A friend of mine would like to start renting out her farm. I suggested co-op boarding to her as it would be relatively hands off as far as day to day management for her. I think the idea sounds great, but I am wondering the pros & cons. What have been your experiences? What works & what doesn't? If you are running one, what kinds of things are in your business plan? And what have made it most successful and what have been the pitfalls? Thanks!!
I've never run one but I've boarded at two of them. I'm not sure if I'd go back, maybe only if I had no other options and IF I trusted the other boarders. I'm extremely picky about my horses care which is why I'm now at self care board. There were instances where people didn't show up for their shift so horses didn't get fed, etc. Or the person taking the shift had no real sense of horse care and I didn't want them handling my horses (one fellow boarder apparently couldn't read (everything was plainly marked) and fed my easy easy easy keeper two scoops of sweet feed - thankfully I was there and took her bucket out before she could inhale the entire thing - oh and it wasn't my sweet feed!). We had farm "work" days and while they tried to make it so it fit everyone's schedule, a few people didn't show.
I did love the barn itself, the ring was gorgeous and the pastures were well maintained...other boarders themselves were the downfall. If the group had actual knowledge of horses then I would have loved it!
You have to be careful with a situation like this. People don't always show up and what happens if the horses aren't being well cared for? Then your friend will have poorly cared for horses on her farm and how will that look?
I would stay away from this in general unless you know the people ahead of time. Better to set up a boarding situation where you provide at least some of the care so you know the horses are being regularly cared for.
Make sure your friend has insurance coverage as well.
Your friend would be better off renting her farm to one responsible person, and allowing that person to fill the stalls however he or she sees fit. That might result in a co-op situation, but at least that way your friend is not responsible for the management of the group.
When they're run well, the upside is that a co-op can offer substantial savings over traditional full care. When the other people involved are not as experienced or knowledgeable as one would hope, it can be a disaster.
I was at one that worked out great, however the trainer completely ran it. She was very particular about who she let into the barn. It was by personal referral only.
Twice a year (when school was changing) we had a barn meeting to set the feeding schedule. We also had work days.
I would be very careful about entering into another situation like this. The only reason why it worked was that the instructor was there most of the time teaching or riding and over saw everything.
There was some friction with perceptions of people not pulling their weight. There also was two rates, one for people who worked and one for people who did not. The second rate was strongly discouraged.
The board covered: hay, grain, shavings, water, and the electric bill. We also paid a small amount to people who feed breakfast and the stall cleaners. There was three meals a day.
Your friend just needs to set up the right relationship with the co-op group.
I think she needs to think about three things:
Picking one person who will run the co-op and deal with her. The inner workings of that aren't her problem and shouldn't be. The best run co-ops I have seen do have a manager who oversees the rest.
The question of insurance.
An agreement that specifies who does maintenance. Everyone wants working fencing and stone dust on the muddy parts or snow plowed. But who does that and pays for it? This is a question for any boarding stable. But it can be a point of friction when the boarding part of the operation is separate from the farm's ownership. Horses do put wear and tear on farms, no matter what, so there needs to be a plan in place for keeping up the place.
Let's face it, a lot of todays riders are spoiled prima-donna's who are lazy and would prefer others to do their dirty work.
People steal feed and hay...they just do, they run short and grab yours. Somehow the "refill" just doesn't seem to appear. Hay's expensive, how do you prove your bale just disappeared and who took it? You can't.
Shavings are also expensive, we had one girl who always had a nice stack of shavings which never seemed to go down at all and we didn't recall her ever bringing new stuff to the barn.
Some people have a low "clean" threshhold when it comes to stalls when they are the one's cleaning them. Or even worse, when cleaning your horse's stall vs. theirs.
If there's a babysitter to make sure everyone does their part..they can work better...ultimately, there will be more lazy boarders than active boarders and this results in a lot of bad feelings.
So, I'd run from a co-op barn far and fast...it is a wonderful way to lose friends though.
Why doesn't your friend consider doing a partial care situation?
I had a friend that boarded at one that worked out wonderfully. Of course, there was still the issue of disappearing hay/shavings, but the way it worked at that barn, you provided everything for the horse, but they fed in the AM for you. Boarders were responsible for cleaning their own stalls/runs, but having someone feed in the mornings meant that she only had to go out there once a day, if she got busy. They would feed both hay and grain/supplements for you. The boarder would make up the horse's breakfast at night when they were there, and leave the bucket in the feed room. Hay was left in a stack (or clean muck bucket) next to your horse's stall. In the morning, the person feeding would go around and feed the hay/grain that was left out for them. The buckets all had pictures of the horses taped to them so the person feeding could be sure they got the correct grain to the correct horse.
Some of the boarders would then pay other boarders to feed their horses in the pm (both when they were out of town, and sometimes just beacuse they didn't want to do it on a daily basis themselves).
If your friend wants to be even less hands-on than that, she could have one of the boarders take care of the AM feedings in exchange for free board.
They did have some issues with people not keeping their stalls clean, but that could be solved by making a rule saying that stalls/runs must be mucked at least x times a week.
I've been involved in two co-op situations, both of which worked well because of who was involved.
It worked because at most, there were only 3 of us involved at any given time AND we all knew each other well with same standards of horse care agreed upon up front. Of course, we came from the same barn beforehand, which is how we knew we'd have the same standards of care!
One of our group had a crazy busy job, so pretty much she covered feed and hay, and the other two of us did all of the care of horses and facility. Worked well and all parties felt it was a good deal.
Unfortunately, the place we leased ended up being sold due to divorce and we never did find another place that would work as well.
Originally Posted by yellowbritches
Suck it up, buttercup. Horses spook. Sometimes they spook to the point of losing the event.
As others have said, co-op is a very hard situation if you can't do it correctly. Partial care of self care might be a better choice, but that has downfalls as well.
I have leased facilities before and provided my own care. There have been a couple times I had to share, and what came out of it is not everyone has the same idea of clean, maintained fences or feed that is best for the animal. And, there was one instance, that involved young children that SCREAMED the entire time mom was cleaning stalls.
The biggest roadblock I can see is making sure everyone pays their share for feed and hay. Nothing irks me more than an owner that is too cheap (or, has more horses than can financially afford) to provide enough hay. The last self care situation with another owner I was in, my horses were attacked over stall walls for their food because the owner didn't have enough money to feed. Her horses were sacks of bones (I'm not joking on this) and she didn't have the money to feed. Her whole herd called out when I opened a bale of my hay, and it broke my heart that I didn't have the money to feed hers - she had more than 9. As soon as I could safely move mine, the authorities were called on her.
I ran a co-op on a private estate for almost five years. It was a great deal for me at the time and it was both a lot of fun and a lot of work.
If your friend is going to offer this on her farm, I would suggest the following:
Make sure she is covered for liability with a good care, custody and control policy.
Write up Barn Rules and make sure they are signed by everyone.
Have everyone sign a hold harmless.
Be hands on so she will know who is coming onto her property and what is going on at the barn.
Designate one owner to be the head of the co-op.
*****Most important***** be very, very careful about who you let into the co-op. Do interviews. Ask for and check references. Then check some more.
We split shavings deliveries and marked each bag with our name. Hay was grown on the estate, so we kept a tally of hay used each month and paid the owners for it as a group. Everyone was responsible for their own grain and bug spray, and we scheduled the farrier, dentist and vet as a group. Each horse owner was required to show up to hold their own horse.
A co-op is a great way to cut costs for the horse owners but I'm not sure where the big benefits are for the land owner, unless they throw in the care of their horses as part of the co-op agreement. We cared for the elderly estate owner's horses as part of our deal and it worked out well for everyone.