Boarding (lots of turnout a must!) in West or South Chicago suburbs

Hi COTH friends. My husband and I (and our 2 big dogs and my 6yo mare) are seriously considering a move to Chicago. We would both likely work in the city, but would prefer to live in the burbs with a 30min-ish express train commute. Ideally, I would be able to find a barn within 30 minutes of where we live that fits my and my horse’s needs. We are both (my horse and I haha) pretty easy to please, but here are the needs: ideally Eventing/dressage-focused farm, but low-key, uncrowded turnout all day, weather permitting. My horse currently lives outside 24/7 in NC and while I want her to have access to a stall on those frigid IL winter nights, I want her out as much as possible. 8hours+ turnout each day is necessary. Other than that, an indoor arena, fields/trails to ride on (ideally on-site or hackable distance). XC jumps a bonus but not necessary. I am willing to pay what I need to for the right spot, but ideally not more than $800. Also ideally a barn culture of down to earth, let’s have fun and take good care of our horses kind of people. Does this barn exist? I am one of those people who has to go to the barn 5-6 times a week and driving more than 30 minutes makes me hate life haha
We have heard good things about Downers Grove west of the city, but haven’t heard much about the southern burbs. Any advice/recommendations welcome!!

Finding 8+ hours of turnout ANYWHERE in the near suburbs will be difficult if not impossible. It will be even more difficult at your price point. Sadly the land just does not exist near the city to accommodate that amount of turnout for the number of horses most barns have.

Since turnout is at the top of your list, I would expand your radius to 60 minutes at least and look far north (possibly even over the Wisconsin border) or far south (Monee, Kankakee, Frankfort).

Edited to add: you may find closer to what you’re looking for if you go an hour or more west of the city.

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Well… You can halve that $ for board if you look at Indiana.
Southern burbs of Chgo like Tinley Pk, Orland Pk could be your home base.
Friend owns a boarding barn in Cedar Lake that fills all your Wants for your horse.
Indoor, outdoor: Check.
Turnout (weather permitting) daily from 8A-4P.
No trails onsite, or in riding distance, but a short haul to State Park trails - Stoney Run & Deep River for example.
Currently full up (24 stalls), but might have openings in Spring.
You don’t mention discipline or culture, but I can guarantee 90% Western, with a small H/J & Dressage presence.

What @LuvMyTB said. Chicago is a MAJOR urban area and acreage is at a premium within a large distance radius.

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As others have said, you’re going to have a very tough time finding that within an hour of the city. Chicagoland is enormous, and what acreage there is to be had, even in the furthest suburbs, generally comes at an extraordinary price. You might be able to find a private barn of someone who has some land (probably inherited before the city expanded so far) and would be willing to board, but it wouldn’t come with as many amenities as a professional boarding facility.

If you do decide on living on the south side and keeping your horse in IN, then I HIGHLY recommend you find someone who lives in the general area you’re thinking of moving to and can tell you which areas (even which streets) you should steer clear of. As a country girl who moved to the city, I doubly recommend this advice if you grew up in a rural area. The learning curve for Chicago is high, and unfortunately, very unforgiving.

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If you can stomach the commute, I strongly suggest living in Indiana entirely. IL property taxes are second highest in the nation. I live right over the border in Indiana and can be downtown in about 35 minutes.

EDIT: You’re still going to struggle to find turnout here. The land is just too expensive, and being developed at lightning speed.

I am at least an hour west of the city (in Hampshire), and my barn has everything the OP needs/wants. All day turnout, trails, board around $600, a huge indoor, 3 outdoors, grain twice daily, hay three times a day. Well, not everything, we have no cross country jumps. But the saddle association a mile down the road has a mini cross country field. It’s big place–140 acres–with an active lesson program and about 80 boarders. Edited to add. Check out idcta.org, Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association.

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Thanks everyone for your thoughts so far. In my experience with previous barn searches, it’s rare to find “the one” advertised on the internet (not always true, but has been my experience). So I’ve come to COTH to see if I can find those smaller barns that I won’t find advertised (it’s how I found my current barn!).

I’ve also joined the Horse boarding/lessons/training(illinois) Facebook page and have bookmarked dicta.org (thanks!). Any other recommendations on where to search?

