Sizing up your barn
When a potential new boarder comes to your barn for a tour they will want to see the amenities you offer. They will want to see the riding arenas, stalls and paddocks. They will look at the kind of hay you feed and how you clean your stalls. They will watch the other horses to see if they look healthy and have a good weight. They might be impressed by a lounge with a bathroom or a wash stall with hot water. Each person will size up your barn and decide if it is worth the money that you charge for monthly board. For many your boarding rates will be fine and for a few your rates might be too high. The many reasons a person is willing to pay a higher boarding rate will differ greatly. What I have found over the years is that most people don't see all that is takes to keep the horses healthy and safe and the facility in very good condition.
What people overlook because they are blinded by a cheaper boarding rate
Our board here at Vinland Stables is higher than a few places in our area but if you set aside the amenities that we offer there is so much more that we do that most of our boarders would never see or notice. What separates a good barn from a great barn are all the little things you do. How often do you top off the water buckets and tanks? Are they cleaned frequently? How often is the arena dragged? Are things fixed quickly when a horse breaks something or does it stay broken for months? Is there junk laying all over the place for horses to get hurt on? How often do the paddocks get cleaned and dragged. Do you notify the owner of a horse that has a cut or seems a bit lame? Do you let the owner know if their horse pulled a shoe. Are you open to moving a horse if they are not doing well in a particular herd? How do you handle ice in the paddocks and paths? Is the hay a good quality hay? There is a tremendous amount to be said about consistency and I have found that a consistent barn is a well run barn and that is valuable in itself. The list is endless and these are the things that most people will not notice at least in the beginning.
It is only after people have boarded at a few places and have had some terrible experiences that they start to see things in a much different way when it comes to boarding facilities. The same will be true for your barn.
I believe many people especially brand new horse owners will go to a less expensive facility because they don't know all that it takes to keep horses safe and healthy. They won't understand many times what can stress a horse out and why behaviors start due to stress of the living arrangements for their horse. Usually in the beginning they are looking at the price tag of a boarding barn. As a barn owner this can be frustrating but you need to move forward and not look at adjusting your fees because another place is less expensive.
Don't underestimate your value and the care you give
I want to tell you right now that the care you give is extremely valuable and your boarders will realize this. When setting your boarding rates don't set them too low. You are worth so much more and once people realize that the care you give is amazing and consistent they will come to a point where they don't need to worry about their horse anymore. Then you will have boarders that will gladly pay what you are charging and they won't leave.
Remember that your amenities will be the first thing that people will notice but take the time to let people know all the little things you do each and every day and through all kinds of weather. Open their eyes to all that it takes to keep the horses safe and healthy and even if they go somewhere else to start that is okay. There is a very good chance they might come back. You can't put a price tag on great care and your boarders will agree. It will become about so much more than the amenities you offer.
One more thought - If you ever have anyone ask you what they really get for the high board you charge, stand tall and tell them. I am sure it will open their eyes to things they never thought of before. Don't be embarrassed like I was. Be proud and confident of what you do each and every day for the horses at your barn.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,