Boarding other people’s horses, what does it take?

Based on the feedback and comments I’ve been receiving there are plenty of you that would love to set up a small to medium sized horse boarding stable or simply board other people’s horses as an extra source of income, but there is nowhere to go for real answers.

There is also the common myth that there is no money to be made in this business. Based on my own personal experience, I don’t support that myth. While you may not get rich in this business, you certainly can generate a descent second income that would allow you to work from home and provide your children and family a lifestyle that many would envy. What is also really cool is that with a little creativity you can make this business to be anything you want.

From what I’ve learned in my own research, designing and building the barn, setting up the business side of things and actually running the show, is that there are plenty of things that could turn your love into a nightmare if you’re not careful.

Some of my biggest fears and questions that were staring me in the face when I started this journey were:

  • Do I really know enough about horses and what they need?
  • Do I know what to do if they get injured or sick?
  • Do I know enough about their nutritional requirements?
  • How will I compete with the bigger barns?
  • Can I make money at this?
  • How do I attract the right kind of people?
  • What if my boarders don’t pay me?
  • Will people respect my property and home, and what will I do if they don’t?
  • What if things get stolen?
  • What if people decide to have a party and bring alcohol to the barn?
  • How will I deal with difficult people?

…and a host of other things.

And I’m not alone…

Over the past few years I’ve learned and developed a number of systems to deal with my realm of horse boarding. And for any of those issues that I’ve just mentioned, and many more, I’ve figured out a solution that works …

As a result I’m very interested in creating educational material and training programs that will have the highest impact for each of you contemplating getting into horse boarding, or perhaps for those of you already into horse boarding and wishing to improve your business.

Right now I’m in the process of creating an in-depth book which would also be available in an eBook format. From there I may expand it to a DVD or online self-study program specifically created for the small to medium sized facility, and perhaps even larger. The content would be focused on the ins and outs of setting up a safe and healthy environment for horses, a fun environment for boarders, and a good solid set of business principles and processes that ensures the health of the business itself.

The program would be for anyone wanting to get into this business and those already in the business looking to improve.

I have a ton of research already in front of me that I’m in the process of organizing. But I don’t feel that’s enough.

I need to know what YOU would like to know. What are YOUR top burning questions? Your frustrations? What kind of information is important to you? And of course, is something like this even something you’d be interested in?

To make sure that this is of TRUE VALUE to you I’d love to hear what particular topics YOU would love to see covered.

So, please do me a favor…

Leave me a comment below, and let me know your thoughts about this.

What do you think? Would you invest in a program like this one? What format would you prefer? For example: a book, an eBook, a DVD self-study program or an online coaching program?

What do you think the right PRICE would be for either one of these?

Do you have any recommendations of books, audio programs or videos I should reference to add to my own experience? Any tips of your own? Any key thinkers in this area I might not know about?

If you’re a barn owner reading this, what would be the top three things you would implement right away if you had to do it all over again?

Go wild in the comments – I sincerely appreciate it!!

And if you’d like to be involved with the occasional survey, question, discussion, or share your stories, leave me your email address to the top right from here. As an active participant you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book once it’s published.

I look forward to your involvement!

Ronaye Ireland

Reader's Comments

94 Responses to “Boarding other people’s horses, what does it take?”

  • But here is the real question would any of you charge a boarder for a service that you weren’t providing? For example if your boarder brought in their own grain would you still charge them the full board price?

    • Hi Tom,

      I’ve build in a feed budget into the amount I charge for board. I allocate $150 per month to food for the horse as part of the board (full board) that people pay me. That would include hay and grain. If board is $575, then $150 of that $575 is to pay for food. If a horse needs more food then the budget allows, the owners get billed for the difference.

