So, you have a barn and thought that it would be nice to fill it with boarders and make a living? Well, it’s possible, but there are many things that should be considered first! Initially a business plan should be designed. A horse boarding business is just like any other business in the sense that it’s important to understand approximate expenses so boarding fees can be set that will cover these. Profits are usually not expected the first few years as the business is becoming established and developing a reputation in the area. Most new businesses will do some form of "market survey" in hopes of getting an idea of the demands of the area they want to operate in. This can be done in the horse business by checking with feed and tack stores, and talking to other individuals who may be boarding horses. Visiting horse shows and talking to some horseowners in the area is also a helpful way to gain information on how popular your facility may be.

The first question you need to ask yourself is why would someone want to pay me to keep their horse at my farm? Your answer may be obvious to you, but in answering it, you need to understand the marketability of a boarding stable in the area your facility is located. Is your facility in a suburban area that is rapidly being developed with very little land left for homeowners to keep their horses on their own property? If this is the case then you are very fortunate and have a great opportunity to supply a service that is needed. Filling a barn with boarders in an area like this should happen fairly rapidly as long as people know you are open for business! However, if your facility is located in a rural area where many families live on small farms and keep their horses at home, your job of marketing is going to be much tougher.

Attracting business to a boarding stable located in a rural area is difficult, but not impossible. An indoor arena is always a plus, since this allows people to ride year around and even at night. In rural areas, though, often owners will only want to board a horse in the winter to make use of the indoor facility. To keep your boarding business operating you need to keep boarders at your facility all year long.

There are several different things you may want to think about to keep the business producing income during "off seasons". A good riding instructor on site is often a great way to bring in business. Considering the fact that you are in a rural area, it may be wise to find an instructor versatile enough to teach some western styles and hunter style of riding. A good Dressage instructor can often bring people in who want to learn and the dedicated riders may stay with the same instructor for many years.

Another person who may be able to bring in boarders would be a trainer. He or she will need a facility to start young horses or to finish horses for the show ring. Often the peak business times for trainers are the late winter into early spring, so this may conflict with boarding customers who are keeping their horses at your facility to escape the bad winter weather.

Having either a trainer or instructor or both associated with your facility has its good and bad points. First of all you, as the owner of the facility, need to make your barn attractive to these individuals. This may be by allowing a financial break on boarding costs for their own horses. Any "perks" or advantages used to attract a professional must be contractual in nature. It is essential a horse business be run as a business first! State in writing what you will do to make your facility advantageous for a trainer or instructor to be associated with it and state what you expect from that individual in return. This may be as simple as making sure the lights are turned off when they leave or as complex to involve the trainer pay a small fee on each horse to help cover liability insurance. All this is negotiable, but it all must be agreed upon first!

Of course, when boarding horses, the obvious issues with all facilities are the care and safety of horses boarded and the safety of the owners. The horses must be fed a good quality ration in adequate amounts to keep them in excellent condition, daily turnout should be a priority with safe fencing and areas of small groups of horses that are compatible. Individual turnout facilities should be available. Fresh, clean water must be available to the horses at all times. The hours your facility is open for people to come and ride or care for their animals should be decided upon and enforced. However, there may be times when an exception will have to be made. If a horse is injured and needs to be treated daily, the owner should be allowed and even encouraged to come out to treat the horse on the day your facility might be closed. Or if a person is going to a show, of course they may need to come and load the horse and pack their equipment before the barn is officially open in the morning or after hours at night.

There are many, many issues that may arise while operating a boarding stable that can make it a nightmare to manage. Some of these issues may involve arena usage during a riding lesson, veterinary care and routine health maintenence, farrier usage, and so forth. The use of a boarding contract and posted rules will help alleviate many of these headaches. It is wise to take the time to consider all possible scenarios before starting this business and setting limits for as many conflicts that may arise in the boarding contract or in a contract with an equine professional. These need to be read and signed by both individuals. It is also important to remember the boarder is the consumer in this instance, and as such expects a certain level of care, and treatment in exchange for their boarding fees. When this is all well thought out, indicated in writing, and carried out in a professional manner, any conflicts arising should be minimal.

However, before drafting those contracts, please discuss your business plans and contracts with a lawyer knowledgeable about equine law in your state. The number of conflicts that can arise in any business are astounding, and the horse business is no exception. Each state in the country has laws relating to liability and various business practices and not knowing what these are does not protect you from litigation. You may want to put a clause in your boarding contract stating that there will be a 5% fee each day the person is late with their board. You may run into two problems with this. First, a 5% per day fee may not be legal in your state, and secondly since most boarding facilities charge for board in advance, it may not be legal to charge ANY late fees until the horse has been taken care of for a month. Some facilities get around issues like this by allowing an "Early Pay" discount. If the boarder pays by the first of the month, they pay ten or twenty dollars less than if they pay by the fifth of the month. Simple solution to getting the majority of people to pay their board bill on time!

In conclusion, is it possible to make a living from boarding horses? Maybe, but like any business, it is run by the supply and demand rules. If the facility is in an area where it is in demand, the chances of keeping it full of paying customers is much higher. When in an area where many people have enough land and a barn in their backyard, then the business will involve some creative methods to bring clients to the facility. And finally, written contracts and professional care are as important when boarding horses as they are in any viable business.

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