Taking care of elderly parents and horse ownership

Hi! I’ve seen a lot of threads about how to balance horses and children, but I’m seeking some advice on how to balance horse ownership with taking care of elderly parents. I guess it’s similar but a little different, as parents are more independent and I feel like help is harder to find.

I have a chance to venture into horse ownership, but the time commitment for a horse (even with full-care board) plus taking care of my parents is making me think twice. While they don’t need assistance all the time yet, there are growing signs that household assistance may be needed in the future.

Any advice from other COTHers? Have you worked with any caregiver services? What services did they offer (cooking, cleaning, driving to appointments, etc.)? How did you balance the responsibility while also managing your horse responsibilities?

I did this with both my parents and continue to with my Mom. All I can say is that having an arena with lights is what saved me or at least the horse life. My father eventually had to go into memory care/assisted living where he then went into hospice and died. I drove my mother back and forth every day to visit him for the last 6 months of his life because she no longer had a driver’s license due to medical issues. I then drove to her house every day for another year to check on her and do basic labor around the house. I finally was able to convince her to sell the house and move into assisted living because I frankly couldn’t continue with the daily commute, full-time job and horses as well as a life. I can’t really give any recommendations for caregiver services, but I will say A Place For Mom was a life saver for me. I still take my mother shopping once a week, take her to all of her doctor appointments and make sure she’s okay by calling daily, because she still has enough of her abilities and faculties to be in independent living. The biggest gain I got by moving her to the assisted living center is that every day someone checks on her, and she doesn’t have to keep up a house or yard. Because my time has been freed up, I am able to ride and do other things. Good luck, It’s not an easy road.


I am retired and had my 92 yo Mom move in with me back in 2020. She could not handle the house chores and I just got over trying to take care of 2 houses. I suggested she move in with me and somewhat to my surprise, she agreed. While my father was alive (he passed in 2018) and with dementia, they required a lot of help. I was still working and frankly, the horse kind of sat a lot because of the help they needed and some health challenges of my own. She was boarded at a place where she had a large pen so I didn’t worry too much about working her. I would have found working, elder care and then riding just a bit too much and I took what horse time I could get.

That said, I did not sell the horse during that time frame…too much trouble. So now, I am rid of the job, well, I have changed jobs and am now Mom’s caregiver. I am riding much more now having changed barns to a full care barn. However, my riding time is limited. I can’t just go to the barn and hang out. I pretty much have to be in and and then home within 3 hrs. If I have to haul, I have to find someone to sit with Mom because hauling invariably adds at least a couple hours to my barn time. I haven’t been showing and I haven’t taken a lesson in years. My horse is my escape and even if I can’t ride, I can go do a my pretty pony session which helps with stress reduction. You might have to skip some barn days. I have to take Mom to all her appointments so if there is a health issue, that takes precedence. I have not delved into any care services yet. She does have a medic alert pendant but thus far, I have been able to handle the care she needs. I am planning on a vacation next Spring and my sister will come and stay with her. My sister does occasionally stay with her if I go out to dinner or say, have to haul the horse to the vet.

As Exvet said it is not an easy road, but if you are motivated enough, you should be able to do it but as I said, flexibility is a must.


If your area has an Agency on Aging you may want to contact them and see what kind of resources they can connect you with. Also, if your parents or you are church-going, sometimes religious organizations offer things like help driving to errands or appointments. You might also look into respite care services, which can provide somebody to stay with your parents for a short period so you can have a break and get away. I haven’t been here yet myself, but my dad spent a lot of time in the past 5ish years taking care of my grandmother who was in her 90s. She also had one of those home care agencies a few days a week. The people weren’t nurses, but they helped with things like laundry, cleaning, making meals, and companionship. She had the same woman for years so they really got to know each other well.

From the horse angle, you might consider what the horse you get will need. Full care board will obviously help a lot, especially at a barn you truly trust, so if you need to disappear for a period of time your horse will still be cared for. From the riding angle, some horses can sit for days, weeks, or months and be the same. If you don’t have one of those, you might need to pay for training rides. Or maybe you get something that can be part/half-leased or that your trainer could use for lessons, either of which will keep the horse in work and can also help with the financial aspects. I’d also think about your goals - having a horse just for fun or to putter around some local shows can be a lot more flexible than if you wanted to seriously train and show at a high competitive level. The first might be possible with the additional time spent with your parents, the second may be far more difficult.

I work for our local AAA and this is the BEST advice.

I will caution you, however, that most (if not all of the programs) have either pure income eligibility or a combination of income- and health-eligibility. They are designed to provide services for low-income older adults with no financial resources who can no longer get around safely to care for themselves.

So it’s good to determine exactly what each parent’s gross income is now, and how much money is in checking and savings accounts. In my state, more than a few thousand (at most) in a bank account will make the person ineligible. Some programs will allow a spend-down, then you can apply immediately, but our state’s medicaid program has a five-year look-back at resources, and may require estate recovery after death. All programs also consider any IRAs, stocks, real estate that’s not the primary residence (including rental properties), some insurance/burial policies, large boats/RVs, etc.

Once you know your parents’ income and financial resources, call the AAA and they can give you a big-picture idea of what they might be eligible for in the future.

If you have any specific questions about these agencies or programs, feel free to PM me!


If you can find a good boarding barn that will allow you to know that your horse is well taken care of even if you are not able to get there, I would consider owning a horse a good thing for you while you have this much added stress in your life. The horse can be your relaxation and it will give you a chance to get away and think about something other than your parents and job.


I used to work at a long term healthcare organization, and they offered “Adult Day Services.” It is a program where you can drop your parent off in the morning, and pick them up in the afternoon. You could do it as often as you’d like - 2 days a week, 5 days a week, etc. It also provided a nice outlet for the parent. The program provides socialization, perhaps a meal, and activities were scheduled daily.

I would imagine this is similar to people who have young children and have horses - ensuring that the person under your care is cared for, dealing with lots of doctors appointments, etc. I think you’ll just have to do some personal reflection to see if having a horse will give you a mental health and sanity break; or if it will add to your stress of care-taking. And I agree that finding a barn you can trust and a horse that could sit for a few extra days (or weeks) if you get side-tracked would be important.

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It is very expensive to be old and frail in the US.

In my area, private care agencies will charge roughly $35 per hour for an aide to help with bathing, dressing, medication support, and supervision/errands, and most agencies will want a 4-hour minimum, if not 12 hours, due to the shortage of caregivers. (Caregivers don’t want to drive and do the work for a short shift.)

Adult day programs or, for those who are able, spending the day at a senior center even in an unstructured program, can be wonderful, but most are not free.

Assisted living residences play a wonderful role but they are not covered by most insurances and cost $8000-$16,000 a month in my area, and that just covers room and board and basic services. If the resident requires more than very basic, twice a day help with bathing, dressing, toileting, or ambulating, there will be additional fees. If the resident requires someone to sit with them, for safety supervision or for medication administration or even just to be there to help within moments vs. half an hour or more, residents may have to hire private care on top of the ALR fee.

Medicare does not cover long term care in a nursing home; residents have to spend down any savings for room and board in a skilled nursing facility, before being able to move to Medicaid-covered room and board. Most skilled nursing facilities in my area are around $15,000 per month.

For those on hospice, hospice does not cover room and board in a facility, so, family will still have to pay facility room and board (medical care is covered by hospice, but not any significant “custodial care”).

Most people need some sort of self-care in order to be a caregiver and not burn out completely, even if we’re caring for the most wonderful and loving and interesting and inspiring elders. May we all be able to include a horse in that self-care.

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