a Boarding Facility Business
The business of boarding horses
is often "stumbled into" by the individual who starts keeping a horses
for someone then ends up with several boarders. Many people who have horses
end up with more facility than they can use for their personal mounts and
the time inevitably comes when they think it would be nice to fill it with
boarders and make a living or an income to offset the cost of keeping their
own animals. If you are considering developing a boarding stable you need
a high level of knowledge and experience with horses, as well as the ability
to get along with people. To be successful boarding stable requires a good
location, the correct facilities and services for the market, and strong
financial resources. The fact is that a well run, clean establishment
in a good location can and will make a good income for the proprietors,
but you need to run your boarding stable like a business, and their are
"rules" to running any business.
The first question you need to
ask yourself is "Why would someone want to board their horse with me?"
The answer to this question may be obvious to you, but the answer will
help you to find the niche you fill in your local market.
If you are located in an area where the community is building
up and homeowners cannot keep their horses on their own property you have
an opportunity to supply a service that is needed. A well managed boarding
stable will have no trouble keeping the barn full of boarders. If you are
in a more rural area, you have to find a need that you supply to keep boarders
year round. A facility with an indoor arena will often be filled for the
winter, but you need year round boarders to make your business thrive.
A good riding instructor on site is often a great way to bring in business.
It is wise to find an instructor versatile enough to teach several
styles of riding. A good Dressage instructor can often bring people in
who want to learn and the dedicated riders may stay with the same instructor
for many years but don't discount western styles and hunter style of riding.
And of course don't forget that an instructor who has a fair amount of
knowledge on the riding of gaited horses can fill a need in most communities.
Is your facility located in a suburban
area where horse owners are unable to keep their horses on their own land?
Are you within 20 miles of a major population center with
a high population of horse owners needing board and related services?
If you are located in a rural area, do you have a facility
that has features that will attract boarders year round?
Do you have a trainer or instructor on premises that will
Are you located near good trail riding areas?
What are the services and prices already available in the
market area being served?
For many horse owners boarding a horse and buying related
services is a luxury, their ability to pay for your services will be driven
by factors of their income levels along with their desire and ability
to participate in horse related activities or competitions. The more
you have to offer in horse related activities, the more likely that your
boarding business will weather the reduced demand the market for these
services may experience during periods of economic decline.
a Business Plan
It's important to understand approximate initial and
monthly expenses so boarding fees can be set that will cover these. You
will often have to make changes in your facility to accommodate boarders,
it is important to consider the cost of these changes when assessing the
expenses of setting up your business.
your Local and State Laws
How many boarders do you need to "break even" on the time
and dollar investment required?
Factor in the increase in cost to your insurance/liability
What dollar amount do you need to invest in advertisement?
What additional equipment will you need to service the new
Don't forget to put in a cost for upkeep, additional animals
and people using your facility will cause additional labor and materials
Will you be able to do all the work yourself or will you
have to hire laborers, both for improvements, repairs and daily chores?
Don't forget to project a realistic point where you hope
to see a profit!
You should not even consider housing
someone else's animals until you understand the laws that govern such operations
in your area.
What are the liability laws when
it comes to livestock in your area? How about the Service lien laws, the
law that covers you ability to recover in arrears board in the event of
non payment? There are MANY laws that will help you to secure your rights,
BUT you need a well written boarding contract to allow you to enforce them!
Written boarding contracts for enforcement are defined by the Statute of
Frauds, that has been adopted in most states and incorporated in the Uniform
These are a few links that will
help you to find the laws in your state, please book mark this page
so you can get back!
In order to develop and operate
a successful boarding stable you will need to invest a considerable amount
of time devoted to planning, developing and marketing the operation. If
you already have the facilities, then the financial investment will not
be as heavy to add additional horses to the existing care load, but any
revisions or additions to the buildings or fencing can require considerable
financial resources to complete. You or someone in the operation needs
to have the ability to sell services and ensure customers are satisfied,
this takes a certain type of personality. A boarding stable can reach financial
success only through developing and maintaining a clientele for their services
and facilities. You have to be able to:
And a boarding operation cannot be successful unless you
have a working knowledge of equine nutrition requirements and the ability
to recognize illness and distress in horses.
train and manage labor efficiently
keep control of the financial affairs of the business
be prepared to develop and implement feeding guidelines,
routine vaccination programs and parasite control programs.
have the patience to deal with people every day, at all hours
be prepared to work long hours, seven days a week.
