ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, location, location

Sarah at A Soft Spot for Stars started a blog hop asking where we live and what keeping horses is like in our area. Since complaining about living here is a favorite hobby of basically every resident of Silicon Valley, I was all over this one.

But first, let me preface this post by saying that I am incredibly fortunate and this entire post is basically a treatise in first world problem. I shouldn’t complain so much, but I do.

The San Francisco Bay Area is divided up into sections. I technically live in the South Bay, but we’re right on the Peninsula border. While the entire bay area is expensive, crowded, and a traffic nightmare, the different sections are very different. The East Bay actually has a lot of horse facilities and much more reasonable prices. If you travel down to Gilroy, there are more horse farms and prices get cheaper again. However the East Bay and Morgan Hill/Gilroy areas are very far away from my husband’s job and the temperatures are terrible. The ocean and bay have a very serious effect on temperature and where we live, in Cupertino can be a serious 10-20 degrees cooler in the summer than East Bay/Gilroy. San Francisco can actually be 60 degrees in the summer while the East Bay is baking at 100+.


Housing prices in the Bay Area are astronomical, especially in the Peninsula and the bordering towns. The median rent in Cupertino is $4,000. Even a 1-bedroom apartment will rent for over $2,000. The median cost of a 2 bedroom condo/house is $1,000,000. With housing and land being at such a premium, horses cost a lot.

There are almost no barns in Cupertino. In fact, I’m fairly sure there is only 1 boarding barn technically in the Cupertino and it’s run by a crazy man. Our own barn is 5 minutes down the road in an unincorporated part of San Jose. There are a few more boarding barns in Saratoga, which is about 5 miles from our house. There are more stables in Woodside and south San Jose, but traffic makes them impossible to board at. I can get to Woodside in 15 minutes without traffic. With traffic, it takes an hour. Because everyone here has flexible hours, rush hour lasts from 6am to 10:30am and then from 2:30-8:00. As I do not want to spend 2 hours round trip driving just to ride, I have about 5 barns to choose from. (There are some scattered private/back yard barns in the area, but there are only the few boarding barns).

paddock board

paddock board

Pasture board isn’t really an option around here. There are some places further away that offer pasture board, but most of the board in my immediate area is paddock board. The one place I know of that offers pasture charges $305. However, I’ve talked to them in the past and they have a long waiting list for pasture board.

Stall Board ranges from $500 to $1000. The lower rates don’t include stall cleaning as most places are self-care. But full-care starts around $700. None of these will include turnout. If turnout is available, it’s usually an extra charge and the horse will be turned out in a 20×40 paddock for an hour or so. Pasture turnout isn’t a thing that exists around here so far a I know.

At the moment, none of the barns in my immediate range offer full training, but the costs in the surrounding area range from $600-$1500 not including board.

Training/lessons run $50-$150. We had a hard time finding good quality lessons without having our own horses though. The expectation is that you’ll own or lease.

Hay is about $15-$25 per bale. The $15 price is really only if you’re buying a truckload order and even then can be hard to find. Most hay is about $20.

Trims can be had for about $40 and I don’t know what shoeing costs because I don’t do that.

Weather: It only rains in the winter and never in the summer. This makes for great summers, but miserable winters. Most barns don’t have covered or indoor arenas since they aren’t necessary most of the year. It rarely gets below freezing in the winter and never snows, though I have grown weak from living here and now think I’m going to freeze to death anytime it’s below 60. In the summer, it’s supposed to be nice and temperate, but the last few years have been very hot. It’s still cooler where we are than other parts of the Bay Area, which I am very thankful for.

Winter in California

Winter in California

I think the worst part of living here – aside from the astronomical costs of owning or renting a home – is the lack of horse culture. There’s one small tack store, but I generally have to get all of my stuff online. We have some local shows, but not a lot. We mostly end up driving a lot to get to horse shows. Even our local horse park rarely has events that we can attend. They often have only one show per weekend in the summer and divide those between H/J, Dressage, Eventing, Western, and other random shows so it’s hard to get consistent showing done. Dressage people have a bit more luck, but I don’t show dressage and even that I feel like there’s less available than I remember on the East Coast.

I think I might be more okay with this if I hadn’t grown up on the east coast where there were multiple horse shows to choose from every weekend and multiple tack stores to shop from. Most of all, I hate that we cannot afford our own property here. We could buy an entire horse property with an indoor arena back on the East Coast for less than it would cost to buy a condo here. We could only afford to live her by moving so far away that our commute would take 90 minutes each way.

