Starting a trail riding business? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 04:17 AM Thread Starter
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Starting a trail riding business?

This is a bit long sorry. Short version: I'm wondering about starting a trail riding business..

I'm in the process of buying a two and a half acre block right near the beach. (In Northern Australia)
I was going to have a little house built on it and rent it out, with the idea of retiring there eventually. (Presently I live about 80 km away, on a 20 acre block)

What's got me thinking is something my riding instructor said the other day..."If I had half a dozen quiet horses and somewhere to go trail riding Id make a fortune.., you wouldn't believe the number of phone calls I get for trail rides"
Where we are is probably the number one tourism destination in Australia. The nearest trail rides I can find are 100 km away and not accessible by public transport. The beach spot I'm looking at is accessible by a lovely 20 minute ferry ride, from the city center.

Prices the 100 km away trail riding place are charging: (did the currency conversion for you!)
2 hr $AUS120 $US 116 GBP71
1 day $AUS 330 $US319 GBP 976
2day/2 night $AUS1100 $US1063 GBP658

They are generally running at 4-8 horses per trip by the look of it.

I thought those prices looked pretty good, but there's obviously lots of expenses to consider and council permission etc to look into.
I do have some finances to back this idea up, but still it would have to be financially viable in the long run.

Obviously 2 1/2 acres is not big enough to keep 6-8 horses, but much larger properties further out of town are available very cheap, (and there's our 20 acres) so they could come in when working and go back out when not.

Just wondering if anyone on the forum runs a trail ride business? And has any advice on how to assess business feasibility?

Thanks very much in advance.
Oh, and for all who gave advice on my sick "not peeing" horse last week, he is peeing very well now
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post #2 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 06:05 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
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Never run a business but I think it's a great idea. I really wanted to ride when traveling, and the public transport thing is a huge factor. I didn't ride so many places because it was just too tricky/expensive to get to.

I'd probably talk to some of the hostels and tour groups around the area and see if anyone has inquired about it in the past, what they think about the feasibility of the business. If you could link up with a tour group then you could funnel in a lot of people.
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post #3 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 06:15 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Central Western NSW, Australia
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The biggest thing to consider is can you afford it.

Unless you're constantly booked out, you will probably struggle, especially if you don't have money to fall back on. Insurance is the biggest problem for trail riding businesses, and can cost a fortune. It's been the reason why many places have had to close.

The trail riding place I frequent here in NSW is popular enough - each horse out of their maybe 2 dozen gets used at least once a day. But the facilities are seriously lacking, the horses are often needing to gain some weight, have their feet done, need new tack... They charge $30 for a one hour ride, which is quite cheap, but they'd still pull in some good money so it shows how pricey running the business can be.

I suggest investigating insurance prices as one of your first thing. No insurance, no business.
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post #4 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 07:11 AM Thread Starter
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Saskia, Thats a really good idea, asking the tour operators, backpackers etc they usually know what people are looking for.
If this busines looks feasible, Im thinking about asking the indigenous community down the road if they want to be involved, I work with indigenous youth and if we could do some sort of horseback tour on their country with an indigenous guide that could provide some good jobs for some of the young people.

Thanks for your thoughts Tracer, I haven't inquired about insurance yet but I do think its pretty pricey. I do remember a few years back in Australia a heap of horse riding places closed down when insurance on everything went up. I have a friend who runs a very successful camel trek business. His first year he had no insurance. His theory was, let 'em sue me I'm already broke anyway!
Way too risky for me!

Thanks for NSW prices - If you compare $30 for an hour to prices up here coming out at $60 an hour, then it looks like there's maybe more profit margin where I am? Then again, our cost of living is ridiculous.
As I said, I do have some finances to back this up, so I wouldn't be going into it flat broke, and I could afford to cover lean times. But it still needs to be a viable business in the long run.
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post #5 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 07:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
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We have tons of trail riding companies here in AB, and my friends run one (on the side, just five horses, they have a B&B for their main income).

It seems like yes, one of the big issues is insurance. Our friends were looking for an affordable insurance for a while, and even now that they've found one it's very restrictive (e.g. they are not allowed to have guests with dogs stay at their B&B any longer, might spook the horses).

