The Chronicle of the Horse July 27, 2015 article titled Boarding barns: The Good, The Bad and The Dramatic and Practical Horseman’s August 2014 This month’s question: What Makes a boarding barn a good place to keep your horse? are two examples of the types of articles on boarding horses that seem to recycle themselves fairly regularly. Undisputedly horses should be well cared for. But these articles, while informative and full of anecdotal stories, miss reality. The truth in boarding barns is that most barns do not charge enough for the services boarders want.
The Chronicle article opens with “There is no such thing as a perfect boarding barn.” And my first reaction is oh yeah, that’s true, but do you know what? There is no such thing as a perfect boarder either.
10 Areas in which boarding barns make horse owner’s lives easier:
- The most obvious perk is that they don’t have to buy or lease a horse facility
- They don’t have to pay the utilities
- They don’t have to pay for liability/care and custody insurance
- They don’t have to pay for tractors, manure spreaders, drags, manure forks, brooms, wheel barrows, saddle racks, bridle racks, jumps, mats, footing, light bulbs, hoses, driveway gravel
- They don’t have to keep the facility clean for boarders
- they don’t have to make improvements
- They don’t have to repair damage
- They don’t have to buy grain, hay and bedding, transport and store it
- They don’t have to dispose of the about 50 pounds of manure and urine produced by each horse each day.
- They don’t have to find horse help just so they can take a vacation
Boarders rightfully want, according to The Chronicle of the Horse author, Haley Burton “. . .quality horse care by trusted, knowledgeable barn staff.” However this a very general statement.
In the Aug. ’14 Practical Horseman – This month’s question contributors defined quality horse care in a bit more depth: at least 8 hours a day of decent turn out, at least 4 hours a day turn out, unlimited turn out. That adds #11 to the things boarding barns do to make horse owners lives easy – turning out and bringing their horse in. Add blanketing, watching for illness and injury, clean stall and a tidy facility, and the number of ways a boarding barn makes a horse owners life easier increases. This is as it should be. Taking care of horses is a 24 hour a day 7 days a week job and very few horse owners are capable of taking this job on. Boarding barns make it possible for other people to become horse owners.
The Cost of Boarding a Horse
Potential boarders are not concerned with how much it costs you to care for their horse. They’re concerned with what it costs them. But quality care costs a lot of money.
During my research across the various parts of the U.S. via the internet I found people who paid from as little as $350 to as much as $3500 to board their horse at a full care boarding barn, in a stall each month. Since $3500 is way out of most people’s league for horse board, I’ve chosen $500 month as a comfortable average monthly boarding price.
A horse owner looks at a boarding barn that has 20 boarding horses paying $500 each per month and they say “Wow, they’re making bank!” Or they go to a feed store and see a bag of feed that sells for $15.99 per 50 pounds and they think, “my horse eats 10 pounds of grain a day. That’s only about $100 a month.”
Let’s break down the cost to the boarding barn for 1 horse, bearing in mind that my figures are general due to a wide variance across the U.S. We’ll use an average horse.
- Grain – we’ve already established grain is about $100 per month.
- Hay- we’ll give our average horse 20 pounds a day or 600 pounds a month. A 100 pound bale might cost $15 -$20 totaling about $60-$120 a month per horse.
- Bedding- about $70 a month.
So far our hard cost for the basic needs of 1 horse is between $230- $290 per month. Let’s average that at $245.
- Stall-Let’s say we lease or have a mortgage on a facility that has an indoor arena, an out door, a couple of acres of pasture and a 12 stall barn for $1200 a month, the cost for 1 stall each month is $100.
- utilities; electric, water, trash – utilities could easily equal $400. That works out to $34 for each of the 12 horses. (More if there are electric fans in summer or tank heaters in winter, or lots of baths in the summer.)
So now our horse is fed, bedded, housed and is paying his share of utilities and we’re up to $379.
- Labor? At the bare minimum if someone cleans the horse’s stall, feeds and hays it, turns it out, brings it back in, checks it over for for injury. . . Your talking 40 minutes of someone’s time- more if you add rinsing mud off hooves, cooling him off in hot weather, or blanketing and unblanketing. But sticking with 40 minutes a day equals about 20 hours of labor a month. Paying a wage of $10 an hours adds another $200 a month.
- Pasture-The pasture your horse is turned out in has to be mowed, weeds taken down along the fence, and manure piles drug, which on a 15 acre pasture might take about 15 hours a month, 1 horse’s share being $12.50 (15 hours x $10 divided by 12)
- Arena Prep- You want to ride in a low dust environment with good footing, add another $12.50 for your share of watering and dragging arenas.
I’m not adding the cost of operating and maintaining the tractors and mowers, insurance, maintenance and repairs (one of the ladies in the Practical Horseman article commented about the barn owner repairing fences that her horse was running through on a weekly basis!) and many other expenditures of money and time that are the result of boarding horses – because our accumulated expenses of $604 have already surpassed our $500 boarding income.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned a statement from The Chronicle of the Horse July 27, 2015 article Boarding barns: The Good, The Bad and The Dramatic “… most riders have the same goal in mind when boarding their horses at full-care facilities: quality horse care by trusted, knowledgeable barn staff.” I told you it was a very general statement but in fact it’s really a minimalist view, as it doesn’t begin to describe what boarders actually want. Boarders want to have the luxury of someone else doing the dirty work related to their horse. They want someone else to have the responsibility of seeing to their horse when they don’t come to the barn, be it for work, other commitments or vacation. They want their horse taken care of according to their standards by someone who will see to their horse’s needs when the horse is ill, stressed or dirty. When they go to the barn they want a knowledgeable person to address their concerns about their horse and his social life, plus if a problem comes up that they can not solve or handle, they want the knowledgeable barn manager to deal with it for them. In addition they want to use facilities that they can not afford to own, socializing with other people like themselves who view horses and riding the way they do, and they want management to monitor barn drama so their experience can be enjoyable. This is a lot to want – however I think most professionals would like to meet these goals for their boarders or they would not continue in business.
Everybody knows it’s expensive to keep horses, consequently boarding barns might hope that having an economical board rate will result in clients participating in more lessons or clinics. Hoping that clients, who are already struggling to pay board, will pay for more lessons is usually met with disappointment. Barns may develop a package that includes board and a certain number of lessons to ease the blow, but this is usually done to cover up the high cost of horse care by throwing services in to make it more palatable. Every time you add a service, be it a lesson, training, holding a horse for the vet, an extra feeding, or more times cleaning a stall, someone’s time is required. If you have employees, their salaries must be reflected in board prices. If you’re a small barn and you do most of the work yourself, you should be equally compensated for your effort. Your time is valuable.
I’ve never met a boarder who isn’t looking for a deal. A contributor to the 8/14 Practical Horseman –This month’s question made the revealing and common statement, “Finally, the charges must be within reach of my modest amateur’s budget.” Even well-heeled clients ask for a board cut, suggesting their horse could be used for lessons. Sometimes this is a good deal for an instructor but most of the time it’s just proof that boarders really have no idea how much it actually costs to take care of a horse.
The Chronicle of the Horse article points out that “Boarders are spending their hard earned money on this and they most likely earned that income in a professional environment. . .” I have difficulty believing that a boarders’s money is harder earned than that of the people in the boarding barn business. And guess what- even though it’s the boarder’s playground, the barn is our professional environment. In barns where boarding is priced so that the boarder actually pays for the benefits they receive, plus what it takes for the barn to make a profit, boarders are usually treated like clients. But it’s in the barns that barely scrape by because the prices they charge can’t sustain the barn, that boarders find they are easily dismissed as unimportant and annoying. And in barns that give deals and breaks – boarders are easily replaced because everyone is looking for a good deal.
The horse business is no different than the rest of the world. There are people who have unrealistic expectations which usually results in unmet expectations. Unmet expectations result in disappointment, dissent, gossip, and bad relationships. Both the boarder and the barn owner can fall into this trap.
Perhaps the issue is not so much that barns lack good service and atmosphere, as it is that there are many people who have horses but can’t actually afford, or are not willing to afford, the service they believe they deserve. Euphoria comes at a price.
The bottom line is that the boarding barn is in business to make money, not to subsidize someone else’s horse activities. Boarding prices should be high enough to cover all of the expenses plus give the stable a profit. If not, the barn would be wiser to exert their effort and spend their money in another area of the horse industry.
Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor,
Barbara Ellin Fox
Not every horse needs full board and to be kept in a stall. I always scoff at the people bitching that it costs THEM money to board people’s horses even when they are making a profit beyond the actual costs plus reasonable labor. I mean it is mostly unskilled labor. We pasture board our two horses. they stay outside with a run-in and we clean our own paddock so the only chores are putting a round bale out every two weeks and dumping a can off grain twice a day which takes about 15 minutes total.I don’t count filling water because that is done while doing the other chores. Turn the hose on and turn it off later. I don’t feel bad that someone is “only” making a $255 a month PER horse (I deducted the cost of the hay and we buy our own grain) for this small effort. Chores of this nature take less than 2 hours a day for all the horses (Around 10), so that is $2550 a month and if you divide that by 30 days, that’s $85 a day ($42 an hour) to basically turn a hose on and off and dump grain. What other job can someone get that allows them to basically have a somewhat flexible schedule and make $42 an hour for unskilled labor? This is not even counting the thousands of dollars saved on the property and sales taxes yearly. And remember that alot of people that board horses have their own horses. That extra small amount of time to dump grain for a couple extra horses is trivial and the property and sales tax savings are a massive bonus that often bitching barn owners forget about when they rant about boarding. I’m not saying boarding is a way to get rich or that it doesn’t involve some work, but it’s far from the “Oh you’re costing me money to rent a dry stall for $250 a month) that I hear. I also love the people that expect a handful of horse boards to fully support all their life expenses like their personal car payments, mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. (All expenses they would have whether they had boarders or not). These types of ideas must be in some city person’s fantasy where they give up the 9-5pm office life for a life where they do a few hours of chores and spend the rest of the day on a porch swing supervising horses in a paddock and expect a 6 figure salary to pay for their new found lifestyle.
Laurie, Aside from missing many important considerations that go into the business off boarding horses for other people, you should remember a stable owner has the right to establish their prices. You, as a consumer, have the right to decline. Barbaras Ellin Fox
The ability to decline requires choices of facilities. In our area those choices have been declining dramatically due to the redevelopment of properties to industrial & residential uses. Many boarding facilities & pasture boarding operations are now under 4 story high school buildings & condos! Sometimes there are no or very few choices except to relocate as we did 23 years ago. Were soon to be 1 of the last thoroughbred breeders left within our state. It makes us sad driving by all the equine facilities that once were! We can count at least 20 facilities that are gone. Never to be replaced.
Hi Frederick & Joan, It’s very sad to see stables closing and also the loss of open areas to ride. It’s a good argument for supporting the places we have to use. The choices, as you say, are to relocate… or to buy land and do it yourself at which point we get back to how expensive horses are and the tremendous amount of time it takes to care for them. I hate seeing places go out of business and have seen some of the areas that had the very best horses go exactly the way you describe. It’s amazing how swiftly farms can become condos. The things we all complain about, price, location, service, don’t look so bad once they are gone. Thanks for your comment. I wish you the best with your horses. Barbara Ellin Fox
I’ve both owned my own boarding facility as well as boarded my horses. Yes, it should be profitable for the barn owners; however it is up to them to do the math and decide if it will be worth the lifestyle they will have to lead and if it will be profitable. Keep in mind that a lot of barn owners are subsidizing the cost of their facility so that they can hope to enjoy it with their own horses, if they have the time or energy at the end of the day.
Who isn’t looking for a good deal? Boarders usually are hard working themselves, and want to be able to go out and enjoy their horse. It’s part of what they pay for, and in an already expensive sport, the cost of keeping the horses month to month becomes astronomical. Especially if you compete at all. It is not unreasonable to expect a certain level of care. I think the real issue here is defining “reasonable level.” And to each their own.
For sure, there are a lot of clueless boarders; but there are also a lot of barn owners who have no idea how to run a business. Or worse, not know how to care for a very loved animal and, because of their ignorance, seriously jeopardize the horse’s health. I’ve see this happen at even the most expensive boarding barns. Price doesn’t always reflect care or knowledge. This is probably one of the reasons owning horses has become challenging to afford for the average owner.
Kimberly thanks for your good comment. Boarding horses is definitely a two way street, Barbara Fox
We appreciate your quick response. Yes we indeed found a good farm through an agricultural weekly paper. We had to haul all of our household items , tools and furnishings with a round trip of 250 miles each trip.On the last trip a very good friend hauled our horses with his 3 horse angle load Morgan built trailer thereby saving us the worry of which horse or horses we would have to leave behind while hauling only those we could manage with our 2 horse trailer.
We feel for that woman not having a place for her horse on a Friday night! If she had been near us we would most likely allowed her a place for her horse on our private 20 acre farm.We have been there, as at our last rented barn/ pasture a very evil man was allowed to store items in the same barn we were using for the last 10 years.Later we found that he had knifed a filly we were teaching to ride.The property owner was a medical doctor! Of course our family realized then that it was an emergency situation that we had to relocate quickly, but of course it took awhile to sell our house at the time and to find suitable farm ground that we could build our present farm of 20+ years at.It was so difficult to find a usable property without concrete everywhere and good pasture grasses that had no fescue as a base setup for cattle exclusively.
Hi Fred and Joan,
You certainly had a horrible and unusual circumstance. I hope you found what you needed. Barbara
Were fortunate enough never to have had to boarded our horses. We have always rented pasture with some kind of shed or barn for shelter for our horses. As for boarder complaints, most can be resolved by opening up the records and showing the true costs of operations to your renters or boarders as our very first employer did when we wanted to know why he could not pay us at a straight wage rather than commission.(We were a mechanic at the time). We were shocked when we found out that despite our working our buns off, we had cost Jim $325 more than what we had earned in mechanical work done at a straight hourly wage! He was decent and honest enough to allow us to figure out that it would have been cheaper for him to just close the shop and go on his two week vacation with his wife and children. If we were ever to board out any of our horses we would want to know the true costs and pay a fair % profit margin to barn owner. As a thoroughbred breeding farm owner the # 1 cost is the property insurance! Followed by property taxes, feed costs, and the ever too high labor costs,We are one of the few owners who clean a 12 stall barn ourselves and don`t mind it a bit! We have cleaned up after people as a janitor many years ago and will gladly clean and bed straw bedded stalls any day over office workers spaces and restrooms.