      I generally don’t allow owners to bring their own feed other than supplements or something that’s very much out of the ordinary. I just don’t have the room to store it. Plus I’m responsible for the well being of the horses and have found that nutritional knowledge is very lacking in those who rely on boarding facilities. Sweet feed for instance is a real pet peeve of mine as it generates too much energy for a horse that’s hardly exercised. That poor horse becomes stressed and a menace to the rest of the herd because they have to expand it somewhere. When you have limited space for turnout that becomes a real issue.

      I make it very clear to potential new boarders that we use the feed I stock and they get to see exactly what I have and decide accordingly. Everything is nutritionally balanced and I have charts to back it up.

      But if you do want to provide that option where they can bring their own feed, work the real cost against what you allow for feed per month and give them a discount for what they bring in.

      I don’t provide discounts because a person doesn’t require a service I’m offering as part of the package. When they choose my facility it’s very clear what they’re paying for. If they want something else, then they need to shop around some more.

      Hope that helps :)

    • Tom…definitely yes!

      It is an administrative nightmare to keep straight who is getting what service, when they start or stop, etc. In other words, you have to take into account that boarders may change their mind at any time and then want the service you just agreed to not charge for. Each month you may have 10 different people getting 10 different things and have to figure out 10 different charges. Allowing adjustments on board also opens up a door for others to complain that they do not use the washstall, so therefore they should be discounted on their board as well. It just gets too crazy so I charge ONE price whether the boarder uses all the services or not. The point of your board price is that all the services you carry are available to the boarder at any time, therefore they are paying for the convenience of service availability, make sense? If you had a hotel with a pool, and one of your clients stayed there, but did not swim in the pool during their stay, would you give the client a discount because they didn’t use all the services? No…and a boarding stable is NO different because it is a BUSINESS too. Hope that helps.

  • Hi, I’ve been boarding horses for 6 months now and just had a colicky horse that the boarder insisted we take to the vet while she was out of town. I did not have a clause written into the agreement other than veterinary care is the responsibility of the owner and if I need to seek a vet in case of an emergency that the owner is responsible. How do i decide what to charge for this and how should I write this into the contract? Neither of my boarders have trailers and we couldn’t find a vet to come out on a Sunday night. I really don’t want to be transporting horses with my trailer if I can every help it.
    Thank you!

    • Holly, It is unusual that a veterinarian service does not have coverage on weekends, but if that is the case, then that puts you in a tight spot. Normally, the stable would just call a vet out for a sick horse and the horse owner is then responsible for payment, even if they are out of town.

      But, if vet service is not available on weekends (or Sundays) then that means your boarder knew this as well and before she went on vacation, she is then responsible to ask you if you would take care of the horse BEFORE she goes on vacation. Otherwise, she is responsible to have a contact to take care of the horse including trailering when necessary, when she cannot do such things for her OWN horse.

      In other words, she allowed YOU to be her scapegoat and denied her OWN responsibility to her horse of securing care for her horse while SHE was gone (another dead beat horse owner).

      I would definitely charge whatever YOU feel your time was worth and do not worry about overcharging as you are doing something over and above the line of duty. If the boarder does not like what you charge, then maybe next time, they will remember to secure care for their horse during vacations and leave you (the boarding facility) hanging.

      • correction…I meant

        If the boarder does not like what you charge, then maybe next time, they will remember to secure care for their horse during vacations and “NOT” leave you (the boarding facility) hanging.

