An Essential Guide to Starting a Boarding Barn & Stable
As a horse lover and equestrian, you have likely had both positive and negative experiences at boarding barns or stables. Whether you own or lease your horse, you likely spend the majority of your free time at the barn. A positive boarding experience can make riding even more enjoyable! Unfortunately, however, finding a great boarding barn can often feel quite a challenge. This leads many long-time equestrians to start their own boarding barn and stable!
So, how do you start a boarding barn and stable? Starting a boarding barn and stable is similar, in many ways, to starting any other type of business. You must outline your goals, establish your business structure, select a location, hire experienced staff, purchase equipment, and market yourself to potential boarders!
In this post, we will walk through each step necessary to start a boarding barn and stable. With a solid foundation and proper planning, a boarding barn can be an emotionally (and financially) rewarding business venture!
Steps for Starting a Boarding Barn & Stable
It is important to view a boarding barn and stable for what it really is – a business. While you may have an undeniable passion and love for horses, you must establish and run your boarding barn like the business it is!
At first thought, starting a boarding barn and stable may seem like a relatively straightforward task. There are, however, several steps that are often overlooked throughout this process! While it is important that you not overlook any of these crucial steps, it is not necessary to complete them in any particular order. However, here is a general guideline that most equestrians follow as they establish their boarding barn:
Outline Your Goals for Your Boarding Barn & Stable
The first step towards any business venture is to outline your goals. What services will you provide? How many horses will you board at any given time? Will you need to hire any other staff members to join your team? These are just a few of the important questions you must ask yourself as you begin this exciting journey!
Outlining your goals and compiling your thoughts will allow you to systematically work through the steps necessary to get your dream off the ground.
Outline Your Boarding Options & Offerings
What is your plan of action once you open your boarding barn and stable? It is important to think through the boarding options and services you will offer to create a streamlined experience. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you outline the services you will provide:
How Can You Best Meet Potential Boarders’ Needs?
Think back on your past boarding experiences. What were some of the services that you found most beneficial? Are there services that would improve the experience of those boarding at your barn? By meeting the needs of potential boarders, you will set yourself apart from other boarding barns in your area.
To learn more about what horse owners may be looking for in a boarding stable, check out my article Choosing a Boarding Stable Your Horse Will Love.
What Do You Find Lacking in Other Boarding Barns?
Do some research on the other boarding barns in your area. Are there services that they do not offer or ways that they do not fully meet the needs of horse owners? Do you have an area of expertise that you set your boarding barn above the rest?
Establish Your Business Structure from a Legal Standpoint
Your horse boarding business is just that – a business! You must establish your business structure from a legal standpoint to ensure that you do not violate any rules or regulations. Because operating a boarding barn and stable comes with a certain level of risk, it is wise to begin building your relationship with an attorney experienced in this area from the start.
While we certainly hope you never need to rely on the legal representation of your lawyer, having this relationship will minimize the stress and frustration you would otherwise feel. A lawyer can also offer guidance on how to track the financial aspect of your boarding business and other aspects of business management that you may have forgotten.
Select a Location for Your Boarding Barn
If you do not already own space for your boarding barn, you will need to select a location! It is important to outline both your present and future needs as you begin your search. You must also take into consideration the costs associated with your new location.
Build a New Space
Of course the most exciting option would be to build a brand new space! Is there anything better than a clean, up-to-date boarding barn? This is obviously the more expensive option. However, a brand new space may allow you to charge a higher rate for your boarding services.
One downside to building a new space is that you must invest more financially at the beginning of your venture. Additionally, it will take you longer to start boarding horses due to the build time of your barn.
Lease an Existing Space
If building a new space is not a feasible option for you at the time, you may consider leasing an existing barn or stable! One of the greatest benefits of this option is that it requires a much smaller initial investment. Additionally, the space is ready to start boarding horses as soon as you are!
Hire an Experienced Staff
Even if you are planning on boarding only a few horses, you will need to hire a team of experienced equestrians! Owning and operating a boarding barn and stable is hard work. The staffing needs of your boarding barn will depend greatly on the size of your stable and the services you will provide.
Oftentimes, boarding barns employ a barn manager, a support staff that is responsible for daily upkeep, potentially a riding instructor. It is important to surround yourself with other individuals who are both experienced and passionate about their careers.
Purchase the Necessary Equipment
Even if you are leasing an existing boarding barn or stable, there will likely be some equipment that you will need to purchase. Outside of your location, this will be your highest start-up cost.
As an equestrian, you likely already have an idea of the equipment that is necessary for any boarding barn. You will need to ensure that your feed room, tack room, office, and barn are fully equipped to provide an exceptional experience. You will also need to think through what equipment is necessary for each stall, paddock, and riding area including fencing, water troughs, bedding, hay, and more.
