

  • Waste Issues – Runoff, improper manure storage, or erosion causes problems. Prevent through good management.

  • Property Damage – Horses may push on or chew fences. Hoof damage to driveways also occurs.

  • Trespassing – Loose horses may wander into neighbors’ yards, gardens, etc. Secure fencing prevents this.

Consider your property layout and neighborhood density. Create landscape buffers between horses and neighbors if possible. Also proactively communicate to address concerns.

Health and Safety Considerations

Horses require diligent care and supervision for their wellbeing:

  • Diet – Horses need consistent access to hay, feed sources fitting their age and activity level, clean water, and salt. Consult an equine nutritionist if needed.

  • Dental/Hoof Care – Schedule regular farrier trims every 6-8 weeks. Also have dental exams/floats done annually.

  • Parasites – Daily manure removal, deworming, and fly control prevent internal parasites. Pick and clean hooves daily.

  • Disease Prevention – Follow veterinarian recommended vaccine schedules. Quarantine new arrivals. Practice sanitation against contagions.

  • Colic Prevention – Diet, exercise, stress management, and other factors help avoid this dangerous gastrointestinal condition.

  • Laminitis Prevention – Careful nutritional management and limiting grazing on rich grass prevents this hoof condition.

  • Injury Prevention – Eliminate hazards from pastures. Ensure fencing and facilities are well-maintained. Always supervise turnout.

In summary, horse wellness requires diligence across nutrition, dental care, physical health, hoof health, disease prevention, injury prevention, and more. Is regular veterinary care accessible? Also budget for emergency colic surgery which can exceed $10,000.

Evaluating Your Backyard’s Suitability

Given the land, facilities, costs, time, regulations, and care expectations outlined above, seriously evaluate whether your backyard is realistically equipped to support a horse humanely.

  • Do you have adequate acreage, barn, turnouts, and exercise areas?
  • Does your budget cover all expenses without cutting corners?
  • Is your schedule flexible enough for the daily, weekly, and monthly time investment?
  • Have you checked local ordinances and obtained any required approvals?
  • Are property layout and features optimal to be a good neighbor?
  • Can you provide comprehensive veterinary, farrier, and dental care access as needed?

If deficiencies exist in any area, reconsider keeping a horse at your home. There are wonderful boarding stables, equestrian centers, and rural farms far better equipped for horses than a standard residential backyard.

Ultimately, choose what is best for the horse – their health, safety and wellbeing should come first. With mindful planning, you can likely find alternatives that let you enjoy horses without compromising proper care. Please reach out with any questions!

Key Do’s and Don’ts Of Keeping A Horse In Your Yard


DO thoroughly research all costs before committing. Horses are expensive!

DO check local zoning laws and obtain any required permits or approvals first.

DO ensure you have at least 1-2 acres of land per horse. More space is better.

DO design safe high-quality fencing and facilities to meet horses’ needs.

DO budget ample time daily and weekly for all care, maintenance and training.

DO provide routine veterinary and farrier care from qualified professionals.

DO focus on preventing illness through nutrition, dental care, cleanliness, etc.

DO pick paddocks and remove manure promptly to control odors and pests.

DO plant visual buffers between turnout areas and neighbors.

DO communicate with neighbors early on to address any concerns.

DO prioritize your horse’s health, safety and welfare in all decisions.


DON’T assume you can accommodate a horse without honest evaluation.

DON’T expect minimal maintenance and low costs. Proper horse care is intensive and expensive!

DON’T trust that your neighborhood allows horses. Check first.

DON’T believe you’ll reliably have time for horse care alongside work and family.

DON’T ignore signs of illness or injury hoping they will resolve on their own.

DON’T skip regular veterinary, dental, and farrier care to save money.

DON’T let manure and urine accumulate. This risks disease and nuisance complaints.

DON’T wait until issues arise before talking to your neighbors.

DON’T have a horse if you cannot provide everything required for their wellbeing.

Further Reading

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!