  • I have enjoyed reading all the feedback, comments and concerns on boarding. I have been a boarder of at least 1 horse starting when I was 8, I had to clean stalls and feed to help my parents pay board. My partner and I now have a ranch with a few extra stalls in the barn, 2 turnouts with a nice lean-to shed and a very large pasture. We live on about 140 acres. We have a neighboring property owner (does not live out here, but in town) that would like to board her horse here. We have 2 of our own. My concerns are…what if it colics? What kind of “rounds” do I need to make to check on it? Do I turn it out with my horses if she wants? What if it gets hurt playing in the pasture by one of our horses, or hurts one of our horses? Should I require a coggins and all vax that I do to be current? We use a feed thru fly control and predators to control our fly issue. Do I require her to do a feed thru also? If not, it cancels out my feed thru. We travel frequently and use a ranch sitter, how does that work? We know this person, somewhat, but I have learned in the past that things can still get kinda dicey when it comes to peoples critters. (I was a vet tech for many years/ now I have a Ranch-Sitting business). And fencing..we have a lot of slick wire in pasture, a little barb (I hate, working on that, unacceptable in my humble opinion) and a lot of wood. Cuts, scrapes and escapes?? I am just playing devils advocate as my partner seems to not think of these things so much. He just thinks it is an easy thing to do, me not so much. That is one more to pick up after, worry about, walk out to the turnout and my young endurance horse is just beginning his career. I told him I would keep him separate. I would SO NOT be happy if his career was cut short. I would also feel awful if anything happened to her horse. I told him we need to think about liability and extra work, not to mention someone in our space often. Not sure how I feel about that. Any insight????

    • Hello Pam, and here is a typical concern of boarding horses.

      You are correct to wonder about all the bad things that can go wrong while boarding someone else’s horse. And many things do…that’s why you need a solid boarding contract and release of liability form for the potential boarder to sign.

      In case of the worst, an injured or sick horse, you need to protect yourself because even when you do everything right, things can still go wrong !!

  • Hi there,
    We are currently in the process of buying a property that has a 8 stable barn and a 1/2 mile track. It also has a 60 acre forest which we plan on cutting trails into. We would like to rent out the barn and/or track but we are not horse people ourselves. We love them but have never had them or been exposed to them very much. What would you suggest in setting up this business and hiring someone to run it? How do you find a reputable person to run a stable? What types of things can we offer to generate revenue large enough to support paying someone to run it for us and still generate a small profit? My concern would be in having someone who would take care of them properly so that all are safe and healthy. I’ve also wondered about charging a smaller fee to have owners board the horses but completely care for them themselves, come and feed them, turn them out ect themselves, signing a waiver in their contract that makes them completely liable for their own animal. But I don’t know if this is common or if there would be an interest in this.
    Any advice would help at this point as we want to be as prepared as we can be with this property.


    • Hello, when you have the means of boarding horses but do not have the knowledge, you are asking for trouble. Unless you have a person whom you can trust to show and train you in.

      Therefore, the latter of your comment makes more sense…allowing others to board their horses as a “self-care” facility. This way, the boarders are responsible for the care.

      But it is still a benefit to you to know the basics of horse care in case you are stuck with the task at a time when you least expect it.

      There are self care facilities, however, most people cannot be there everyday to care for their horse. Self care may appeal to individuals who cannot afford the full care boarding facilities. But a watch out is that these same individuals forget to show up some days, forcing you to pick up their slack.

      Have a solid contract detailing what the self boarder is responsible for and write what would happen if they do not show up for their chores. Charge a high price for a no-show where you end up doing their work or paying someone else to do it.

      Doesn’t sound very lucrative anymore does it? Good luck !!

  • Over the years we have had good and bad. I also own rental properties and have had both good and bad tenants.

    While in my prior post I mentioned only the deadbeats, I failed to mention that over the course of 20 years we had 5 dead beats and that most of our boarders were decent folk and some us forged friendships long after they moved on.

    I guess my advice would be: If you are the type of person who would enjoy being a landlord and that fits your personality , then you will probably be successful, if you are not clearly able to be all business when you need to be than you may find you’ll be taken advantage of. That doesn’t mean you can’t give some slack here and there, because people do have emergencies in life. But you need to balance what is kindness and what is business.

    If you do this long enough you start to see a pattern. The excuses will be the same. What I find funny is the deadbeats don’t realize that the deadbeat before them used the same excuses almost verbatim. If I have a good tenant, then I will work with them if once in a blue moon they have an emergency and are late on the rent.

