Start a Horse Hotel Business

How to manage temporary equine quarters.

| May/June 1984

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    Contented guests at the author's Florida Panhandle horse hotel peacefully await their next meal (or visitor, whichever comes first!).
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    A safe and simple, but efficiently designed, stall with plenty of fresh air and filled with lots of clean bedding awaits its next guest. (The low haybox allows the horse to eat naturally, with its head lowered as when grazing.)

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Most members of the mink-and-manure set, those horse enthusiasts who spend a great deal of time, energy, and money on their animals, eventually find themselves taking to the open road with their hooved investments . . . in pursuit of faraway competitions, veterinary specialists, trail rides, farriers, and so on. These trips require hours of planning and elbow grease beforehand . . . and massive doses of stamina and patience en route. You see, hitching and loading the trailer is only the beginning of the story: Once on the road, countless stops are called for in order to attend to such things as motor troubles, periodic mucking out of the back, replenishing water and feed, and so forth. So it's a weary caravan indeed that seeks relief at the day's end. However, before the people on board can eat or rest, suitable overnight accommodations must be found for the horses.

Unfortunately, well-maintained temporary equine quarters (privately owned "horse motels") that are run by caring individuals who live on the premises—and can therefore provide maximum security against theft and cruelty—are few and far between. As a result, equestrians are often forced to either drive on through the night or stop and camp with their horses.

And considering the thousands of horses that are hauled over our highways yearly (especially during the show season that runs from mid-April through early fall), it's a real shame that there aren't more horse motels around. Right now, the demand for good, honest hoofer hostels far exceeds the supply.

However, this could be where you come in. If you live near, on the way to, or in the middle of horse country . . . if you enjoy horses . . . if you know how to handle equines or know a nearby professional who could teach you how . . . and, finally, if you have an old barn, unused outbuilding, or vacant half-acre or so of land that could be turned into rental stalls, you might want to consider opening up a horse hotel. Your start-up costs for the enterprise (which could turn into a very rewarding sideline business) would only involve the construction materials needed to set up shop, and your ongoing overhead should be pretty minimal. (After all, horses don't need color television sets or heated swimming pools!)

Stable Setup

If you decide to take up managing a horse hostelry, the type of barn you construct (or, if you're lucky, reconstruct or simply equip) can be as plain or as elaborate as your finances and tastes dictate. Still, there are a few basic guidelines to follow. For one thing, four-legged guests who've been riding around all day in narrow rigs are much happier in a roomy box stall than in a trailer-like tie or standing space. A conventional 10' X 10' area is fine for a tiny 14-hand Arab, but a big-boned 16-hand Thoroughbred needs a couple more feet on each side. And because your guests will arrive in a variety of shapes and sizes, you'll probably be better off building "one size fits all" 12' X 12' stalls.

Most horses traveling cross-country are perfect ladies and gentlemen and are used to sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings and seeing new faces. Occasionally, however, a troublemaker will happen along, so be prepared: Construct solid, kick-resistant walls between stalls, and place meshed (hoof proof) fencing across the fronts. This arrangement will allow for plenty of light and ventilation and for adequate separation of neighbors.

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