If there are no available options “to move on”, a good boarder dare not complain, for you will most certainly be “kicked out”. Supply and demand dictates how/if one approaches the barn owner with a suggestion. I have seen a young lady walking down the road with her horse on a Friday evening with nowhere to go, as the barn owner had just told her to leave. Private 2 acre property.
Hi Karin I wish I could give you a solution to this particular situation but it is what happens in bad situations. There is a huge difference between a barn that is run professionally like a business and one that is run by a hobbyist. A professional barn should have a boarding contract and in it should be included a thirty day (or however many days) notice for either the boarder to leave or the boarder to be asked to leave. Even in the barn that is full having a notice makes life easier for everyone. Barn owners that get huffy/defensive/offended/self righteous or what ever term you want to use and kick boarders out with no recourse are not professional. A boarder should most definitely be able to tactfully voice requests and discuss things they would like to see changed. I feel it is very important to have boarding contracts and they should spell out what the person is paying for even down to the amount of feed and turn out. Then the boarder knows what they are paying for. Plus this would help barn owners make sure they were able to provide what they promised. Open communication includes one person saying “I need” and the other saying “I’m sorry I can’t”, if necessary. There should always be open communication but- speaking on behalf of both boarders and barn owners- it seems we have lost the art of discussion and being tactful on many people’s parts has really fallen by the wayside. An example of this is what we see on Facebook. I’ve never seen a normal constructive conversation cause anyone to be ousted. Usually by that time the communication has degenerated horribly. I wish it wasn’t so, but many times we are not very good at negotiation or reasonable conversation. Thanks for your comment. It’s a very good point. My advice is to do everything you can to not be in a position with no options. Barbara
I have normally worked for my board and loved doing that. I have mine at home now and have in the past and I always knew I wouldn’t have the amenities I can’t afford – a NICE barn, good arenas, tons of expensive jumps … and friends to ride with. I found sometimes I want someone around to do work with or go riding with. BUT my horses get great turnout, I find good local feed mills so grain is fresh and the best (at a great price) but I buy the best hay which I think is most important (I was getting from WY but found a grower here in TN who does organic orchard grass/alfalfa of any ratio from pure grass to pure alfalfa. Trade off is I feel my horses are well taken care of … but I don’t have the amenities.
Oh that we could all have everything! But it sounds like you’ve chosen the parts that satisfy you best. Good job. And the hay sounds wonderful!
Interesting article. I never had any intention of taking care of my horses. That’s whey I pay a trainer and a boarding barn. If trainers and boarding barns don’t like the job or pay, i might suggest a career change?
Oh Sherry I agree with you. If they don’t love what they do and they aren’t able to support themselves then look for a new line of work. But even if they love what they do, if they are good at it, they deserve to be well paid, wouldn’t you agree? Boarders always have the right to choose a better barn. Thanks for commenting. Barbara
Jamie for me my laborer who does morning stalls i pay hime 160 a month but he can live on my property in a trailer i pay for his water and electricity , my extra laborers that come on saturday i pay 220 a saturday so they can clean pastures , trim trees and other landscaping work and clean up me and my kids do stalls in evening to save money and i do all the feeding … so 160 a month plus 220 x4= 880 plus 160 my labor costs 1040 a month yet i try and keep my board prices fair..
This article helps put things in perspective it is hard business to keep boarding horses and i have now for at least 26 yrs i have had many lows and some highs , my cost is way more then this article here in Calif my hay , and water alone is very high .. My labor as well people always want to bargain with me when im barely making it , and some people are so demanding and think that here 500 or 600 a month entitles them to so much more although i already do so many extras. I haven’t had a vacation in 7 yrs and not one day off ( hard to find good help ) my labor on weekends is 220 just to keep all the landscaping up and all the clean up , diesel is up and i have to tractor everyday .. Oh i can go on but thank you for this article really brings to light what im going through right now glad someone understands..
Boarding is a tough business and the costs vary across the country. And it’s a lot of work. It sounds like you work hard to keep your place nice and your prices fair. Kudos to you for 26 years! Barbara
Phenomenal article. I first read it 4 years ago when I myself was a boarder. I now own my own boarding facility and to reread everything from an owners perspective makes me realize how clueless I was as a boarder.
I love your comment. It can be so hard to have a boarding facility and good boarders are priceless.
I appreciate the point of this article, but you lost me at the labor, pasture, and arena maintenance sections. I would love to know where you get someone cleaning your horse, pulling weeds in the pastures, and watering/dragging indoor arenas for $500 per month. If you’re going to use an average cost, you need to use average amenities. A facility in the area where I live that had those type of premium amenities would be charging premium prices (at least $1000 per month).
Yes I agree it’s worth a lot more but with the parts of the country vast and different some of the more rural areas see $500 for board as pricey. Makes averages a little difficult, so thanks for your good point. Thanks for your comment.
Wow can’t believe how much controversy over boarding! I have boarded my horses over the years at several different facilities, some very good and some pretty bad. For that reason I finally decided to live on acreage so I can keep them myself. So for the past 15 years I have taken care of my guys myself. It is a lot cheaper doing it at home but there are some trade-offs. First of all it is a 24 hour 7 day a week job. And sometimes I do get too tired to ride, Not easy finding qualified horse sitters for vacations and it can feel kind of isolated at times from other horse owners. However, I just love looking at my window and seeing my horses happy and well taken care of. There is a different relationship with your horse when you are their main caretaker. So for me the pros definitely outweigh the cons. For those who think you should run a boarding stable because you love horses, remember that it is a BUSINESS. Maybe they do love the animals but they have to be profitable too.
I love to see my horses outside my window, too and I’m glad I don’t always have to make a special point to go work with them but you’re right. It’s easy to get caught up in the care and maintenance and miss out on the riding time, plus it would be so nice to have someone else drag the arena before I ride. And right now when temps are looking at minus something, I’d love to have someone else pull on their Carharts instead of me!
Don’t quite sure what part of the country you come from but from where I come from boarding facilities are there for the love of horses. And people should expect their horses to be taken care of. Their basic wants and needs. Unfortunately that is very far and few between because of greed. Everything in the horse industry is way overpriced and that is unfair. I had a boarding facility at one time and charge 450 a month and that covered all the needs of the horses one employee and it paid for the mortgage on the farm that was it I lived month-to-month but those horses were taken care of they came first. That is how borders truly think it’s not about them wanting a clean horse or someone to Saddle Horse they want the basic care that the horse needs to survive and be healthy . Sure you’ve got your Miss prissy’s but those are far and few between . Just had to have my say that’s been my experience at boarding facilities at least here in Northern Illinois lot of greed in this state
Hi Dena- thanks for commenting. Prices for boarding vary all over the country but honesty should be the same everywhere. I have lived in an area where I paid $22 for a 100 pound (square) bale of timothy. I’ve also lived in an area that I paid $2.50 for a forty pound bale of brome. It’s really hard to make a general statement about cost. And oh my- there is such a huge difference in facilities from place to place. People who are in business need to make money but they also need to deliver on their promises. And the horses need to be well cared for. Thanks- Barbara
[…] turn into one big muddy mess. As for the financial side if it, this article is really useful: The Truth in Boarding Barns | Honestly, I don't know anyone who has gotten rich off a boarding stable. So many costs involved – […]
We’ve been through 2 barns in 1 1/2 years due to poor care. We are not high maintenance and do not care about fancy amenities. We just want our horse happy and healthy. Our horse went without water and food. She was badly dehydrated and under weight. We now go everyday and we clean her stall, check her water etc because we can’t trust them to do it. We buy her food & measure it in bags so we know shes eating & getting her supplements. We move her this week & hope we can count on her basic needs being met so we can take a short vacation!!! We pay $450 a month & we do most of the work.
Unfortunately I know what kind of care you are talking about. Greedy owners that don’t do what you are paying for. I also ended up taking care of my horse everyday. I moved him to a new place within 6 months. Fortunately though I found a great place in a great location to where I work and live, with a barn owner that actually likes horses, and has proved to me that she does what she says she will do and cares well for my horse. I pay the same amount I did before and for actual services being done! Which is a relief, and my horse loves it there. He has made friends with the other geldings and plays…. Verses getting bullied by the owners monster halter horse that had a thousand lbs on him at the old place.
Every location has different barns offering different things, but it is difficult to find a good overall quality barn with good management and knowledge. There are the good and bad barns out there no matter how much they charge.
I wish you luck in finding a suitable good place for you and your horse. If you are near Lexington KY I have a recommendation ?
A lot of good points in this article, but in the list of 10 things boarders don’t need to pay for, a few of those do not apply to owners who keep only their personal horses at home. That side, one the biggest gripes I have as a boarder is when other boarders complain about the facilities when we are paying rock-bottom prices for the area. What I pay really only covers the cost of hay and utilities, so I don’t expect the owner to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to mitigate the mud in the winter and spring as long as there’s at least some dry space in the field where my horse can get out of the mud.
Thanks for your comment. You sound like a good boarder! Barbara
I boarded at a place where we were expected to work (a lot) and paid enough ($400/month) that her boarders covered the cost of her care for HER horses and property taxes! Unfortunately, it was the only place in town with decent turn out which is of utmost importance to my horse. If I had a different horse, I would have been somewhere else. As it is now, I have my own barn and while i have three horses now and it probably costs me a lot more time, it’s actually less work than what I was expected to do at that other barn! Most importantly, my horse gets turn out on proper grass every minute it’s physically possible and he loves it!
Jeanette, you make it seem like it was BAD for your board to help her pay for her horses and her property taxes. First, people go into boarding because they love horses (meaning they probably have their own) and are trying to make a living at it. That not only includes just her being able to buy her own food, but also includes paying for their horses. Most people don’t shovel sh!@! for the love of it. Second, if she can’t pay her property taxes, then you can’t board your horses there. There won’t be a place there. If you can’t make a profit boarding, then you can’t do it. I had an amazing place for nearly 20 years, and I stopped being able to make a profit and give the care I believed needed to be given. So I closed. Many of my boarders – especially the ones who complained about paying more – were infuriated and blamed me for disrupting their lives because my place was the best place to be. Towards the end I gave all my profit to my employees to keep them well paid. But it was too late. I will do training board now at my new place, but I will never do straight boarding ever again.
I love your comments. Thanks
I really enjoyed this article. Even though I’ve never owned a boarding stable, I’ve boarded at a few and I can’t even imagine trying to keep up with the costs. Insurance (liability) and mortgage alone are major costs. Secondly, I couldn’t imagine having to be a barn owner and deal with childish barn drama from adults, of which I’m happy to say my barn doesn’t have. I’ve also had my horse at home and now board at what I consider a premiere facility in a western state and I pay less than $600/mo. for a box stall with run, turnout and blanketing included, and lots of amenities. My barn owner is great as are all the employees. There is almost always a waiting list to get into this barn.
Thanks for your comment. I love to hear about people who have found their good place in boarding. Boarding barns make it possible for a lot of people to enjoy horses and finding a good place is like the icing on the cake. Important issues to do with a horse’s welfare should always be addressed but barn drama is very unpleasant except for those who thrive on stirring things up. It kind of grows like mold. I love hearing that you and your horse have found a good spot. Barbara
My ideal horsekeeping places were where I rented the space or pasture and did the work myself, and the absolute best was when I shared the work with a like-minded friend. We split the cost of the space rental or paid the per-horse fee for the pasture, and took turns with the feeding and checking on them. No fancy facilities, but happy horses and we knew the horses were cared for according to our standards. (Why is it that keeping a dog in a kennel just big enough to turn around in most of the day every day is considered abusive, but keeping horses in comparable sized cages is industry standard?)
And I never paid anything close to $500/month, even including the feed and hay that I/we bought!
It sounds like you have found some really good answers to your own horse boarding and economically too! I love to hear a good report. Thanks for your comment.
[…] Join Date: Apr 2015 Location: Canada Posts: 2,718 • Horses: 2 Read this article: The Truth in Boarding Barns | It contains a lot of estimates on costs, and a good list of various costs you may not have […]
[…] above. Also, it's very hard to actually make money with a business like this. Read this article: The Truth in Boarding Barns | That said, if you do decide to go ahead with it, it seems like the ones that do manage to stay […]
[…] broken down tractors and other machinery, unexpectedly high hay prices, etc. etc. Read this: The Truth in Boarding Barns | Walk away… find another property. At least for comparison's sake. I don't plan on a "get […]
This is so very very true as we have a boarding barn. We do not charge enough for what boarders expect. All we can do is do our best with what we have to work with. I’m going to print this article and actually give this out with our application.
I’d like to know where you can hire help for $10/ HR. That was 20 years ago!
I would happily work at a stable for $10 an hour. I say this because I love horses and enjoy being in that setting. I’ve volunteered at stables before and it beats the heck out of any job I’ve had.
What about the person who does understand what’s involved, who does pitch in, who does respect property and people, who pays early, who appreciates every little thing the BO does, whose horse is well mannered and a joy to handle, and who cannot find safe and healthy boarding for her horse at ANY price?
Oh, there are plenty of boarding barns here, but at even the most expensive the care is subpar and the owner is selfish, greedy, and holds her boarders hostage to bad care because there is nowhere else to go.
My opinion: if you don’t have enough land for daily turnout and you don’t care if the horses you board get sick or injured because “these things happen” then don’t board other people’s horses! !!!
I do not want to buy land keep my horse at home at this stage of my life, and am willing to pay whatever it costs for quality care. It just doesn’t exist here. Can’t wait to move out of this area and away from the land of Stupid Horse People! !!
Noticed the hostess of the site didn’t reply to your comment, as it wasn’t in keeping with her article, but I will agree with you. I am such a boarder, pay top price for board, and my horse is fed with foxtail-infested hay, the arenas are NEVER dragged, the dust is horrendous, I end up cleaning my own stall 2-3/week and scrubbing out my horse’s water bucket.
Thanks for commenting on the Riding Instructor. It’s very difficult when a horse owner can not find a place that satisfies their needs for their horse. I learned a long time ago that if you can not find a suitable place to have your horse taken care of, then there are three options available to you. (You are welcomed to correct me if I missed one.) You can take care of your horse yourself, which is what I ended up doing. You can put up with what’s available for you. Or you can sell your horse. Did I miss anything? I wish that there was a magic wand to wave that would correct all barn owners and all boarders. I’m pretty sure that we, as consumers, can not make anyone run their business the way we want them to. We can however take our business elsewhere.