Before you hang out the "Stall
Available" sign take a good objective look at your facility. When
boarding horses, the obvious issues with all facilities are the care and
safety of horses boarded and the safety of the owners. There are five factors
to consider in building or renovating horse facilities: safety, efficiency,
cost, flexibility, and aesthetics. In your initial planning, you
need to take into consideration the increase in numbers of boarders
over time. Aesthetics should not overrule safe, functional facilities.
One good example to avoid is putting the boards on the outside of a fence,
just because it looks better. Fencing should be on the same side as the
horse, it may not look as good, but it is considerably safer! You can contact
your county Extension office for information on horse housing and fencing,
they should also know the requirements for local ordinances. Efficiently
designed and built lanes, pastures and barns can ease the ability for one
person to handle several horses.
The services and your facilities should project an image
that attracts and keeps clients. Factors that contribute to this image
Are there any zoning restrictions you need to address?
Is your entrance is highly visible and provides easy access?
Do you have equipment for handling feed, bedding and removing
Are all aisle ways clear of clutter?
Are the stalls sturdy and of good enough
Is the barn well lite and ventilated?
Do you have sufficient, safe storage
for a boarders tack?
Do you have adequate pasture, with safe fencing? Fence
secure, safe and high enough? Are the paddocks and pastures in good shape
and well drained? Are the gates located so as to assure ease of access
and safety both for horses and people? Are the gates large enough to allow
tractor and fertilizer spreaders access? Are the feeders/ water troughs
in the turn out areas durable and safe?
Is there sufficient parking for the
boarders vehicle? Their horse trailer?
Do you have arrangements available
to isolate an incoming boarder through the first couple of weeks they are
on property? What about isolation for ill horses? Are you able to disinfect
your facilities properly?
Do you have the necessary room
Can you handle environmental requirements such as manure
handling, any need for snow and wind control?
Some vital management issues in operating a horse boarding
Providing top quality horse care, all animals on the facility
should exhibit the obvious signs of good health.
- Quality of care may be more important than price for
many horse owners.
Providing quality grain and hay and enough of it.
Being able and willing to to tailor
feeding programs to individual horses, to feed whatever it takes to keep
boarders' horse(s) looking good (at an increased rate for hard keepers).
Operators must monitor the horses they are feeding, particularly
the aged, growing or gestating horses and during cold weather when feed
rations will most likely have to be increased.
Providing safe, attractive, well lit facilities that are
maintained in good repair.
Operating a clean, well run facility with friendly capable
personnel. Having activities or competitions for boarder participation
as often as possible.
It is a MUST that you have ready access to veterinary and
farrier services for both routine and emergency care.
Providing easy access, room for parking and an area for clients
to leave their horse trailers, if needed.
A facility providing areas for:
Clients to ride such as indoor arenas, outdoor rings and
Clean their horses, such as a tie stall and/or was rack.
Isolation areas for incoming or ill horses.
Requiring negative Coggins and a health check by a Veterinarian
prior to the new horse(s) arrival on the premises.
Pasture Management - Good pasture is a bonus to any
boarding operation. Each stables requirements will vary according to the
type of operation and location. The persistence of a productive pasture
is dependent on selecting the right seed mixture; establishing a good stand;
proper fertilization and grazing management. Operations with limited pasture
areas will have to feed more hay year round. Pasture management practices
need to include:
- Select and encourage plant species that are well suited
for horse pastures and for the growing conditions. It is important to be
able to recognize weeds or toxic plants when they are quite small to enable
control to take place before they cause a problem.
- Weed Management. Many weeds require bare ground and
light to germinate, therefore you can discouraged weeds by encouraging
the grass to grow and keeping pastures mowed. In general, annual weeds
are best controlled when small, and perennial weeds just before flowering
- identifying and removing poisonous plants
- Avoid over grazing through pasture
rotation and strip grazing. ( Link will open in new window, close when
finished to be able to return here )
- harrowing pastures to spread manure. Mow the tall grass
in the rough areas and harrow the manure to spread it out. Do this when
the weather is hot and dry to ensure that parasite larvae contained in
the manure are killed by the sun. Harrowing on cool, wet days only spreads
out the infestation.
- Fertilize the paddocks according to the recommendations
from a soil sample.
- If the equipment is available, direct seed, with no-till
equipment, a good pasture mix into the broken sod. If you do not have the
equipment, disc the paddock(s) so that the sod is 50% open. Use the hand
cyclone spreader to distribute the pasture seed mix evenly over the pasture,
then harrow the land to cover the seed.
Manure removal - Operators need to develop a manure
management program that provides for cleaning stalls and pens, removing
manure to a temporary storage area and disposing of the manure. This is
also important as a means of fly control.
