Editor's Note: This month we asked author Katie Navarra to investigate the topic: How Many is Too Many? We have found as farm and stable owners that we often end up with "too many" horses for our physical or financial situation. We also know of other owners and stables who struggle with the same problems. We invite you to make comments on each of these articles, or chat with us on the Finding Out forum on these topics. Read the first article in this series, "How Much Land is Needed Per Horse."
“Making horses pay for themselves is more difficult than perhaps it was five years ago,” said Mike Yoder, extension assistant professor and specialist extension horse husbandry at North Carolina State University.
Leasing out a horse for showing, breeding, pleasure riding, or a combination of the above is one alternative. Depending on the client and the horse, offer a partial or full lease. Before entering into an agreement determine any stipulations you may have. You may require the horse remain on the property or you may allow the horse to be relocated. Specify limitations on use and who covers vet and farrier bills.
Another option is using the horse/horses in a riding lesson program. If the stable already offers lessons, evaluate whether or not the horse is appropriate and for what level rider. If your barn is not currently providing lessons, can the service be added? Do you or a staff member have the expertise to offer riding lessons?
Pony rides or horse-themed parties may be another possibility. Honestly assess your horse’s temperament and decide if this may be a fit for your business. Horses can be hauled off-site, or if your facility can accommodate gatherings an event on-site may make more sense.
College equestrian teams often need additional horses. While they may not pay to lease the horse, if agreed, the horse may live at the team barn at no board expense. Though your barn would not realize an income from the horse, his board would be covered and he would be used regularly.
“The truth is, it has always been difficult to make money with horses. Now that the economy is struggling, it is even more difficult,” Yoder said, “if I am honest with people struggling to keep their horse operation going, I tell them to reduce the herd to a reasonable number and wait for the economy or their situation to improve. In many cases, that means selling all of their horses and waiting for a better time to own a horse.”
However, if you’re just not ready to sell, consider one of the suggestions above.