In regard to your opening statement.I have to tell you that I consider that a bit unfair. You have no idea why I didn’t answer arianna and to cast a bias toward me is unnecessary. In the nine years that I have offered the Riding Instructor as a free service to other instructors, I have never intentionally ignored a comment that required an answer. I did ban one person from commenting because she was rude to some of the other people who are here.There are however times that people make comments because they need to vent and if they aren’t rude or crude I let them vent. I felt this was arianna’s situation.She didn’t need an argument from me. I don’t know where she lives, when she is moving or where she is moving to. I just let her have her say. If it had bothered me that her comment was not in keeping with my article, I could have merely refused to post it. Look around on this site, there are a lot of commenters that don’t agree with me.
I encourage followers to add their viewpoint, I just prefer they do so in a polite and considerate manner.
Thanks for taking the time to give us your opinion. Barbara Ellin Fox
Where do you live?
I live in the MidWest
OMG, I could have written every last word of your post myself!!!!!
And the worst is when people drop off their kids for the day and leave. I now care for my own horses in my back yard stable. I love boarding barns…especially the ones who really love people and animals. We all know those with bad personalities…..and no professionalism, they dont keep experienced owners long . beginners learn eventually how much goes into this hobby.
This is so true, I’m smiling. Thanks for your comment.
Generally well written, the issue I take exception with is that competent folks to oversee your cherished horse and tend exeriencedly to said horse will be working for $10/hr. It was stated 2x as such.
You aren’t going to get anyone with experience or longevity at that rate. In CA (where I maintain a private facility) the workers compensation alone is a huge factor not added in here to that base salary (or is the barn owner doing everything in your mock business?). Pasture that provides actual grazing is nearly impossible to create in California, so we pay $22-27/bale for good hay. We do provide turnout but it takes 15-20 min/horse to provide this service x 30 days is 10 hours of staff time to do turnout (boots on/off, walked in/out, hooves checked, pastures/waterers surveyed) at $15/hr we don’t “make” anything on this service that we charge $150 for… One good worker got hurt, needed time off (has compensation partially in terms of housing and other non-cash benefits) so the replacement help was much more $ out the door. We are definitely one of the most expensive barns in the area and not making a profit. I maintain a quality place because I want a quality place to ride and teach at – the lessons are income, boarding is not.
Thanks of your good comment. There are a lot of different motivations for having a boarding barn and certainly having a sound base to use for riding and teaching is a good one. As far as the $10 an hour goes- where I live it’s a pretty respectable wage for barn help, so that will certainly be effected by where you live. California, I’m sure is not cheap in anyway. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Interesting this article seems to have forgotten that the majority of these expenses are tax write-offs for barn owners. Yes, yes they are expenses and as a business are deductible. There are pros and cons to both sides of this issue – but let us not forget that operating/running/owning.maintaining a boarding barn is a choice for people as a profession. It most certainly is a choice. If you do not like it , change it or do something else. Some of us boarders are more knowledgeable than this article does more than suggest.
Certainly it’s a choice but don’t think having some tax write offs means the barn should run at a deficit. In fact if it always runs at a deficit it will soon be deemed a hobby by the good old gov. If it’s a choice and a profession it should run at a profit. And I agree, if you don’t like it you should change it or do something else. That also would apply to boarders, wouldn’t it? Thanks for taking the time to write your comment. I’m glad to know you are knowledgeable. Knowledgeable borders usually make pretty good horse owners. Barbara
Hello, I did not even remotely imply that a barn should run at a deficit – and it is not ‘some’ tax write-offs there are many if not all.
” The Chronicle of the Horse article points out that “Boarders are spending their hard earned money on this and they most likely earned that income in a professional environment. . .” I have difficulty believing that a boarders’s money is harder earned than that of the people in the boarding barn business. ”
I am not sure where you read that anyone’s money was harder earned than anyone else’s ? I wish you had in included the entire sentence so I could put it in context, because I do not see that.
With respect to “10 Areas in which boarding barns make horse owner’s lives easier:”, as a horse owner and boarder I truly hope so because that is what I am paying for and what I expect. I completely agree with you when you wrote as a boarder I too can change (or do something else).
I am hoping that reading articles such as the ones in Practical Horseman (which I will go find and read in it’s entirety) open boarders and boarding barn owners minds to what both see and expect from each other – whether perceived, unrealistic, true or just. I am fortunate to have a comfort level at the facility I am at to discuss any changes in expectations or level of care et.al. (and I have been wrong nearly as often as i have been right 🙁 ) I strongly encourage others to do so, talk to the barn owner and staff and be truthful ! You should receive it back ! And if not, or you believe you can not, perhaps time to consider looking at choices.
I find it interesting that you would miss the main point of my blog post, The Truth in Boarding Barns, which is stated clearly in the opening paragraph… “that most barns do not charge enough for the services boarders want.” You can look both The COTH and Practical Horseman article up for their full details and full sentences. All businesses receive tax write offs and during the ’80s the government upheaved the tax laws pertaining to the horse business forcing many businesses to change. As usual the small businesses such as the boarding businesses suffered as the result. You may not have intended to ‘imply’, but you did.
You are indeed fortunate that you have the comfort level at the facility you are at to discuss any changes etc. It indicates a level of proficiency and business savvy in the barn owners, such that we would like to see universally.
Thanks for your continuing comment. Barbara
I did see that was in the first paragraph, but it is the term ‘most’ I struggle with as it set the tone for the rest of the blog. Some, yes, most ? Not where I am which is minutes from Spruce Meadows. If that is the case then I agree that education is the key !
No I did not imply any business should run as a deficit, it is unfortunate you interpreted it that way. What I wrote was that net profit is not as direct as it may seem.
Every once in a while we get someone who has unrealistic expectations, and honestly if they can not be resolved the person is asked to leave. It was not always this way, however the owner learned that this was the best approach to keep the integrity as well as the people & horses they wanted there. Of course we have our share of barn stuff such as gossip, et.al. but it is quickly (hopefully) nipped in the bud.
It still distills down to this is a service provided to the customer. Expectations MUST be made clear. Like I said, I have been wrong many times in working issues at the barn but own up to it to 🙂
I would also say that more than a few of the facility owners I know have little customer service & business management skills – which also feeds into what goes ‘wrong’ . Believe me, I am no financial wizard either but even I can figure out if it seems too cheap something is missing.
On the other hand, the respect goes both ways & the boarders & the trainer go ‘above & beyond’ also. I will look those articles up, thank you.
It is very nice for you that you live minutes away from Spruce Meadows.It sounds like you are an ideal owner with knowledge, communication skills, business and financial savvy, and a broad range of experiences plus the ability to express your opinion. I hope you continue to enjoy your boarding facilities. Thank you for your comments on my article. I welcome fruitful discussion on my blog but opinion pieces do tend to stir up some people.
Agreed ! And hopefully the ‘stirring up’ will results in improvements to the industry ! You wrote ” It sounds like you are an ideal owner with knowledge, communication skills, business and financial savvy, and a broad range of experiences plus the ability to express your opinion. I hope you continue to enjoy your boarding facilities. ” I am NOT the owner I am a boarder, forgive me if I was not clear in that. I stay based on this though, as I of course could take my hard earned money elsewhere 🙂 !
Only write offs IF you are LLC OR INCORPORATED where as this also costs the owner money.
Yes Lesa, it wold cost the owner money to set up the business, of course it would. Those costs too are deductible. If you are NOT a registered business, whether it be Limited, LLC , Inc, or whatever, you should NOT be boarding other people’s horses. Full stop.
It is fine for you to say that you would not board at a facility that was not a registered business. And it is fine for you to say that in your opinion if the business is not registered or whatever, someone should not be boarding other people’s horses. But that is only your opinion and your choice. You are not the end all authority on who should or should not board horses. There are many situations and relationships of which you are completely unaware, uninformed, and unqualified to pass judgement on. So far I’ve given you free rein with what you’ve posted but now I am requesting that you tone down the way you address issues and people on this blog.
I work 3 mornings a week in a “nicer” facility with 15 horses. 12 inside and 3 outside. I spend 40 minutes to an hour on a single horse, as morning chores are vastly more labor- intensive than evening feed. Yep, it’s physically demanding and very time-consuming and dangerous at times. Many days I’m too tired to ride my own horse when I’m done. Some days it doesn’t seem worth it.
Thanks for commenting. Your post makes me sad but I know what you mean about some days being too tired to ride your own horse. We love them but they really are a lot of hard work. Try to think of the times that it is worth it. I hope things improve. Barbara
Firstly- I have a degree in equine science and management, and we spent 2 semesters in two very different barns (breeding and show) learning about management. It was even our final project as seniors to devise a business plan for a facility and run the projected expense and income reports. I learned so very much.
Before, during, and after my schooling, I have worked at both boarding and private barns. I get paid the same amount whether they call me a “groom” or a “manager” or “their girl”. And with that kind of pay, I still have yet to own my own horse.
That being said- I once worked with a woman who mostly kept her own horses but had a few boarders. She hired me alone to work with the 30+ horses on the property. I was there from 8am until midnight most nights just trying to keep that quality of care consistent. Whether you are a boarder or the owner, every horse needs the same care. You run into plenty of problem animals out there- who’s skittish and requires extra time and care to get in and out of turn-out, who breaks down the fences, who bites/kicks the others, who is allergic to the feed so needs different feed, who needs supplements, who needs their water bucket cleaned 3x a day instead of once because they dunk their hay or poop in it, who has medical issues at some point, who is the most used and needs to be prepped and kept show ready, who’s the go-to lesson or trail horse who you have to have on standby. every nuance adds extra time and effort. I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of muscle and made the same amount. And the owners paid the same amount regardless. I had to ride some horses, lounge some horses, give lessons, lead trail rides, turnout, feed, groom/clip, do maintenance, maybe the supply runs, evaluate before calling the vet, hold for vet and farrier, schedule vet and farrier…. everything. Customers were impressed and happy with me. The owner had nothing nice to say ever. And would even cut my pay for “bad habits/nuances” – or to pad her own pocket.
There are great horse people out there and they want to provide quality care. Some know what they are worth and will demand it. Some only want the high quality in their barn and will ask outrageous prices and someone will pay that. Some people would rather be helpful and get paid less, possibly in hopes that good reviews will being in other customers.
I learned quickly I was not going to get rich working for other people in this business, but I am currently looking for my first property to own with my husband and bring in some boarders for income and just to have horses to love on. I am looking for that full package facility- acreage, indoor, decent barns, room for at least a round pen outside. It sounds like Buckingham palace stables to me, even if in reality it might need a little work.
I enjoyed this article very much. I hope that it makes boarders more appreciative of those who spend time- and I would dare to say ENJOY- caring for their animals. If you have a horse to own/love, you’re lucky enough, If you can afford to have someone else take care of it- you are blessed.
Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have had a thorough experience and do quite well with it. It’s nice to your enthusiasm and have a sense of your good attitude. I appreciate your comment and hope that you find your dream place. Barbara
Jazzy, I think we need to be friends! My own experiences run almost exactly parallel to yours. Where did you do your training? I did three years of equestrian college in Ontario. I loved every minute of it, but they did not prepare us for the business side of things at all at my school. They should also be teaching us how not to be taken advantage of by owners. I agree, you will never, ever get rich in the horse business by working for someone else…..I have found (many, many years later and many years away from the horse business) that the best way to actually make some money is to work freelance, have your own students, work out of someone else’s facility. (or your own on a small scale, if it’s your hearts content 😉 ) I think Barbara’s article is excellent and I think most boarders have no clue what goes in to the daily care of their horse. I think all boarders should have to do an entire week of being in our shoes.(and the owners shoes!) Only then will they have even an inkling of the work that goes into giving proper love, care and attention to these wonderful creatures we love so well. We did have some lovely boarders as well, who were excellent horse women/men and had a good understanding of the issues, but they were more rare than the inexperienced boarder/horse owner. I wish you all the best in attaining your dreams!
I board my horse with very competent horse woman who owns her own small barn, keeps her place and my horse clean and pristine. I pay $650 per month, and I do buy my own hay, gain, supplements. It is worth that to me to have a person who is so consciousness take care of my horse……I’m not an old fool, and I have been in on the other end of that deal. I know how much it cost, and time involved. I would never and I do mean never feed large round baled hay to a horse, guess people have never heard of botulism or seen the results of it…….yep, I’m a hard headed Virginian.
Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’ve found a good home for your horse. Round bales bother me too. Barbara
I’m old timer too and have never had a bad second cutting round bale ever. If you pay good money it’s well worth it. Not all rounds are bad. Same with square tons here on the east coast.
If owning a boarding facility is what you choose to do, that is your choice. Being a small business owner myself, we all have operating expenses no matter what the profession. My customers don’t see the break down of my costs because quite frankly all they care is about the quality service they deserve. I also pay board on 3 horses and it is expensive but all I care about is my horses being well taken care of when I’m not there, good quality feed, good footing, etc. If you need to raise your rates to fairly compensate yourself, then adjust your board accordingly . Owning a horse is a choice so if your boarders don’t understand an increase then maybe the shouldn’t own one. Sorry, speaking from some one also in the business of taking care of others pets.
Thanks for your comments. Your point are well stated. I agree. Horses are pricey and they need to be well cared for. Owning a horse is a choice and so is owning a boarding facility. Thanks again. Barbara
ha! you should hardly apologize. That said, horses can be boarded on a budget, but the horse owner needs to be willing to deal with doing the bulk (if not all) of the care herself. I’ve recently switched from a full-care field board to a self-care field board because my horses were requiring extras that I couldn’t pay for and one of my best friends is the barn manager.
Moving them has saved the friendship and somehow given me more time. Even if I have a migraine, I have to get out of bed. Which, is a good thing.
Anyway, my point is. Either we pay for someone to give horses the care they need or we have to do it ourselves. Horses are expensive. As it is with all things in life, they are cost us in either time or money.
I board at a self care barn..I do all of my horses care we have problems getting normal maintenance taken care of. We boarders even bring and supply toilet paper for the bathroom. So don’t tell me the farm owner doesn’t ma k e enough….I wish she would reinvest to maintain a thing or 2. Location is good for me to n from work. I supply my own wheel barrow and forks n brooms ..feed hay n supplements. ..even boarders have to buy a hose….and hope someone doesn’t take it down to the house. Atleast half the money should be reinvested for maintenance on the property. ..it would be if it was my place..
Self care is another way to go and it can work well in the right circumstances. It doesn’t sound like you have a circumstance that satisfies you. It might be time to look for another place for your horse to live. Or at least have conversation with your barn owner. As far as reinvesting half the money into maintenance, that would be a choice the business owner would make, not the clients. There are good places and bad places to take your horse. I hope you find one that you like better. Barbara
I’m at a self care where I have bought my own hoses, my own hay, my own feed buckets (actually, there were feed buckets, but I like the kind I use), and my own feed. I even plan I setting myself up with solar power over the winter. However, there are two sand rings with lights. There is a dry lot, and two pastures, and access to miles of trails. Also, there is no barn drama which I’m tired of having. Also, I consider the things I’m buying to be an investment for the future for when (fingers crossed) I get my own place.