If I just said I wanted my horse turned out for ‘most’ of the day and to be ~ 30min drive from a western or north-western suburb (ideally a suburb with an express train to the city), would the Aurora area a good place to look (for a barn)?

I really appreciate any guidance. It is so hard to do a barn search from many states away without knowing the area.

I don’t know much about the horse scene in Aurora. I was a working student at a barn in Naperville several years ago that I think was in your budget, and did offer turnout, but it was just turnout in tiny little paddocks (and tbh I probably wouldn’t recommend boarding there anyways).

Lamplight Equestrian Center is in Wayne, which is a bit north of Aurora. Lots of horse properties in that area, and many have access to trails.

That said, I think these are all on the very very outskirts of how far you’d like to be. Probably well beyond by the time you deal with traffic. A 30min commute to downtown on the Metra (the train line from the suburbs to downtown) would put you in River Grove or Franklin Park, and it’s a long haul from there to Aurora or Wayne, not to mention extra transit time getting from to/from the train station. I don’t think it’s entirely impossible to get what you want, but Google. Maps. EVERYTHING. And then add 15-20 minutes (maybe 5-10 if you’ll mostly be on the freeway), because there’s always traffic. My old commute from West Chicago to Elk Grove Village regularly took me 45-60 minutes, even though google maps says it only takes 30.

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15-20 minutes in the morning maybe.

30-40 minutes anytime after 12:00 noon.

Thank goodness for an employer that allows me to work 5 am to 2 pm or I couldn’t do it…

West Chicago the suburb, or the west side of Chicago?

OP, I looked up some express train schedules west of Chicago and found Lombard and Villa Park are about 30 min on express trains. Schaumburg is 40 min. I used to live just west of Schaumburg and boarded at Tower Hill as peedin does. Unless it changed, turnout is about 7 hours. I also belonged to FVSA and the XC jumps were rarely available to members. There are about 4 schooling days/year that you can pay $40 or more to school as a member of the public. These are usually on weekdays from 12-dusk but they have tried a couple on Saturdays.—Oh, and THS did have a few XC jumps up by the house, those were the only jumps you could use outside of lessons.

I don’t think a single barn I ever boarded at had more than 8 hours turnout. (all in NW suburbs of Chicago.) I would’ve liked to find a boarding barn with an indoor in Wayne, but never heard of any.

Couple points I have to make: 1) I’m trying to leave IL to escape the ridiculous property taxes, and 2) this area really sucks for eventing now. So many events have gone bye-bye and most of what remains I don’t even want to go to. If you want to drive 5+ hours you could try some events that I’ve never gone to due to distance. If you were to live in IN you’d be only 3 hrs or so from the Hoosier Horse Park with its 2 events, and probably 2.5 hrs from Chardon Valley in MI.

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The suburb. Guess the city planners weren’t much for creative names :joy:

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Welcome (almost!) to Chicago! My husband and I love it here. Depending on where you work etc… look straight north along the north shore. I’m in Highland Park. The drive down into the loop is about 30-40 in NON rush hour - 60 min in traffic. We have train stations with express trains. But its also only a 35 min drive to my very small dressage/eventing barn that offers actual small group all day grass turnout. Actually I can name 4 that have all day grass up there.
When we moved to Chicago we rented an apartment for the first year to get to know the city and surrounding areas. I highly recommend this. The areas surrounding Chicago are so different and traffic patterns are crazy. For example I would cry if I had to drive west. North on 94 is easy for me — you can hop on 94 very easily from the north shore communities.
There are wonderful areas to live up here. Libertyville is also really cool - trains and access to barns. Feel free to message me directly if you’re interested in barns north or just want more information. I don’t know many barns down south though.

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I’m not sure where you are going to ultimately end up. but if you decide somewhere more north chicago (elk grove/barrington/buffalo grove) I would recommend stonehedge farm in union grove. $700/month board, indoor, outdoor, trails, cross-country, turnout from 6:00 - 3:00 (weather permitting of course) , and excellent three day eventing trainer.

another option would be silverwood farm in Camp Lake

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Years ago, I found a barn that was perfect for my horse but too far from work, so I moved halfway between. I rented at the time, so it was easy to do. Work was 35 minutes south of the new apartment; horse was 25 minutes north.

Maybe something like that would work for OP. Work in Chicago; horse and apartment/house in IN.