View Full Version : Pros and Cons of running a horse B&B

Jul. 29, 2012, 08:30 PM
Our farm is set up as an LLC and originally designed as a small boarding/training facility with other moderate income coming from the sale of eggs and jams, jellies, salsas etc. that my husband makes from the fruits and vegetables he grows in our round pen.

Now that DD has moved out and taken with her the training business along with our 2 horses, we are looking for ways to keep our little farm viable as a small business. DH wants to graze a small herd of beef cattle and sell shares to family and friends but I confess although i am a meat eater, I don't think I can face slaughtering something I have fed and cared for. (More power to those who can, I just know my own limitations.)

My new big idea is to provide overnight lodging for horse owners going to and from FL or just traveling, since we live about 15 mins off I-95. While our barn is clean and airy with fans, wash rack etc, and we have 3 stalls with mats, it is definitely NOT fancy, we have no ring, only access to trails, and the approach to the farm could be offputting--you drive through a slightly dodgey neighborhood, which dead ends into our dirt road up into the woods. Once you arrive the privacy is very nice...it's the getting here that worries me.

( I don't want people to hear dueling banjos when they were expecting Southern Pines chic if you get my drift.)

We envisioned people staying in our attached studio apartment, and having like bagels and muffins/coffee in the AM with their horses either staying out in the pasture or inside. Sounds idyllic and quite doable based on what I've seen on national horse hotel listing services...but the reality is always colder and harder.

If anyone has experience in this industry, or care to comment I would appreciate your input:
Is the cost of upfitting the apartment with flat screen TV, nicer furniture, cutting down some trees to make more room for trailers to turn in driveway, not to mention if we need zoning approval for the change and state inspection/approval worth what may provide just a couple hundred dollars a year? I would hope a lot more, but I'm trying to be realistic.

Has anyone done this successfully? Is it a potentially viable business model?


Jul. 29, 2012, 10:02 PM
I would think that there would be a big difference between an "equine B&B" and a "horse motel" for overnight stops.

Go to horsemotel.com and look at the rates most folks charge. That will give you some idea of income. It will also tell you if there is any competition at your interstate exit.

There are also a couple of other overnight services. Google "horse motel" and they'll show up.

I don't know about others, but when we travel we want an easy in, easy out, and no frills. We have a "weekender" LQ so we need a 30A hookup and a water hose. We sleep in the LQ (and expect to pay a hookup fee). We prefer small, outdoor paddocks (as the horses have been in the trailer all day and need the exercise). Dinner on arrival is in the LQ. Breakfast in the a.m. is coffee, juice, something quick, and gone.

You also have to think about your overnight market. Do just want individuals or would you be able to put up a large trailer load?

For a real B&B I think you are aiming at a very narrow audience if you look for an "equine B&B." If I were so interested I'd want to know where the trails were and if I could get there without hauling. That would be a BIG PLUS. Or maybe it might be an "overnight" on a multi-day "inn to inn" ride. These are common in Europe, but not so much here.

There are a lot of questions to answer, here. Good luck in doing your research. :)


China Doll
Jul. 29, 2012, 10:57 PM
AGREE with above. For an overnight I want better access of interstate for a B&B I want more to do like at Gayla or something.

What about renting you barn out for self care? YOu might get 125 per horse or 300.00 for the whole barn.
Rent out the studio appt. monthly for income.

Jul. 29, 2012, 11:03 PM
I did this for awhile but most of the time folks showed up late at night and I just hated having to deal with them at that hour. I mean like 9 or later. It was just to disturbing to the rest of the barn and having to get everyone i and settled, etc. And I only did overnights. Not the B&B also.

Jul. 29, 2012, 11:28 PM
The barn I board at is an easy three minute drive off the interstate, on a major, paved road with street lights most of the way, and does a lot of overnight boarding. With road construction and travel delays, the layover horses almost never arrive on time. That's an inconvenience for the staff, but at least they live on-site, so they can make sure the horses get settled in.

