Starting a horse business is the easy part. Running it daily after you have opened is where things can catch you off guard quickly if you are not prepared. The truth is anyone can start a horse boarding business but if you want to do it right and avoid the pit-falls that so many of us get caught up in, then I encourage you to treat it like a business and have everything in place that you need to protect you. It truly is a wonderful life and career but it still is a job and there are going to be days that you don't want to get out of bed to feed the horses. There are going to be disagreements between you and clients once in a while. There are going to be days that you wonder where all your money went and you still have bills that are not paid. There are going to times when you just need someone to talk to who has been there and done it longer.
1. A Good Lawyer
I talk to many people who skip this part and assume nothing will go wrong or don't want to spend the money. Don't even go there! You are starting a business and taking care of other peoples horses. Anything can happen in a moment. From the very beginning of setting up your LLC or Corporation all the way through, have an attorney look over everything you do. You will want your attorney to go over your boarding contract and liability waivers. If they are not written correctly than you won't be protected. I have heard so many horror stories where people tried to set this all up themselves and there were many mistakes along the way. Spend the money and you will never regret it. David and I have had the same attorney for over ten years and situations have come up where we have had to call him quite a few times. You can't put a price on peace of mind and you don't want to lose everything you worked so hard to build.
2. A Great Accountant
This is another area where so many people try to save money by doing all the book work themselves. Unless you are an accountant that wants to board horses, hire one. I have talked to several people over the years who have tried to do all the accounting and taxes themselves and have made mistakes that ended up costing them thousands of dollars. It is not worth it. The laws for businesses change all the time and a good accountant will be up to date on how those changes affect your business. We have also had our accountant for over ten years and yes it does cost me more than doing it myself but I don't ever have to worry. And let's face it, unless you have tons of time on your hands (which you won't if you start a horse boarding business) you probably won't be able to keep up with it all. It can get crazy fast when you are running a business.
3. Business Insurance
No one likes to pay for insurance and it's not cheap but it is part of having any kind of business. I hear of people who are boarding horses and do not have insurance. Don't do it! It is not worth losing everything you have worked so hard for just because you didn't want to pay the money. If you are going to start a business than run it like a business and have your insurance in place. I went through three different insurance carriers until I finally got smart and went to an insurance company that only deals with equine business insurance. It was the best change I ever made. Not only do we have better coverage but our insurance is less than what I used to pay through a regular insurance company. I encourage you to find an insurance company that only deals with horses and the equine business world.
4. Boarding or Training Contract
It doesn't matter if you only have two horses boarded on your property or forty. Have a boarding contract in place. It is to protect you. Anything can happen and if you don't have a contract in place you are really taking a huge chance. You can write up your boarding contract specifically with what you offer at our barn. Remember that no matter where you get your original contract (internet or book etc.) make sure that you have your attorney read through it completely. Each state will vary a bit on the laws when it comes to horses and business. You want to make sure your contract is valid for your state and written correctly. This would also be true for your liability waivers.
5. A Mentor
This one is near and dear to my heart. Oh how I wish I could of had someone to talk to when we first started our boarding barn. David and I made so many mistakes and it ended up costing us tens of thousands more to get our barn built and open for business. Once we were open the real job began and I was in for the shock of my life. I never knew running a boarding barn could be so challenging and stressful at times. I didn't feel comfortable talking with other barn owners in the area so I stumbled through my first five years trying to solve issues and figure out what works and doesn't work. The funny thing was that the horse part of the job was the easiest. It was dealing with my boarders that caught me off guard. I now believe I would have grown faster as a leader and businesswoman if I would have had someone to talk with about the job who had more experience than me. A mentor is someone that will look at your business with a fresh pair of eyes and help you problem solve in a positive way.
I truly believe you need all of these things to start your business off right. Sure there is so much more to running a barn but laying a good foundation before it opens is a must. Today I celebrate with you the journey you are about to take in the world of horses.
If you would like to start a horse boarding business or need some advice now that you are in it, I encourage you to check out my two books. The first one is, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business. " It is my families journey of building our barn and arena and opening Vinland Stables. It is a very honest book about building and running our barn and all the mistakes and lessons learned along the way. My second book is, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." This book is all about barn management and your clients. Everything you do will affect your clients and problem solving will be an everyday thing. There is no other book that is so honest or real about horse barn management. Both books will help you grow and avoid many of the pit-falls we experienced in our early years. Both these books compliment each other and together give you a complete look at horse boarding and business ownership.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,