A little surplus space in your barn used for boarding horses can give you some extra cash each month.
As with empty stalls in many barns, ours were filled with
junk. With a bit of work and a small cash investment, my
husband and I turned these unoccupied spaces into
moneymakers. After a few improvements, we advertised “Horse
boarding.” Two months later we were boarding horses, both stalls were rented and we
had an extra $400 each month. You can do it, too. Here’s
Getting Started Boarding Horses
To decide if horse boarding is for you, check out
facilities in your area. Ask what they charge and what they
offer. Barns have different levels of boarding, from full
service, where feed and care is provided — to basic
stall rental — where the client does everything. Visit
a few barns. If you see clients, ask them what they like
and dislike about their barn. Look at the size and
condition of the stalls. How are feed and tack stored?
What’s used for bedding and how is soiled bedding handled?
While it’s important to have some knowledge of horses, you
don’t need to be an expert. Most veterinarians and horse i
trainers are willing to share information.
Determine a price for your stalls by considering the nature
of your facility, ongoing expenses and startup cost. We
spent $1,000 making our two stalls and pastures ready for
boarding. We decided to offer full-service care, so I
estimated the additional monthly cost of feed, hay and
utilities. Because we didn’t have an indoor arena, we
charged less than top price. Still, six months later our
rental stalls had paid the debt and begun turning a profit.
Plan for backup help to take over chores when you’re gone.
It’s important to let your boarders know when you’ll be
away and who will care for their horses.
Setting Up Your Horse Boarding Area
Empty your stalls, clean and disinfect the area. We rented
a power washer and used a diluted bleach solution. Inspect
your stalls for loose boards or other problems. Some horses
crib (chew on wood), so we strapped a length of rigid
electrical conduit to the top edges. Horses may dig, so
stall mats are a necessity. Each horse needs a daily supply
of fresh water. For safety and convenience, stalls need a
light directly overhead.
If you have an arena, clean it up and rework the surface if
needed. Clear riding trails. We mowed tracks around our
field and along a nearby river bank.
Plan to store boarders’ feed in a separate bin.
Thirty-gallon plastic garbage cans are ideal. They hold 150
pounds of rolled oats, and the snap-lock lids guard against
rodent contamination. Add a saddle rack for each client in
your tack room. I built tack lockers mounted on a wall.
Each 30-inch square locker has a saddle rack, hooks for
gear and room for grooming tools. The doors can be
Assess ways to dispose of soiled bedding. Dumping on your
property is one choice. Some forest products or garden
supply companies haul away horse manure and bedding, which
they compost and resell. Remember to figure their fee into
your cost analysis.
If you plan to offer pasture, fence off individual areas
for each horse. Barbed wire is not acceptable around
horses. An electrified top wire will discourage
over-the-fence biting. Position gates so there’s individual
access to each pasture. We use tubular gates with
welded-wire panels, which prevent horses from putting a
head or foot through the gate.
You need a continuous source of water to outside troughs.
We installed float valves and shut-off valves so I can
clean the troughs or drain the system in winter if
Most states have an Equine Activity Statute. This law
recognizes the inherent risks associated with horses and
protects horse businesses from unwarranted legal action.
Some statutes require the boarder to sign a release.
Alaska, California, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New York and
Pennsylvania have no such law. If your state is covered,
post a copy of the official notice in your barn. Most horse
supply outlets sell these signs. Farm insurance policies
offer more coverage than typical homeowners’ policies.
Consult your agent for clarification of your coverage.
Before allowing any new horse on your grounds, require a
certificate of veterinary inspection to confirm the health
of the horse.
Horse Boarding: New Horse Check-In
The client is responsible for grooming, worming,
vaccinations and hoof trims, but you need to get the names
and telephone numbers of the veterinarian and farrier. Ask
about the horse’s diet. If you’re providing pasture and the
horse hasn’t been on grass, it will need a gradual
introduction. Get telephone numbers for the client and at
least one emergency contact for when the client is
Horse Boarding Routine
Designate separate water buckets fen each stall. I clean
the buckets weekly and use a bleach rinse monthly. If you
use a hose to fill buckets or water troughs, never allow it
to contact the container or the water inside: A
contaminated hose can pass disease.
Horses thrive on routine. Turn them in and out and feed
them at the same times every day. It’s also good business
to clean the stalls daily. We bed with fir shavings because
fir has no oils that can cause allergic reactions in
horses. Our two additional horses added only 20 minutes to
my daily chore time. During the summer we leave the horses
in their pastures, only bringing them in for their two
feedings. This allows the stalls to dry, discouraging mold
and bacteria growth. If there’s a heavy rainstorm, I bring
the horses in that night.
Bookkeeping for Your Homestead Business
Have an attorney approve a
contract for your boarders to sign. (See “Contract for
Horse Boarding,” page 89 in this issue.) If your state’s Equine Activity
Statute requires a signed release, include it with the
contract. Start a file for each stall and keep all
pertinent information. Consult an accountant for a complete
list of tax-deductible expenses. Using separate bins to
store boarders’ grain helps track the number of sacks you
use. Feed from separate hay bales and keep count. We board
in two of our five stalls, so I charge two-fifths of the
bedding expense to the business.
Marketing Your Homestead Business
You don’t need to spend much money on marketing. Most feed
stores have bulletin boards where you can hang a poster.
Check tack and western-apparel shops for similar boards.
Put up a sign near your place. The look of your sign and
posters reflects the professionalism of your business. Our
sign says “Horse Boarding,” and gives our telephone number.
It sits on a post at the head of the road. When people
call, give them a brief explanation of your services and
invite them to visit.
Add Something Special to Your Horse Boarding Business
Boarders appreciate our little extras. I’m fussy about
cleaning stalls and use a granulated clay product to
eliminate odors and moisture. Each stall is plumbed for
water. A supply of my homemade, nontoxic fly repellent is
always available for clients. They also appreciate the
intercom between the house and barn. It’s locked in the on
position so I can monitor horse activity from the house.
Another favorite is the lighting over the stalls, which are
on a timer giving the horses an hour of light to dine by.
It didn’t take long to discover the hidden treasure of our
business. We have a little extra income, and the enjoyment
of two more beautiful horses and two horse lovers-our kind
Deanna Mather Larson has been running her own horse boarding business in Springfield, Oregon, for the past year. her two boarders share the barn with Larson’s two horses and two llamas.
For more Information on Enquire Activity Statutes by
state try www.horse-insurance.com/law.html. For boarding
industry information, log on to www.agric.gov.ab.ca. Click
on “livestock,” then “horse care,” and finally choose ”