I'd say location is a big considereation when choosing an overnight boarding facility. For those who want a few days of R&R with their horses, if you have something special to offer, try it. Look at what makes your place special, and attractive. Figure out who your customer is, and get a plan together.

Good luck!

Jul. 29, 2012, 11:33 PM
" we live about 15 mins off I-95. While our barn is clean and airy with fans, wash rack etc, and we have 3 stalls with mats, it is definitely NOT fancy, we have no ring, only access to trails, and the approach to the farm could be offputting--you drive through a slightly dodgey neighborhood, which dead ends into our dirt road up into the woods."

Not good and certainly isn't a selling point at all. A woman towing a trailer does not want to drive through a "dodgey" neighborhood. What do you consider dodgey? Punks hanging out on streetcorners? Rap and gangbangers? I'd worry about spending the night around dodgey and sure wouldn't want to ride with the cast of Deliverance nearby.

So, you've got a real problem with selling your place. I sure know driving a rig up a dirt road you don't know into the woods would keep my away. It sounds like a beginning to 25% of most horror movies.

Jul. 30, 2012, 11:15 AM
Thanks for all the replies. I did google horsemotel.com and learned a great deal about comparative pricing and amenities. There seems to be a fairly wide range of services which is why I thought we MIGHT be competitive.

To clarify a couple of points; Layover horse motel is exactly right. The only reason I misused "B&B" was that we could offer the lodging and continental breakfast. My mistake on terminology.

"Dodgy" was an overstatement. Nothing like your concerns Trakehner--the road to our farm begins in a neighborhood that is a mix of 1970s era homes that are less well cared for, along with new single family homes that are quite nice but on small lots. Sometimes cars are parked on the street but I've never had issues with getting past them with my GN trailer. Primarily military families.

The dueling banjos was in reference to the private dirt road that leads up into the trees which might appear daunting unless you knew where you were going. Again, somewhat literary license but a concern nonetheless.

The issues raised by Pony4me and Nashfad ARE worrisome-the late hours, the no shows and not being 3 mins off the interstate. China Doll we have indeed considered renting out the barn/pasture for self care, but with all the horror stories on this BB of boarder madness, decided against it.

Guilherme--hadn't considered trying to put up a large trailer load. You're right, couldn't handle it with only 3 stalls. The only good thing is the trails (approx 2000 acres of woods and sandy trails that used to be a tree farm) back up to our pasture (gate is kept padlocked) and are virtually private since they have no road access at this time.

Lots to consider--appreciate the feedback. In the meantime, if any COTH members are hauling a small rig on I-95 thru NC and want to PM me, maybe we can work out a free beta test of my plan.

tabula rashah
Jul. 30, 2012, 11:55 AM
I have stayed at several horse motels while traveling. They have been everything from very fancy to one place where we slept on the floor in some women's living room with her dogs.
The 15 minutes off 95 would not be off putting to me in the least even if it were an iffy drive. I think you'll tend to find that the prima-donna show types might not like modest set ups but that the trail people will be just fine with it.
When I look for a horse motel, I usually look first for ones with some turnout. Additional draws would be having plenty of trailer parking for bigger rigs and having water/ electric hook-ups for LQ's. Oh and good food always helps :) One place served homemade granola with fresh fruit in the morning which was a very welcome change from the bagel/ grocery store pastry routine.

Jul. 31, 2012, 01:08 PM
Having set up and run one at one time:

It is fun to meet people, especially if you're a people person and like to talk and entertain. Some people just want in and out, but others will hang around for good conversation....

