Staying afloat with your small horse boarding business

Keeping your small horse boarding business afloat is easier if you have land for turnout options

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Horse businesses are fraught with cash flow challenges. Economic fluctuations can dramatically affect both prices and demand for equine related offerings. Now, more than ever, we’re challenged with circumstances beyond our control. That makes staying afloat with your small horse boarding business a challenge. 

You can’t always predict big downturns. What we’re experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the associated business shut-down mandates from the government is unprecedented. Fortunately, there are ways to craft business strategies to help you weather even the most challenging times better. One key factor with horse businesses is diversifying what you offer and income streams. This can help your small horse boarding business remain viable.

In the meantime, finding quick ways to produce immediate additional income may be critical to your short-term survival. Below are some ideas to consider for fast cash activities with little or no related out-of-pocket expenses.     

 

Keeping your small horse boarding business afloat is easier if you have land for turnout options

5 ideas for horse facility owners to earn extra income

Stay-at-home orders are still in place in some areas of the United States. Where this isn’t the case, many are struggling with juggling childcare and work as schools shift to virtual learning. Horse competitions are just starting to be scheduled again, but a good number are shifting to virtual. All that makes it tough to earn income from typical small horse business offerings. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can quickly produce cash flow.  

  1. Offer to help get other people’s horses fit. 

    Conditioning training for both boarders and ship-ins is a welcome perk, particularly if you’re situated on a property with trails, hills, and decent footing. Consider reaching out to those competing with race horses, endurance mounts, or eventers. Your boarders might appreciate paying for this extra service too as they have less time or freedom to travel to the barn. Charge a fair rate for your time.

  2. Provide grooming services

    This can include everything from a daily rub down to prettying a horse up for presentation. Competitions are starting to resume, but there’s also a demand for getting horses ready for photos, auctions or buyers. Pulling manes, polishing, clipping, and braiding are all add-on services that can bring in from $15-$100 per horse or more. Don’t just market to those in your barn. It’s wise to book multiple jobs on the same day before you travel to other facilities. You’ll likely pick up additional business while there too, if you want it.          

  3. Charge boarders for the extras

    It’s easy to start absorbing mounting expenses when you’re trying to be nice. These good deeds often go unappreciated. It’s appropriate to ask to be compensated for things like trailering, holding horses for the blacksmith or vet, turnout, and injury care. If you’re providing this on a routine basis, reflect the cost in your board fees. You might also want to indicate how much is too much. Alternatively, put people on notice you’ll be charging for these items in the future and distribute a price list.

  4. Sell your manure

    COVID-19 has spurred a return to gardening. That makes good compost a high demand item. If you have the space to pile it on your farm, it’ll be cured to the black gold people are looking for in 3-6 months. You can have people bring their own bags for a self-serve approach, or charge by the bucketload as you dump the stuff into a pickup bed. It’s best to offer this by appointment only to control disruptions and traffic to your site. A good manure selling strategy can not only provide unexpected profits, but also eliminate a big cost if you’re paying to have someone haul it away.

  5. Provide a turnout board option

    If you have the land to do effective rotational grazing, this can save you and your boarders money in building maintenance and feed costs. Right now, many people are struggling to make ends meet with job losses and other unexpected challenges. 
    Allowing some boarders to shift their horse to a pasture living situation may help them pay bills on time while also giving you more accurate cash flow projections. In times like these, boarders often fall behind on their bills. Staying current with lesser out-of-pocket costs on your part is better than subsidizing hundreds of dollars in feed and facility costs month after month. 
    Adequate shelter, such as run-in sheds, and clean daily water is a must. In my experience in a northern climate, 3-acre pastures are the easiest to manage. Four or five horses can graze on these in spring, summer and fall for a few weeks. Put gates between pastures for easier rotation. Mow behind the horses to reduce weeds and keep pastures healthier. 
    Don’t forget to factor in the cost of additional hay when pastures are poor. You’ll also have to be careful acclimating horses to a grass diet as doing so too quickly will cause founder.


It’s probably going to be a while before we get back to what used to be normal – at least in the United States. Now’s the time to start getting creative about alternate streams of income. Doing so will not only serve you today, but well into the future. Horse businesses that are successful diversify. When one area tanks, you can rely on others to maintain cash flow. Consider what else you can do with your property to keep you staying afloat with your small horse boarding business. You might be amazed at what you come up with once you quit stopping yourself from exploring the possibilities.

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