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Retirement Farm for Horses - should I, should I not?
Hello all! I am new to this forum and hoping that some of you veterans can give me some advice and some more things to think about.
I will be moving "home" to my family farm that is currently not being utilized for anything other than sharecropping. I'm tired of seeing corn year after year. :-x It is located about 10 miles from the nearest gas station, no main highway any where near it, and surrounded on all sides by woods. In other words, in the middle of no where! ;)
It truly is a heaven for horses and it has always been my dream to turn it into a retirement farm for horses. Creeks running through every pasture, old growth pine stands and roughly 60 acres of established pastures. I would be running all new fencing, building a 6 stall barn and a hay barn with various run-ins in outer pastures.
I also have a family friend who is a vet living 4 miles down the road who would partner with me while she is starting her own organic farm.
I know I would have to be selective of the people and horses who come to the farm. Since I have limited help, we could not board horses who need to be stalled 24/7, and I wouldn't want to. I envision a farm where a horse can live out the rest it's life as if it were just a horse, grazing and basking in peace. I believe in natural horsemanship philosophy and want to make this farm a haven, not just a boarding farm.
And I would want to provide a service for people who don't have the means to allow their horses to die in a natural setting. So I would not want to charge an exorbitant amount per month. Since we would cut our own hay, I would like to keep the monthly fee around $250/month (including hay, grain when/if need and daily care), the boarder paying for supplements, farrier and vet. I don't want super rich boarders, I want people who truly love their horses like family members and want them to die in a place that will make them feel like a wild horse. (Sappy I know, but true)
I would also be blogging and keeping an online journal for my boarders to check in on their horses daily or weekly.
We also have about 60 miles of trails that run all through the farm and down to the lake (Kentucky Lake). I would love for boarders to come and stay, check on their old friends, and bring their young ones for a weekend trail ride. Maybe later on, we can build campsites!
Horse lovers, boarders and barn managers - can any of you give me any advice or share your thoughts on this idea?
I have boarded at multiple farms, but I have never ran a boarding facility. So please share anything you might think would be helpful for me to make this a smooth operation for horse owners.
excited and hopeful!
My first question would be, do you own this farm?
If your parents own it, are they agreeable to this operation?
Owned by my father, but he would be starting this operation WITH me. The farm would pass to me and my husband in the case of his death.
The corn provides revenue if share cropped. Keep in mind a horse may not require intensive stall care when it arrives but may need it as it continues to get older. Are you prepared to euthanize when the time comes or just let old Dobbin lay down and die then bury him? When people retire horses they soon forget about them and the checks stop coming in. You will be stuck with an old horse that no one wants and all the headaches that ensue.
Since you and your dad are in agreement, that's good! I've seen where the person didn't actually own the property, set it up, and when the owner either changed their minds or didn't want the operation in the first place, all of a sudden there's these horses with no place to go and a bunch of irate horse owners.
Next question, about the share cropping (corn), does this take away from the total acres you will have for the horses?
lots of prep work to do, but I think it sounds great!
One thing I would do is get a deposit up front, to put in escrow, to euthanize and dispose of every boarders horse. You need this money in case of failure to pay the bill. Put in the contract that horse will be PTS upon non payment of board. If you have this $ ahead of time, no problem. If there is an accident and vet needs to be called you can put the horse to sleep at your discretion. say for a bad colic, or a bad injury.
I know when I had the old guys, that were living for ever, I was just waiting for an excuse to put them to sleep. When they were sick, a shot of banamine and a shot of penicillin, if that didn't cure them, them the pink stuff.
Most people want there old horse to have a good quality of life, but when that is over, that is fine too.
You are so right Red Gate! Unfortunately I went through that same situation this past year. A woman claimed to own the land, but was actually just a renter. When the landlord found out she was boarding 12 horses, she was evicted and did not tell her boarders until a week before she was suppose to vacate. Terrible situation. And what is worse, she is renting again, and boarding horses AGAIN! Thankfully I found a very small private farm with great people. Me and my horse are happy... until we can move home to my family's 350 acre old cattle ranch.
The sharecropping is not going well, and would be an alternative use of the land. The farmers have destroyed land and are ambivalent to my father's concerns about soil depletion. My father is a forrester and a conservationist and has been reluctantly sharecropping since we have stopped raising cattle.