    The difference is the good tenants will tell you ahead of the due date. The deadbeats will not pay and you will have to approach them and that’s when they will give you the same old excuses.

    The most popular lame excuses from horse boarders to apartment tenants are. “I had the money and was all set to pay you and . …someone stole it, the truck broke down….they had to go out of town to get married, they had to pay their mother’s rent or she would be homeless.etc..etc….
    I’ve heard it all.

    • You are spot on regarding deadbeat boarders. And I applaud that you can see through them, yet also have understanding for the ones who are honest and trying.

      I have given leeway at times as well, but (like you) would only do so for a boarder who never causes any problems.

      Then I also expect the boarder to follow through or you’re back to square one again. Doing so, keeps the clients and business in check.

      Like you said, there has to be a balance.

    • This is very helpful. I do have one question, I will be possibly boardig a few horses once we get Into our new home when my husband gets out the military, and starts his new job. I always wondered how to actually set a price? What’s a reasonable price that isn’t to outrageous or to low. That’s my number one struggle on this dream of mine.

      • Setting a price depends on a variety of things like:

        Location – is it easily accessible and close to town or way out in the sticks?

        Size and age – is it a small or large facility…is it an older or newer one?

        Services – do you offer indoor and/or outdoor boarding, training, trail riding, shows, lessons, de-worming, blanketing, etc?

        Turnout – do you offer paddocks or grass pastures with acreage, all day turnout or partial?

        Stalls – do you offer stall cleaning and bedding or is it a do-it-yourself type facility?

        Amenities – how many other items do you offer like lounge, restrooms, lockers, wash stalls, tacking aisles, storeroom, etc.

        As you can see there are MANY things that can determine price. In the beginning, charge a minimum to at least stay above water. Then as your business stabilizes over time, raise prices to a comfortable level. Then by the third year you should have a good idea what you need to charge to stay in business.

  • We have had our share of deadbeats over the years. Here how it goes, they fall behind in rent, they promise to pay soon (as soon as they get that tax rerun check…yeah right)

    Once they have lined up a new place , they will start to nit pick your farm. Too dirty, too many rules, someone stole my feed or hay, your kids or your horses are distressing their horses, your horses have a disease, not enough water pressure …….on and on….one day they come in with a helper or 2 and say”I told you to fix these things and you didn’t ” so therefore they are leaving and not paying the back rent because they shouldn’t have to since you were such a terrible boarding facility (of course it was the best place around until they couldn’t pay the rent).

    The best excuse was “I had a $50 bill the feed bin and you or someone else took it, I’m out of here , you guys took my money and this place sucks…..and btw, now I’m not going to pay the rent that YOU charged me.

    Some horse people are a piece of work. Many of these type of “rescuers” (collectors / animal hoarders) get in over their head. They are suppose to be rescuing , yet when it doesn’t live up to their fantasy…..the horses end up at a terminal auction

    • Looks like you have a good grip on things and understand whats happening. I too, have lived this nightmare too many times and would like to reiterate and respond with solutions.

      Boarders who fail to pay –
      Some try to veer your attention off of (them) not paying you by coming up with everything under the sun what’s wrong with you and your barn. Actually, this as a threat to you personally and to your business professionally.

      Solution –
      Give NO leeway to boarders like this and immediately give them 24-48 hours to leave your property.

      Then sue for the balance of board due…or if it was minimal, take the loss (it would have been much more loss if you continued boarding without payment anyways).

      Note: Once boarders stop paying, chances are, they do not resume.

      Rewards –
      Getting the boarder out sooner than later ends any more conflict or drama in your barn (which the rest of your boarders will appreciate).

      You also set a precedence in your barn that you are not a pushover and will not tolerate bad behaviors from anyone. It also shows leadership, self respect, and honest business.

      Consequence for boarder –
      Boarders who choose to continually act inappropriate and/or do not pay are usually the ones who also hop from barn to barn. Eventually though it catches up with them and all the barns in their area know.

