The economic downturn may have you scrambling to devise ways to turn your love of horses and interest in the industry into a money-making enterprise. Adding boarding services could be a great solution if you lay the groundwork carefully. But boarding horses is a business, whether you have one boarder or 10. And as with any business, there are organizational, legal, and contractual issues that you need to resolve before you throw your doors open.
Among other considerations, you need to assess how your proposed boarding business will affect you-other than bringing in extra money. Do you have the time and energy to add more hours of horse care to your weekly responsibilities? Are you an organized person who'll keep accurate records and stay on top of billing your clients? Do you look forward to other horse owners sharing your barn and facilities? Will your horse enjoy having other horse buddies around? If the answers to these questions are "yes," then read on!
Know local ordinances. Many states all across the country stipulate a ratio of acreage per horse for equine facilities. In addition, the ordinances themselves may even limit the number of boarders you may have. The amount or type of property you own-rather than the available number of stalls in your barn-may be the limiting factor in how many boarders you can legally take on. Talk with your county land use department before you do anything else.
Also, county ordinances may define how close to your property line you can build riding arenas, horse shelters, and other amenities. If you imagine a round pen close to your turnout pen, it's best to know what the regulations are before your plans outpace what's possible.
Determine your goals. If you're going into the horse-boarding business, you need to make sure it'll be profitable. What is the minimum amount you need to earn to make the business worthwhile?
Figuring this out can be a lengthy process. Some of the costs of doing business won't be apparent until you've done some research and analysis. Your calculations should include what your area's market rates are for boarding; how much it will cost you to provide a safe, legal boarding facility; and how many boarders you can reasonably accommodate to ensure you're making a profit.
Figure out prices. You don't want to over- or under-price your boarding rates, so it's a good idea to find out what other boarding facilities in your area charge, and what are the typical fees for feeding only versus extra services like deworming, blanketing, turnout, and so on.
Don your "Sherlock Holmes" hat, and do some sleuthing! Call other boarding facilities in the area and ask them their rates, as if you're a potential customer. There are several online advertising services-such as craigslist.com, localhorse.com, horse-talk.com, localequineservices.com, and newhorse.com-that may list boarding facilities in your area. Other ways to find out what local barns charge is to look in the local newspaper's or farm publication's classifieds section, check out the bulletin board at your local feed store, or call boarding facilities listed in your area's yellow pages.