The Definition of Livery

Livery Can Mean Either a Stable or a Horse

Thoroughbred Horse In Stable
Sasha Bell Getty Images

"Livery" is a somewhat outdated term, but it's still in use in some regions today, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain. A livery or livery stable is one that either boards horses for their owners or rents them to the public for riding or driving. A livery horse is one that is rented out, usually by the hour or the day.

Livery Stables 

If you've ever cared for your own horse, you know it's a lot of work.

From feeding, grooming and exercising to mucking out its stall, it may seem like the chores never end. Someone else does all this for you when your board your horse out at a livery stable. You show up, you saddle up and you enjoy your horse. You walk it down, clean it up, put it back in its stall and you're on your way. 

Of course, you'll pay a hefty fee for this luxury, and many horse owners cherish every bit of care they lavish upon their equine friends — they don't want anyone else to do it and this can reduce the cost of boarding out. But if you're busy and have anywhere from about $400 to $2,500 a month to spare, a livery stable can be the answer.

Boarding Fees 

Fees tend to vary depending on the stable's location. If you want to keep your horse nearby to you in the city or suburbs, it will most likely cost more than if you and your horse live out in the country. Fees also depend on the services provided by the barn.

If you stop by every day to see to your horse's exercise yourself, you may pay less than someone who only makes it out to the barn on weekends. If you buy your own hay, you may pay less. 

Pros and Cons 

There are pros and cons for the horses as well. Horses are social creatures and often enjoy being around others of their kind much more than they do standing alone in a stall with just the barn cat for company.

If you show your horse, all the activity of a livery stable can help "de-spook" it — the horse becomes sensitized to all sorts of goings-on so they're no longer alarming at showgrounds. 

Of course, any time you put a lot of horses in a barn together, health issues can become a concern. Most liveries require that all boarders have a negative Coggins test for equine infectious anemia and that they're up-to-the-minute on all vaccines. If you're looking into boarding at a livery that doesn't require these things, be wary.

Livery Horses 

Maybe you can't afford your own horse but you love to ride. Some livery stables also offer mounts for hire. Pay the fee, climb aboard and off you go. If you're lucky, you'll find a favorite stable with a favorite horse so you can always request the same mount. Most liveries are located to give you access to numerous trails. You might rent the horse by the hour or for the day.

In most cases, a barn employee will accompany you on the ride as a guide, even if you just competed in equestrian sports in the Olympics. And, of course, it could be very dangerous for you and for the horse to go off on your own if you're not an experienced rider. Horses can pick up on telltale hints that an inexperienced person is aboard and they've been known to have a little fun in such situations at the rider's expense, such as by lying down to take a nap on the trail.

In any case, you'll probably have to sign a liability release before you climb aboard. 

As with boarding stables, prices can vary depending on the location of the livery stable.