Starting board facility
I've recently become aware of the opportunity to lease a barn in my area with stalls, paddocks, pastures, and hay fields. It's located outside of a big city and has some nice country charm that I think will draw a few city slickers, but mostly it'd be for casual riders and maybe those who do some light showing.
I have always dreamed of starting my own boarding facility, but did not think that anything would happen very quickly.
I've owned horses for over 10 years, ridden competitively, had 'horsey jobs' where I was responsible for the care of over 40 horses at a time- including feed, shelter, riding, farrier services, vet checks, etc.
I'm seriously considering this, even though I've never had experience boarding someone's horse. I can foresee a lot of things happening that I would never have thought of. I would be very grateful for advice and thoughts from people experienced with boarding, and who have seen those first-timers goofs.
Have a rock solid boarding contract, do not make concessions for friends and set a price which is reasonable but high enough to deter problem boarders. Don't overgraze your fields and always try to have a bit of extra room for "just in case".
Pay everyone for any work done - don't expect favors but also don't go above and beyond to do favors. Little things like a blanket change once is NBD, but if it becomes a weekly or daily thing - there needs to be a $ amount put to it. Have a list of services and stick to it!!
Either set a board price and be all inclusive (blanket changes, supplements, holding for the farrier, etc...) or set a base board price for just feed, turn out and stall cleaning and have charges for blanketing, flyspray, supplements, etc.. Don't try to mix the two! IMO it's easier to do a set price and all inclusive and then you know how much $$ you will have for barn help for the extra work, and boarders wont feel nickel and dimed.
I'd also love to own/run a boarding facility one day, and from the research I've done, you will be lucky to break even with boarding alone. You really need to consider what additional services you can offer to ensure you make at least a small profit- bringing in a trainer, summer camps, birthday parties, horse sales/tune-ups, clinics, etc.
Safe housing (stall or run in)
Manure handling/removal plan
Tools for repairs
It has it's highs and lows. Not something that is done for profit.
It's a people business with horses thrown in.
Some of my best memories are with my boarders and yet they are the cause of many a sleepless night.
I don't run a boarding stable so can't help too much, but I've learned a couple of things from watching how my barn is run. One is that it's very hard to make a living doing it. The second is to not make "exceptions" for anyone. Don't be penny grabbing at every opportunity, but make sure you charge for what needs to be charged for, and make sure you get your money. My barn manager makes next to nothing because she is keeping about four of her own horses in stalls, two of her sister's, and several other boarders have some sort of discount- not because they work off board, but because she wanted them to be able to keep the horses when they otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford board. Kind of her, but not good for business.
Operating off the assumption that the facilities are in great repair and fully operational, there are still lots of things to consider. The big one is deciding what services you want to include. Will you be providing full-service board with stall cleaning daily, grain and hay provided, blanketing, worming, calling vet and farrier, etc? Will you just have the bare minimum "full service"- stall cleaning, feeding of owner-supplied grain/hay- and charge for extras such as blanketing? Will you offer self-care options, or pasture boarding? Is there an arena or some sort of suitable riding area, or will the property owner work with you to build something? Will you bring in a trainer? Will you allow outside trainers? If so, will you charge a fee?
Just a few things to consider. Like others have said, make sure you have a very good boarding contract!
first and most important thing.. have a Lot of Tolerance. And i mean a lot. BE prepared for friends to no longer be a friend, for complaints and gossip. it will happen.
Figure out your cost. Figure increases in feed cost. Every time you have to raise board expect a complaint or a rude comment. You will have problems with allowing people to supply their own forage/hay , if you do this, be prepared for either you stole hay, someone else stole hay or you are feeding either not enough or to much Usually its to much. But if you supply the hay you will always hear how it is not enough.
THe good side, you should always have someone to ride with .
Look around and see what other facilities near you (within an hours drive) are offering.
A new dressage barn opened up near where I board. Me being nosy of course went to check it out and to ask about lessons (its close enough that if I had a safe path I could ride over). She is asking over three times what I'm currently paying and has only 1 amenity - and it's not even that great!
Consider your competition because what you may need to charge may be way higher than what other people are charging.
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Have a strict rule about trouble making and gossip, back stabbing, bullying,etc., which I know happens at many,many barns. try to keep the atmosphere as relaxed and friendly as possible. This needs to be a place where people can come and relax and enjoy their horses, not have additional stress created in their lives. I've only boarded a couple of times, but both times were raft with trouble makers. Good luck!
Everyone had some great ideas and suggestions...
Please remember that you need to provide $$, as in salary and health benefits unless you need not pay any personal bills.
Don't forget to figure "YOU" into the equation...
Having your own business is great, you are human though and will occasionally get sick, need a day off or go someplace...figure out ahead of time how to cover this and afford it. Employee, spouse...someone responsible and knows the routine and is comfortable doing things "your way!"....
I have always wanted to do this as well. Like others said, make sure to cover at least your costs. Most barn owners tell me that they hardly break even. One barn owner said she made enough to cover her own horses' cost, and I think that would be a nice bonus of running the barn. If you can find someone reliable and helpful for chores, that would likely help with your sanity as well! Good luck!!
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