Building an Equine Business—What Do You Offer Boarders/Students?

You need to decide what your focus is for your equine boarding and/or training facility.
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Determine what your clients want and focus on offering the best service possible.

Every boarding/training stable is unique, and there are many ways to build your equine business. Various facilities offer different things to their clients. Owner/manager Cammy Rainwater at Shadowbrook Stables near Springfield, Missouri, said taking horse care a step beyond the norm is what she offers her clients.

Rainwater got into the boarding business because many years ago, she wanted to build an indoor arena. “After three banks turned me down, I finally found one that would loan me money to do it. I thought the only way I could afford this was to share it with people, so I built a boarding stable,” she said.

“I’ve always let my trainer work out of my stable, and I enjoy teaching so I also gave some beginner lessons," said Rainwater. "As I have gotten older and my lesson horses have gotten older, I don’t teach anymore. I now have two trainers who work out of my barn, and one has six students with horses.

“I have my own horses here, and boarders’ horses, and have to turn people away," she continued. "We’ve been here 36 years now, and I always go above and beyond the typical standard of care.” 

Rainwater has traveled with clients and their horses to the referral surgical hospital 3.5 hours away and offers caring, moral support as well as taking care of the horses’ physical needs. “I have slept in stalls with horses. We boarded newborn twins for a while and I slept in the stall with them at night for a month,” she said. 

Marketa Matthews, owner/trainer at Quarter Line Dressage near St. Louis, Missouri, offers full-care boarding and training facility and has a small breeding operation. “I give lessons and train clients’ horses," said Matthews. "We offer everyday turnout for all the horses, customized for each horse. We have well-maintained grass pastures with good fences and cut the grass to keep it all the same length. This keeps the pasture healthy and reduces the insect populations that live in taller grass. We have some small grass turnout areas for horses that don’t get along in a group and must be by themselves. We also have a few dry lot turnout areas for horses that are recovering from some type of injury or can’t be on pasture for some reason. 

“We have a Theraplate (vibration plate) available for clients and their horses that they can use on an unlimited basis," Matthews continued. "It has many benefits for horses, people and pets. We also have an equine scale and can weigh horses when evaluating their body condition. Every six months I have a professional evaluate the horses. She is one of my clients and boards here, and she is employed by Cargill (Nutrena) and Progressive Nutrition, and her services are also available to others. She evaluates all of the horses here twice a year, noting weight, body condition and muscling, making sure we are on top of nutritional needs or whether we need to adjust and make changes.”

The indoor arena has top-quality footing (clopf fiber) for optimum performance. “We also have an oversize outdoor arena," added Matthews. "We have a controlled-temperature heated/air-conditioned lounge with bathroom, refrigerator and microwave for the boarders, and two very nice tack rooms.” 

Most of her students board there; she only has a few outside students because her focus is on clients who own their own horses. Matthews provides care for those horse as well as training. “I think in this type of business, people need to decide the direction they want to go (boarding or training) because it is difficult to do both. You either provide the best care possible for the horses or have a lesson program. For the latter, you need a lot of lesson horses of all sizes to accommodate adults and children. I have a few students who come here to ride my two lesson horses, and they get to use all the facilities that our boarders use.”