What Is a Backyard Horse?

What is a “backyard horse”?

The backyard horse is any equine kept on their owner’s private property, apart from any business like a boarding barn, training facility or ranch. The backyard itself could be anything from a city/suburban literal backyard to a rural property with acreage.

The backyard horse could be any breed and participate in any discipline. You do sometimes find backyard horses who are top competitors but that is more the exception rather than the rule. Your typical backyard horse is more likely to be a pretty average horse.

I would like to clarify that my use of the word “average” is not meant to imply that the backyard horse is without value though. When did “average” become a dirty word? Average makes the world go round.

The typical backyard horse may not be your national level winner, but he or she can still be a delightful ride. A wonderful companion. A wise teacher of life lessons among other treasured experiences.

When I was growing up, I always saw the term “backyard horse” and its companion “backyard rider” as pejorative. Maybe they still are in some circles.

I think the idea is/was that backyard horses are likely to be poor quality. Kind of dinky. The backyard rider was uninformed and unambitious. Unable to win ribbons in any kind of competitive setting. As though accumulating accolades is the only way to show worth.

That said, I very much appreciate competition and enjoy supporting other equestrians as they pursue their show goals. I even like to try to snag a few ribbons by competing in the occasional local or schooling-type show myself! I have lots of good memories competing and hope to accumulate more.

Competing can be fun. A rush. An exciting challenge. It teaches you lessons that are harder to learn outside of competition settings. If competing is your main gig with your horse, you go for it. I am cheering you on!

While I am clapping for you from the sidelines or entering a class myself, I am also remembering that winning prizes or purses is not the only determiner of the worth of a rider or a horse.

For example, I turn my life over to my backyard horses every time I ride or handle them, especially considering I am usually interacting with the horses by myself. The horse that keeps me safe but hasn’t won a ribbon in his entire life? I would say he or she is just as valuable as a prized show horse.

That horse that allows me, as an average rider with non-professional horse skills, to handle, ride, transport and otherwise care for him year in and year out? You can’t tell me that horse is not special, even if the horse were the homeliest, most unathletic four-legged creature on the planet.

Even though my particular perspective is of a backyard rider with backyard horses, I know there is room in the equestrian world for all of us and our different types of horses/minis/mules/donkeys. Backyard horse or rider. Show horse or rider. Trail horse or rider. Equestrians who board their horses. Riders without their own horse. Folks who enjoy their animals but don’t ride, drive or otherwise employ them.

I love it when we make space for each other. To be proud of the corner of the horse world we occupy, and at the same time, support others in their chosen endeavors, interests and level of involvement. To celebrate measurable wins. But also see the important qualities that go beyond those gained through external achievement.

I suppose one of the reasons I chose the name “The Backyard Horse Blog” is to reclaim that derogatory title I remember from my youth. Instead, I wanted to use the term in its most positive sense.

I wanted to hopefully show that backyard horses and their riders have a place at the table within the equine industry. They have value. Even if that value might not look like rising triumphantly through the levels of a particular discipline.

Instead, maybe it might look more like someone enjoying their horses during the ins and outs of everyday home and barn life. Maybe it looks like someone improving their skills or developing their horses’ talents. None of which will ever be tested outside their backyard. Maybe it looks like someone providing a lifetime home to a horse that can’t ever be ridden. Maybe it looks like marking time together. Watching each other grow up or grow old.

If you have a horse or two at home, I hope you can join me in positively using the term backyard horse. Not in a way that denotes we are worse or better than any other equestrian who makes different choices, but in a way where we recognize the merits of our own horses. Appreciating the wonder, the beauty, the adventures and even the challenges that your horses add to your life. Right in your own backyard.

8 thoughts on “What Is a Backyard Horse?

  1. Bravo! I am so glad you wrote this post. Backyard horses are no less worthy of praise than horses in commercial barns and if your horses keep you safe and look after you then they are doing a job many competition horses do not do for their riders! As an aside Carl Hester has his horses in his own stable but not his backyard even though he does live there. But he always turns them out and a recent Champion that Charlotte Dujardin rode to victory lives out 24/7 in one of Carl’s paddocks. Yup. The horse he rode in the Olympics in 2004 lived out 24 /7 too. So in a way these are “backyard” horses too. No horse should be looked down on or underestimated.

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    1. Thank you, Anne! I think I’ve read some about Carl Hester being a bit unusual in that regard, turning his horses out more than is typically common in advanced competition circles. I will have to tell my backyard horses that they have some Olympic level company! 🙂

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  2. Having six backyard horses myself after running a huge equine rehabilitation yard I see my self as professional now with my horses as I was with nearly fifty! Home farm/backyard or professional training yard ; the responsibilities are the same for happy healthy horses!

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    1. What a wonderful depth of experience you have in caring for horses! I imagine you have seen a lot, especially with the rehabilitation work. Thank you for taking your time to read and leave your comments on The Backyard Horse Blog!


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