So kind of a long story how I got involved in this but the long and short of it is that my wife is a hunter/jumper trainer, I on the other hand am an IT professional. While I grew up in rural Oklahoma, I always preferred to ride things that eat fuel instead of grain. About a year ago, the owner of the facility that she trains out of gave her and the other trainer an ultimatum. Lease the facilty (within 72 hours) or leave (also within 72 hours). I am by no means a horseman, but I understand business, budgets, profit margins, etc, so the two trainers and myself formed a partnership to keep the facility open. Now that you understand a little about my background the information I will provide is related ONLY to 10/1/2019 through 10/16/2020 which includes the COVID era.
1. Yes we run a boarding and training facility. We have access to just over 40 acres which includes 24 permanent stalls, 20 temp stalls, 24 turnouts, and about 8 different pastures.
2. There are two full size rings, one regulation large jumper ring and a large dressage ring as well, both are outdoor. There is a very small 60 x 120 indoor that attaches to the stall row and forms the base of a T shaped configuration.
3. We personally charge 725 for full care stall board per month and 525 for pasture board per month. These both include all basic care (feed, water, stall mucking), along with blanketing in the winter, working with the farrier/vet/etc.
4. We have two full time workers that handle the stalls, turnout, and other daily horse care related items. I personally handle facility/equipment repair and maintenance on the weekends/nights on top of my 80 hour a week IT job.
5. I have a real full time job, my wife on the other hand is only employed via training and lessons at the barn
6. This is complex, because no two months are ever the same so let me try to answer this in a long form.
Your profit margin contains both items completely under your control (labor cost, feed cost, hay cost, bedding cost, etc) as well as a large number of things that are totally outside your ability to influence (vet costs, equipment repair, facilty repair etc). Looking at a year worth of operation with ALL expenses and income included, we have about $30K in the bank right this second. $15K of that was seed capital invested at a rate of 5K per partner in the original deal from a year ago. So if I remove that from the equation, we have worked a full year to make $15K in net profit.
That net profit number is misleading though since we have had to put a ludicrous amount of money into the equipment and facility maintenance since it was not being done before we came on board. I have spent nearly 30K in a single year just trying to keep poorly maintained equipment running. We have spent another 10K trying to fix footing. We have spent 5K fixing fence that was damaged LONG before we took over. We have spent 10K on new equipment because the existing equipment just would not stay operational. This is all just the cash we spent, I am not accounting for my time, headahces, or additional liquor required. We also dealt with COVID for 2 of those 12 months, basically putting our income in the tank while all of our fixed costs remained the same.
As of a couple of weeks ago our lease was terminated (a year early and with a fraudulent contract... long story) so we are in the process of spending just shy of $1,000,000 to move our entire operation to a facility that we will own and live on the property. Frankly I am very tired of dealing with people with an absurd amount of money and an absurd LACK of integrity, so I am willing to take the risk even though it means literally putting our entire life savings and net worth on the line.
What I can tell you is this. Boarding alone is a break even business deal at best unless you are prepared to do most of the grunt work yourself. In order to board horses, you need other services. Training, Trails, etc and those things come with both up front costs as well as long term upkeep costs. The one caveat might be retirement pasture board. Assuming you have the land already and you are already paying the mortgage, pasture board can be a considerably higher profit margin than stall board. This will depend on Hay cost, land cost, what kind of grass you have, how much equipment you need, but it can work. Now if we are talking 3 stalls here your costs are likely vastly different than mine but the overall numbers hold true. You can board at a larger scale and be profitable with hired help (14 horses for us is the break even spot). You can board at a small scale with no hired help and be profitable. The trade off is that you personally never get a day off, you can't leave town for the weekend, and it is a grind unless you are used to honestly working 7 days a week 365 days a year.
Some things to think about if you are considering boarding of any kind.
1. Liability insurance ($1,000,000 policy)
2. Stall Cost ($2,000) per stall
3. Stall Mats ($500-$2,000 per stall)
4. Fence cost (This is all over the place)
5. Equipment purchase/lease
6. Truck and trailer cost (you may have to haul horses to/from a vet)
7. Bedding for stalls
8. Feed Cost
9. Hay/feed storage
10. Hay/feed restock frequency (Do you really want to drive to the feed store once a week or more?)
11. Boarder needs/requirements/demands
12. Market saturation (How many people within 20 minutes of your place are willing to pay what you want to charge?)
13. Market rate in your area (What do other barns with similar offerings charge and how many of them are near you?)
You really need to sit down with an excel spreadsheet and factor in all of this and more before you even think about standing up a boarding facility. It will impact your insurance rates for your property, your property may need to be rezoned, and there are likely legal and tax costs as well. Get down in the weeds, lumber, electrical, lighting, buckets, hooks, ropes, oil, fuel, grain, and hundreds of other things impact your bottom line. Understand them. Understand what levers you can pull to influence those costs. Most importantly take whatever you estimate your expenses to be and add 30% then reduce whatever you think your income will be by 20%. Once all of that is done, if you still show a positive number, then boarding MIGHT be a profitable endeavor for you.
You will want to understand what you can buy AND store in bulk (and how much difference bulk makes to your bottom line). We buy feed 6 tons at a time, which means we pay about 6K each time feed shows up. That is 6K you need to pay upfront and gain back over 6-12 weeks. We buy shavings by the truck load, which again are paid for up front. We buy hay in bulk and some of the hay bills are well over 10K, all up front costs.
This is strictly from the business side though. My wife knows how to tell when a horse is not doing well, signs of colic, etc. If you do not have those skills, gained from decades of experience, then you will want to account for those as well as they will not come free of charge.