Have some extra space at your barn and want to offset some of your equine costs? Starting a boarding business can be a solution, but not without a lot of planning.
There are a multitude of responsibilities that come with running a boarding business. Before heading merrily down this bridle path, take time to consider the market demand, facilities needed, legalities, business venture, insurance, equine dynamics, human dynamics, neighbor dynamics, and wear and tear. And in this environmentally enlightened age, who could forget the extra manure.
Step 1: Market Demand
The “build it and they will come” strategy does not work well when it comes to boarding horses. Before tackling any other start-up tasks, the very first thing you should do is determine if there is enough business to keep you in business. Start by making a chart of all the boarding facilities within your market region. Include what their specialty is. For example, are they focused on youth or adult, showing or recreational, riding or breed orientation? Are they full, and if not, what is their average occupancy rate? What is their reputation?
From there you will want to identify your niche. Will you fill a vacant niche so that you can capture enough market share to make it?
Step 2: Zoning
Generally speaking, if you are in a rural or agricultural zone, stables are a permitted use. If you are in any other zoning you should check out your zoning laws ahead of time and be sure you’re in compliance. If you aren’t, you will want to get the required approval to go ahead. Remember, you are now creating more traffic in the neighborhood and your neighbors may raise the issue with town officials if you don’t.
Step 3: Facilities
Elements to consider are the horses’ living quarters, riding or exercise options, and rider comfort. Many states have laws that mandate what months shelter is required and define what that shelter must consist of.
Generally speaking, “shelter” can mean a run-in shed, stall in a barn, or stall that opens into a paddock area. Whatever your choice is, be sure the building is in good repair, and remove any broken boards, protruding nails or other equine hazards. Cover exposed electric outlets, and be sure lights are way out of reach, even for horses that may be playing or misbehaving.
Step 4: Horse Management
Will horses be turned out separately or together? How will the horses get along if they do go out together? Will you put mares with geldings? Fencing is a key concern regardless, since you want to keep them all horses fenced in, and may want to keep some of them apart. And while your horse may respect one strand of electric string, many a Houdini horse has escaped more elaborate systems.
What kind of supervision will the horses have? Most commercial stables pride themselves on having someone on the grounds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means that problems will be caught sooner.