That said, they did replace the spigot with a frost free spigot right after I moved in, so money is invested back into the property. I also know how much full care would be with a place in my area with the amenities that I have.
That said, I knew going into it what I was being provided to me. And I already had some of my own stuff from other places.
Every place I have boarded provided something different, but each place only worked out for so long before I outgrew what it offered me and my two horses.
The one thing a boarding barn or any horse housing arrangement provides is the first line of defense against the horse being ill. I have boarded and I have kept my horses at home. I have had colic in both circumstances; one euthanized and one with two colic surgeries. I did not see mention of the responsibility and cost on the part of the barn owner for worrying about every horse on their property 24 hours a day. How much should a horse owner be willing to pay for the pleasure of abdicating their responsibility for the health and welfare of their animal? This is missing from the pricing formula in many of the articles about the cost of boarding.
You make a good point. That is the service that can not be priced as well as the one that we need so badly. That you can not give it a quantitative value is probably the reason it doesn’t get brought into articles. But it’s a big one. Thanks, Barbara
I kept my horse at several different boarding stables over the years, I find this article to be really a croc.My 2 horses take 2 bale of hay a month in winter.Which cost me 350 for 5 months. And probably 20 dollars in water.Hundered gallon tank. Electrical power well none for cost.Feed cost is about 40 a month and I do it mostly in the winter months when body condition is hard to maintain.Oh and gas for mowing my property is 5 dollars. I find most stables are quick to call a vet when a horse is sick or injured, when many times there are over the counter remedies available if you are an experienced and bright person you know how to save your money.I have had some good experice with boarding and some bad. Sometimes a vet is nessicery.Vaccines for my horse are afforded by me and are 95.00 per horse once a year and my horse hooves are trimmed every 12 weeks at 45.00 per horse.and dewormer is 7.00 in spring thu fall when worms cycle of hatching is a viable threat. That’s every 3 months. If I don’t add in thing I pay for my horse then I get 265.00 a month for horse board no where near 600.00. A horse needs some trees for shade and a shalot with 3 sides to stay out of the weather and blanketing a horse I only do that if it us extremely cold cause horse have a winter coat and mine seldom even show one sign of shivering.I get tired of these barns/boarders. Charging too much for services and then going on vaccation or showing there horses on my money when half the care of the horse I am paying for.I pay for it’s feed to be shod. It’s dewormer and it’s vaccine and at one barn I paid for it’s feed too. And hauled and paided for my own hay.You can save money if you don’t baby your horse and treat it like it’s a human.I love my horse’s but I don’t baby them.If you do that is up too you. But your wallet will pay for it. I also had my horse put in a paddock with there hay alone and they alone eat there hay not 8 other horses in the mix. And it was big enough I hardly ever had to muck it out. I don’t like people getting excess money off of me for expenses I pay for not them and for fancy barns there horses are in not me. One horse boarding facility I was at tried to make me pay them to train my 2 1/2 year old paint colt and I am glad I said hell no cause that women can only ride a horse trained by someone else and she would have recked my best horse.I could make a comment against her farrier who injured my horse for 3 months and I couldn’t ride her. And at one barn that put 2 bales of hay out with 7 horse’s in one pasture and 2 horses can eat one bale in 2 weeks with a hay ring around it. The horse’s were tearing each other up just to get hay, cause there wasn’t enough out there for all of them and that is why I got my own property so I alone can take care of my horse.
Being a do-it-your-selfer is another way to go with horses. One of the advantages with that is you don’t have to put a value on anyone else’s time, expertise, equipment, or facility. It sounds like it was the right choice for you. There are couple things that I would like to point out about your comment. 1. When you willingly give money to a boarding facility, once it leaves your hands it become theirs and is no longer yours. 2. If your horses only take two bales of hay a month in the winter you either have great pasture or feed round bales or they are not getting enough to eat 3. Self medicating your horses has some advantages but can also be a mistake. Having someone else self medicate for you is not wise in my opinion 4. It sounds like you don’t place any value on your own time as far as factoring it into the cost of caring for your horse.
Some people are happier taking care of their own horses. Other people want the luxury of someone else to do it for them. Anyone who does your work for you and takes on your responsibility has the right to make a profit doing so.
But I also want to tell you one more thing. If you feel my article is a croc, like you stated, it does not show wisdom on your part to start your comment by slamming what I’ve written. I always make an effort to be respectful to other people and in the history of 9 years of the Riding Instructor I am only aware of one comment I didn’t post because of the way it was written. I welcome differing opinions if they are reasonable well stated. Maybe in the future you would consider taking a deep breath and letting the steam out before you blast away.
The above author didn’t include the cost of the property, the cost of the fencing, the barn, maintenance, riding arenas etc., and as you pointed out her time. 2 bales a hay a month? No way, not unless they are round bales. I don’t get where my love for my horse is “babying” it either. I also agree it just seems that she is just against boarding facilities.
Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. And it’s okay to be against boarding your horse out, if you can do it yourself, but not everyone chooses that option. As for me, I choose to baby my horse a little bit. Why spend all my time and money on him and not develop a relationship, right?
Oh my goodness, I feel bad for you, you sound like a very angry person! As Barbara said either you have supplemental pasture or your horses aren’t getting fed enough if they are an average size horse. I live in California where we have heavy, three strand bales of hay and my horses would be a wrack of bones on 2 bales a month. The average horse (1000 lbs) should eat, on an average 1/3 of a ton per month. My alfalfa right now is running 17 bales to the ton. You do the math. Throw a 17 hand warmblood in the mix, or a high energy thoroughbred and up that to a half ton a month if they are dry lotted.
As far as a boarding facility, why should I provide a place to keep other peoples horses and not get compensated for it? It doesn’t matter if it is a self care or full care just the fact that they provide a service is worth something. How much are the boots you’re wearing when you ride? Did you pay just what it cost to have them made? It’s more like a 250% markup. Facility owners don’t make near that, trust me. As far as a barn owner going and showing her horses on the money she made off of you, what business is it of yours if your horse is getting the care you both agreed upon.
They are probably very happy for you that you were able to take your horses home. I just hope for your horses sake they are getting the best possible care.
The lament of the boarding barn owner 🙂 The reality is that we provide a service in exchange for financial recompense. Should we make a profit? Absolutely. We all have to live. Should we complain about how much it costs to run a facilty? No – we should have a solid business model that takes into account expenses (both hard and soft), as well as profit margin. What we do need to decide is the type of board we would like to offer, based on demographic, demand, niche. Do horse owners need to know how much it costs to keep a horse? Often it would be nice if they did, but the reality is, what they do need to do is pay their board and bills on time. In exchange for that, they should receive the amenities, services, and facilities they pay for.
I both board a horse, and run a facility. I offer a quality product to my clients, and emphasize care, service, and peace of mind. I understand my demographic very well, and know my niche. I don’t quibble on prices. Clients have the option of choice, and I understand that I offer one.
My clients do go on vacation, take time off for work, have life happen, and expect me to care for their horses. They pay me for this, and this is how I earn my living. Without clients, I would not have a facility or a job. Because they board, I do not consider them to be irresponsible or casual. Most boarders are actively involved in the care of their horses, if not the day to day. If they are, that’s great. If not, that’s fine too. This is what they pay me for!
Sue – Good For You!- Barbara
That’s great that you are in a position to give your clients a “love it or leave it” ultimatum. Some of us that run boarding stables are doing so on a very limited budget but still adhering to a high standard of care. We put in sometimes 18 hour days for which we are not compensated for. We take care of sick or injured horses sometimes around the clock again for free. Not to mention the expenses of running a boarding stable that continues to skyrocket. I would love to pass on the expenses to my boarders but in most cases they are struggling to make ends meet too. I look at it as we are all in this together. If I need help taking care of a horse or fixing damage caused by the owners horse I expect that the owners will pitch in to help.
This is how I make my living and I do exist on my boarding income. I have a good reputation for running a clean, safe facility with top notch round the clock care for a ridiculously reasonable price. As a staff of one I do the best I can and my boarders know it. They love their horses and will do anything for them, including helping out their overworked under payed care giver.
This was a good read and covered much of my POV broadly as possible U.S. wide. A few thoughts to leave for you and others. I am the Vice President of the MN Stable Owners Association. We often talk about how profits are slim and in our area of MN a $500 board price seems to be (generally) where owners want to be to be “profitable”. That is not to say very profitable though. As you know from experience and your research each stable has different operating costs. As a 2nd generation owner, but one who had to buy out from a family estate, I can tell you this has a very significant effect on how you see your operation (business vs. subsidize your passion). Stables that have been owned for 20-30 years don’t often factor mortgage costs into the operation because they are low or are owned. Those operations (generally) are the ones who are “under market” because they don’t HAVE to raise prices to push the market top side. They make less profit but they tend to accept it. On the other hand, new owners (like myself in this context) are watching the total costs and push the market as high as we can to hopefully cash flow, then profit, then after a few years profit more so that we can eventually not have to work off farm to subsidize the business. ***side note on this point, ever tried to discuss a business plan with a Banker on a new loan for a “horse farm”? Probably one of if not THE highest risk loans for them to make. If you are smart work the “Agricultural” angle with lenders like AgStar or other and benefit of farm programs. The point here is these loans are risky because people do not charge what is needed…or the market will not allow it in some cases. Thus the continually operate at a loss. As a Marketing Professional in my alternative life, I wish we had better market research by area. This helps stable owners raise prices to where they need to be without gouging. A bakery would not accept taking 1% profit margins. Why do stable owners is the point here…the answer is because it’s a passion also. Look in the mirror and then a hard look at your business and seek the courage to competitively price your “product”. On the flip side, I see many stables who are catering to the very wealthy customer. That is a decision to be made with good thought as expectations rise with the price. We try to play in the lower expectation market and exceed expectations of service at mid market price. The other very important concept I want to share is costs vs. price. For as long as I can remember, and still today we are the only stable I know of operating this way. We charge a flat rate for Stall Board (varies by barn location and amenities $200-275). We then have a “Commodity Charge” which includes (grain, hay, shavings). This is tracked per horse by usage. Each feed ration is different so the costs vary. Each cart of shavings we track on a stall chart and is itemized per horse on customer invoices. One horse might use 10 carts of shavings/sawdust another might use 15. That is a $5 per cart difference in REAL cost right there in a 1 horse example. Our business model (profit and overhead) is calculated in our “Stall Charge”. That is the “Product / Service”. The COSTS are pass through and as incurred. Customers love the program after they get here. The owner of the 2 ponies might pay $100 in commodities and the owner of 2 Thoroughbreds might pay $300 all due to feed consumption differences. Also as markets fluctuate (think hay as most variable) the stable owner is protected because all commodities are “variable” month to month. I have a longer narrative on this on our website: http://www.strohfusstockfarm.com/rates Thanks for keeping an eye on the business side of things. Also, lets all try and reach out to those NEW stables with younger generation first time owners and help make them successful. Best Regards John Strohfus (Strohfus Stock Farm, LLC Hastings, MN)
Wow! Thank you for you thorough comment and valuable direction. Also thanks of the link to your pricing. This is a fascinating way to charge. I hope readers will check this out as it could be an answer for those who are struggling to make a profit.I was also interested to read that MN has a Stable Owner’s Association . Thank you. Barbara
John, I too have been in the equine business in some respect for 30 + years. In my thirty plus years of working at hunter/jumper facilities, it’s fair to say none of them followed the type of business model you shared. I found it extremely smart and more importantly FAIR to client /boarder and stable owner. Thank you for sharing, as I am eager to pass this information along to my peers in the business. Have a great day !
Excellent thoughts, thank you.
Wow I am glad I scrolled down. thank you for this business model!! I am sharing it with my peers!
I really enjoyed this article and think that it truly does highlight important areas that the barn owner or manager has to deal with. It is very expensive to properly care for and manage a farm and you are 100% right that most horse owners have no idea what the individual costs are. I am a life-long boarder myself and have done everything from pasture, to full care, to partial, self, etc. I worked off board when I was in college and I have been fortunate to board at some fantastic barns with great, well maintained facilities and knowledgeable, reliable staff. However, I must say on behalf of all boarders everywhere that the downright bad boarding farms are definitely out there. My biggest reason for choosing self and partial care (even when I could afford full care) was level of care that my horse was given. I’ve boarded at places where my horse and other boarders horses were put in stalls in the AM with lacerations bad enough they needed stitching that the owner or staff hadn’t noticed. I’ve had to argue with barn managers who refuse to feed my horse more food because they thought they knew more than my equine science degree and lifetime of experience. I’ve boarded at places where I’ve had to repeatedly ask them to fix broken fences that I’ve seen them walk past on their way home twice before I had to ask them to fix it because nails were exposed. I’ve boarded at places where horses frequently coliced because they would only give overweight horses half a flake of hay leaving them all day in a stall with nothing passing through their system and refused to buy a grass hay in addition to their alfalfa to offer to these horses. While you definitely are doing a great thing educating owners about the costs involved in their horses care, I just have to say that I know a lot of boarders are difficult because they’ve had bad experiences in the past. I lived in places where horses are a huge business and youd think you could find high quality care but what I found was mismanaged farms with under educated staff. Just because you have the money to buy a big farm, doesn’t mean you have the knowledge to properly run one. For those people doing it the right way, you’re very appreciated and loved and I hope your boarders tell you often how much they appreciate you – I know when I finally found a place that ticked all my ridiculously picky boxes I made sure to never let a week go by without thanking them for their tireless efforts for my equine family members!
Thanks for your good comment. Yes I agree with you. There are as many bad places as good. I hope when horse owners find themselves in a bad situation they will look for something better. It’s too bad that we have to go through the kiss a frog procedure to find a good place. IMHO places with uneducated staff are no different than riding programs with uneducated instructors – both are extremely dangerous. Thanks again. Barbara
Top quality nutritionally tested Hay @ $24.00/100# bale @ 20#/day=$144.00!
Yup, that’s pushing a little on what I paid in Arizona but it’s pretty painful! Barbara
Excellent article. I manage a very busy dressage training barn. The key is communication and realistic expectations on both ends. Very few boarders realize that every time they ask for an “extra” it is an additional labor cost to the barn owner. Sure, as a boarder when you ask for turn out boots to be put on your horse, you just think “oh, I want my horse’s legs protected during turn out. It doesn’t take but a minute to put them on.” What the boarder fails to realize is if 22 other clients want the same, then “just a minute” into an hour just booting and unbooting horses! And the horse hasn’t even left his stall yet! I’ve often said if barns truly charged exactly what it costs to keep horses, then no one could afford to board horses!
