Horse sitting is when someone takes care of horses while their owners are away. Horsesitters feed horses and monitor their well-being. Some horse sitters also groom, exercise, and clean stalls. Typically, horse sitting is a paid job and sometimes includes staying overnight at a horse farm.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of horse sitting, exploring why people hire horse sitters and what services they expect. We’ll also discuss the 💰 profitability of horse sitting, how to become a horse sitter, and how to book your first clients.
- ✈️🏠Horse sitting is more common in certain regions like the East and West Coasts. Higher horse care values and smaller farm sizes make it more necessary for horse owners to invite or hire someone to stay on their farm while they are away.
- When you’re a horse sitter, you mostly take care of the basic needs of the horses like feeding them, grooming them, and making sure they’re healthy and safe. Sometimes, you might have to do extra chores like cleaning their stalls or riding them.
- To become a horse sitter, first build trust with horse owners. You can start by working as a horse groom, horse mane braider, or as an exercise rider keeping horses fit for busy owners.
- Farm owners are much more likely to hire a horse sitter if you’ve done smaller jobs for them before.
Why People Hire Horse Sitters
Owning a horse is a huge responsibility. Sometimes, horse owners just want a break.
Horse owners who travel frequently usually own just one horse and keep the horse at a boarding stable. Boarding stables offer the services of a horse-sitter on a 24/7 schedule, 365 days a year. Boarding a horse is more expensive than keeping them at home, but for hobby horse owners it can be worth it.
People who own their own farm and/or have several horses are most likely to hire horse sitters. Running a small horse farm involves daily horse chores that can’t be skipped! So, when these horse owners go on vacation, travel for work, or take time off to recover from a health issue, it’s essential that they hire a horse sitter. Horse sitters tend to the farm and all the urgent chores while an owner is away.
⚠️ Horses can be sensitive to change! While dog owners simply drop their dogs off at a kennel or boarding facility when they travel, relocating a horse is a big hassle and expensive. A change in feed, grazing, housing, and caretakers all at once can even increase a horse’s chance to get a serious illness called colic. 1 For that reason, many horse owners instead keep their horses at home and hire a horse sitter.
What Horse Sitters Don’t Do:
Large and well-managed horse barns have staff that keep the facility running. These staff members often include:
- Stable hands attend to all physical aspects of running a farm.
- Barn managers handle the administrative aspects of running a horse farm.
- Professional grooms attend to horses’ grooming and appearance, typically also tacking up horses.
It is important to note that a horse sitter is not a Barn Manager, Stablehand, or professional groom. Except by special arrangements, a horse sitter doesn’t handle deliveries or portion out feed, clip or shoe the horse, or provide expert services like training or riding lessons. In my experience, basic stall maintenance is 50/50- sometimes horse owners have their horses in a pasture 24/7, and simply need checking-up on, while other horse owners may ask a horse sitter to bring a horse in from the pasture each evening, and clean stalls each morning.
How to Get Paid for Horse Sitting
Full disclosure: getting paid for horse sitting jobs isn’t always guaranteed. But here’s how to get to that point:
- Payment for horse sitting tends to vary a lot. Expect more pay when your expertise, trustworthiness, and the amount of responsibility you’re entrusted with warrant it. Expect less pay when the perks are big or your horse-sitting responsibilities are less time-consuming.
- For example, horse owners know that if they have a multi-acre property with breathtaking views, state-of-the-art stables, and other perks, combined with few responsibilities other than making sure the horses are cared for, the horse sitting gig may offer no payment at all.
- On the other hand, if you take a horse sitting job caring for a geriatric horse on stall rest, where responsibilities include managing medications and taking the horse out for a gentle hand-walk several times a day, you should get paid more.