  • using a facility for what it was intended…. i market as an equestrian center… i have a contract with stated hours for weekends, holidays as i live on site… yet i find boarders with snow shoes and spouses of boarders…as i have the area to do snow shoeing..why can’t people be respectful instead of pushing the margins all the time..

    • Here’s an idea –

      Post a few signs close to where boarders may enter onto the parcel which you like to be restricted to boarders, that reads “No Entrance – Private Property”. Done. End of story.

      This way, you do not have to say anything to anyone, (except those who cannot read or if they are blind). Some people are bold and think since they pay for your services ALL your stuff is theirs to use.

      Be one step ahead and EXPECT them to push the margin. It is human to get the most bang for your buck. So if people can get away with using your whole property for a great activity or mini-vacation, they will!

  • i started 1.5 years ago in boarding.. had a very well written contract…

    First boarder with 3 horses lasted 47 days. Found out she had been to 8 barns in the area.

    Second boarder brought in her bucket horse got scared of it asked for help. Vet says horse needs to lose weight, she keeps feeding more.

    Third boarder brought in underweight horse with abscessed foot. Asked for help then didn’t pay for all my time.. now she is running all over the property looking for the hay storage. We have it locked up as she is letting other horses loose and destroying supply. Because she could find supply, she stated horses hadn’t been fed for 5 days. I have 12 horses on 213 acres.. do you know what would happen if they weren’t fed.. she brought hay on the property and fed two groups of horses which weren’t hers cause the horses looked hungry.. She’s been told no feeding products to anyone’s horses but your own without approval…

    Next boarder brings in 4 horses on work contract..i see that boarder 4 times in 5 work done..emails to them stating issues need to be needs to be done..thankfully with contract issues of all can be addressed but boarders today are not the boarders of yesterday.

    I pay a 60K policy rider just for them.. and had one boarder produce a false policy of liability…I pay almost 6k PER YEAR and I’ve had several tell me they don’t need to tell me when the vet is coming or that it’s ok if they want to bring extra equipment for me to store on the they own the property..

    I waited for a vet to show, he was cancelled by the call to me..according to the boarder that was my issue..i choose to have respect for a professional and prepare for them..

    I’ve boarded, rented, leased, and owned..and never had this much disrespect for the person taking care of my horses as i have been shown..i know why in my area there are so many private barns..

    • Sorry to say, when you are too nice and forgiving, people walk all over you. You say that you were a good boarder (and I believe you), but that may be your trouble….you’re expecting everyone else to be like you and things should then be easy.

      Fact is, when you are the barn owner, you must EXPECT some controversy and dishonesty as it is human nature. This way, you are not blinded by it and ready to deal with it as it comes.

      When problems arise, adjust your strategy to meet your business and personal needs and put those needs AHEAD of your boarder’s.

      Then, if anyone happens to not fit into your new plan or schedule, rid yourself of those clients who show disrespect towards you OR your business.

  • Really a great idea! We just bought 21 acres in Virginia and have a 2 stall barn.
    We will probably add a run-in shed. Our fencing and cross fencing are all very good.
    We are planning to board 4 horses here and would love to find out what we don’t
    know which is probably a lot.
    Especially interesting would be chapters on IRS issues. We plan to run this as a
    business and want to make it as professional as possible.
    We look forward to your book.

  • We are just starting out and will look forward to your book/dvd. We have an area for around 6 horses in a rural area in Colorado.Every thing you mentioined you wanted to cover sounds good. Thanks

  • First of all, thank you for creating this site. This is what I have been looking for. And this is why…

    My husband and I stepped into the horse world 8 months ago by purchasing an active self boarding facility. This has been quite the adventure to say the least. After the initial shock/adjustment from making the decision to actually doing it, we walked into this with what we thought was good business sense and good common sense. While that has been helpful, I know that there is so much more I need to know. And much that should have been done differently from the beginning.

