There's an old saying in the horse world: "You can make a small fortune with horses, if you start out with a large fortune." If you have stalls or paddocks on your farm and want to make some extra money, opening a horse boarding stable is one way to do it. Just be realistic and don't quit your day job. The profit margin for boarding is slim, and it's a big, 24/7 responsibility.
Types of Boarding
"Full board," the most expensive option for a boarder, means that you supply hay, feed and bedding and do most of the basic work, including stall mucking. "Partial board" can mean that the boarder supplies their own feed and hay, but you are responsible for feeding and possibly for stall cleaning. "Self-care" is the least expensive option for the boarder and the least amount of work for you. The boarder simply rents a stall or paddock, but provides all of the feed and bedding and takes care of his own horses. While there are regional differences in these descriptions -- in the East, for example, self-care is often referred to as "rough board" -- these are the general types of board offered.
Figuring Your Costs
If you have horses of your own, you know how much it costs to keep them. If you run a boarding business, you must calculate more than the price of hay, grain and bedding per horse plus a fixed stall or paddock rental fee to determine your boarding costs. Factor in utilities, repair costs, insurance and the wages you must pay employees. If you plan on doing the work yourself, factor in the costs of your own time. Once you've run the numbers, see if the amount you must charge to make a profit is in line with what similar facilities in your area are charging for board. For stables offering horse training or riding lessons, boarding is often a loss leader; the real money is in these other fees. Realistically, small boarding operators should expect that taking in boarders allows them to keep their own horses at no cost, or provides the income equivalent to a part-time job.
Insurance and Incorporation
If you board horses, even one or two, you'll need equine liability insurance. Your homeowner's insurance won't cover damages incurred by your business, no matter how small. In addition to liability insurance, you'll require care, custody and control insurance for boarded horses. The latter covers injuries to the horse -- not those caused by the animal -- while it's in your care. In addition to insurance, have an attorney familiar with equines draw up a boarding agreement that all boarders must sign. It's also a good idea to create a limited liability company for your boarding business to protect other assets in case of a lawsuit.
Screening Boarders and Horses
When you operate a boarding business, you're dealing with two entities -- the owner and the horse. They both need to be a good fit. Screen potential boarders for their level of equine expertise. Beginners are usually better off at facilities offering training and lessons. Ask for references from veterinarians, trainers and farriers. Get detailed information about the horse, including whether or not the animal has any vices, such as cribbing, or whether he requires special care. If the horse might share a paddock with other equines, you must know if he plays well with others. There's no such thing as a perfect horse, but you must decide what you can and cannot deal with in a boarding situation.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.