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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all

I am a arable farmer in Bucks currently considering diversifying into a livery business to run alongside the crops.

Following a recent separation I have seven empty 12 x 12 stables, 20 acres of pasture that's suitable and loads of hacking.

The question I have for you is what is important to you as livery customers? I have a sensible amount for investment but want to put it into the right areas!

I am not a grumpy old farmer so please be nice!! I am only 31!

Thanks
James
 

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Have you applied for change of use from agricultural to equestrian for the land and buildings?
As your proposing to use it as a business venture, before you do anything you should contact your local council and discuss your plans with them.
Some links for you with good info and contacts for advice if you haven't already looked into the legalities of what you want to do
https://www.tozers.co.uk/agricultural-use-v-equestrian-is-there-a-difference-and-does-it-matter/
https://www.clarkewillmott.com/agriblog/agricultural-vs-equestrian-use-planning-law/
 

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Are you speaking of a boarding stable (where owners of horses keep their horses for a monthly fee, and a variety of services), or a rental stable (where people come to rent horses for an hour or two of riding, often with a guide?).

The term 'livery stable' is uncommon in the US, perhaps it is a regional term where you live.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Are you speaking of a boarding stable (where owners of horses keep their horses for a monthly fee, and a variety of services), or a rental stable (where people come to rent horses for an hour or two of riding, often with a guide?).

The term 'livery stable' is uncommon in the US, perhaps it is a regional term where you live.
Sorry I am British!

Livery stable means where owners keep their horses there.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Have you applied for change of use from agricultural to equestrian for the land and buildings?
As your proposing to use it as a business venture, before you do anything you should contact your local council and discuss your plans with them.
Some links for you with good info and contacts for advice if you haven't already looked into the legalities of what you want to do
https://www.tozers.co.uk/agricultural-use-v-equestrian-is-there-a-difference-and-does-it-matter/
https://www.clarkewillmott.com/agriblog/agricultural-vs-equestrian-use-planning-law/
Hi Jaydee. I have already spoken to the council and a consultant who I know is handling that. The council were actually quite positive. Thank you for your advice ;)
 

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All I can say is, before you decide, do the math. Around here small boarding stables are a fairly marginal kind of business. Unless you are adding in lessons and horse training it can be hard to make a profit. A lot of labor, a lot of dealing with human beings and their personalities, a lot of overhead, and a lot of liability. If you want top dollar you will have to have individual grazes (so horses don't injure each other), and a groomed riding arena, for starters.

I am not trying to discourage you, but think carefully about it.
 

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All I can say is, before you decide, do the math. Around here small boarding stables are a fairly marginal kind of business. Unless you are adding in lessons and horse training it can be hard to make a profit. A lot of labor, a lot of dealing with human beings and their personalities, a lot of overhead, and a lot of liability. If you want top dollar you will have to have individual grazes (so horses don't injure each other), and a groomed riding arena, for starters.

I am not trying to discourage you, but think carefully about it.
Thank you. That's why I am asking around. I have funds in place for the arena and that forms part of the planning permission stuff mentioned above. Intention is to add more stables too. Friends of mine that do this sort of enterprise find it very profitable in our area.
 

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Hi Jaydee. I have already spoken to the council and a consultant who I know is handling that. The council were actually quite positive. Thank you for your advice ;)
Most councils are accommodating, some areas can be more fussy about how you maintain the place than others, I know several farmers who've done what you're proposing, its quite a lucrative business venture if you're in a horse intensive part of the country.
I would also suggest at least one good sized arena with floodlights - so many horse owners work and rely on riding early mornings and evenings to keep horses exercised and that means you're riding in the dark a lot of the time. If you're aiming at competition riders then having a second arena/manège where jumps can be permanently in place is a good idea. An indoor is wonderful but not everyone can run to that expense
Provide secure parking for trailers and horse boxes.
Lockable individual storage facilities for tack, equipment and rugs - one of the biggest causes of conflict on livery yards is people borrowing other people's stuff!!
Sufficient space for each owner to store feed - as rodent proof as possibly can be. I would leave it up to individual owners to figure out how to make their feed bins lockable
Space to store straw or shavings or other bedding materials
Decide if you're going to manage the facility yourself or employ someone to do it even if its just part time. If you get the right sort of owners a part time employee can earn their money by you providing services like turning horses out, bringing them in, changing rugs, mucking out stables etc Places that leave it up to the owners to self manage a yard are really lucky if they can get it to work well.
Have a wet weather plan, I don't know what your grounds like there but I do know yards where they have to insist on 24/7 stabling in really wet weather or they end up with land that looks like an unsightly bog that takes half of the summer to grow decent grass again
Try to provide some form of quarantine facility for new horses if you can and have a policy in place that insists on things like worming and vaccinations
Not sure what you plan on doing with the acreage but if you can provide a paddock for horses and ponies that need restricted grazing rather than go out on the whole lot it helps owners
Think about fencing. Barbed wire and sheep netting is OK for livestock but with horses doesn't always end well
 

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Hi James. Do you have any business background? What about marketing background? In the states many places have liability insurance (just because one has in writing on a contract "we're not responsible for any kind of accidents" does not ALWAYS hold up in court). There are several good books on these subjects online and even in the library. Do you have a back up person in case you're not able to be there (i.e. you're unexpectedly in the hospital, etc). We had a case where a horse died on the property and the owner couldn't afford to have it hauled off. What would you do in that case? Another case, an owner brought in a stallion. What rules are you going to have in place regarding stallions. What about mares and foals or a broodmare? What about other animals--the goat, the cat, the chicken, that keeps a particular horse calm. I applaud you for seeking suggestions. I have seen some some really good barns and some barns I wouldn't keep a dead rock in!! A background in bookkeeping is very helpful and very useful. Keeping good detailed records is a must. Enforcing certain rules is a must (i.e. no smoking in stables, all horses must have neg. coggins within one year or 6 months, and proof must be provided (get a copy of that), and having all persons sign a contract.
 