Things to think about: Price of a one night stall rental vs. cost of bedding. Will you strip stall between each horse staying? Be sure to disinfect barn after each visitor - we got strangles after a visit due to owners not listening to me that the barn needed disinfected after horses stayed. Cost?
Most people show up in the middle of the night. Do you want to deal with that?
What will they think about the approach to your place? If it is "iffy" I might take my rig elsewhere and not even see what your place is like. You are severely limited on stalls. . How much contact is there between the horses in the stalls? Can you safely house a stallion beside a mare if needed? Will you provide any feed or water buckets or hay?

We travel with minimum of 4 ponies each time we go. We would want 4 stalls Because we are showing we don't want overnight turnout. We want sheets/blankets on and ponies resting in deep bedding. However, area for a quick morning turn out (round pen?) or small arena would be nice before loading for the rest of the trip.

Feeding the people. Do they want a big breakfast or continental? Does the cost of the food offset the overnight fee you are charging? Do you need any special licenses for provided food or overnight facilities? What if they bring pets? What if the people who come afterwards are allergic to pets? We had people who brought some strange "pets" too, not just cats or dogs. Pigs, goats, etc.....

just some things off the top of my head that we ran into...

Jul. 31, 2012, 02:26 PM
Another thing----insurance coverage, cost? Just a thought.

Jul. 31, 2012, 03:43 PM
Aarrrrrrgggg! You have all convinced me it was a lofty idea but not rooted in reality so we have abandoned it. It seemed like a reasonable idea-- nice little farm, no horses using the stalls or pastures, a separate apartment, not far from I 95 and my husband a gourmet cook who thought it would be fun.

(He still has his day job as a general surgeon but will be retiring in just a few years and expanding the farm business which he enjoys very much.)

Rayman421--your post as someone with experience was quite revealing which is why I came to COTH before we did any further investigation of cost to benefit analysis.

We had taken into consideration the insurance ( we are already an LLC so that was a start) and the permitting process as well as sanitizing the barn between horses. No contact between horses but with only 3 stalls, clearly inadequate.

(We actually don't use shavings--we have found the pelleted bedding to be much easier to clean, cuts way down on flies, cool like sand for the horses to lie on and less expensive overall. We had planned to thoroughly clean and disinfect the stalls after each visit and add new bedding to the top to freshen but not to strip.)

Didn't consider the possibility of people bringing exotic pets, or others with allergies. We figured we could handle the usual horse owner dogs by sequestering ours while they were here overnight--apparently not.

YIKES Tabula Rashah! I can't imagine making guests sleep on the floor in the LR with the dogs. That's pretty awful--you were brave to stay there under those conditions.

Thanks for the reality check. Back to the drawingboard.

Aug. 2, 2012, 11:59 AM
I've worked in the tourist industry, including for an equine B&B.
The size that you're thinking of probably won't be profitable at all once you pay for insurance. And you DON'T want to skimp on insurance! It's probably not worth it.

DH wants to graze a small herd of beef cattle and sell shares to family and friends but I confess although i am a meat eater, I don't think I can face slaughtering something I have fed and cared for. (More power to those who can, I just know my own limitations.)

Can I just say, I think you're overthinking this. Beef cattle are not hands on type of critters that you'll get attached to. The calves are cute in the spring, but by the time they are ready to go, they are big, obnoxious, hard on fences and you'll probably be nervous to even go in the pasture with them. You'll just dump hay and grain over a fence.

Then, there is one day (and there is no law that says you can't disappear and go shopping) while you (your husband) sweats and curses and shakes endless buckets and swears he'll do it different next year and finally gets them loaded on the trailer.

The trailer drives off and you go inside and have a little cry (or not, I really, really thought I would. Especially with the pigs. But I actually didn't at all) and later head out to feed, and remember with relief that you don't have to and it's done.

Two weeks later, you go pick up lots of little white packages and think how thrilled you are that there are that many steaks in a cow and what are you going to do with all that ground beef (don't worry, it goes surprisingly fast, faster then the steaks for me every time) and all you'll feel is pride that you raised it.
Voice of experience :)

Aug. 3, 2012, 04:24 AM
Good post, Riverotter.