Additionally, you will need to invest in maintenance equipment to ensure your boarding barn and stable remains in great shape once you begin boarding horses!
Advertise Your New Boarding Barn & Stable
Once you have secured your location, hired your staff, and purchased the necessary equipment, you are ready to accept your first boarder! While a large part of the equine community operates by word-of-mouth, intentional advertising is a great way to get your name out there and attract business.
There are many ways to advertise your boarding barn and stable. Traditional advertising methods include posting ads at your local feed store, tack shop, shows, or other equestrian events! Consider taking out an ad in a local newspaper or advertising in horse show programs.
Network with other horse owners and equestrians. Offer discounts on the first month of boarding or incentivize referrals from your clients! Many boarding barns also partner with trainers in their community to promote their services. This can be a great way to build your clientele through the connections you have made in the community.
Of course, we can not forget the value of online advertising! In our digital age, it is important to establish an online presence. Work with a media company to design an educational and engaging website complete with photos of your boarding barn, a guide to your prices, and a list of the services you provide.
Harness the power of social media to promote openings in your barn or advertise upcoming events! While traditional advertising and marketing methods are highly valuable, it is important to not underestimate the power of an online presence.
Tips for Running a Successful Boarding Barn & Stable
So, once you get your boarding barn and stable off the ground, how do you provide an exceptional experience? Here are a few tips for running a successful boarding barn and stable:
Run Your Boarding Barn Like a Business
Although horses are likely your greatest passion, you must remember that your boarding barn is your business. It is important to run your boarding barn and stable like the business it is! This includes proper financial recording, record keeping, and legal documentation.
While this is often the most boring aspect of owning a boarding barn, it will go a long way in preventing future frustration and stress. One aspect of running a business that you’ll need to stay on top of, even as a boarding stable owner, is the in-coming and out-going money. The majority of the income you make from a boarding stable will come from the boarding rates you charge. To help you get an idea of the average cost of board, check out my article Boarding a Horse: How Much It Costs.
Hire a Qualified & Experienced Staff
Although it has previously been mentioned, we can not over-emphasize the power of experienced and qualified staff. You will likely spend most of your time at the barn, especially in your early days. However, when you are not at the barn, your staff are responsible for creating a top-notch experience for your boarders!
Build Relationships With Your Boarders
While proper planning is the best way to create a positive boarding experience, it is simply impossible to think through every aspect of your boarding experience. Over time, boarders will express concerns and frustrations. It is important to be patient and open to suggestions.
By building a relationship with the horse owners who choose to board their horses at your barn, you will build loyalty and a foundation of trust. This will allow you to consistently improve the quality of your services and facility to better serve your boarders.
Offer Additional Services to Your Boarders
Continue to think of new ways to serve your boarders. Can you offer monthly grooming services? Perhaps you could partner with a farrier to come to the barn regularly? By constantly adding to the services that you offer, you will continue to improve the experience you provide.
Don’t Forget to Market Your Boarding Business
The goal of every boarding barn owner is a full barn! Don’t be discouraged if your growth is slow but steady. Continue to market your boarding business through both traditional and online methods. Is there an upcoming event at which you could set up a booth? Name recognition will go a long way in building your boarding business!
Types of Services to Offer at Your Boarding Barn & Stable
We have already discussed the importance of outlining the services you will offer at your boarding barn and stable. Here are some of the areas that you can consider as you launch your boarding business:
Full-service boarding requires the greatest amount of effort on your part. However, it also allows you to ensure that a high-quality experience is provided for every horse in your barn. With full-service boarding, a horse owner pays you to house their horse. You and your team are also responsible for the daily care of the horse including cleaning the horse and its stall.
Additionally, with full-service boarding, you are responsible for ensuring that the horse has daily exercise. A full-service boarding experience is ideal for horse owners who are not able to spend every day at the barn with their horses yet want to provide the horse with top-notch care.
Partial boarding varies a bit depending on the agreement the horse owner has with the boarding barn. Typically, the boarding barn staff is responsible for some of the daily care but not all of it. For example, your staff may be responsible for cleaning out the stall but not for daily exercise.
One popular service that can be highly profitable for boarding barns is short-term boarding! This service is often a full-service boarding experience for a short period of time, ideal for horse owners who are vacationing or relocating.
Like any other type of business, starting a boarding barn and stable can be incredibly intimidating. However, pursuing this career allows you to spend each day living out your passion, something for which we should all strive!
If you plan on running a boarding stable, it’s vital that you educate yourself about proper horse care, as you will likely be seeing to the needs of numerous horses. To learn more, visit my article How to Care For a Horse: Ultimate Guide For Beginners.
P.S. Save this to your “Horse Barn” board!