Thanks for your good comment. Good communication goes a long way towards keeping everyone happy. Boarders naturally think about their horse.If they could see the big picture it might makes understanding a little easier. Barbara
This is the best article I’ve ever read on this subject. Thank you for doing such a great job of explaining what we barn owners do!
Elizabeth – Thanks for your comment and the encouragement- Barbara
I run and have run a boarding barn for 18 years in the same community (longer elsewhere). I have watched how numerous new boarding places have popped up due to a better economy now then in the past. I have spent the better part of my career caring for the “horses” not the “owners”. I finally figured out that while it is the owners who pay the bills, it can be the horses who pay the price. I do what is best for the horse and TRY to accommodate the owners wishes. I have lost clients over this but c’est la vie. I supply the best hay I can find (no weeds and limited chemicals), several grain choices (some with added cost most without), AT LEAST 16 hour turnout or more, grassy fields, intensive rotational grazing, safe fences, a gated entrance and I could go on and on. I have built my farm on the ideas of all the best practices I have seen from all the other farms I have visited form working with vets, trainers, and travelling to do lessons, foaling out, etc. Not to mention my equine science degree. Interestingly enough I still have boarders who are not satisfied with SOMETHING or other. That saying, you can’t please all the people all the time but you can please some of the people some of the time…well right now my barn has just one stall open and no field spots available and the rest is full of the BEST boarders possible. They all realize that my life is pretty much dedicated to caring the best way possible for their horse. I do EVERYTHING for a reason which I am more than happy to explain at any time. The average horse lives here until he dies, the owner sells it or moves. We have an average of like 7 years of horses living here. But every now and again we get a newbie that moves in, knows more than us, collectively, complains that the flowers are the wrong color, and back out she goes…It is a VERY tough business. You have to be thick skinned, soft hearted, patient and kid, educated and educating, have attention to detail but able to let some things go, easy going but hard and fast on rules, the list can go on and on. I do NOT love my job, but I LOVE all the horses I care for…
It sounds like you have worked your plan very well with longevity and serious commitment. Thank you for your very good comment.
I am laughing at $500 per month because it’s just unheard of around Long Island! I have run my own facility and been on full service. Have to say many barns I boarded at had many many issues which made me feel I was wasting my money! Owners just don’t want to be lied too and want there horses safe!
Thanks for commenting. Yup honesty is really important. As far as $500 a month- you’d be surprised at parts of the country where this much for board is considered robbery. It just all depends. I grew up on Long Island and it is definitely a different kettle of fish. Very little hay is grown there, making hay costs expensive. And land is limited. The biggest problem for me regarding horses on LI was the thought of getting off the Island with a trailer! I hated even driving my own car off. I have great admiration for those who live on LI and compete in other states! Barbara
Yup! I’m originally from LI, and your comments are spot on! I charge $460 for full board and I sometimes get the “WHAT?” eyes and I crack up! But on The Island I wonder how the heck can you afford to even run a facility. The cost of everything is sky high. I wanted to go back “home” but knew I’d never be able to take my equines with me as I could never ever afford to costs to board let alone show. And like you said the drive to show would be the scariest part!!!
That drive is probably the main reason I never went home to live! I’m just not that brave!
I currently live on Long Island and prices are through the roof. Ten years ago i had two horses at a very mediocre barn and my bill was 1750 per month. That is what prompted me to get my own place.
Im a super poor college student with no financial backing because my parents passed away and without the help of generous barn owners I’d never have been able to keep my horse. I have no idea how some barn owners do it. I have pretty much worked off part of my board for the entire time I’ve had my horse, thats 10 years. I know its expensive to keep one let alone run a barn, I just cannot understand how they can afford to let their boarders work off the cost of their board. They let me do it. There must be some kind of cost benefit that makes it work if they plan on hiring out help anyway, otherwise I just can’t see it. Anyone know how it works because I want to know? I’ve made myself a reliable stable hand and get to see my horse at least 5 days a week because of it, I don’t want to be taking advantage of anyone but I’m not the only one they do it for so I’m really curious.
Katelin, I think everyone has a slightly different situation. I’m glad you have something that works for you. Barbara
I utilize boarders who are reliable and decrease board based on the hours that they work. It usually is less than a full time employee. They are vested in their job because in many instances they would not be able to afford a horse unless they had a reduced board situation. It usually works to the advantage for both of us. No benefits etc that a regular employee would want.
Working together with boarders like you describe can be very beneficial for both the business owner and the boarder when it’s done well. I’m glad it works for you. Thanks for your comment.
I have heard this stuff for years and I wonder why some people dont think people in the horse business should make a profit. Here in NY I have a six horse barn four of which i fill with my horses. I costed it out and came up where the cost of feeding them the best grain and hay I can find, shavings , etc at $550 per month cost to me. Luckily I had a day job so I’m covered for health care, have a 401k, plus additional retirement benefits. I know several professional horse people who cannot afford any of these things. Its a business and as such should not have to live without some benefit. Horse professionals do not always get the respect they deserve.
Jane, I’m with you. Horses are a very expensive hobby and a 24/7 responsibility. It’s a big job. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
[…] article to let them know that I understand the work and expenses that go into a boarding facility: The Truth in Boarding Barns | Maybe just let her know you're really happy with having your horse there and would rather not move […]
[…] I actually think shows and activities are a good idea as a way to attract attention to a stable. I don't think you can expect people to provide their own hay – moving hay requires machinery which few people own. You cannot expect boarders to be hauling in bales of hay. Grain is ok, but not hay. However, I think what makes it so difficult to run a place like this are all the unexpected expenses. Price of hay goes up because of a drought, you've lost your profit margin. Fences need to be repaired. Barn walls get kicked and boards need to be replaced. New arena sand needs to be brought in. Machinery breaks down and has to be replaced or fixed. There's no way you can look after everything yourselves so you need hired help. They don't show up for work so you need to find new hired help. It goes on, and on, and on. I think this article says it all: The Truth in Boarding Barns | […]
I boarded at a barn self-care barn that required owners to bring in their own hay. The barn doors were wide enough to drive in a pickup, and the hay storage was on the same level as the stalls, so equipment was not needed to put hay into a loft. Even when I did board at a farm with a loft, I was able to put the hay up there from the back of my pickup on the high side of the barn.
It’s great that you found a self care that was easy to work with. Hay is a big job. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
[…] Boarding friends horse at my private barn ..with many thanks to Arcadianartist for locating this!: The Truth in Boarding Barns | Here it is, in a nutshell: "Taking care of horses is a 24 hour a day 7 days a week job and […]
[…] I board a horse at my neighbor's barn. Because they are neighbors and I want to keep the relationship positive, I have gone out of my way to cover the costs of my horse's board. Because they had to get extra hay in November, I offered to pay for my horse's share up front. 700$ in hay, on top of the full cost of board I was paying. Now it had been my understanding that the cost of the board included hay, but you know what? I'd rather pay 700$ and keep a good relationship with my neighbors than be cheap and let the relationship go sour. When the BO hurt his hand, I went in on the weekend and cleaned all the stalls for him (not just my horse's). Just to do something nice. I've also started buying my own grain since I decided to stop feeding the grain the BOs feed. We had a massive garden last summer and still have carrots in the cold room so I regularly bring in bags that are fed to all the horses. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's nice that you're thinking about the value of this friendship, but maybe she should think about how much she values your friendship as well. And send her this article (or, if you don't want to be so crass, you can still get some inspiration from it to justify rising costs of keeping horses – it certainly opened my eyes!):The Truth in Boarding Barns | […]
A very true and well written response. I especially appreciate this quote, “The bottom line is that the boarding barn is in business to make money, not to subsidize someone else’s horse activities.” I learned that the hard way and am still working on ways to run my barn more as a BUSINESS than a hobby farm. It is my sole income and it has taught me more in 2 years than my previous management (not business owner, but strictly managing) years altogether. I also agree that it is an incredibly stressful job but pricing yourself in an area that brings you like-minded clients helps make it a rewarding job. I love taking care of horses and love seeing them bloom, content. I enjoy providing a special space for like-minded horse women to come have fun and feel safe. I spent the first year and a half of my business utterly struggling until I realized that I needed to raise prices and my expectations for clients/business. Since then it has only improved and I hope to continue that trend. I will never give myself the short end of the stick again.
Nice comment. It sounds like you’ve found your niche’ the boarding world. You’re advice “to raise prices and my expectations for clients/business” is timely, not only for barn owners but also for instructors. (A caveat here- I’m not advising that all stables and instructors should raise their prices- just that it is worth evaluating your own situation and taking action if it seems like a wise choice) Raising prices and expectations of clients can be a bit frightening at first but it sounds like it has been a benefit for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Some very true issues everywhere. But there are those few boarders who truly understand. I boarded for 6 years. Had 5 horses and everything that can happen, does, lol. I’m not perfect either. More like too picky. Everywhere we went we were treated like we were stupid. Like we didn’t understand how much it took to pay and run it or what to do. And care was another story. Fortunately we were. Guess what, I have a brain. I got the best Vet around, the best farrier and friends who have been in this industry for around 60 years who still successfully show and sell horses as well as educated myself before I purchased my first horse to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I always did self care. I don’t want anyone else taking care of them. I purchased them for a reason and they are MY responsibility. I take that very very seriously. I carried insurance on my horses and the boarding facilities in case if any accidents, supplied tack, barn supplies, water buckets, heaters, anything the facility needed, offered and paid extra for using heated water buckets, took full care of my own while paying partial care, supplied all my horses feed, grain, hay, bedding, etc… We paid for everything they needed, did all the transportation and heavy lifting ourselves and even for some boarders who couldn’t. We weren’t rich. As a matter of fact i worked six days a week running an office by myself and then off to the barn every evening (after my husband took care of them in the morning) sundays were oandand time to enjoy my horses and that was spent cleaning. Heck, we even paid months in advance on my stall board to help barn owners cover unexpected bills. Everywhere we have been has been us taking care of just about everyone else’s horses along with my own. I did this because its who we are and I love horses. Never asked for anything in return. We have paid for new electric fencing with the charger too and put it up when it wasn’t our horses doing the damage, in fact, the owner’s horses did it. But had no intentions of fixing it. Did repairs to the facility and fencing as well as stalls and kept the facilities clean while others walked away. Even purchased a round pen and help with horse training. Reseeded and fertilized pastures and checked fencing every day. When i realized i was spending more time and money doing this, never even got a thank you and kept getting taken advantage of. And my biggest issue was people who think, oh well, crap happens when the horses get injured. I understand things happen, heck i ought to. I did own 5 of all different ages. An injury cost me 4 years of my mares life being unsound, exrays, ultrasounds, $500/month for special meds/care and now permanent damage so our future goals were destroyed. But when it could and should be avoided, don’t downplay it. It may not be your dime, but they are not a cheap hobby, pet or plain old farm animal. And yes I understand who and what they are. So after everything, enough was enough. It made having them horrible. I have seen the petty arguments, good owners treated like crap, good and bad trainers… Its hard. I understand. And barn owners don’t have time for a lot of things, let alone complaints all the time and it is expensive. Not everyone can be satisfied. Everyones idea of how to care are different and horses care can be different. Noone is perfect. I have seen neglectful owners, barn owners and managers, but also great ones. We were actually told we spoil them because of the level of care and another told us we needed to learn “not to care”! Since when did keeping them healthy and in shape be a bad thing!
Anyways we finally got the chance 3 years ago to purchase our own place. It has been great to enjoy my horses again. No more boarding. We are in the process of building a larger horse barn in the spring and will be building an indoor arena so i can finally enjoy my horses like it should have been to begin with. I’m taking riding lessons myself to further my own education and riding abilities with an open mind. So when I get asked if I will be doing boarding at my place…. NO! Nothing personal, but I too have goals and this being a job/business was never one of them. I have a job. And its done with the same hard work and determination. This was to be the relief and to keep me physically moving, dealing with my own injuries. Now I am going to retire early, train and give lessons at my leasure. So keep making people aware, please! Both sides could have improvements! I am only commenting because i have seen many columns about boarders not understanding, some of us do! And thank you for all you do!
Thank you so much for the effort you put in to your comment. My heart was breaking as I read it and I was so relieved to read that you ended up with your own place. You are right that no one is perfect- we are all pretty flawed. I’d like to see more people take responsibility on both sides of the aisle. I hate the blame game and sure liked reading your good result. Best wishes to you with your horses and farm. Barbara
Amen!! I grew up on a farm, the daughter of a large animal vet, and until recently, had always kept my horses at home. I am one of those people who LOVE to care for horses, mucking stalls, baling and stacking hay, turning in, turning out. hauling water, fixing fences, all aspects of the horse experience are enjoyable to me. . . EXCEPT BOARDING. I’ve been to a number of barns, and none of them, at ANY price, reliably offered the most basic horse needs: 8-12 hrs of daily turnout, good grass hay, free from weeds, mold and toxic plants, shelter from the elements, and clean water. None. Why SO many different opinions on such basic care? I WISH I could keep my horse at home again!! And, no, I wouldn’t board any outside horses either.
In the horse world there really isn’t anything as satisfying as being able to care for your own, I agree. Perhaps one of the problems with barns being able to offer the basic needs you outline (which are good and healthy) is all of the other needs that go along with boarders, different types of horses and their activities, as well as the limitations of facilities. I suspect by your comment that you wouldn’t board any outside horses, you have an inkling about the difficulty of meeting the needs of horses that belong to other people. I wish you luck in returning to caring for your own horses very soon. And I appreciate your comment. Thanks.
8-12 hours of turnout is ideal and we do offer it. I’ll comment though- depending on # of horses vs amount of land is a huge issue and one the vast majority of BO struggle with. Often barns are built with high capacity= high stress on environment. Pasture suffers. I have yet to come across a boarding facility that has this ratio worked out well. We’d love farms to look like blue grass KY. They often do not. Pasture rotation and mgmt takes a lot of acres. Our experience is 3+ per horse in ideal weather. Throw in drought and that # goes out the window. Go to less acres and you get over grazing and stressed pasture where weeds out compete grass. Few if any places exist where lots of land is available with low taxes yet in close enough proximity to cities where people want and can afford nice equestrian centers
In response to hay- BO often buy hay from supplier/ growers. You can buy hay with zero weeds. It has been heavily sprayed and managed with chemicals. Not ideal. I prefer an honest local farmer. Far more concerned with hay that it baled at proper moisture content. Jmo. It is not the BO fault there are weeds in hay. The vast majority of baled grass hay here in NY has some weeds.
