This is something that every barn owner thinks about and the pressure to keep your stalls full can be overwhelming when the income from those stalls is how you pay your bills. I never realized how great the pressure or stress could be until we took out a large business loan and built our barn and arena.
First things first, a well-done website is a must!
Long gone are the days of posting an ad in the newspaper. People use the internet for everything. If you want people to see your facility quickly, get your website up. I get calls quite often from new horse owners and the way they found us was from our website. I am surprised and how many barns in our area don't have a website and it doesn't have to cost a lot to put one up.
Social media is a great way to advertise
Social media is here and this is how many people find barns, trainers and horses. Facebook is free and easy to use. I have had many people contact me through Facebook to ask if we had a stall opening. It is a fantastic way to advertise and it is free.
It takes time to earn a great reputation
As a new boarding barn sometimes people will sit back and watch to see how the barn is going to do things before they commit to coming. You will find many people that will sign right up and then there will be just as many people that will sit back and watch especially if no one knows you. We were very new to the horse community when we built so people didn't know who we were and we needed to prove ourselves and that we gave great care. It takes a while.
I truly believe the best way to get a waiting list in place is by having a great reputation for impeccable care of the horses at your barn. Becoming a barn owner that is known for being honest and true to their word is what will set your place apart.
There are so many other things that are all part of how busy your barn is. Location is huge. Many people don't want to drive too far to see their horse so location will make a difference for them. If you live in or near a city with a huge population than you will have more people looking for boarding. If you live in a smaller area like we do, than you will have less.
Type of barn
Is your barn a multi-discipline barn or a one discipline barn? It is a hunter jumper barn or primarily a trail riding barn? Are your clients mostly kids or retired people? Is your barn on the lower end or high end for board rates and do you offer amenities that others don't offer? So much will determine what type of boarders you attract to your barn and in the beginning when you are still new, you might need to make your barn a multi-discipline barn to keep your stalls filled. When you are primarily a one discipline type barn it greatly cuts down on your client prospects at least in the beginning.
Keep your waiting list current and think outside your town or city...Think big!
I want to express that a waiting list is only good for a short amount of time. People will only wait for so long and then they find a new place and settle in. I believe that the life span of someone waiting on your list is about three months for most people. You need to be fresh in their minds and that is why social media and a well made website are vital to attracting new people especially when someone is a new horse owner and needs to find a place to board. People move from state to state or even from country to country more now than ever before. And with them comes their family and that means their horse. I get calls from all over the country from people who are moving here to Wisconsin and are looking for boarding for their horse. I even had one family who moved here from England years ago and found us through our website.
Don't panic if you have an empty stall or two. I have an empty stall right now and it's okay because I am budgeted for it. Even with a solid rock waiting list I encourage you to create your budget with the idea of always having two stalls always empty. That way if you have the empty stalls for a month or two, it won't set you back financially and if the stalls are filled then it's extra money that you can put away for those raining days and unexpected expenses.
I really believe that if you give great care for the horses in your barn, create a safe place that is always well maintained and you are professional, people will notice. You have to remember that many horse owners have already been to a few of the barns in your area and they have had some bad and even heartbreaking experiences. They will know a great place when they see it.
Thank you for the great question,