About stall care. Yes, I want a barn with at least 6 stalls in case a horse needed stall care. But I would want to offer primarily pasture boarding.
About the euthanizing animals, I would hate to put a horse down just because the owner disappeared... in fact, why would I punish a healthy horse because of a jackass owner? But I would not hesitate to put an animal down who is in agony and needs that release. My family has had the same line of Arabians for 5 generations. Even though we love our horses like family, sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to allow them to go into a painless sleep.
I would have to be very selective about the people who bring their horses to me, make them go through an application process and pay a deposit, like what was suggested above (I did not think about escrow - thank you!)
I'm not trying to make a million dollars, just a living. My dream is creating a place for people to bring their best friends after they have given them so many years of work and sport. It would be a family environment, peaceful, relaxing and comfortable.
I know it will be a lot of work... A LOT. But, once up and running, I would just be doing what I want to do all day anyway.
Any one else love to fly spray horses? I just love to drink my coffee in the morning and spray everyone down. Makes the day so much easier... for me! Horses love it too.
Oh, about the corn taking away acres.
No, we would stop all sharecropping a dedicate that land to pasture. This is a dream a few years down the road to allow planted fields to come back to grass pasture.
We would grow our own hay in fields that already produce, and no that does not take away from the total acreage.
I want to do this slowly and right, so I am basically in the research stage.
This place is a non-profit. They take in service horses that need to be retired (police, border patrol, riding for handicapped horses) and take in horses from rescues that are too old to adopt. Maybe you could try something like that.
Retirement Home For Horses at Mill Creek Farm
It may be easier to open up a non-profit and do fundraising rather than have people pay. I think people are going to be quick to "dump" their old horses on you.
I work for Mill Creek farm. They run strictly off of donations. If you have any questions feel free to ask. They used to take in any older horse, but can't anymore as there are just too many.
You may need to dig graves ahead of time. At Mill Creek it is not unusual to have a horse die once a week (out of 125 head). We had one die every week this month.
You should include a clause on what time frame a horse is considered abandoned if no board is paid (depends on the law where you live.)
And be sure to stop by the sheriff's office and discuss this with them. If you have people abandoning horses, you want to be able to declare them "abandoned property" and not worry about legal issues if someone drops by to pick the horse up 2 years later! So make sure you familiarize yourself with the process of getting the horse considered abandoned.
Lots of old horses get skinny and cannot maintain weight even on lush pasture. You will need to either put them on a complete feed to help keep their weight up, and/or put them down if they continue to loose weight.
Older horses have a tendency to choke as well or don't have teeth for chewing grass, so keep that in mind.
It is not a fun job. You can't get attached as otherwise you will burn-out. You may also want to consider an age limit. Only take horses over a certain age or something along those lines.
Make sure you have a plan for your budget. It is very easy to get in over your head. I would suggest starting small (like 10 horses) and working you way up.
Another option is to take in horses if the owners are willing to give an up-front payment of $2000 for their yearly care and the additional cost of euthanasia. Asking for monthly board is going to be difficult to keep track of, especially if you get more than 20 horses.
If you are boarding, usually the owner "has to agree" to have the vet put the horse down. Get it put in your contract that the owner gives you (as the owner's agent) and the vet the right to put the horse down at any time, should the animal become sick. You do not want to be stuck with a sick horse that you can't legally put down without the owner's consent.
If you go the non-profit route, you can mandate that the land be kept for the non-profit even after your death. Although you would need to hire a board of directors etc...
Wow, great advice all around and thank you so much for the helpful tips. Please keep them coming.
I had considered a rescue/non-profit. But I have worked with animal rescues for years, only small animals, and it seemed to be much easier to get "in over my head" since there is never a shortage of abuse and abandonment. Unfortunately. :(
I did have a limit in mind, since I wouldn't want to over graze my pastures. And I feel like I am a pretty good judge of owner personality. I've been shocked at how many people can develop a hard heart when a horse has past their prime. But there is always those among us who love these animals like family and only want the best. A garden always has weeds. ;)
But you have definitely given me some food for thought and I will enjoy reading about Mill Creek. Would it be ok to contact the farm if I would like to pick your brain directly?
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