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Important Jobs Often Overlooked When Setting Board Rates

When we first opened our boarding facility years ago I wasn't sure how to set up my board prices for stall and outside board.  I am going to honest and tell you that I guesstimated on pretty much all of it in the beginning and my compass was the surrounding boarding barns in the area.  NOT A GOOD WAY TO START A BUSINESS!   After many years of boarding horses on my property and going through all four seasons, I realize now that I missed a lot of important services that David and I do behind the scenes every day that should have been reflected in my board rate when we first opened.   

I now have the privilege of talking with many other barn owners and this is a very common mistake that most new business owners make in the beginning.  Then they find themselves scrambling to find extra money to pay their monthly bills and raising the board rate becomes a part of  the scenario but it can be bad for business especially if you are brand new.  I want to talk a little bit today about some of the things that are often overlooked when setting your board rates.  When you talk with possible new boarders that are taking a tour of your place, they will ask many questions.  They will want to know how much hay you feed and the type of hay you provide. They will want to know how you do turnout, what your barn hours are and if you include grain in the monthly board rate or do they need to supply it.  They will want to know if you will feed specific supplements and if you blanket and put fly spray on. They will want to see the facility and especially the riding arenas, stalls and tack rooms.  They will ask about your bedding and how often the stalls get cleaned.  These are all very standard questions to ask but rarely will you get more in-depth questions about the daily operations of your place.  After all, why would they ask-it doesn't concern them at all and many of your clients may be new horse owners that have never boarded before.   

Setting your board rates - What does that include? ​There are many behind the scenes jobs (daily and monthly) that need to be thought about when you are setting your board rates and most new barn owners overlook this because it's not as noticeable as the hay, grain or shavings bill or the water and electric bill.  Many of these services that you provide do not come with a monthly bill but need to be done often and that means you need to pay someone to do the jobs or you will be doing them.  Either way you should not be doing them for free.  They are part of what keeps your barn functioning and they are very important.  Lets take a look at some of these overlooked services that are vital to your business. 

  • Dragging the arenas, paddocks and paths during all four seasons.  Depending on the weather, drainage and soil you have, you will be managing your paddocks often to keep the footing in good condition for the horses. This will take a lot of fuel and if you are short on money then you might be stressing on how to pay for the gasoline for the tractors and other equipment.  It also adds up very fast and you will be surprised at how much fuel you purchase at the end of the year. 

  • Working on paddocks to create safe footing during winter and springtime.  If you live in an area where you get snow then you are in for a lot of extra work during times of melting and freezing.  As your snow covered paddocks melt and then freeze back up, you will have areas that become ice-covered at times and they need to be fixed in order to turn horses out on them.  Ice is hazardous to horses and if the weather creates frozen patches of ice then you are in for problems. This is time consuming but important for the overall safety and care for the horse and if you take the time to keep up on ground conditions then it will set your stable apart. 

  • Keeping everything clean-A barn doesn't just stay clean all by itself.  It is a lot of work to keep a barn clean and cobwebs down.  You could be power washing your walls or stable area or steam cleaning your stall grills but it all takes time.  Someone has to do this job and it shouldn't be done for free. 

  • Manure clean-up in paddocks -Your paddocks will need to be scraped with some kind of machine and that will take fuel.  This will take much of your time and then you still need to get rid of it.  If your business is in a higher populated area, you might need to pay someone to take it away.  That comes with a price tag.

  • Lawn maintenance-If you have any grass around your barn then it will need to be mowed and trimmed.  If you are busy doing daily chores then you will find you have very little time for lawn maintenance and probably need someone to do this job for you. Again, there is a price tag with this and if your place is large then you could be spending a lot on lawn maintenance. 

  • Snow removal -If you are boarding horses in an area where it snows then you have an added job each winter.  Plowing snow it no small job and it can take many hours to get the snow moved out of the way of the barns, paddocks and driveway.  Don't underestimate the cost and time involved in this.  You will also have issues if the snow on the driveway melts on a warm winter day and then freezes overnight or you have freezing rain.  When that happens then it's times to bring out the manure spreader and cover the ice to keep people and horses safe. We do this and it works fantastic.  Again-a service that will set your barn apart but does take time and fuel which will cost you no matter how you look at it. 

  • Cleaning buckets, water tanks and automatic waterers.  It all takes time and someone needs to do this often.  If you have a large barn then you will surprised at how much time it really takes to clean all the water buckets and tanks.  Get ready!

  • Maintenance on your riding arenas-Riding arenas need constant maintenance to keep them in great condition.  That means pulling the sand back from the walls several times a year and leveling out the sand and dragging it.  You will be adding sand every couple of years as well.  This is something that your clients will not see you do unless you close the arena during the day.  My husband will often do these types of jobs at night after the barn is closed and everyone is gone (only because he is a night person!)

  • Replacement of water hoses, manure picks, shovels, muck buckets, brooms and so much more.  All these things will be used every day by you and your clients and will wear out.  You will be surprised at how often you need to purchase new brooms and manure picks or water hoses.  Make sure you have this accounted for when you are  setting your board rates. There is nothing worse then to have a water hose break and you don't have the money to go buy another one.  A good hose is not cheap and you might find yourself in a position where you don't have the money to purchase another one until the end of the month.  That is when the job becomes hard.   I have been there and it is not a fun place to be. I want to make sure you are covered for emergency's that will happen often!

  • Driving to the supply store, feed mill or any other place to purchase supplies for your barn is all part of running a business and it is time consuming and also uses fuel.

  • Paperwork and accounting- If you are running a business then you will have a lot of paperwork and you will be billing and invoicing  your clients.  You will also have tax reports to file monthly and quarterly depending on the state you do business in.  When you add up all the hours you are on the computer and phone taking care of this type of office work you will be surprised.  Remember that you are not working for free and it should be accounted into your board rate.  

  • Plus so much more that I couldn't add into this short blog post (But that is why I wrote a book!)

You need to remember that you are running a business and you are not in business to lose money or eventually go out of business!

All the extras will add up fast! I have listed a few things to get you to start thinking about all that you will do each and every day when you start boarding horses.  There is nothing worse then setting your board rates and realizing you are short on money each month because you didn't put into account all the extras that need to be done often.  Some of the things I listed above are labor intensive and your labor is worth something. You should never have to work for free and this is how you are making a living now.  This is your job and just like any other job you should be compensated in your paycheck.  You also might feel like you can do it all in the beginning because you are fresh and have energy to burn BUT it will catch up with you and your time will become valuable.  Don't short change yourself because you are worried that people won't think your place is worth all that you do.  Keep your standards for care high in all areas of your barn management and the right people will come that will appreciate the little things you do every day that keep your place safe and healthy for the horses and their owners. 

Thank you for noticing Not everyone will notice all the behind the scenes stuff you do but once in a while someone will and when they say thank you, it will truly make your day.  I know it does for my husband and I will see this smile come over him that makes me smile.  It's the little things that make the job easier.  

You also need to understand that there will be people that will not place any importance or value on all the things I've listed above.  In fact they will not care if the arenas are not maintained or the paddocks have ice. They are just looking for cheap board but they don't realize that you get what you pay for many times.  Just do what you do best and the right people who do appreciate all you do to keep the horses safe and healthy will come to your place and they will stay for a long time.  That I can guarantee.  

If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are ready to start your business off with a good foundation then I encourage you to check out my newest book, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business."  This book is a comprehensive guide into horse boarding and you won't find another book that covers in great detail every aspect of this business.   This book is perfect for anyone that is boarding horses and I will walk you through every area of the business and how to think ahead specifically for your boarding business.

Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,  ​Sheri Grunska

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