This should be very enlightening for many horse owners and boarders. Owning a horse is an expensive but wonderful experience. A great place to board at a reasonable price that offers all the above amenities mentioned above and responsible loving care is hard to find. Lake forest equestrian center has this and more.
Susie- Tanks for your comment. It’s good to know you have a good barn! Kudos
Sadly not every person who runs a barn should. The ability to successfully run the barn is also an art. You can’t just have horse sense.
You’re right. It takes more than savvy to run a barn. It’s sure not for everyone. Dare I say the other side to your statement? It may cause some unhappy comments. . . Not every person who owns a horse should. . . also a sad situation. Thanks for your post. You have a good point. Barbara
If you want to send yourself to an early grave, board horses. Most stressful job in the world! I don’t think boarders really understand what it takes to make sure their horses are taken care of properly.
I agree with you. I don’t think most boarders understand the stress of the job of boarding horses. A little understanding can go a long way toward helping to make the work a little more palatable. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
as a barn owner I think it is well written. Unfortunately the #s are way off based on where we are- taxes alone on this 100 acre parcel are 35K with an ag exemption. That being said, thank you for writing this. We have had a huge range of clients in our years of boarding. From the absent -with agents writing the checks (LOVE) to the bizarre hovering nutcases. We have seen it all. The major take home for boarders is they absolutely need to lose the expectation that their horse will be treated like it is the only one on the property. They are one of many. If you want a low groom to horse ratio you will pay well over 3K for that service in our region. Do not expect that level of care for under 1K. It is not feasible. HO expectations are so far off in left field it isn’t even funny. Yes, there are exceptions. I have wonderful clients but they are outnumbered by those that make BO life miserable. It is a high stress heavy work load that includes manual exhaustive labor that most HO will never do in their lifetime. Their idea of hard work is mowing the lawn on Sunday afternoon. Talk to me about hard work after unloading semi truck loads of 90lb bales of hay. or spending 6 hours in the sub zero bitter cold struggling with the vet to get an old down horse to her feet only to lose the battle and say goodbye with the tears freezing to your cheeks. The horse life is brutal and the barn owner’s job thankless. I wish more people could see and appreciate just how hard it is and how discouraging and enraging it is to be endlessly picked at by clients that don’t see the big picture. I have 40 mouths to feed, I do not have time to find your $15 cotton lead shank. It is around here somewhere. That being met with outrage….we could all go on. We BO live this life. I was a boarder once. I hated it. I hated not having control. Fast forward 20 years and I can see plain as day those BOs were doing the best they could. Every HO should spend some time in our shoes and then think about commenting when their lead shank is misplaced.
theBipolarfarmer! I couldn’t agree with you more and at Dec.1 we’re entering the real grind with work and perseverance. We’ll be in terrific shape by spring! Years ago I went the “being a boarder” route, too and I also hated most of it. Thanks for mentioning your taxes. Sometimes I gasp when I read what others pay. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Great article. It’s definitely puts things in perspective. I know there are lots of complainers and it takes all kinds but I think a lot of boarders simply get in over their head. They see $300 a month and think, “oh, I can afford that!” and completely disregard the fact that shoes, vet visits, lessons, tack all start to add to that monthly tab. I’ve been fortunate to board at some great places – nothing fancy of course, but I also enjoy cleaning a stall or getting feed buckets ready when it’s needed. I know how much work it is to take care of my two geldings and they’re really good citizens. If boarders would simply pitch in when they can, it can be a great experience for everyone. I don’t pay top dollar but my horses are getting great care and that’s all that really matters to me. If all you focus on is the price, you’ll get what you pay for the fancy barns and the pasture farms. It is what you make of it. Picking a stall goes along way in Karma department, if you know what I mean.
Rebecca- This is a nice comment from someone I’d be happy to have in my barn. Barbara
I’ve heard, as a rule of thumb, to take the cost of board and double it to know how much a basic healthy horse will cost.
I’m also in an expensive area and turnouts are small. No way to get around that when land can cost $100K per acre or more!
The barn I am at is a good one, not top of the line, and costs $900/month. I’m here mostly because it’s one of the few that has facilities I need (indoor, bathroom, tack room), good care (including hay; this is one of the few in the area that actually feeds enough hay!), AND a paddock with a shed so my horse can be outside most of the time. Depending on how many turn-outs are available, she is in from 0 to 8 hours per day. I find little and sometimes not so little things that bother me, and have to stop myself before I complain, because they are mostly issues I just have to live with, or things that are not immediately dangerous to my horse.
I’d pay more if the weekend barn help was better. I’m gritting my teeth and coping with someone who knows the basic routine very well, but has a hard time doing anything new or different, and tends to leave early. Luckily there are more people around on the weekend, and we look out for problems. But I know how hard it is to find good reliable help for weekends and evenings.
I do not envy barn owners or barn managers at all! I try very hard to be as drama free as possible. Having a horse with good solid manners helps.
Thanks for your comment. I think it is wise to over look the little things that are not dangerous to the horse. It’s probably a good way to keep relationships steady.
I was a little distressed when I first started working with people who watched the clock and would leave even if they hadn’t finished their job. I find that more with the kids that come from college programs than other programs.But that is just my experience. Work with horses is a 24/7 job and I think it is safe to say that usually only the business owner/horse person is willing to go the extra mile.And there are so many extra miles in the horse business!
Thanks again, Barbara
Very informative article. One expense that is not mentioned is cost of balancing the herd dynamic. I have to keep companion horses that will tolarate my boarders’ dominate late gelded gelding, or very submissive mare who always gets picked on. I write off these horses as part of my business expenses.
Heard dynamics is a tough one, particularly if the herd is temporary (as in stall horses getting group turnout). And there is the stress of the inevitable injury horses receive just for being treated like horses.Thank you for adding your comment. Barbara
I boarded at a facility that rarely picks paddocks, slowed down on hay because the horses were going through it too fast and wasting too much, won’t hold a boarder’s horse for vet or farrier, has no running water at half the paddocks, no tank heaters, no shelter for lesson horses, no rules about loose dogs, hasn’t hauled off manure in 5 months, etc etc etc. My horses are now at a superb facility where barn management lays eyes and hands on my horses daily, holds them for whatwver is needed, can give lessons, has beautifully maintained paddocks, etc. it isn’t as fancy to look at as the old place but it is safe for my horses and boarders, is run meticulously and with genuine concern for the horses vs just making a buck. Boarding facilities in my experience tend to fall short on substance, instead being all about show. I will happily pay for quality care.
It’s good to read that you have found a great place to board and that you’re willing to pay for quality care. I agree that there are some places that prefer to put on a good front and skimp on care. I find that in particular breeds and venues. Looks like you’ve got things sorted out for your horse. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Years ago I had a series of bad experiences boarding horses. I would be in a nice situation and there would be a new barn manager or twice the owners divorced and gave up the barn. So thirty years ago I bought my own small farm and never regreted it. Yes it’s confining and a lot of work but no one ever takes care of your horses your way. In addition the money I saved while not paying for someone elses facility I could use for my mortgage. I have taken on a couple of.boarders over the years but found them more trouble than they were worth to me. Plus I am in a position to pension my guys myself and again know exactly how they are treated.
It sounds like you’ve got the ideal situation. Good Job! I’m a little jealous! Barbara
Great article. There is something else that people don’t realize they are paying for at a boarding barn. The barn manager and employees experience is worth something too. It take a lot of knowledge and contacts to run a barn well. Those things deserve to be reimbursed as well!
Yes Lorri! You are right. Experience is the thing that notices a horse is not quite right and saves it’s life with that call to the vet. It’s worth a lot. Thanks. Barbara
Its one thing to be in the business of boarding horses, its quite another to be used for money by a barn owner who can’t afford their barn or their own horses without taking in boarders yet doesn’t give a fig about the other person or their horse. They only go through the motions so they can get the money. And there are a lot of these types of boarding barns….if the place where you keep your horse doesn’t care, you should go elsewhere because when push comes to shove you and your horse will suffer for what is lacking on the part of the barn and its owners.
Yours is a good comment, too, because there are all types of people in the horse business. I feel safe in saying that the people that read The Riding Instructor have good goals in mind, whether they are boarders or barn owners. It’s too bad when we have to deal with the wrong motivation in the world. Your advice is good because basically, I think you are saying, it’s your horse, your decision, and up to you to find a good place that works. It’s also the best way to get a message across to barns that are in business for the wrong reasons. Thanks. Barbara
Wonderful article. I am very blessed to be at my current barn. The owner allows me to be on partial board for my 3 horses. I do supply my own grain, hay, bedding, and have all of my own equipment. I am there 6 days a week and I clean my horses stalls. If I am going to be out of town for several days, I always give her extra $$$ for tending to them while I am gone. Most barns in my area do not offer partial board. The barn I am at currently is a full care barn, but since the owner and I have known each other for a while, we made a special arrangement for me. I also work for her 3 days a week to help her with costs and her everyday labor. Providing my own supplies and doing most of the work myself has really showed me what goes into operating a boarding facility. I have the upmost respect for persons who do this for their livelihood. it is not an easy life. My goal is to one day have a property of my own where my horses and I can live together.
Kudos to you, Cline for all of the effort you’re putting in to making things work for both you, your horse and the barn owner. I hope your dream of your own property comes true. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Wow! Thank you so much for spelling out what most horse owners won’t acknowledge. I was a boarder with multiple horses for 20 years before I became a barn owner 15 years ago. I always felt that coming from the perspective of an amateur helped me better relate to my customers after I turned pro. What I can honestly say now is that it did help my relationships emotionally, but definitely not financially. The fine line between “friends” and “customers” depends on the individual vantage point, I always felt I went above and beyond for my “friends” and received the warm fuzzies from them, but when I had to write the bill to my “customers” all I got were the cold pricklies. Then add the fact that we love our boarder horses like our own, so we take everything even more personally during any uncomfortable situation that’s horse or owner related. I’ve always heard pros and barn owners concur with the statement, “the hard work isn’t dealing with the horses, it’s dealing with their owners”, and I unfortunately have to agree in most cases. I’ve had to make some major adjustments in my career but I wouldn’t change it for the world, although it helps that my husband has a “real” job. 😉
I love your comment because you’ve seen things from both sides. People are funny about forking over their money, even friends. And it can be so hard to do business with friends. And boy do I agree that we get attached to boarders horses. Everything I take care of is important to me. Sometimes I think BOs worry more about the horses than HOs do- at least for more hours of the day. And I’ve had times in my career that I wish the training horses would have their checks attached to the saddle, or the lesson bill would be paid in advance through the mail, or the board bill would just magically appear on my desk. (and I don’t think anyone has mentioned the boarder who slips out owing a bill that they never pay). I agree that it’s usually the people that are the problem, although I have one horse right now who is bent on tearing up stall walls. And hubby having a real job is sure nice to fall back on! Thanks so much for your comment. Barbara
Barbara Ellin fox!! I love you! Wow! The perfect breakdown of how it really rolls!!
Aww George what a nice compliment! Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara
A lot of these negative comments reflect the challenge for both BO and HO of offering a service that is expensive. Through it all, Barbara has been polite and supportive. A breath of fresh air in today’s world. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind comment. Barbara
Shared this one. It is nice to see someone break it down in writing so people can see we dont just go feed and give treats we should let everyone read this article. One thing not mentioned was when there is a death. I had a boarder that had a horse colic my son and I walked this horse for 2 days and had her call the vet out. We did everything we could for 2 days and never saw her once. The horse passed on the second evening and I wept. Then she pulls up and wept the left and I never saw her again. She left me with the vet and the chore of having her horse buried. It was an emotional and financial strain. She never paid a penny back. Just got to hear how I should have done more from her family.
Wow what a painful experience to have to deal with the death of someone else’s horse and then be left with everything. I didn’t think of it but you’re right, it is something that should be thought of ahead of time and included in a boarding contract. Horse owners should also be aware of the options available after a horse dies. In my area we have cremation, the renderer or burial – non of which leaves us feeling particularly warm and fuzzy but is one of the really hard realities of owning animals. Thanks for sharing my post and for making your comment. Barbara
Great article! I shared it. Boarders need to know all that goes into the care of their horse instead and temper their sense of entitlement.
Thanks! And thank you for sharing the article. Barbara
I have never owned, nor boarded horses, though I have always been around them throughout my life pleasure riding, both bare back and under saddle.
One of the big services that barn operators provide to owners, is the dispensing of vitamins and drugs as prescribed by an equine vet. These typically are very specific per horse, and if dispensed in error in dosage or to the wrong horse, can have catastrophic results. This is a huge responsibility, that normally cannot be relegated to the typical stable hand. And thus, typically is an added expense or duty for the senior most employees or owners..
You have made a very good point about the medications. Thank you for your comment. Barbara
Good article, has valid points. I do not like the fact that horse ownership should only be available to the wealthy. I had to sell my horse because boarding costs here in Canada are ridiculous. The barn I was at had a base fee of $375. That is fine but you got nickel and dimed into the poorhouse! Fees for holding horses, fees for blanketing them, fees for every little thing plus I had to buy my own grain! Plus extra if I wanted my stall cleaned! Vet and farrier was always scheduled for day time when people HAD to be at work. So you were forced to pay the extra. You had to have insurance too. Plus I had to endure the barn owner criticizing a rider who was interested in riding my horse, insulting her and telling me the young lady had to have a coach with her at all times! This was a rider with 10 years experience! I was then told that any half leasee had to be approved by her first which is garbage. I’m an adult and it’s my horse. I don’t agree that these barns make no money. These people have a luxurious house, take expensive holidays abroad, and afford over $600 per month in lessons for their snooty daughter. I don’t see this non profit statement at work here.
