Editor's Note: This month we are featuring a series on "How Many Is Too Many" when it comes to the number of horses on your farm or at your stable. First we focused on "How Much Land is Needed Per Horse?" Then we discussed How to Make Extra Horses Pay for Themselves.
How many horses are too many horses for one stable to own? There are many different answers to this question. “First, from an economic standpoint, if the owner is struggling to feed all of the horses, there are too many,” said Mike Yoder, extension assistant professor and specialist extension horse husbandry at North Carolina State University.
When monthly board, lesson clients and training horses are barely covering the operating expenses, leaving little cash for “extras,” it’s time to honestly evaluate the number of barn-owned horses and which ones might be candidates to sell.
“Second, if the pastures are being overgrazed or other resources are being stretched, then there are either too many horses or a different management strategy is required,” he said.
Pasture space is determined by the stable’s management plan. “If grazing is not a priority, then a farm owner can maintain a higher stocking density,” said Laura Kenney, program Associate, Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University. “Manure must be picked from lots regularly and feed (including hay) should be kept off the ground. In many states there are regulations in place for animal waste management that must be followed by all livestock owners; check your state’s regulations to see if there are more rules.”
Lastly, if the stable is unable to provide proper care for all of the horses, it’s time to sell. “If the horses are not receiving proper daily care, i.e., are not visually evaluated daily, stalls cleaned appropriately, etc., then there are too many horses for the available resources,” Yoder concluded.
Selling can be a difficult decision, but when it is in the horse’s best interest, you’ll feel much better knowing they are in an environment where they can be cared for and receiving attention/exercise. And no sale ever has to be final, if it’s a horse you’re attached to, you can requested a contract that offers you first chance to buy the horse back if it goes up for sale in the future.