It is really freaking pretty here though. And I’ll miss that.

Amazing day for a ride in the #goldenhillsofcalifornia #horsecamping #saveahorserideamustang

A photo posted by Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership (@diyhorseownership) on

41 thoughts on “ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, location, location

  1. Kaisa Määttänen

    Thanks for this! It is interesting to know what horse keeping in other countries cost. But I would like to ask about turnout.. so if you don’t pay for turnout, are the horses and Nilla spending their days in small paddock (as in Nillas picture)? Or are thay in the sheltered small paddock all the time, or are they in box during the night time? Or if there is no turnout available, are the horses in their boxes all the time?

    1. Olivia Post author

      I am going to do a post on my specific barn and set up tomorrow. Generally though, horses around here just live in their paddocks and do not get turnout. Some paddocks are bigger like 20×40, while a lot are just 12×20. Some people do pay for turnout, but the turnouts themselves are usually small pens that aren’t even as big as a dressage arena, so the horses don’t really get a chance to move out. There are barns around here where the horses live in 12×12 stalls and do not get turnout. I couldn’t do that and I think my horses would kill me or themselves living like that, but some people seem to be find with it.

      1. Kaisa Määttänen

        Thanks, I thought something like this from the picture. I think my mule would be happy to be 247 in a lot like that, rather than in the box 12 hours and pen during the day (like she is now), but because it’s cold in here in winter, most of the horses are stabled during the night.

  2. Teresa

    I’m finding this blog hop very interesting! I think I will do one. Our lives are very different in terms of cost and weather but not so much in other ways…

  3. Nicku

    This is spot on…unfortunately! I grew up riding & showing in the east bay 1990-99, then back again in the area and in the saddle 2008-2015. Prices for everything are nuts just to breathe, eat and have a little place to call home even with two really good incomes. Layer on horses and ugh! I spent the last several years living & boarding in Livermore/East Bay and was lucky lucky lucky to be at an affordable barn with 50×50 paddock board available and solo pasture turnout (added cost). Lovely owners too. But that was a very rare find. It is pretty in the Bay but since moving to NV we haven’t missed much of anything about it, it’s pretty here too with a way lower cost of living and calmer lifestyle. However, slim pickings horse culture wise…and not really much cheaper than what I was paying in the East Bay as far as I can gather with the exception of the big, cool facility right by my house. We will see what unfolds once I get more involved again after the new baby comes! Really good post!

    1. Olivia Post author

      The East Bay is actually significantly cheaper than where we are and has a lot more boarding barns. It’s just too far for us to commute from. But I’m with you: I plan to move away from here. I’m surprised that boarding costs that much in NV.

  4. megan

    i am REALLY liking the blog hop. but the paddock situation makes me sad. turnout is EXTRA then when do the horses go out?? i like the east coast 😀

    also $20 a bale for hay is fucking mental.

    1. Olivia Post author

      The turnout thing sucks here. I’ve gotten very used to it and my horses actually have a small turnout and big paddocks, but I still long for a pasture for them to run in.

  5. Sara @ The Roaming Rider

    You also have access to some amazing places to ride! I am always drooling over your photos. I’m also going to ask about turn out. If there isn’t any, does that mean the horses just stay in their stall 24/7 unless being worked? That has to make it hard to maintain condition for endurance. having Gem out in a large hilly pasture 24/7 is the only reason I can ride one day a week and still do endurance.

    1. Olivia Post author

      So, there are boarding places with pasture in the greater area, but they’re too far away for me to board at. Actually, there is one directly behind my house (like I can hear the horses whinnying from my house, but that place is a nightmare of drama). Some endurance people board at pasture barns, but I know endurance people who board at paddock barns. Paddocks at least give them a bit of moving around area, though it’s not as good as pasture. But there are barns with stalls and no turnouts and those horses just only get out for riding and lunging. I don’t know of anyone doing endurance that way, it’s usually dressage and H/J horses, but it is a thing.

  6. Leah

    While I’m jealous of your weather (it was 18 with a wind chill of 5 when I fed and turned out this morning), I would not want to pay those prices! Trade offs with everything I guess!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I’m not sure I can deal with that cold, but we are looking at Vermont as a possible place to move and it gets cold there too, so I might have to learn.

