Opening the Doors

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If you board horses, it is quite likely you have been asked to allow an outside trainer to come onto your property to give lessons. Should you? Or, perhaps you have been thinking of renting out a portion of your facility to a local trainer. What are the pros and cons? Can these be money-making propositions or will increased costs eat up any profit you may make? There are several things to consider before making a decision.

LETTING OTHERS IN

There are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. Sue Bassin of Cricket Hill Farm in Ancramdale, N.Y., explains, “We have a very involved and integrated program of horsecare, training and instruction. It would be impossible for us to deliver that kind of total, integrated approach to the horse if we let in people who were not part of our team. They might be good instructors but there is no way they could possibly know the full breadth of our program. We would be inviting inconsistencies in.”

According to Cindy Farmer of Valley Vista Ranch in Hoschton, Ga., “I don’t allow outside instructors because too many of them are fly-by-night types. If they can’t afford their own place, why should I take the risk? It is also a matter of quality control because anybody that works on my property is representing my ranch.” Cindy does, however, rent a portion of her ranch to another trainer. It is a long-term relationship for which Cindy has a written contract that details every possible contingency, from insurance to payment terms.

Those who do allow outside trainers to use their facilities are quick to point out that they are very selective. At Twin Ridge Farm in Warner, N.H., Jeri Nieder requires that “they have either gone through the British Horse Society certification program or they need to be USDF certified.” Roberta Bryant, who operates Mount Toby Stables in Leverett, Mass., has a regular contingent of outside trainers, all of whom are well-known in the area. “I don’t feel that it is fair to my boarders,” she explains, “to restrict them to one teacher. We all have our preferences for methods and I don’t believe any one method will work for every single person.”

ARENA TIME

Surprisingly, most folks do not have any problem sharing their rings for lessons. Many people have more than one ring, which prevents scheduling conflicts, while others have set aside specific days for outside trainers. “Once you know what those days are, it is basically pretty easy,” explains Jeri Nieder. “Clients normally have a specific time and they don’t usually flip-flop around unless they have a job that has weird hours.” Some trainers are told upfront that they might have to share a ring. “I have enough outdoor rings so that if the weather is good and there is overlap, there isn’t a problem,” says Roberta Bryant. “But if the weather is bad, then we each get half the indoor, but it has worked out fine.”

RING USE FEES

What about charging a ring-use fee or a percentage of the lesson? “I charge a ring-use fee that is per hour,” explains Nieder. “But then you can get into little nit-picky things. Let’s say a person is going to take two lessons a week and they’re going to do it for the duration of their stay at my barn. I might charge them a little less than somebody giving me a call and saying, ‘can I come with my horse and riding instructor for the day?’ Also, let’s say that they contract to do eight lessons a month. They’re going to get charged for those eight lessons whether they use them or not.” At Mount Toby Stables, outside instructors use the farm’s horses. “If it is their student, then I charge them ten dollars per hour for the use of the horse and they pay me that day so I don’t have to bill them,” explains Roberta Bryant. “If they teach one of my students then I charge them two thirds of the lesson money. If they keep that student permanently, they must continue to give me two-thirds of the fee.”

Though an outside trainer using a farm’s horses works at Mount Toby, the idea didn’t float well with many others.

RENTING OUT THE BARN

When it comes to renting out a portion of your barn, getting paid becomes a bit more difficult, simply because of the larger sums of money involved. “I tried for 10 years but finally gave up,” laments Bryant. “I lost money with every single trainer that came to my barn. I charged them $1,000 per month for the use of my indoor arena and eight stalls, and had a formal contract with each trainer. Unfortunately, every one of them would slowly get behind in their bills. One stopped paying his electric bill while another started passing her client’s $35 payments directly over to me, one at a time while she was two months behind on her own bills. I discovered that it was too expensive to try and collect my money through a lawyer and so, lost a lot of money.”

The difficulties that Bryant experienced are quite common. What can be done to avoid such problems? “You need to require a security deposit,” advises Cindy Farmer. She has a large facility and leases out one of her barns. “I require a security deposit that they don’t get back until the day they leave. It can be used to cover their bills, but I don’t let them get behind in their payments. I have a clause in my contract that says fees are late after five days and after 10 days, I can give them seven days notice to leave. Also, the deposit should be sufficient to cover any damage that person, their animals or clients may cause. If your security deposit is not enough to cover that amount, then you need to increase it.”

Allowing outside trainers to use your facility is a decision that must be considered carefully. As Nieder so aptly summarized, “letting somebody else teach in your barn definitely has drawbacks as well as positives. The positive is obviously the money and the drawback is yes, working around somebody else. But one that can work if done correctly.”

What About Insurance?

Without question, the number-one issue surrounding outside trainers is how much insurance is required and who should carry the policy, the property owner or the trainer? “All parties need to have liability insurance,” warns Dr. Lance Allen of Kiki Ward Platt Equine Insurance in Overland Park, Kan. “The property owner also needs to have the trainer name them, the owner, as an additional insured on their policy. If they don’t, then there is no protection for the property owner. Barn managers need to make sure that the trainer’s insurance policy is of equal or greater limits to the property owner’s policy. Industry standards are $1 million per occurrence and a $2 million annual aggregate. You also must let your insurance company know that you have an independent trainer coming onto your place and that there are lessons being given. You need to make sure that you have coverage on a secondary level with your company. That shouldn’t be very expensive because, to be honest, most claims are under $5,000.”

Can the trainer simply be added to the property owner’s insurance? “We can do it but I don’t advise it,” continues Dr. Allen. “Here’s why: Let’s say you have a $1 million per occurrence and you go ahead and name Joe Smith the trainer as an additional insured on your policy. Sally comes in and has a catastrophic injury and sues. The jury awards $2 million to Sally. You’re a million short because if they apply equal negligence to both you and the trainer, and you’re sharing your policy with the trainer, you’ve each got a half a million dollars. Whereas if it goes through the trainer’s policy first, their policy antes up a million then they come to your policy and you’ve got another million dollars.” —EF