I can remember very early on when David and I decided to build our barn and indoor arena. I had talked to a couple of people about starting a horse boarding operation and I remember one friend of mine asking me if we had lost our minds! She smiled when she blurted out those words and I laughed back not thinking much about it. I didn't get what she was trying to tell me at that time. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I finally understood what she was saying to me.
What most people don't realize when thinking about boarding horses for a living is that the chores and horses will be the easiest part of the day. What will make the job challenging is learning to work with clients and all their different personalities. You will have many requests and there will be a few that will have you shaking your head. You will have horses that will be easy to take care of and then you will have horses that seem to get into everything and vet calls seem to become part of the weekly routine. You will learn to manage herds and even more importantly you will become confident in your decisions regarding the herds and where you have placed each horse. You will learn to make decisions that are not popular with your boarders and it is okay.
You will learn to lead and hopefully be willing to admit when you have made a mistake. You will make many changes during the first few years and you will come to a point where you will decide enough is enough and it is time to put your family and business first. You will have boarders that will come and eventually go and it will almost always leave you a little heartbroken. You will love your job and can't wait to go out in the barn and then you will have days when you don't want to leave your house and the last place you want to be is the barn but the chores still need to get done. That is when you will dig deeper for an inner strength.
Your friends and family will assume you are making all kinds of money because of the huge amount of horses at your barn. Your boarders will think the same thing. Most of the people around you will not understand all the expense it takes to run a boarding operation and keep it clean and in good shape. Your money will disappear faster than you expected and much of it will go to fixing things that the horses have broken. You also will be surprised how fast your hay disappeared during the winter months and you might even be sweating to make it to first crop without running out.
Are you crazy?
The list could go on and on about what it takes to run a boarding barn and all that goes with it. The simple truth is that most people that start a boarding barn are just like I was. They love horses and know how to take care of them but running a business is something they have very little experience with. Are they crazy? Was I crazy? I don't think so!
I still believe I have the greatest job in the world. I just had to learn on the job how to run my barn like a business because I didn't have anyone to help me. I believe once you learn good business skills both with money and people your job will become unbelievably easy. Will you have difficult and challenging days? Sure. Will you difficult boarders at times? Of course. But you will learn to manage it all and if you are willing to learn from your mistakes and grow from them, then you are on your way to running a very successful barn.
If you are thinking about starting a horse boarding business, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about running a business and dealing with people. Find someone that has been doing it a long time and is a positive person with a successful barn. Ask them questions and watch how they do chores on a daily basis and through all types of weather. Pick their brain and watch how they treat their clients in all situations. If I would have had someone to mentor me during the first few years of our business, I probably would not have made so many mistakes early on.
You are not crazy at all for wanting your own barn and business. Just be smart and very real about the job and life you are about to embark on. The more you prepare now for it, the easier it will be on you and your family in the long run.
And just between you and me, a little crazy is good for the soul! It gives us the courage at times when we can't find it and it makes life much more interesting.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,