You’re thinking about that perfect holiday abroad. Somewhere with sunshine, beaches, good food and a place to unwind. Or perhaps there’s been an emergency and you suddenly have to go to the hospital or visit someone who’s ill. There’s just one problem of course and that’s the horse. What do you do with your horse when you go on holidays?
Horses are expensive to begin with, but few horse owners factor in the additional costs that they incur when going on holidays. Not only are the usual costs of food and care, but now there’s also the added cost of either getting a horse sitter or sending your horse on holidays to the local stables.
Of course, this problem only really crops up if you are keeping the horse on your own property. Not everyone can do this, and while you may feel unlucky not to be able to do so the rest of the year, when you’re thinking about going on holidays, you actually begin to count yourself lucky.
Cost of Stables
Full livery is an option, but there are a lot of factors to consider. First of all there’s the cost, which if you haven’t already factored it in, will eat into your holiday budget. Typical prices in the UK are roughly around £100-£140 per week, but this will vary depending on where in the UK you are based.
For most horse owners, a bigger consideration than cost is the way your horse is treated. While you’re getting spoilt rotten on your holiday, you want to know that the same is happening to your horse or pony. You also want to be certain that they’re getting good bedding, proper exercise and at least basic grooming. This can be difficult to work out without any prior experience of that ‘holiday livery’ or ‘horse hotel’ so it’s always worth asking around, particularly on forums, to see what other horse owner’s experiences have been.
A Horse Sitter
Then there’s the option of a horse sitter, something that’s becoming more and more popular these days, for a number of reasons. The first is the costs of full livery, but more important than that is the peace of mind it can bring horse owners. Not having to uproot your horse and play him in new surroundings is probably the key reason for the increased demand for a horse sitter.
A Few Important Points
Horse sitters vary from professional horse sitters, to friends and family to members of house and pet sitting websites. The last two options are often free, although you shouldn’t expect these people to be as skilled in minding horses as a professional horse sitter. That said, the savings in cost may make up for this, as most chores and tasks can be taught to someone if you’re only going away for a few weeks.
If you’re thinking about taking on a house or pet sitter, trustedhousesitters.com is a good place to start. There are hundreds of eager house sitters based around the world, all looking for house sitting opportunities.
The kind of person you can expect to be minding your horse (and house) is someone who’s either retired or who works from home, as many (although not all) of the house sitters on these websites work for free (in return for free accommodation).
In return for the accommodation, the house sitter usually agrees to take on some chores and tasks and this could involve mucking out, basic grooming, feeding and cleaning – although you will need to explain all of these tasks in detail to your prospective house sitter first.
Jemma from thehousesittingcouple.com recommends setting up a Skype interview first, in order to make sure that they’re aware of all the tasks and challenges involved. Once you’re happy, get something in writing to make sure you’re both, literally on the same page.
“We do list pet sitting services on our website” says Jemma, “but we’re always clear to point out that we’re animal lovers and not vets. We’re happy to undertake any task and we do put heart and soul into it, but having this agreement, even if it’s just over email, helps to set expectations properly beforehand.
I think the biggest concern for pet and home owners is reliability. If you’ve trusted a sitter to take care of a pet, or your home, or carry out a few important chores (starting the car regularly, cleaning the pool, taking important deliveries etc) you want to be certain that they’re not going to bail on you half way through. It’s difficult to figure out, but the references and the amount of time they’ve been working as a house sitter should give some indication to this. “
What if it’s an emergency?
If it’s an emergency, it’s probably better to either go with a professional horse sitter or to take your horse to the nearest livery yard. Although there are plenty of willing horse sitters on sites like Trusted Housesitters, organizing an emergency house sitter at least minute can be quite tricky. That’s not to say that it can’t be done of course. There are plenty of willing participants who are available last minute, but it’s always worth having a backup plan.
What costs are involved?
In the case of an emergency, where you’re employing the services of a traditional, professional horse sitter, especially a pet sitting agency, expect to pay a daily rate as well as possibly additional fees per animal. Some companies will charge a travel fee, which is usually priced per mile, so be sure to look out for horse sitters in your area.
You will also be expected to cover the cost of food and supplies as per normal, and to be liable for any veterinary bills that occur whilst the horse is under the sitters case (the small print). It’s worth pointing out that sitters on websites like Trusted House Sitters or The House Sitting Couple aren’t as stringent with costs, but may not be as easy to get a hold of at short notice.
Where to begin:
If you have friends or family that already own a horse, it’s worth speaking to them first of all, especially if they’re nearby and it’s only for a few days. If you have the time, look out for a trustworthy and reliable house sitter from one of the many pet and house sitting websites out there. This way you also get someone minding your home, which can be a major deterrent to burglars. Finally, take the time to research a few livery yards. Even if you don’t plan on using one straight away, it’s always good to keep your options open.
Jeni is a freelance equestrian writer, based in London. She is currently working on her first ebook on horse training tips.