I don’t like to think that horses can only be available to the rich either but I sure don’t expect someone to have to lose money taking care of my responsibility. People that are in business are in it to make a profit. Every service a boarder wants requires someone else’s time and effort. If it’s not their own horse they probably expect to be paid for their time. As far as farrier and vets, where I live- they don’t work past 5:00 and they don’t work on weekends either- unless you want to pay an emergency fee. Funny thing is most of them have families and lives and like to have set hours of business. You’re complaining that someone would charge you to do things for your horse while you’re at work making money? All of this sounds to me like you didn’t find out up front what you needed to pay for at the barn you chose. I’m glad that you commented. You have every right to your own opinion, but it obviously does not come from the perspective of a boarding barn owner so I’d have to say it’s not based on the costs of running a barn. It sounds like it’s based on what you think you see. The good thing here is that both barn owners and boarders get to make choices. You get to choose the barn that suits your needs and the barn owner gets to make the rules for their own barn. Thanks for commenting. Barbara
I don’t think that you implied or suggested that horse ownership is exclusively for the wealthy, just getting someone else to do the work is! Lots of us non-wealthy folk keep our horses at home where we can go to our paying jobs and still care for our horses on our own schedules. Some of us are fortunate enough to have farriers that will come evenings and weekends because he also has a “day job” and vets that will schedule Saturday appointments during the spring months. I have six horses and a donkey right now and I sure could not afford to pay someone else to give them the kind of care that I do. You can have horses on a budget but it means you make sacrifices in other areas.
Thanks, Cj. You’re right, I’m not saying horses are just for the wealthy but more that we need to consider the other guy when we’re trying to meet our needs and desires.No one else is responsible to give us what we want by sacrificing themselves. When a person can figure out how to do what they love with horses by making their own sacrifices – then I think you’ve found some of the answers. In my personal existence I’ve found that no one gives my horses the care I give them, so that hard work gives me more peace of mind. Thanks for your good comment. Barbara
michone – While I do not believe you are mistaken to believe that you have a right to choose who rides your horse, from a different perspective it is the barn owners right to choose who rides at the facility as it is their livelihood at risk and they as the recognized “professional” in this situation bear a significant risk should things go awry and an injury occur. It certainly colors the situation from my viewpoint when an owner chooses to ride their horse vs. allowing a third party to ride. I also require lessee situations to be approved and I am very particular. As for your barn owner’s finances? I think it is necessary to view the barn owner’s personal finances as a moot point. The barn owner’s finances have nothing to do with the actual profitability of the boarding operation that is being run. Case in point – I work a separate job off the farm and my finances afford me a solid foundation. However – my financial situation has nothing to do with what it costs me to run my barn. That would be like saying I make enough money outside of the farm that I should be able to afford to lower my board price to lose money to provide you a service.
So well said! I don’t understand why clients chose to judge their BO. Yes the property might be spectacular, doesn’t mean I’m not eating ramen noodles so I can keep my bills paid and doors open. I just don’t understand it. Why must people always assume they are getting taken advantage of??? It truly is a labor of love because there is little to no appreciation of a job done right, only every little thing that is wrong. In the finest barns where clients pay more that 3500 a month horses get hurt, even die 🙁 they are horses. They are accident prone. We can do our very best to assure a safe secure environment and the worst can happen. I wish it wasn’t that way. I’d love it if they never got sick or injured.
On another note, to the person who spoke about making improvements to their BO property- that is a fine line. It was generous and kind of you, yet I worry about being taken advantage of. I personally wouldn’t allow a client to do that. To help muck on occasion for $ off board is one thing, capital improvements is another. I’m sorry you were taken advantage of 🙁
You thought $375/mo was going to cover horsecare? Your reaction to reality is exactly why I think barn owners are better off just charging the $500-$600 it costs to care for a horse rather than offering a reduced price with “extra” additional fees. I suspect they do so because less well-off boarders often appreciate the reduced rate and pay through helping out–so everyone wins.
regarding the apparent affluence of the barn owners–that really isn’t relevant to the fees they charge. Should they subsidize your horse habit by giving up their own vacations? Believe me, they are NOT making money on your $375 fee–they need to charge those “extra” fees just to break even.
Love this article!
I have 7 Boarders. All are easy to deal wwith, pay on time and no drama. I run a pretty tight ship. I’ve had a few wierdos but I find that they “weed themselves out.” But I definitely would not want to run a big boarding barn. I’ve seen 70 horse barns and that is way more than I could handle! Actually I should rephrase that….70 horse OWNER barns haha!
Keep up the good work 🙂
Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re doing well with boarding. Kudos! I’m with you- I’m sure I don’t have the personality for a 70 horse barn! Barbara
I find the biggest issue is the owner/operator just “listening” to u and ur horses needs. I wouldn’t b looking if I didn’t think you had experience in the horse industry so don’t lose my attention with ur winded and almost unbelievable resume. If ur not listening now, you surely won’t when I’m there. Put ur horses needs first guys, not ur own 😉
You’re right, communication is really important. If barn owners and potential boarders talk through services and needs, and then everyone follows through, the horse ought to come out the winner. I agree with you that your horse’s needs should come first so it’s important to find the right place for your horse. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Great article! While I have not owned a boarding facility, I have worked for one. There is a lot of work and so many investments involved that many boarders seem oblivious to. On the flip side, I have been a boarder for 8+ years at various barns. I’ve dealt with fabulous ones that had to shut down because they couldn’t afford it anymore. Amazing facilities and care with low prices. I’ve left more than one because of water issues. One refused to provide clean water and another couldn’t be bothered to supply any water at all. I’ve left a barn where I paid for full care board, but my horse was not being fed (the grain that I supplied), was not given water and the stall was not cleaned unless I showed up and did it myself. I’m currently at an amazing place. Sure, there’s things I could gripe about, but he gets his grain, has fresh water 24/7 and he’s happy. If I have to fix a fence board from time to time, that’s a small inconvenience in the grand scheme, especially considering the low cost of boarding there. $250/month field board. Very nice outdoor ring with jumps, cones, barrels, etc., trails, automatic waterers in each field, blanketing (though I do it myself whenever possible), wash area with warm water, heated/air conditioned lounge. I definitely get more than I’m paying for, so I try to show my appreciation by helping with barn chores from time to time.
I’d like to have my horse at home someday. My husband keeps saying that when that day comes, we’ll have to take in a boarder or two to help cover some expenses. I just laugh. Silly husband, there’s no profit in boarding horses!
I admire you for watching out for your horse and being sure that he has his basic needs met. That’s really the most important part of things. It’s sad to hear that great places you have been had to shut down because of overhead but it sounds like you are at a good place now, sounds like you get a lot for your money. You seem like a pleasure to have as a boarder because you are both helpful and realistic. Euphoria in the horse world doesn’t exist but honesty and integrity should. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Riding Instructor and best of luck to you when you get your horses home. Barbara
Thank you, Patti
All the time I hear about how hard the barn owners have it. I’m on the other side. I’ve boarded at several barns in the 5 or so years I’ve owned horses. I have found my horses without grain, without water, dirty stalls, no turn out, moldy hay. But you don’t dare say anything or you get kicked out. So, I purchase my own grain when they’re out, haul water myself, drive before work and after to make sure they are turned out and stalls cleaned. yes, you can assume I’m a “bad boarder” but maybe, just maybe, it would be nice to get what I’m paying for.
There’s no doubt that there are a lot of bad boarding barns in the horse world and it makes me sick to see horses poorly cared for; but there are also plenty of good boarding opportunities. When you find yourself in a bad one that can’t/won’t provide the most important basic necessities such as clean water, fresh hay etc. the it’s time to load up your horse and move on. Why stay at a place that endangers your horse?
My post does not assume anyone is a bad boarder because they are unhappy that the basic necessities aren’t provided. It addresses unrealistic expectations in the boarding business and the true costs of running a boarding facility that are not reflected in the price most of the time.
The truth here is two fold. Barn owners should be brave enough to count their costs, charge for them, and follow through; and horse owners should count the cost of horse ownership and understand clearly what they are paying for. There is some truth to you get what you pay for but if you’re not getting what you pay for you owe it to your horse to find another place for him to live. The true responsibility in horse ownership is on the owner of the horse. And think of this- by staying at a barn that you believe is ripping you and your horse off, you’re helping them stay in business.
I appreciate your comment and I know you speak the truth about a certain type of place. My best suggestion is to move on
LOVED this article and shared it with my boarders. I HAD to raise my board $30 this year and had several complaints. I asked one of the complainers – What would you charge if you had a barn in your back yard and a friend of yours wanted to keep her horse there and have you take care of it, and then listed much of what you listed in this article. She never answered me.
I lived in northern Illinois where winters can get pretty nasty. Our facility is old, but even if it wasn’t, frozen pipes can happen any where. Boarders don’t realize that they can just pick up and go on vacation whenever they want and not worry about the care their horse is receiving, but any time my husband and I do get away for a few days we try to time it when we think there is the least amount of chance of something major happening at the farm that our grooms wouldn’t be able to fix. So, when every one’s taking winter vacations where they can get some sun and warmth, we stay here because we don’t want to take the chance of horses not having water available for any length of time.
Thanks for sharing this blog post and for commenting. Frozen pipes are the pits and are a real worry. And those repairs are hard. Added to the winter expense too are heat tapes, bucket heaters and tank heaters – those really kick up electric bills in the MidWest.
You sound like a very concerned and organized barn owner. Good job to you! Barbara
Very pertinent to your post is a thread with currently 273 responses on Chronicle of the Horse.
The thread wanders on and off the exact topic of midwest boarding prices, but it echoes many of the points raised here. The consensus seems to be that boarding prices are artificially depressed in many instances because farm owners have supplemental income or have owned their property so long that they are not supporting the true costs of running a stable, including mortgages.
I’ve been at it a relatively short time, but am actively looking for an exit. I love most of the aspects of boarding and have a great group of boarders, but the financial profile of the business simply doesn’t make sense. Without offering lessons, training, and sales, I cannot charge enough in my neighborhood to supplement my ‘real job’ income while maintaining the facility in a safe, attractive, and functional manner.
Sadly, it’s a dead-end business for me, in my location, and with my resources. It’s been a great adventure, but the business model is unsustainable. As I get older and look to my future security… run a boarding barn does not contribute to my future in such a way as to offset the risks and costs.
Thanks for mentioning the Chronicle thread. Sometimes property owners feel like adding boarding to their total package at a depressed rate makes it possible to bring clientele in for other aspects of their business. I think that requires a delicate balance. The horse business often requires putting a lot of little parts together but when one part, in this case boarding, runs at a loss it hardly makes sense to plan a future on it. It’s hard to let good people and horses go and I’m sure you will miss them. Thanks for your comment. It really helps to explain how serious this situation is. Best of luck to you. Barbara
Well written article and very thoughtful too. I would agree with all you have written, I think that a lot of people forget the hard work and all the varying expenses that go into running a good establishment and barn management is an art like any other business. Perhaps if more barns charged the appropriate rate, there would be more quality barns to pick from, but of course that would mean the riders and horse owners would need to recognize what actually goes into keeping a horse properly, many do not, or choose not to see that. I wish I could have horses for my family, but we know we could not afford to keep them properly, and so we do not have them, difficult as that is. We have also seen some shocking barns in our time, and it is rather sad that people actually board their horses at these facilities. So thanks for your common sense article, and we all make typos, that should not be worth pointing out: )
Unless a person had to take care of their own horse in a facility that they were financially responsible for, it might be hard to understand the variety of expenses involved in boarding. Other people believe that because a barn is already caring for horses that the addition of their horse is just a matter of hay, grain and bedding. And some people have just never considered it all. And like you mention, some choose not to see. It’s sad that there are the shocking barns. I think they will always exist, especially when a certain type of person looks for the cheapest place to keep their horse as opposed to the best place they can afford.Thanks for taking the time to add your comment. Barbara
I put in 30k worth of fences to my boarding stable where I was charging150.00 per month because I basically liked horses. The only comment I got was that the bulbs in the barn were too dim (the fancy eco friendly ones). I threw all of the boarders out. I sure miss the horses.
You are undoubtedly a decisive individual! I can’t blame you one bit! Barbara
PS I hate those eco friendly bulbs…for awhile I thought it was my eyes, haha! and now we even have to have one in our yard light!
I am half way through my BPS in Management with a specialization in Business Management and Equine Studies at Cazenovia College. I know long title, one of the courses I am in right now is all about building a bank ready business model and plan. We are covering all the topics you presented here. If you ever find yourself near central NY come to Caz. I’m sure my professor would love to have you come in and present to the class.
Thank you Madeline – It sounds like a good class. Best of luck to you. Barbara
the expression I like to use, “everything in life is really very simple, until you involve people”. The actual horse & work efforts have always been the more relaxing & straightforward part of working. They don’t care what you look like, etc… Straightforward. People, in all lines of work, are often what really wears you down. Moving towards getting out of the boarding business. Just plain wearing out for not so truly great a return. Outgrown staff, and family less interested in slavery. Certainly not prepared to let folks do their own “rough board” kind of lodging. Delivering what we think is a quality experience is exhausting for a reward that you shouldn’t have to justify. See what it costs to board a dog?
How often I have heard trainers wish the horse could write its own checks. The enjoyment we derive out of working with the horses and just plain being out in the barn probably drives us to keep going to the wearing down point. IMHO “rough board” can create chaos, but I know it can for some people, although will never be my choice either. And speaking of dogs- my dog’s chiropractic adjustment takes less time and costs more than mine would. Go figure. Thanks for your input. Barbara
I have been boarding a few horses over the last few years, and giving people a good deal on board, (200.00 a month) included hay, grain the owner supplied, blanketing, manure removal, deworming, vaccinations, automatic waterers, 2 by 8 board fencing on 3/4 of the boarding area, 670 acres for riding, round pen, shelters, heated tack sheds, and someone on the property 24/7 to over look the animals. I tried to explain that the board would be increased this year, as were in a serious drought, and hay is going for 200.00 a round bale 1200 pounds, and two of my boarder said my place is not worth an increase, when all they are are extras here and I just have to throw hay over the fence to the horses and they feel the 200.00 a month is good money in my pocket. They, in a not so polite way, said they were moving. I could not believe what I was hearing. So I finally told the one that I am done with boarding other peoples horses, and I quit. She now speaks badly of me, and reading this blog, its exactly what I was trying to say to them. Oh, and there horses don’t leave much manure on the ground, so the one felt that I was a totally unfair when I told her how much waste a horse does a day that I need to clean up. Boarding horses is a not a very rewarding job financially, but you sure get a lot of appreciation from the horses.
It sounds like you have a fantastic place for horses and boarders. I’m sorry you have had a bad experience in the boarding business. (Your hay prices make me grateful that I’m in the MidWest!!). The horses don’t ask much, do they? Just good food, shelter, care and consideration. Thanks for commenting and for reading the blog post. Barbara
Amazing you were able to charge so little and stay in business. People really have no clue how much work caring for horses are.
so true. You forget that 5 years have gone by and cost have gone up and you don’t do a price increase. Straight off the bottom line. Pretty soon no profit.
” well healed clients” “well-heeled,” perhaps. Thanks for the article. Now I know not to bother any boarding facility with my pesky unrealistic self. I’ll just wait until I have my property and do it all myself. I have no profit motive. Zero drama.