    You asked for the top 3 things we would implement if we could do it all over again. Mine are: 1) Create a Contract, 2) Establish Privacy Boundaries, 3) Research Comparables in the community.

    Creating the contract itself resolves the last two items if done properly. But where does one go for a basic template? One that can be personalized to a facility’s particular style? I looked online several hours before finding the one I could use as a model. One of your topics discusses 5 styles of boarding. It would be helpful to offer a basic contract template for each style.

    Establishing boundaries is important to both the farm owners and horse owners. Since we inherited existing horse owners, we decided to gleen insights this first year before implementing changes. In hindsight, one year is too long. Three to six months would have been better all around for various reasons. For one, there are surprise requests from horse owners to use the facility other than intended, such as fishing, camping, hunting, etc. How does one tactfully say this is my personal home, why would they even ask? We would prefer the horse owners keep to horse activities such as trail riding, practicing in the ring, and letting their horses enjoy the pasture. Another touchy issue is late boarding fees. Late payments create schedule problems, emotional annoyance, and questions about what is reasonabley late. How does one decide? Are late fees reasonable?

    Recently we began considering what nearby farms look like. We know the stable/tac room could use some improvements and would love to investigate what other have and what works and why before making our improvements. Aside from the horses needs, what are the most important to the owners? Our stable lacks a bathroom and I can’t believe there isn’t one there! Is that normal? What is the best bathroom system to implore?

    So from all that is mentioned above, and so much more, I am definitely interested in resources to improve horse farm living from the business perspective of the farm owner, with insights for the horse and the horse owner. They all go hand in hand for a successful, happy life.

    • My thoughts:

      Facilitate boundaries into the contract as well as posting rules in your barn for everyone to see. This way, there is no excuses not to follow or not to know what they are. And then engage in a “no tolerance” policy and state so in any set of rules you display.

      First and foremost, it is your business and if you want order, then set your precedence with strict guidelines for everyone to follow.

      Changes to current barn rules can be made immediately upon taking over. You have invested in the business (not the boarders) and you have the right to run it as you see fit immediately.

      Regarding late fees…yes they are normal in all businesses. A horse stable is a business similar to rental property (boarders rent the stalls and facility). If do not put a price on being late, you will find many late payments and your business will suffer.

      Bottom line, it is YOUR facility to offer what services you like to and at a price you like for it. There are no “stable police” forcing you to offer or allow something that you’d rather not.

      • Regarding the Late Fee,this is what I have found worked for me to eliminate it. I had a couple of boarders who were always paying late and I questioned them on it. It wasnt that they couldnt pay it,it was just they couldnt pay it by the 1st of the month because of other bills and the way they got paid(bi weekly,once a month ect..)So we sat down and figured out when during the month they could pay it and wrote it into their boarding contract. I worked with the boarders to resolve the problem before it became an issue for me, boarders are happy and I know when the checks are coming in so I can budget for the business.

        • I have tried that as well, but with different results…the payment STILL CAME late! Remember that not all customers are honest and some ask for more time to take advantage of (gullible) barn owners.

          One time I made an exception and gave a client extra time to pay her board, to find out later that she went on a vacation while making me wait for board…but I still took good care of her horse.

          Just a thought…what if you didn’t feed a boarder’s horse for a day or two and waited for the boarder to ask you why you did not feed. Then answer back “Well, I couldn’t pay for feed this week, so I will just feed your horse when I have the money next week”. Do you think for a second that they would be so understanding?

          Please remember that your stable is a business and it needs to run like one. When board is due, it is expected to be paid. If it is late, a fee will incur. This is standard among ALL businesses and boarding stables are no exception.

          If customers expect you to customize plans, then they are missing the point, or is a way for them to be undependable and late. You need to value yourself and your business enough to make rules and explain to clients why they are in place and need to follow.

          Remember, if you curtail any of your rules for one person (like customizing board payments) then you have to do the same for all. This can get quite messy and create unnecessary stress on the business.

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