What's In a Board Bill? - Expert advice on horse care and horse riding

What's In a Board Bill?

Although the bill for your horse board may come to you in a single round number, it represents a lot of products and services provided by the stable owner.
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Although the bill for your horse boarding may come to you in a single round number, it represents a lot of products and services provided by the stable owner. Before you throw up your hands and decide you can save money by owning your own stable, consider some of the obvious and not-so-obvious costs that contribute to your total bill.

Feed and Supplies

The daily costs of stable operation include bedding, hay, grain, and supplements -- the necessities of your horse's life. In some locations, water may also be at a premium and should be considered. Information about the cost of these items is accessible to most people at any point in time. However, the cost of bedding, hay, and grain vary from year to year, so the best you can do is estimate. Stable owners may adjust board costs from year to year to account for increases related to unusual weather.

Wages

If a stable's workload warrants it, wages for barn employees must be included. However, dependable workers - the type you want taking care of your horses - require more than basic income these days. Wages may also include health and life insurance costs. Add mandatory taxes, social security, and workers compensation costs to this formula, and the $5 per hour wage may cost the stable owner up to $20 for every hour worked by an employee.

Monthly overhead costs

The stable owner normally incurs the following costs on a monthly basis, which must be divided among the boarders to keep the farm financially solvent:

  • Electricity.
  • Fuel.
  • Maintenance on farm equipment.
  • Veterinary
  • Farrier
  • Manure removal.
  • Interest on Loans related to farm business.

Seasonal Costs

Seasonal costs vary. In the first few years of a stable's operation, some of these costs might be overlooked. Obviously, some of those listed depend on the region of the country in which you are located.

  • Snow removal.
  • Mowing, seed, and fertilizer for pasture maintenance.
  • Heating or cooling costs.
  • Pest control.

Semi-annual and annual costs

These costs are invisible to the uninitiated, but they have some of the most dramatic effects on your board bill:

  • Property taxes.
  • Equine liability insurance.
  • Property insurance.
  • Building and Equipment Maintenance and repairs.

Extra Services

Services outside the scope of basic horse care often include:

  • Veterinary care.
  • Farrier costs.
  • Special feed, supplements, and medication.
  • Night care.
  • Grooming
  • Exercise or training.
  • Turnouts and blanketing.

Some of these are incurred only occasionally and may not affect your bill every month. When required, however, they add significant amounts to your bottom line.

What drives board costs up?

Some of the biggest factors affecting boarding costs have to do with changing insurance laws, property taxes, inflation, and the weather's effect on equine crops. These have the most disruptive effects on agricultural-based businesses. In addition, suburban development in formerly rural areas challenges farm owners to be more proactive in managing turnouts and manure removal to avoid potentially expensive problems. Development also tends to drive property taxes up for everyone, including stable owners.

Ever-restrictive zoning laws in developing areas may also restrict the number of horses a stable owner may keep, which means the cited costs may need to be divided among fewer boarders. This has an exponential effect on the cost of boarding a horse.

Can I help keep board costs down?

How can boarders help stable owners control costs? Sometimes small things add up to big savings. For example:

  • Limiting equestrian activities to daylight hours minimizes electricity costs.
  • Regular exercise makes your horse more relaxed, healthier, and less prone to develop destructive stable vices.
  • Reducing waste, especially with hay and bedding can make a significant difference as well. Stable hands and other boarders who treat supplies carelessly affect everyone's costs.
  • Picking up after yourself can help reduce labor costs and foster good relations with the stable owners.
  • Taking care of optional items yourself, such as grooming and exercise.

Finally, pitching in and helping out occasionally can also make a stable run more smoothly and efficiently. In the long run these things help stabilize board costs and make them more consistent with other types of trends in the economy.

If a stable has been in operation for several years, the owner has likely found how these costs affect the business, board fees are established accordingly, and chances are that board increases board will occur only occasionally. Exceptions do occur, however. For example, the notable increases in liability insurance costs in recent years have resulted in dramatic cost increases from year to year for some stables in some states. These costs threaten the very existence of the horse business and require everyone's conscious effort to keep equestrian sports within the financial reach of everyone who wants to participate.