I came across this great article talking about boarding expenses on equisearch. This is an excellent read into why exactly board costs so much for horses.
Yes! You could feed a horse for $200 a month at home. However keep in mind these added expenses:
Employees - people want the best care possible for their horses but the best care doesn't come at minimum wage! The best care needs to make a living, have health insurance, and feel supported to stick around. Otherwise there will be a lot of transience in the barn employees.
Mortgage for an equine facility - if you don't own an equine facility this is probably why: they are expensive! You need ample land, hay fields, barn, arenas and more and none of it comes cheap to buy or build.
Maintenance - let's be honest, even without the horses there a facility is going to require maintenance. Let's now add the horses and watch the destruction begin! We want safe and reliable facilities for our animals and there is not a day that goes by that someone in the barn will not be wielding a hammer, wrench or drill. Don't forget too that there may also be upgrades to aid in efficiency and better management, or maybe even just perks for boarders themselves.
Taxes for an equine facility - taxes are important for keeping communities afloat, schools operating and roads paved but the burden on stable owners can be pretty high due to the facilities that they own. Combine that with rising inflation and it doesn't get any easier.
Barn Utilities - those lights that are needed to see by and the heaters for the water in the winter, and often the water itself coming from city supply add up. A barn cannot live without its utilities and unfortunately they are not cheap.
Business Utilities - if you hope to actually be able to be in touch with the barn you might want them to have Internet and phones. Further, often a barn is able to subsidize its expenses through other programs such as lessons and these alternate programs rely on the office utilities. And don't forget the other basic administrative expenses needed to run a business.
Insurance - would you really want to be in an uninsured facility? Albeit most barns do not specifically carry insurance for the health and life of your horse, they all carry insurance for liability and property to protect the home that they live in. In NYS a simple farm plan will go from anywhere from $1,500-$2,500 per year. Add in lesson programs and it will probably bump up to $3,500-$4,500 per year. Facilities that hold show events and particularly offer rodeo type opportunities or cross-country jumping will go up further, yet. Specialty programs for trail riding and insure liability on the trails for both clients and boarders alike may boost up to $14,000-$15,000 per year.
Bedding - well, this is a chronic struggle because bedding just isn't cheap. There is also the ongoing struggle of using the more expensive products that save on employee time or using cheaper products that may be more time consumptive. Either way it comes out of the budget.
Previous blog posts about boarding:
BARN MATHEMATICS: http://paintedbarstables.blogspot.com/2010/12/barn-mathematics.html
THOSE WHO DON'T OWN BARNS BOARD: http://paintedbarstables.blogspot.com/2014/01/those-who-dont-own-barns-board.html
WHAT OWNING A HORSE ENTAILS: http://paintedbarstables.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-owning-horse-entails.html