Feed and Nutrition A subject all in itself, but you
should be able to provide convenient means to:
- feed at least twice a day, at regular times
- be consistent in the amount and type of feed
- provide access to clean fresh water
- provide salt and minerals
- regularly monitor the condition of each horse
Contracts must clearly state the
expectations of the owner of the facility as to the terms agreed upon.
Without written agreements between you and your boarders, you may end up
responsible for a hefty veterinary bill that a boarder to pay, absorbing
unpaid board bills with no legal recourse, or you might face lawsuits arising
from a variety of situations. A valid contract creates legal obligations
between the parties,
and allows for enforcement in court
if the contract is broken. PUT IT IN WRITING, and oral contract leaves
much up to memory which fades with time, the advantage of a written contract
is that neither the existence of the contract nor its terms are in doubt.
Every Contract Should:
Identify The Parties by name, address, and contact
Identify The Horse a description of the horse, its
name and even a photograph attached to the contract and initialed by both
parties is a good idea. Be sure to to include a detailed physical condition
of the animal, as well as indications of previous injury. Tack and equipment
left on site for use of the horse also should be listed and identified
to avoid later disputes about ownership of those
Who is Responsible for what Expenses? The contract
should indicate when the farm will provide a bill to the boarder (every
month is standard), and when the bill must be paid. Detail
any foreseen expense and whether it is included in the board payment of
it the owner is expected to cover it, and when they are expected to reimburse
you for expenses you pay out on their behalf. Whether out-of-pocket expenses
will be paid by the farm and billed to the owner, or billed directly to
the owner by the person providing the service, also should be stated in
the contract. The contract should include a provision allowing the farm
to charge interest on overdue bills.
What do you provide in exchange for the board? Spell
out in detail the services and facilities that the farm is agreeing to
provide as part of the board.
A waiver of liability clause in which the boarder
agrees to a waiver of the farm's liability for personal injuries or injuries
to the horse.
Provision for recovery of attorney fees, allowing
the farm to recover attorney fees in the event legal assistance is required
to recover a delinquent bill.
Lien on animals and effects in the event of non
payment of fees. *
Boarder agrees that;
Boarding stable owner has a lien on the animals and things
hereinafter mentioned for the value of any unpaid fees for food, care,
attendance or accommodation furnished for the horse, and in addition to
all other remedies provided by law may detain the horse in his custody
and possession until payment in full had been rendered in good funds.
The right of detention by boarding stable owner of
the animal or thing (harness, furnishings or other gear appertaining thereto,
including carriage, sleigh or other vehicle) until full payment has been
received, has priority over and is not subject to any existing lien, security
interest or other charge or encumbrance of whatever nature or kind affecting
that animal or thing.
If the boarder/owner does not reclaim the animal(s) or things
by discharging his indebtedness within one month from the time it was incurred,
the boarding stable owner may by private sale or public auction sell the
animal(s) or things on giving 2 weeks' notice of sale. Such notice to be
sent to the address the boarder/owner has provided to the boarding stable
owner, it is the responsibility of the boarder/owner to notify the boarding
stable owner of a change in current address. Boarding stable owner shall
also post notice of intention to sell the animal(s) or things:
(a) by advertisement in the newspaper published nearest to
the stable or if more than one newspaper is published in the same locality,
then in either of them, and
(b) by posting up notices of the intended sale in the stable.
* This is ONLY a suggestion, have
any document you are depending on to secure your rights reviewed by an
In the event that the proceeds derived from the sale by public
auction result in a surplus, after paying the expenses incurred by the
detention, advertising and sale and satisfying the lien of the boarding
stable owner; boarder/owner has thirty days to apply in writing for the
surplus, if he fails to do so it shall be forfeited to the boarding stable
Between you and the Boarder.
Between you and the Trainer and/or
The date and amount board is due must
be clearly stated in the contract, along with any penalties that ensue
in the event of late payment. Sometimes selling the horse to recover a
bill, in the event of unpaid board or out of pocket expenses, is the only
option you will have. In this event the legalities are much easier if
the farm has a lien on the horse in the boarding contract, to secure
payment for services provided by the farm and for unpaid out-of-pocket
expenses, and that the farm can sell the horse at public auction or privately
to recover the unpaid balance.
Veterinary care and routine health maintenance, farrier usage,
and so forth must be spelled out. Are you going to provide these services,
billing the owner or is the owner expected to handle these things themselves.
Emergency Veterinary care authorization should also be included,
along with a clause to euthanize the horse with the terms clearly spelled
out as to how that decision is to be handled in the event the owner is
unable to be reached. One such solution is to have the opinions of two
licensed Veterinarians to allow the horse to be put down in the event of
need. There should also be a statement that the owner will be responsible
for the bills incurred for theses services.