  7. Tracy - Fly On Over

    I have such trouble wrapping my head around the “no turnout” situation. I mean, obviously it works out fine, as your horses are incredibly happy and healthy but… it’s just so strange!! I’m used to overnight turnout in the summer and 4 hours of morning turnout in the winter.

    1. Olivia Post author

      It actually doesn’t always work out. I had to sell a horse years ago because she couldn’t handle not having pasture time. I know of other people in the area who have to do similar things. And I’ve met some very miserable horses. It works for some horses though. Ours actually have a turnout now, but I’ll get into that in my barn post.

  8. hayflinger

    Oooh oooh, I probably should do something like this for my horse keeping locality, especially given the topography and geography of the place I live.

  9. Kim DeForrest

    Wow! And I thought I had it bad! I too had my own farm on the east coast and could ride my horses straight out of my own barn on to trails up the mountain to Shenandoah Nat Park. I lived 20 mins from Old Dominion endurance trails. I kept 5 horses for next to nothing with 10 acres of pasture and grew my own hay.

    Now! I live in Northern Ca. I live on the east side of Sacramento 3 miles from work. My yard is barely big enough for my dogs and I can practically reach out and touch my neighbors house.

    There is a boarding barn 2 miles from my house that charges 4-500$ a month for a 12 x 12 paddock. They have some small pastures that get standing water in them in winter- but it costs extra to get your horse turned out for an hour.

    Soooo, I keep my horses up near Folsom lake on the way to Auburn- our famous endurance ride Cap’ital.
    I actually found this place by interacting with a blogger to see where she kept her horse.
    This place has “baby” pastures plus a big community pasture. All are irrigated, so can be often wet. There is not any stall board because there are not any stalls. But we have a big arena to use and also a round pen.
    Prices range from 300-600 a month which includes hay. We provide our own feed.
    The big pasture is about half a mile down the lane from the barn, so I get much needed exercise.

    I can saddle up, ride down the lane, cross a moderately busy road and be in a big preserve with meadow and woods and trails to the lake and connectors to the Western States trail that is part of the Tevis ride. I don’t like some of those cliff hanger trails to the Tevis though!

    I live ver the weather here but we do get a couple of weeks of 100 degrees and some rainy weather which is happening now!

    So other than having to drive 30-40 min. To get to my horses, and what I think is a cost prohibitive board, I still have it pretty good and so do my horses who graze or nibble on blades of grass 24 hr a day.

    1. Olivia Post author

      The Sacramento area has a lot more riding and stables than our area. We actually ended up driving out there a lot when we were looking for my husband’s horse. I’m glad you found such a great place to board. My individual barn is actually great, but my options are so limited.

    2. Kara

      I’m an East Coast transplant to Sacramento too! I board in N. Sac at a wonderful barn, but no turn out. 😞. I turn her out in the indoor arena a few times a week, ride her and hand walk her so she can graze. A pasture would be so much easier! The trails by Folsom lake are awesome. I rode out of Shadow Glen a few times and I really liked the trails!

  10. SarahO

    That rent is outrageous! And rush hour times!

    I totally get the paddock board situation, that’s common here too even though land is cheaper. The big difference is the size of the paddocks though! 12’x20′ is tiny! I felt bad for confining Kachina to a paddock for the winter but hers is 45’x60′!

    I’m loving this blog hop, learning so much.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Our paddocks are a bit bigger and some places have bigger 40×60 type paddocks, but a lot of places have tiny little paddocks.

  11. Micaylah Strukelj

    Coming from SD, I never understood the importance of pasture. Because they just don’t exist down there. Now that I’m in Idaho, I think its a novel concept but not a deal breaker for me. So weird to see how horse culture changes from place to place

  12. Sarah

    This is very interesting! Thanks for participating! I feel like most of my horses would be fine with the paddock life. They all enjoy being stalled (as long as they have a visible buddy) and would be fine with being lazy in a paddock as long as they were given some time to stretch their legs.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Mine are generally pretty good with the paddock life and we give them frequent opportunities to run around in the small arena when we can, but I don’t know how the horses who don’t get any run around time do it.

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  14. L. Williams

    Even in the East Bay the weather differentiates. I’ve lived now on both sides of the Oakland Hills, and if you are east of them welcome to 110+ summers, whereas on the bayside you barely ever hit 95.

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