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How many horses do you want to board? Do you have a public washroom for the owners, because most like to hang around with their animals and brush them, ride them, show them off to friends, etc etc. Means your privacy, if you live on the premises, is pretty much gone.
 

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Wow thank you this advice is all brilliant and I am making notes!! A few of you sound concerned about liability insurance which I have looked into and is fairly simply done in the UK by a simple public liability policy.

Please do keep the advice coming I really appreciate it :)!
 

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You certainly should look into liability insurance, even if you insist on owners having their own there are times when a claim will bounce back on you - it happened to the owner of the yard I used to work on when an owner forgot to shut the yard gate, didn't tie her pony up and it ran off on to the road and was involved in an accident with a car. The pony owner's insurance tried to claim of the yard owners insurance saying there weren't sufficient rules in place to make owners close the gate and always tie their horses when they had them on the yard. They didn't win but it was still unpleasant
I always used South Essex Insurance Brokers when I lived in the UK, there are others and you should always shop around but its a place to start
Riding School Insurance - Livery Yard Insurance - SEIB
One of our members mentioned Coggins tests - they don't apply to UK horses.
 

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Just to mention some of the problems I've run across through many years of boarding to give you something to think about.

Visitors, dogs and children at the barn. Most places have rules as to how many outsiders/visitors can be wandering around the place for any given boarder. We had one person bring his horse in for a month and on a daily basis, we had 12-15 friend/relatives hanging around, using up all of the parking and standing in the arenas. Extremely aggravating for the paying boarders and not one of them had signed a liability waiver!!

Teenagers and pre-teens hanging out at the barn with no supervision and taking over the arenas so that no one else could safely ride. Most barns in the US have rules that say a child under 18 may not be at the barn without an adult. I've seen that rule bypassed for the nice, quiet, responsible teens though and I don't mind that a bit.

Dogs! Now I love dogs and a nicely behaved dog on a leash is usually no problem at all but one barn owner where I boarded was successfully sued when a visiting child was bitten on the face by a boarder's dog who was running all over the property.

Individual (lockable) tack boxes work better than everyone sharing a room with everything out in the open. Theft and "borrowing" happens and being able to lock things up makes for happier boarders.

Horse trailer parking can be an extra for a small monthly fee as many horse owners don't own them but it does have to be somewhat secure. One place I boarded had every trailer broken into on a regular basis by neighbor kids. They didn't take anything but replacing those locks and bent doors over and over became unbearable.

Try to treat every boarder equally even if you like some more than others but most importantly, do not be passive/aggressive about barn drama and boarders that cause everyone else to be miserable. The barn I just left was like that and instead of addressing an issue directly, the BO put "nasty grams" on everyone's stalls every single time. Everyone in the barn knows exactly who is causing the problem and as adults, we hate being treated like naughty children. In the end, not confronting the issue directly with the person causing it will lose you business and reputation.

You will need to decide if you want to go full board or partial board.
Full board is where you will provide all of the basics to the horse owner; hay, feed, water, bedding, stall cleaning and turnout. Sometimes blanketing and fly masks. If a horse owner wants supplements, many stables charge an extra fee for extra time it takes. Please, please make sure that the person who handles all of this is trained and has a "chore list". I love the full care barn I recently moved to but the teenage boy & girl who are supposed to be taking care of my horses when the BO isn't there are terrible !! There has to be a standard of care that is met every single day, no exceptions!

Partial is where you'd expect an owner to supply hay, feed, stall cleaning and sometimes bedding. Turnout done only by the boarder. Sometimes, in partial boarding a boarder has to actually come out and feed their horse everyday. It actually works better if you can get one or two boarders to feed/water for all of the horses and take money off the board bill in exchange. Since they are supplying their own hay and feed, separate storage bins/areas are a must. "Borrowing" doesn't just happen with tack, but will happen with that stuff too. You should expect (and put into your rules) a standard of care with partial board also. If you get one boarder that never cleans their stall and is always running out of food for their starving horse, it will drive away all of your good boarders. One place I boarded would keep spare hay on hand but charge the boarder 3 times the going rate on a bale if the boarder ran out and the horse wasn't getting fed. That usually worked and they never ran out again!

You could get lucky and get a great group of boarders at your place but it all works better if the rules are clearly spelled out, not too ridiculous or restrictive and enforced on a daily basis. Don't forget that, especially we adults own horses for our own happiness, therapy and a time to relax after a hard days work. We don't go to the barn for a bunch of aggravation and barn drama cause by obnoxious fellow boarders.:grin:
 
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