If an animal is covered by mortality or loss of use insurance,
that fact should be noted by the owner in the boarding contract.
Clearly state the level of care, treatment and facility usage
the boarder can expect in exchange for their boarding fees.
The hours your facility is open for people to come and ride
or care for their animals should be stated in the contract.
How much feed, how often fed, and if supplements will be
supplied needs to be included.
If and how often the horse is to be turned out, and if it
is to be in a group or individually should be decided and written
Should damage caused by boarded horse occur (such as chewed
stalls, broken boards, damaged fence, etc) boarder agrees that all damage
will be assessed and mended by the stable management. The expense of these
repairs are boarders sole responsibility and boarder agrees to pay for
materials and labor to mend such damages.
Often to have a trainer or
instructor or both associated with your facility means allowing a financial
break on boarding costs for their own horses. Any "perks" or advantages
used to attract a professional must be contractual in nature. Describe
what you expect from that individual in return. This may be as simple as
making sure the lights are turned off when they leave or as complex to
involve the trainer pay a small fee on each horse to help cover liability
insurance. All this is negotiable, but it all must be agreed upon first!
ALL contracts should be either written or reviewed by your
attorney to make certain that they comply with your needs and protect your
What you will do to make your facility advantageous for a
trainer or instructor to be associated with it?
Is there a limit as to the number of horses that a trainer
or instructor can have in your facility at any given time?
Are they to carry their own liability insurance?
By what method are they to "share" the facility with the
other boarders and your need to use the arena, round pen, etc..
What hours is the facility closed to their use?
Every boarding stable owner should
hang or post a copy of their barn rules and their Lien on animals and effects,
in a conspicuous place in the stables. In in case of non-compliance
with with either the rules or payment arrangements, the boarder cannot
claim ignorance of the existence of these policies or the ramifications
of violation. In addition have the boarders sign and give them a copy of
the barn rules when they move in, the Lien on animals and effects should
be clearly stated in the boarding contract, which they should also sign.
Suggestions to include:
Stable is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm only. Boarders
are permitted to ride only in the stated hours unless otherwise arranged.
Boarders must make appointments to visit their horses
If you turned on a light, turn it off when you are finished
using that area.
No smoking in the barn. All cigarettes will be fully extinguished
in the can outside.
No drinking of alcoholic beverages allowed on the property
associated with stables.
Keep the aisle clean of tack, brushes, halters, hoof pickings
or manure if you or your horse put it there, pick it up!
All vehicles must be parked in the parking designated
No visitors are allowed in the stalls. Boarders may retrieve
their horses from the stalls and properly tie them for visitors to view.
No visitors are allowed in the pasture. Boarders may enter
the pasture to retrieve ONLY the owners equine. No boarder may enter
the pasture where a stallion is turned out.
Owners may not handle any equine other than their own
or an animal they have leased.
Do not feed your equine. If you believe your equine needs
its rations increased, please notify the stable. Feeding your equine outside
of the habitual feeding period can cause colic on your equine as well as
in those equines around yours which are not being fed at the same time.
Do not give treats to any equine other than your own unless
written permission is on file with the stable. Some equines may have stomach
problems associated with some treats.
Do not ride without safety equipment. The stable will
not be held responsible for any injury, accident and/or death occurring
because you failed to use the proper safety equipment.
Do not ride on properties not designated as allowed riding
areas. The stable will not be held responsible for any injury, accident
and/or death occurring because you failed to stay on proper trails, fields
or roads. The stable will not be responsible for any fines and/or jail
terms for trespassing on posted or non-posted properties.
Always mount and dismount outside, unless you are riding
in the indoor arena.
No running or yelling in the barn or courtyard, especially
when horses are present. The stable cannot be responsible for any injury,
accident and/or death associated with scaring or spooking an equine due
to inappropriate behavior or misbehavior.
No bicycles or motorized vehicles in the barn.
Do not tie your horse with your reins. All horses are
to be tied in the aisles with a lead rope or in the grooming stall with
the cross ties while wearing a serviceable halter. The stable will not
be responsible for any injury, accident and/or death associated with tying
your horse with the reins, or bailing twine or any other inappropriate
Always check your tack before riding. The stable will
not be responsible for the quality of repair of your tack and will not
be held responsible for any injury, accident and/or death associated with
using tack in ill repair.
All injuries, accidents and damages must be immediately
brought to our attention. Any unreported incidents will be the responsibility
of the boarder or leasor.