Thinking about starting a horse boarding business? Have you asked yourself the big question...Am I crazy? If you haven't asked yourself that question then you probably haven't told many people about your dream.
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 a little but the expression on her face told me she was serious. 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.
The truth is I really didn't know what I was getting myself into or what I was doing when it came to running a large boarding facility and it showed during the first few years. It is very easy to see why so many new barn owners get burned out and some even sell their barn and business within the first five years. It is definitely a business that can control your life if you allow it and can be very frustrating and mentally stressful on those really difficult days. Many years later I can still say that I am glad we opened Vinland Stables even though it has been much more work than I ever imagined in the beginning but the mistakes and lessons learned have molded me into a much better barn owner and businesswoman.
You will learn so much about yourself!
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. The weather will be constantly on your mind because it will dictate your turnout for the day. 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 herd management, client relations and daily decisions you need to make. You will learn to make decisions that are not popular with your boarders and be okay with it.
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 need to 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. Many of 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 supply disappeared during the winter months and you might even be sweating to make it to first crop cutting 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 how to run my barn like a business. That is when things will change for the better. 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 have 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 to try things that we might not have otherwise and it makes life much more interesting.
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. 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.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska