I am going to be bold right now and tell you that your time is going to become extremely valuable to you the longer you are running your barn and all that goes with it. In the beginning you will want to be out in the barn all the time to make sure everyone's needs are being met and everything else will take second place to your barn and business. But as time goes on and you get a routine established at your barn, your family will start pulling you back in to their world and you will start to try to find a balance between your horse business, your family and personal life. I know this because I went through this during the first couple of years trying to make sure the business was doing okay.
Your time will become more and more valuable to you and services that you one offered for free will now have a price attached to them. This is just a natural part of a young growing business with the business owner growing up beside it. I believe all new business owners go through this stage to some degree and there are many trials and errors that come with figuring out what you can provide for your clients for extra services. You time is valuable and you shouldn't be working for free.
Figuring out a dollar amount for your services
Deciding what to charge for extra services is not easy! You can ask ten different barn owners what they charge to put on and take off blankets and you will probably get ten different rates. It is totally an individual decision. I recommend talking to a few barn owners about their fees and why they charge the fees they charge. It will start to open your eyes to the pros and cons of each extra service. A perfect example is blanketing. It is very time consuming when you have to change many blankets in a horse barn and you would be surprised how much extra time it will add to your day. Putting on bell boots would be another great example. Are the bell boots clean or are they muddy? Does the Velcro stick well or are the bell boots in poor condition and part of the Velcro straps are missing. I have had a couple of clients over the years that wanted me to put on bell boots and usually it's not a problem but during the rainy or muddy season this job becomes harder to deal with because the boots are caked with mud. This makes it extremely difficult to put them on or take them off. Once you do that a few times with a few horses you will look at this service in a much different way.
There will be services that you start out charging a fee and later on you realize that it was easier than you thought. I have done that a few times and have eliminated the charge for a particular service that didn't warrant a fee. One example of that would be fly masks. I envisioned (or panicked) early on that I would have to put on forty fly masks. I know it sounds silly but anything on a huge scale becomes a lot more work. Especially when the fly mask becomes dirty or you have to go search for it out in the paddock because a horse pulled it off. Years later I know realize that fly masks are no big deal. I have only had a handful of people that want me to put them on so I decided not to charge for this service. I also have strict guidelines for putting on fly mask. If the mask is muddy and dirty the owner is responsible for cleaning it up before I will put it on the horse. It is a learning thing for sure when you are running a barn.
After you have talked to a few barn owners about what they charge for extra services, then start a price sheet and decide on a price that will work for you. I guarantee that it will change as you go through a couple of seasons. You might start off too low and decide to raise the price or the other way around. You just need a starting point. I included in my book the Total Horse Barn Management Makeover my price sheet for extra services provided at my barn to give you a starting point if you don't know where to start. It is just an example to get you moving forward because this is where many barn owners get stuck.
Are you giving any extras as part of your board?
This is a loaded question for sure. As a barn owner and business person you need to decide what you want to include in your board as extras. If you choose not to give any extras as part of the board that is entirely your choice and that is fine. As a boarder, I am sure you will have a few clients that will feel you are trying to get every penny out of them and that you don't provide any extras. They will not understand your world as a barn owner and the best thing you can do is spend some time talking with them and explain why you have the fees in place. Most people do understand and for most boarding barns this is common practice. Remember that how you package "Extras services provided" will make a difference to some people. Some clients are willing to pay more to have everything included (and that means all extra services) as part of their board. But I think the majority of clients would rather have a less expensive board rate and only pay for extras when they need them. Setting up this part of your business will be an individual choice.
Can you over charge for the extra services you provide?
I think you need to be realistic about the rates you charge for extra services you provide. It is one thing to want to be paid for holding a horse for a farrier and then it is another to charge an enormous fee for the service. I encourage you to find a fair rate that is worth your time but won't be a rip off to the client. Be honest when figuring out what your hourly rate should be. If you feel your time is worth twenty dollars an hour then charge that rate and pro-rate it depending on how long the time took. Some horses are very difficult to hold and you might be out there over an hour while others are a quick trim and you might hold the horse for twenty minutes. The longer you do this part of your job the more you will get a clear view of how you want to handle this area of your business.
Remember that you are going to make changes throughout your business and it is okay. After a few years you will settle in to a routine that rarely changes and your job will become much easier. I rarely change my rates anymore but I did quite often in the first couple of years as I started to experience many different situations. This happens to most new barn owners and you are not alone. Take it one day at a time and learn from each situation you are in. The best classroom you can have is right in your stable. You are going to learn things you never imagined and your learning curve is going to go through the roof. Even after ten years of boarding horses I am still learning and it is still the best job in the world.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I wrote my newest book to give you an in-depth look into the business of boarding horses and all that it entails. This post today is one small example of what my new book addresses. If you are boarding horses or are planning on it, please check out, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business." It is a very comprehensive book on boarding horses and covers every part of it from building your barn or stable to solid barn management. I wrote this book because I realized there is an information gap when it comes to this subject and my goal is to help others so they don't make all the mistakes I made when we first opened our boarding facility. I want you to be prepared for the crazy and wonderful new career you are going into.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,