Developing a financially sound horse boarding business takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication. And as most horse boarding barn business owners know it can be difficult to make money even with the best of intentions.
There are a variety of issues that can hamper profitability for any business development, but the horse industry comes with its own set of unknowns that blow out carefully considered budget plans. These may be unforeseen expenses caused by adapting to the endless requests of demanding horse owners; equine illness or lameness and loss; accidents that result in insurance claims and hike insurance premiums. A myriad of other unexpected events can all conspire to make building a profitable business a challenge.
The creation of additional revenue streams is vital for the financial health of a horse boarding barn business. There are many simple methods the barn owner or manager can employ to garner better income to offset the expenses of running a horse boarding facility.
Most horse owners say when they entrust their horses to a livery operator the health and safety of their equines is their primary need and concern. Individual turnout for horses and good health practices such as quarantine and regular vaccination/deworming protocols all boost the horse boarders’ confidence in the boarding operation.
There are obvious facilities that should be provided to every horse stabled on the property. Obvious examples are safely fenced well maintained and manure picked pastures; matted sturdy stalls of appropriate size; good ventilation in the barn; shelter for outside turnout options; regular stall mucking; professional handling of the horses; provision of good quality forage and grain with plenty of fresh clean water.
When planning a new horse barn there are many construction ideas that can be incorporated into the design to maximize areas of profitability.
But it is wise not to overlook the benefits that providing additional options can do to enhance the horse owner’s satisfaction with both the horse’s care and their own needs. Adjunct services can provide a valuable method to keep everyone trotting happily around the horse care arena and build loyalty to a specific barn.
Here are a few tried and tested services on how to run a horse boarding facility that can be easily added to the regular barn services to increase revenue.
Good Hygiene Practices
A good place to start building revenue is by fulfilling jobs and duties that owners and riders don’t have the time or desire to complete themselves.
Tack cleaning, laundry services for blanketing, wraps, saddle pads, boots and horse equipment encourage good hygiene at the barn. It is amazing how many horses suffer needless bumps and sores just because the saddle pad isn’t washed daily, or exercise wrap/boots or bits are reused without cleaning.
Build revenue for these services by offering to complete laundry duties/grooming and bathing chores, braiding and show preparation services, blanket changes/fly spraying/ leg wrapping and/or booting, and provide veterinary supervised medical care such as wound dressing, either by offering an ‘a la carte’ fee schedule or package pricing.
Be wary of upsetting clients by nickel and diming for smaller tasks by grouping them together to demonstrate more value.
Whenever you can decomplicate life for your boarder you should embrace the option. An unofficially poll conducted on a social media group on the topic of what folks boarding their horses didn’t want to worry about doing themselves, included deworming programs and vaccination schedules as top contenders they felt could be included in their basic board services.
The best money earner you can add to the income stream is offering training services either for horse or rider or both.
On site good quality training can be an excellent revenue source.. Especially starting young horses and getting them confidently working under saddle as this training often intimidates their owners who lack either the confidence, knowledge, or both to do it themselves.
Exercising horses under saddle or longing horses for a fee helps keep the equines in the barn fit and healthy and, in some cases, can improve the part time equestrian’s safety in the saddle, as their horses are kept tuned up.
Many riders have areas where their abilities are limited and providing the ‘on hand’ expertise such as cantering or trail riding a horse for an older horse owner that finds these activities too physically demanding to complete themselves, or teaching a horse to jump or how to load in a trailer, are all great opportunities to build the bottom line of your business into positive territory.
Hosting training seminars with talented clinicians or horse care professionals such as saddle fitters, vets and alternative medical providers can all yield additional revenue if properly managed.
The bonus of providing educational opportunities is that the horse owner becomes better informed and therefore has a clearer understanding of the nuances of horse care and handling/riding making the life of the horses in your care better than ever.
Also bear in mind a well-trained horse is safer and easier to ride and handle, thus mitigating the risk of accidents at the barn.
Health From the Inside Out
The health of the horse is built from the inside out so it makes sense to include service options that can improve a horse’s nutrition and physical well-being as well as mental attitude.
Special ‘extra’ options may include hay steaming services (be aware that certain mineral deficiencies can result so check the diet is kept balanced), extra feed times for horses in heavy work, alternate hay type options such as alfalfa mixes, 1st and 2nd cut, organically grown hay for those concerned about chemical additives in forage such as Round-Up and dry down agents negatively affecting the horses’ respiratory and overall health.
Offer extra supplies of hay or bedding for an additional fee for horse owners that would like to add extra forage or prefer a more deeply bedded stall than regularly provided.
Sales and Breeding
The operation of a horse facility offers the possibility of bringing horses in for sale either on a consignment basis or retraining/rehoming horses that have outlived their usefulness elsewhere. ‘Foster facilities’ are often paid handsomely by charity organizations for providing temporary horse care and/or training for horses in transition, especially if larger numbers of equines can be accommodated in one place.
Provision of equine retirement services are also a good way to keep regular cash coming in through the barn door.
Many horse owners would like to breed their mare or keep a stallion at stud but don’t have the knowledge or time to manage the ins and outs of breeding horses. Offering services from AI to gestational care for the mare and foaling out and foal care can be rewarding both financially and emotionally.
A Dollar Saved Is a Dollar Earned
The old adage, “A dollar saved is a dollar earned,” is one often overlooked as a means to build the bottom line into healthy territory.
When reviewing income streams always look at the cost basis for providing the service. Ensure there is enough profit margin built in to make the service provision worthwhile. But also look at all cost areas of the business including direct and indirect expenses.
Regardless of which direction the dollars emanate, whether from income generated by extra services or savings on indirect/direct costs, it’s extra money in your pocket.
Money saving options do not always live where you might think so seeking help from a professional in areas where you have little expertise is a good idea.
An accounting professional that is well-versed in equestrian businesses and is aware of tax advantages and options for drawback such as farm subsidies that offer returns on school taxes, Section 179 purchases, NOL (net operating loss) rollover options, depreciation and amortization methods etc., can be an invaluable asset to building the business better. To quote another adage, “You have to speculate to accumulate,” is also true, and the investment in a qualified accounting consultant can be well worth the spend.
Think Outside the Stall Box
One of the most innovative methods to build revenue if you are planning on constructing a horse barn and have yet to complete the project is to add a vacation rental space to the loft space or other area of a barn.
Horizon Structures client, Lynn Pirozzoli, of Purcellville, VA, generously shares her experience developing her High-Profile Center Aisle barn into a successful Airbnb destination in this article.
There is a wealth of helpful information on how to go about the project, including pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Another valuable resource opportunity that is often overlooked is your existing clientele. Don’t be hesitant to survey your existing clients to ask them what services they would like and would be prepared to pay extra for if made available. Use your social media platform to ask colleagues and other horse owners what services they value and would be prepared to pay an additional premium to enjoy.
Always listen to feedback from your clientele. Negative comments are usually a good feeding ground for insights into how you can make your horse boarding business better.