Is short-term or overnight boarding part of your stabling business? Some farm and stable owners are finding that if handled properly, short-term and overnight boarders can not only add to your income, but allow you to do some nice things for your long-term customers. And some of those short-term boarders might become long-term clients.
Stable owners appreciate long-term boarders, those folks who entrust their horses to the same facility for months or years. But a number of stable owners are also seeing the benefit of offering short-term boarding to horse owners who just need a place to house their horse for a few days or weeks.
At Shepard Ranch, a boarding facility in Brookston, Indiana, owner Libby Marks-Shepard offers several types of short-term boarding, in addition to standard boarding agreements. Travelers can board at her facility overnight, and students attending nearby Purdue University can keep their horses at her barn during the school year. Marks-Shepard also maintains an emergency service for equestrians who become stranded on the nearby interstate highway. This service includes overnight accommodations for the horses.
“For travelers, we supply the stall and bedding, and the traveler supplies the hay, grain and buckets,��� says Marks-Shepard. “We accept reservations, but have also taken in travelers who didn’t plan ahead. We also allow them to let their horses stretch in one of our outdoor arenas.”
Marks-Shepard charges $30 per horse, per night, and visiting horses are kept in four stalls on the back side of her barn.
“These are the stalls we use for travelers,” she said. “They are rather isolated, and that helps us control the risk of spreading disease. We also do not allow outside horses to drink from our tanks or mingle with our horses, and we do not supply buckets. This helps to prevent the spread of disease.”
Marks-Shepard notes there are a number of benefits to taking in short-term boarders.
“It’s easy money, and we meet some very nice people,” she said. “Plus it’s exposure for both our stable and our tack shop.”
The Budweiser Clydesdales and the Royal Lipizzans are among the overnight guests who have stayed at the American Legacy Center, a training and boarding facility in Omaha, Nebraska. The facility’s short-term boarding policy allows for overnight travelers or horses that will be boarded for only a month. Overnighters are charged $20 per night. Boarders staying for a month must sign a boarding contract stating the amount of time they intend to be at the facility.
Dorothy Turley, owner of American Legacy Center, does not advertise to call attention to her short-term boarding option, but instead relies on boarders to spread the word.
“Word of mouth is the best advertising,” she said. “I get calls from people who heard about my services from someone who had been here before.”
Arrowhead Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a full-service boarding facility that also offers short-term boarding, which owner Alison Amann defines as less than a month. Horse owners passing through the area make up most of the barn’s short-term boarders, and Amann emphasizes the need for a schedule when offering service to travelers.
“We require an advance reservation, and arrival and departure times must be stated,” she said. “When offering these kinds of services, it’s important to allow certain arrival and departure hours and stick to it. Let the traveler know up front that late night arrival isn’t a possibility, otherwise it wrecks your schedule and isn’t worth it.”
Protecting the health of horses boarded long-term is important to Amann, who requires all short-term boarders to have a current health certificate and proof of negative Coggins.
“We also do a visual inspection of the horse to look for anything that might cause concern,” she said. “Plus, whenever possible, we keep the overnight horses slightly apart from the rest of the horses.”
Barn owner Madelyn Millard of Goose Creek Stables in Lexington, Kentucky, does not find overnight boarding to be worth the effort, but does offer short-term boarding for horse owners wishing to use her indoor arena in the wintertime, and horses that are in town over the summer to attend shows at the nearby Kentucky Horse Park.
“The income received from filling empty stalls, if only for a short time, bridges the gap between long-term boarders,” said Millard. “I also have a few customers who came in as short-term boarders and have ended up staying much longer.”
Millard pointed out that when taking in short-term boarders, it’s important to keep the health and comfort of long-term boarders in mind. When the World Equestrian Games were held at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010, Millard had a number of requests for short-term boarding. Millard accepted these temporary residents while making sure her permanent boarders were not compromised.
“I am not going to do anything that negatively impacts my regular boarders,” she said. Millard pointed out that if done right, short-term boarding can actually benefit long-term boarders.
“Short-term boarding provides a great opportunity to pick up a few extra dollars,” she said. “I then put that money back into the facility in a way that directly benefits my long-term customers.”