According to the American Horse Council there are more than 9 million horses kept for sport or recreation in the United States. Many of these horses are stabled at boarding facilities, and the demand for such services is expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future. With proper planning and management a boarding stable can be a profitable business.Experience
An individual wishing to start a horse boarding business should have extensive experience working with horses, or be willing to hire people that have the requisite experience. Having an experienced barn manager on staff can be a key factor in the success of a boarding operation.Facility
The boarding facility must already have proper facilities and equipment on site or you must be willing to add these items as needed. Boarding operations need to have at least one barn with stalls, safely fenced paddocks and fields, mowing equipment, a tractor, water troughs, a riding arena or trails, tack rooms, and areas to store feed and bedding.
It is important that the boarding stable be in proper compliance with state and local regulations, such as maintaining a business license and operating in accord with the zoning regulations that apply to the specific piece of property being utilized. Boarding stable owners also should be sure to secure a liability insurance policy to protect against lawsuits that might result from any injuries occurring on the property.Services & Staff
Boarding stables usually offer some combination of full board, partial board, or pasture board services to their clients. Full board usually includes a stall, turnout, and all daily care such as feedings and stall cleaning. Partial board usually includes a stall, but the horse owner is responsible for daily care such as stall cleaning and turnout. Pasture board does not include a stall, but the horse is kept in a field that often has some sort of shelter access such as a run-in shed.
The types of board offered will greatly impact your staffing needs, as full service boarding facilities require additional staff such as grooms and barn managers. Pasture board operations can get by with fewer staff members.Specialization
Some boarding facilities specialize in catering to one particular discipline, such as English riding or western riding, while others seek boarders from all backgrounds. Some facilities also choose to offer specialty care for stallions or horses in training.Make Connections
It is important for the owner of a boarding facility to develop a relationship with a local farrier and equine veterinarian. These relationships are often mutually beneficial, as your farrier or vet may refer more clients to you down the road. It is also critical that you find good, reliable suppliers for quality hay, bedding, and grain.
It may also be wise to develop an agreement with a riding instructor to offer lessons at your facility, as this can increase overall interest in your facility and bring in a trainer’s established clientele to your location. Many boarders expect to have access to an instructor and riding arena, and they may favor one facility over another if such services are offered.Price Your Services
It is also critical that you price your facility’s services competitively. This will involve a bit of local market research, which you can easily accomplish via phone calls or the internet. You want to offer a good mid-range price, perhaps with some sort of initial discount or other incentive to get your first boarders in the door.
Full board is the most expensive service to provide due to the high level of overhead (particularly labor costs) involved. Pasture board is the least expensive option.Develop a Contract
It is also wise to develop a boarding contract outlining all services that will be provided and the type of board being established for their particular horse. This should be signed by the client at the beginning of the boarding relationship. You may also wish to outline additional services that may be available and the costs for those extra options.Advertise
Be sure to advertise your boarding operation at local equine businesses such as tack shops, feed stores, and show grounds. Advertising online via Craigslist or through classified ads in print publications may also prove useful. Large horse shows or other equine events often print up programs with local advertisers, and this is another great way to gain exposure.
Over time, your best form of advertising will be referrals from satisfied clients. One happy customer can recommend you to dozens of friends and acquaintances in the equine industry.