Here’s a table to help you calculate the price you’ll charge for horse sitting:
|Cost Category||Calculation||Markup Calculation|
|Transportation Costs||Total distance traveled (in miles) x Cost per mile||Total transportation costs x Markup percentage|
|Time Spent Working||Number of hours actively working x Active Hourly Rate||Total working time costs x Markup percentage|
|Time Spent Present||Number of hours present but not working x Passive Hourly Rate||Total present time costs x Markup percentage|
|Administrative Costs||Administrative expenses (e.g., insurance, advertising, etc)||Total administrative costs x Markup percentage|
Note: The “Markup Calculation” column represents how much you can markup the price you charge over the actualy “cost”. This percentage will change based on:
- ⌛ your experience
- 🗺️ your location
- 📣 demand for your services
- 🎄 & time of year (i.e Christmas-season rates might be higher)
How to Become a Horse Sitter
Getting horse sitting gigs requires trust and connections. To grow your client list, you’ll have to build a reputation. As an experienced horse setter, here’s my advice on getting horse sitting jobs:
Use an App or Directory to Establish your Business
While there are horse sitting directories like Horse Nannies, you’ll have better luck building your horse sitting business through local ads and/or advertising adjacent services.
For example, if you’re willing to spend a few weekends walking dogs or dog sitting, the Rover app is a great way to build a reputation. Once you have a public rover profile you’ll have a third-party source of references, reviews, and recommendations from pet owners. This can go a long way towards securing your first horse-sitting job.
Make your Business Official and Create a Google Business Account
While most horse owners find a horse sitter through word of mouth, the internet may be their backup resource. Start building a trustworthy online presence now by creating a google business profile. With a local business profile on Google, you can show up in local searches without ever having to build a website!
Use Your Social Network
Announcing to the world that you are doing the thing is a pretty effective way to spread the word that you’re available for that work! Putting it out there to your connections means that you’re one degree closer to being in touch with their connections, who might be seeking horse sitting services.
Start With Horse Grooming + Riding
It may sound counter-intuitive, but to score top horse sitting gigs, start by grooming or exercising horses.
To get horse sitting gigs, you must curate trust. Trust builds in every single interaction you have with horse owners. Little micro-transactions-of-trust can pave the way to being trusted with their home and horses in the future.
Spending one afternoon a week grooming horses, providing a specialty service at horse shows (like braiding or making crafts with horse show ribbons) or riding horses for a barn’s resident trainer can help you meet new potential clients.
- 🎽🐎🏃♀️💨Exercising horses for busy owners allows you to build a professional network and reviews. A horse owner will never ever trust a random stranger with keys and access to their property while they are out of town, but every successful smaller gig builds trustworthiness.
Be Willing to Work Holidays
If you take vacations during the peak of summer, spend every long weekend with your friends at the beach, and always fly home for Christmas, it will be difficult to succeed as a horse sitter – especially as a new horse sitter seeking new clients.
The truth is, horse owners are more likely to trust a new horse sitter when they really need one. This happens when their usual horse sitter has a problem or a sudden emergency. In those situations, people are more willing to try a new horse sitter.
One way to break into horse sitting is by being available on weekends and popular travel holidays. This makes it easier for horse owners to give you a chance. If you do a good job, they are more likely to call you again, especially during quieter times.
Horse sitting isn’t without its challenges – and one of the biggest challenges is breaking into the “business”. While you probably shouldn’t plan to make a lot of money horse sitting horses, it can be a way to indulge your love for horses while earning a bit of extra pocket change.
For more information on becoming a horse sitter, and information on how you can prepare yourself for horse-related emergencies that can arise, be sure and check out our guides to horse chores, to boost your qualifications for horse sitting and beyond.
How Much to Charge for Horse Sitting?
You should set your horse sitting service fee based on the time you’ll spend working (active labor) and a lesser fee for time you’ll spend present on the farm (passive labor). Additionally, You should charge enough for horse sitting that your extra expenses, like transportation, insurance, or business admin fees, are covered.
Research sources used for this article:
- Padalino, B., Raidal, S. L., Hall, E., Knight, P., Celi, P., Jeffcott, L., & Muscatello, G. (2016). A survey on transport management practices associated with injuries and health problems in horses. PloS one, 11(9), e0162371.