Thanks for your correction. Sounds like you have a good plan. Barbara
The author makes many embittered, erroneous assumptions about those who board their horses. Without boarders, she would not have her mean, little business.
Never let it be said that I will not publish an unfavorable comment on The Riding Instructor. Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara
And this is the type of comment that comes from a boarder that wants everything under the sun for the least amount of money! Having had boarders for years I found that these comments by the author are right on track. Yes, you have nice, considerate boarders, but often you have demanding, inconsiderate, and sometimes rude clients and they are always the ones complaining. Typically theirs are the horses that cause the most trouble, costing the barn owner more for their care!
Don’t forget taxes. We owned a boarding facility in CO. The county changed our property tax status to business, for the entire acreage despite the fact that we had also been and still were breeders of both horses and sheep (long before we started boarding horses). The taxes forced us out of the business.
Oh Boy – Taxes. There’s a topic that could get those of us in the horse business in a conversation. Sometimes it seems like taxes and laws are created to make it almost impossible for small businesses to exist. I’m sorry this happened to you. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Where we live we also pay for water, over and above our taxes. I have a small breeding farm and boarding stable and this past year saw an increase of $50.00 per month for domestic water (horses drink this water) and my irrigation per year is just over 1400.00 in order to provide grazing for the horses that live here. My irrigation will double next year! All this for $250.00 per month!
Water has become its own big business. Those bills also go up in the summer when horses consume more water and owners rinse their horses down after a ride or just because it’s hot. Thank you for reminding us about irrigation, too. I appreciate your comment. Barbara
Don’t forget the cost of workers’ compensation insurance either. I have one employee. My workers’ comp premium just went up 500% to $1,525 a month. I did have a part-time employee, but I had to lay her off so I could keep up with the workers’ comp premiums. In California, workers’ comp is mandatory and there is a single provider for stables.
Wow! That is a large premium which adds even more to the costs of boarding horses. Thanks. Barbara
You started your article, The Good, The Bad and The Dramatic.
I’d like to mention The Bad in boarding, as in a medium to large herd. I just experienced my second near fatal incident with a herd bound/barn sour horse. 2 different horses. Needless to say I got rid of them. I don’t believe that can be fixed, no matter what trainers say. (1st reared & over, 2nd bronco bucked to get me off their back)
$300. mo. No separating from the herd.
Sorry to hear that you have had such bad experiences with horse ownership. I’m glad you were wise and chose to sell the dangerous horse. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
What a great article!! I got this from N. Follis in California. I have just closed my 10 horse barn to public boarding. I was losing almost a $1000 a month. They complained about my prices last time I raised them so, this time I just closed the barn to boarders. I only keep my horses there now. I was charging $550 and needed to charge at least $700 to break even!
Sorry to hear that you closed your barn to boarders. Horses are expensive animals no matter how you look at it but they must be expensive to the people who choose to own them, not the ones who provide the service and expertise. I hope you are enjoying more peaceful time with your own horses. Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor and thanks for your comment. Barbara
Bravo!!! I must say, I have never, nor will I probably ever, comment on any online blog post. But this article struck a cord, the author is 100% right. We are a 26 stall boarding facility, 118 acre barn, family run, no employees, no indoor, primarily recreational trail riders, that cannot understand the real life commitment made by barn owners (such as our family) or the real life PRICE of their horse. Nevermind, the occasional badly behaved horse we must deal with and the owner who refuses to believe it. Your last paragraph just really needs to be driven home. We all love our horses- but to appreciate the people who are working hard to sustain them is just overlooked. My mother has been in the business for 45 years, and she says to me “there is no joy in it for me anymore…these people have really made my heart tired” and that statement has devastated me ever since. We have been struggling with needing a board increase for over a year- with feed prices increasing substantially every year, and peoples unrealistic demands. Our last board increase was years ago and just a $15 dollar difference (0.5 cents a day!) And the uproar was ridiculous. We had one lady that even tipped her farrier and extra $200 at christmas time, and simply gave just a christmas card to her barn owner. What a shame. Thank you for writing this article, even if it just brought a smile to my mother’s face.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I’m glad you liked my blog post and am especially glad if it made your Mother smile. (Her statement makes me sad too) I bet she has put a lot of “extra” into horse lovers in her 45 years. Thank you for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara
Unfortunately, Boarding Barns are just one if many jobs/services that are underpaid. Don’t even get me started on all the unpaid, overlooked, undervalued, overtime work a teacher does every day ALL year long, NOT only just when school is in session! As one of these “lowly” teachers, my daughter & I thank God for some of the wonderful folks who run these underpaid Boarding Barns so people like us can afford to experience & enjoy the wonder of horses.
You’re right as far as teachers being under paid! You’ll get no argument from me! Most teachers I have known make nice horse clients because they understand another person’s work. I’m glad you and your daughter get to enjoy horses. Thanks for encouraging readers with your appreciation and thanks for commenting. Barbara
I wish that I had access to this article a few years ago. I finally closed my boarding barn after I turned 70 when the work became to much for too little. I actually had a boarder tell me that it only cost $100 or less to keep her horse and I was making a fortune! This was a horse that came in to me thin and took a lot of feed to get him looking normal and then maintaining
I think when you hear that it only costs $100 to keep a horse, you’re hearing from someone who has no concept of the other things that go into boarding, especially your time, effort and attention. It is a lot of work and the costs will sky rocket when you have to improve someone’s poor horse. That you even went to this effort shows that you would go “the extra mile” for your boarders. Kudos! Thanks for your comment. Barbara
As someone who has lived on both sides of the fence I can attest to the “hidden” costs associated with horse ownership. Fulilling client expectations while staying within budjet isn’t possible unless board prices increase to reflect the actuall expenses incurred while keeping boarders happy, however, increasing costs will then serve to make boarders unhappy…it’s hard to win in this game!
It’s a tough situation because horses are an expensive hobby for some and a business for others. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Very constructive. Both sides well documented
Great article. But the glaring typo is “well healed,” which should be “well heeled.” The expression comes from the fact that a well to do person wears fancy shoes, and would then be “well heeled.”
Thanks VRS for your correction. There are days I think it would be good to be well healed too! How about you? Barbara
Very well written.
I pay $1000.00 a month. When I board my horses.
I actually own a fantastic facility with 30 acres and an indoor arena 1/2acre.
In some situations it is more productive for my horse to be at the trainers facility and less costly due to his having a full staff.
Thank you for your comment. It sounds like your horses have a great place to live. I can see that having the horse at at the trainer at certain times would definitely make one more productive. Good luck with your horses! Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara
extremely well written and thought out article
wish there were a way to get all the barns in an area to meet monthly and discuss rates and other issuess
Such a good idea! Thanks for the compliment on the article. I appreciate the encouragement. Barbara
This is the Truth..
Thank you, Terry
I ran a boarding barn for 10 years. I absolutely loved the horses and am still friends with 50% of the people that boarded with me. The other 50%, I hope they found everything they wanted at the cheap price they wanted to pay. There is no money to be made in boarding horses, it is a labor of love.
Well said and I love your attitude. Thank you for reading The Riding Instructor. Barbara
I really appreciated your no nonsense approach to what goes into running a boarding barn. Years ago I had a 10 stall operation and it was a 7 day a week job. Fortunately for me, there were no drama queens or kings for that matter. That can make even harder to operate. I hope this who read this article take away a keener appreciation of what goes into running a boarding barn. Oh, not an 8 hour day as well. There at dawn and not leaving before dusk. Mike B.
Unfortunately Drama Queens (and Kings) seem to be on the increase as time goes by. It takes living the life of a horseman with the 24/7 care of animals to appreciate all that goes in to taking care of them. I’m always amazed how the horses save foaling for the middle of the night and emergencies for after vet clinic hours! Thank you for reading The Riding Instructor and taking time to post a comment. Barbara
Absolutely spot on! A very well rounded article with a discernible amount of consideration given to the subject at hand. Boarding barns are so often vilified for some reason or another (not to say that all barns are necessarily ‘good’ or honest) whether it be a perceived lack of care, lack of facilities, or high cost. Often time though, said barns are just trying to do the best they can with what they are able to charge. Not only that but they must put on a smile and good attitude while trying to placate the odd boarder who has absolutely zero idea of what things cost and feels that they are being cheated or treated unfairly.
Well said, John. Thank You
Great article!! As an instructor with my own (leased) facility I first thought having a couple of boarders would help off-set costs, after a few months I realized it was costing me more! I’ve made some revisions and now only horses in training are “boarders” and then its the owners responsibility to buy shavings and bag their grain. (I’ll clean, feed, and do the turn outs) I still only break even after I pay my rent, insurance, utilities, feed and my workers…..
It sounds like you have a good plan going. There is so much to boarding horses that goes unnoticed. Good luck to you. Thanks for your comment. Barbara
Thank you for this post. I am beginning a horse business after retiring from a career and I hesitate to move into a boarding business. Your idea of only boarding horses for training or to teach the owners is very appealing to me.
I’m glad to be helpful. Best of luck to you. Barbara
Where did these boarding figures come from-the remote reaches of China?
Assuming you actually want an answer… These figures are averaged from across the United States. There is a wide range of expenses across the U.S.- higher on the coasts- lower for feed in the MidWest- excruciating for hay in the SouthWest etc. Would you care to comment on the costs you incur in your boarding business? It would be good to have a comparison. I do think however that costs from the remote reaches of China would be a tad different… Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog post. Barbara
I am privileged to keep my horses at a wonderful family run facility where attention to details like proper nutrition, daily pasture turn out with a safe herd , constant supervision, attention to repair and maintenance of the faculty and state of the art riding facilities are all part of the package. I have had horses all my life and people often ask why I don’t live somewhere where I can keep my horses at home. My answer is that I could not provide the quality and consistency of care that my boarding facility provides let alone do it for the boarding fees I pay. I am grateful that there are people willing to provide quality services such as this to allow us to have horses in our busy lives. Thanks Charlie and Gay!!
Thank you so much for posting this! I think barn owners will want to clone you! I hope Charlie and Gay read this. And kudos to you Charlie and Gay…you must be doing something right! Barbara
This is an excellent article for both boarders and stable owners. I have been a stable owner in the past and am considering doing it again but have been racking my brain on how much to charge for board because I know how high the expenses are and how hard the work is. Thank you putting this into words!
Thank you for your comment. It’s very encouraging to know that I help a little bit. Barbara
Wonderful article. Tried to send it to my email, but the link wouldn’t work!
Thank you for your comment and for the heads up on the email link. I’ll check it out. Barbara
Thank you for this great article. Your right on! I have been on both ends of the experience as a boarder for about 15 years and a boarding facility for the same amount of time. I truly don’t believe boarders ever realize the financial end as well as how labor intensive this service can really be.
Thanks for your comment. I agree. It’s really hard to know unless you’ve had the experience in boarding horses. Barbara
This is the best article I have read.
Absolutely nailed it.
What most “boarders want” is their own horse property where they can take care of their horses the way that they want. Unfortunately, that is not something that most of us can afford to do and we are forced to board our beloved equines on someone elses property. Then we are forced to pay way more than we would if they were at home (in horse expenses only, not things like lawn mowers, water, electric etc that we would pay for regardless) and forced to comprimise on care and feed etc. Not to mention that depending on what area of the country you are in, “full care” may just mean feeding hay and mucking. I’ve added all my costs, it would be cheaper for me to lease a barn than to board my 2 boys and they would get better care (both have “special” needs that aren‘t being met due to no control over feeding/management issues at their respective barns). I understand large barns need to pay their bills, but in most cases they are getting way too much for board vs the actual cost per horse
It sounds like it would be a very good thing for you to lease a barn to take care of your two horses. It would save you a lot of stress and you could give your horses better care. You might be surprised at what you learn about horse care expenses. If you want your own property then I say go for it. It’s a good idea. Thank you for posting your comment. Barbara
“You might be surprised at what you learn about horse care expenses.”
I notice the assumption is the poster has no clue.
Actually Melissa the assumption is that there might be something to learn
Well having been a horse owner for 40+ years and always had them boarded out. My dream was to be able to have my horses on my own property I would even have these happy little dreams where I was shoveling my own horses poop and everything was grand! So I got married and my husband was great and made my dreams come true. He got us a beautiful place in Fallbrook, we moved the horses in and I started living my dream…NOT! The horses had to be fed, watered, stalls mucked 3 times a day, (I know I’m a bit anal with the stall mucking) Needless to say my lifelong dream was slowing turning into a nightmare. I missed having a life. I couldnt be gone for 2 long cause it was always time to feed the horses plus I missed my horsey friends back at the barn. Well I lived the dream for a year and then moved the horses back to the boarding barn! So for all you barn owners, stall muckers and stable workers out there I say “KUDOS” you are all Gods in my book! :o)
Thanks for telling us about your time taking care of your own horses. It’s a huge commitment for sure! I’ll bet you’re a great boarder! Barbara
Excellent article. Thank you!!!
Thank You, Tracy
Very well said I like how you broke down the cost time and expenses as you said if boarders can not afford a horse maybe they should try something else that does not cost so much again thank you when I say my board is $600.00 they look at me like I want to make millions lol
Thanks JoAnn…I’m controlling my comment on the part about making millions boarding horse! Smiling. Barbara
I appreciate your article; hiwvere, there are boarders who appreciate the services provided and are not trying to take vacations and make sure their horses are cared for so they don’t have to do it. That is really a very general statement that can be seen as offensive. Some of us board to have comradely of other riders, a good environment for our child riders and a healthy place to learn the commitments of horse care. My children have worked cleaning stalls, feeding and doing other barn chores since they were old enough to hold a pitchfork. We are at the barn almost 7 days a week for 5 hours each time.
I support my barn in so many ways. I think your generalist statements can be interpreted as offensive. I am sure many boards fall into these broad categorization a but there are exceptions to every “rule”.
You are such a nice exception to the rule and are probably one of the reasons people keep boarding barns open. The truth is that you are rare and sought after. I’m sure you let your barn owner know how much you appreciate their hard work.That kind of encouragement can go a long way. My statements should only be offensive if they apply to you, which obviously they don’t. If they offend a bad boarder then I guess we can call it a good thing. Thanks for making your comment. I’m glad to hear from someone who tries to be a great boarder. Barbara
AMEN! Well said!
Thank you, Aimee
All I can say is amen!!
Thank you, Sharon
What you say is so very true. The many things that make up the costs are so easily forgotten. Of course areas of the country are different in prices, but not too much so.
Thanks, Shirley. You’re right about the prices in different parts of the country. Barbara