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Is Your Boarding Stable Worth What You Are Charging?

Updated: May 24, 2019

Deciding what to charge for your monthly board rate will be one of the most difficult decisions for your business. Every barn owner will worry about their rates being too low or too high.  They will wonder what people can afford and with that comes the stress about making sure the stalls are filled with horses. Deciding what to charge for board rates is not easy but once you realize your value in all that you do to keep your stable clean, safe for horses as well as people and well-run, then I believe you will begin to feel more comfortable with charging more and your clients will be more comfortable with paying it because they know great care when they see it.  It needs to start with you and the value you place on the care you give for the horses at your barn.  Lets be honest, you can find many places where the care is less than adequate and is it really worth the few dollars saved each month?

I was at a horse show a couple of years ago and was talking with a few people and a man asked me in front of everyone what he would really get at my barn for the high rates we charge for board, he said, "​After all how much does it cost for hay, water and mucking out stalls?"  I was shocked by his sharp and sarcastic remark and even a little embarrassed because many people were listening.  I knew what I should have said, but instead, I didn't say anything at all!  Everyone started to laugh an uncomfortable laugh and the only thing I could think of was - that we gave top notch care for the horses at our barn.  It was one of those moments that I wish I could do over and stand up for myself and voice all that we do as barn owners and managers to keep our barns and businesses going.

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 (be prepared because there are many different opinions on what a good weight is!)  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.  They don't see everything that barn owners and staff do behind the scenes seven days a week throughout all four seasons for the care of the horses. 

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 many 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 has pulled a shoe? Are you open to moving a horse if they are not doing well in a particular herd? Do you keep an eye on the herds to make sure the horses are getting along? How do you handle ice in the paddocks and paths during winter or mud in the springtime? Do you notify the boarders if horses are left inside for the day due to bad incoming weather? Is the hay a good quality hay? What about consistency? 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.  Many of the things you do for the care of the horses at your barn will take much time, labor and resources and that cost money.  You are running a business and you are not in business to lose money.  Keep that in mind!

Many of the things you do for the care of the horses at your barn will take much time, labor and resources and that cost money.  You are running a business and you are not in business to lose money.  Keep that in mind!

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 understand all that it takes to keep horses safe and healthy. They won't realize all the things that can stress a horse out and why behaviors start due to 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. 

Setting your board rates

Setting Board rates is not an easy thing to decide and you will go back and forth on numbers in the beginning.  I would be happy to help you walk through this process so that you don't come up short each month on income because you started out too low and your expenses are too high.  I have been there when we first opened years ago and it was a terrible way to start our business. I don't want you to go through that.

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 career and my goal is to help others so they don't make all the mistakes I made when we first opened our boarding facility.  

Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska

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