There are so many questions that come into the equation if you are starting out with empty farmland like we did. How big should you build and how many horses should you board are the two biggest questions. Then comes the questions like, can we fill our stalls and outdoor board and what should we charge? Will I need to work a second job and can I afford to hire help on the farm? How many horses will be in each herd and will we separate the mares from the geldings? The list will seem endless at first and even if you have all the paperwork in order and your barn rules and boarding contracts are done, there is still so much that you need to look at to have a smooth start to your business. These questions are very important whether you are only going to board five horses or forty horses. I want to stress the point that size doesn't matter and you will have the same issues with a small farm as a large farm. The issues might be much smaller but they can be bad enough to make you wonder why you started boarding horses to begin with.
If you want to board horses and have never worked at a barn large or small, I strongly encourage you to tour some different boarding places in your area. I can guarantee that they will all do many things differently and that is great because it will give you a well rounded view of how different each farm operates. If you are able to talk with the owner or barn manager, then ask them about the things they would change and some of the problems they have come across over the years. Any extra insight is a plus! Find out how they do there morning and afternoon feeding and how they give grain and supplements. Ask them about fencing and why they chose the fencing they are using. Find out what they use to muck out their stalls and how much bedding they use. What do they do with their manure afterward? If they are willing to share how their business runs then bring a notebook and write down as much as you can. Ask them how they deal with unruly horses and the upset boarder. Ask them about their barn rules. The more you do before you open your doors the less you will have to change afterwards. If is much harder to make changes once you have clients at at your stable.
Changing things constantly
So many of these things I didn't do before we opened our business and the first two years were the most stressful years of my life. I was changing things constantly and we were losing boarders quite frequently because what we offered in the beginning, we realized was not a reality to keep doing. We found out quickly that we were losing money and everything was taking double the time to do. It was a learning experience at its highest level and I now completely understand why many boarders left during those early years. They were paying a lot for board and we couldn't provide some of the services we promised. There is nothing worse then to be a new business and have people leave because the facility is not run very well. Don't let this happen to you!
Take the time to lay a strong foundation and be aware of what you really can offer and what you can't. Don't try to compete with the other barns in your area. Offer what you can and be the best at what you do and your clients will find you. Start off small and you can always add on and grow as you see your business grow and it will be so much more fun to go to work everyday.
Behind every successful business is a well thought out business plan and strong foundation. Even if it takes a couple of years to get your business off the ground, don't rush it.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just starting out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I would like to encourage you to check out my two books. My first one, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business" is my families journey of starting our horse boarding business and about learning from our mistakes especially during the first couple of years. My second book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover," is about the relationship between the barn owner/barn manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. The books compliment each other and give you a complete look at horse barn management. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you the very best in your horse business.