You will probably not have as big a problem with it in Australia, but here, the winters are long and cold, and nobody wants to go trail riding in the off-season. Basically trail riding companies have to feed and care for the horses they're not using for half of the year. So because of that, many of the bigger companies (with 30+ horses) buy cheap older horses at an auction in spring, hope that they'll make it through the season, and then sell them back to auction in the fall.
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post #6 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 07:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Wisconsin
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Others have made good points with insurance and other things I don't have much to add on, but one thing to consider is all the miscellaneous expenses for all of the horses. I will use eight because that is how many horses my family has. If you use all eight at once, you will need eight saddles, bridles, etc. in good repair. They have to FIT your horses, and the non-horsey clients probably won't like a saddle that is going to hurt them any more than it will already. (I have eight horses, but only three saddles, and only one fits. We have two sets of team harnesses, and two single harnesses.) You can buy cheap and repair often, or buy something that is a bit more expensive but will be there for the long haul. The horses will likely need to be ridden outside of trail riding if you want to keep them quiet because, frankly, with that many strangers riding and untraining them, they will get grumpy. Do you have the skills to school these horses or would you have to hire someone to refresh them? This is only if you want to keep your horses good, lots of trail riding places have sassy horses because they are only ridden by clients. Then here we have farrier bills, scheduled vet bills, vaccinations, miscellaneous vet bills, etc.

A quick break-down:

A decent, finished trail horse around here would cost you $1000-5000 USD depending on how much you are willing to pay. x8

Then for a usable saddle of moderate quality: $250-750 USD. Again, regional prices. x8

Farrier is $25/horse (which is actually pretty cheap around here,) $75 if you want front shoes, $125, (I think,) for all four. Two of our horses currently have front shoes, so the bill for all of them would be $300. I trim two of our horses myself, so that cuts back on it.

We probably had $400 in misc. vet bills calling an on-call vet.

We do our own vaccinating, just have to buy them. Couldn't tell you the exact price on that.

We make a lot of our own hay, or at least try to, so that saves us a lot. For a few months we fed them loose hay forked up on to the wagon. Lots of work, but again, it cut down the cost. We also ran our own baler and did a lot of the preparation with horses, saving on gas.

Lots of costs depend upon the region, so conversion won't necessarily even get you a ballpark answer. Their are also lots of initial costs involved, and dependent on how hands on you want to get, you can save a lot of money. But you also have to be experienced and knowledgeable. If we hadn't had a dairy farm for 20+ years, we probably wouldn't know how to vaccinate animals. Not saying one couldn't learn, but we knew before hand. I've done lots of independent studying on hoof structure to know I am not hurting my horse's hooves.

Look into all the prices, and your local market. If it is something you can afford, for better or for worse, then do it. But if the numbers just won't work, it isn't risking your entire livelihood just for one good idea.
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post #7 of 8 Old 10-20-2013, 11:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Regula, yes, it is very seasonal up here, we are in the tropics.
We dont have winter or summer we have "Wet Season" (Hot and rains constantly) and "Dry Season" (Hot and doesnt rain).
Our tourist season is dry season obviously and also wet season is very hard on horses healthwise.
Ideally horses will go "down south" for a few months at the worst of the wet (also we have cyclones/hurricanes in wet season)
I cant see that we would sell the horses off each year though as our supply of horses is so much smaller I think we would hang on to them.

Buttinthedirt I think Ive got enough skills for the basics and Ive got access to some excellent trainers. I would expect to have one other person working with me, Ive got a particular person in mind, who is very skilled but also good with people.
So true that costs don't convert, everything up here is expensive.
Im going to do a heap of research now such as: meeting with council to discuss beach access etc
Get a few quotes for insurance
Get quotes for vaccinations/ farrier /feed/saddles etc
Quotes for advertising

Once Ive got all that I will attempt to make some sort of budget and see if the figures add up.
For anyone who's interested I will post it up here!
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post #8 of 8 Old 10-21-2013, 10:29 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Central Western NSW, Australia
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I'd love to see your budget! It's been a childhood dream of mine to start a trail riding business, purely because my own access to horses was so restricted due to there being nowhere within a 2 hour radius of me to ride. I've talked myself out of it due to the money factor, but a part of me is still very curious about what it would take to get one started...
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