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Owning a Boarding Stable - Expenses?

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  • Owning a Boarding Stable - Expenses?

    My fiancee and I are looking at purchasing a new home, and we're considering buying a place that has a heated 26 stall barn and unheated indoor on 5 acres. Two large grass pastures, an outdoor arena, two pole/storage barns and two dry lots. The facility is currently a boarding stable, charging $495/month for board.

    What are some of the pros and cons of owning a boarding stable vs. a small hobby farm? What are the usual expenses on a per-horse basis (feed, shavings, liability insurance, water bill, etc)?

    The farm is in northeastern Illinois, in a Chicago suburb, if that helps... I know local grain and hay costs vary.

    This is the first time I'm looking into doing this on a larger scale (instead of just a couple of stalls on some fenced land).

  • #2
    It's also important to consider whether you and your fiancee want people having pretty much 24/7 access to your home. It's one thing I think most people don't think about when looking at a small boarding facility. I can't really help you with costs as I am not from that area, but 26 stall on 5 acres seems like a lot. I personally wouldn't want more than 5-6 on that amount of land, and even then only if all 5 acres was pasture (none taken out for barn/indoor/home/yard). It will take a lot more work to maintain your manure and pasture with that small a piece of property, you may need to factor in a manure dumpster, as well as needing to regularly seed you pasture which costs a LOT! Also consider insurance, care custody and control as well as liability if you plan on giving lessons or hiring an instructor. Also be aware that is becomes MUCH more difficult to leave the property once you have a bigger operation that just a hobby farm. Forget weekends away or holidays...unless you can find amazing help, which is tough to come by.

    Juat some food for thought!!
    When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


    • #3
      That many horses on 5-6 acres is pretty common out here, but it's insanely labour intensive. Cost wise you'd need to either plan on doing it yourself (essentially for free) or hire someone to do the heavy lifting.
      "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."


      • #4

        And don't forget Workers Compensation Insurance...in addition to liability. And taxes on employees. I think it's harder these days to pay under the table plus if you pay with taxes taken, etc. you can deduct salaries off your taxes.
        Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
        One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
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        • #5
          Consider in your budget to also having access to a hefty cash flow.
          Your expenses will keep running even when boarders are late paying or don't pay at all, after being a few months behind.
          They disappear and abandon their horses for you to care for and have to eventually gain legal possession of them before you can move them, etc. That happens more with the larger stables.


          • #6
            Buying a barn and getting started as a business is just like starting any other business. I think the rule of thumb is that you have enough capital to run from 18-24 months without any income. There's also a 75% failure rate by two years.

            A boarding barn is a service business, not a retail business, so your not looking at a lot of costs to aquire merchandise for sale. Much of your expenses will be directly tied to your "nose count" at any given time. If you bought the property you have a fixed payment to make each month (PITI).

            Business is in America is a very complex thing, with Federal, State, and Local regulations, taxes, paperwork, etc. You would be well to find a local mentor to discuss "start up" issues and costs. You might try the Service Corps. of Retired Executives (I think that's their name) and see if anyone can help you, there.

            Maybe the biggest question is the market for boarding barn services. What's it like? Are local barns mostly full (good news for you) or mostly empty (bad news for you)?

            More questions: How about local default rates on board? Are you willing to sue people for board bills? Are you willing to prosecute bad checks? What are the IL agister lien laws? Are you willing to consign a horse to auction (knowing full well what might happen) if a boarder defaults? Are you a "collector?" Do you speak Spanish (and I mean "agricultural Spanish")?

            On a personal level, are willing to be an SOB when required to protect both your own personal interests and, as far as possible, the health, safety, and welfare of the property entrusted to you?

            Believe me, a small hobby farm is a lot less work, headache, and heartache.

            Whatever you do, go into it with your eyes open and knowing what you are about to "buy."

            Good luck in whatever decision you make.

            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


            • #7
              26 Stalls?
              On 5ac????
              Could that possibly be one reason the place is for sale?
              How many of those $495/mo boarders stay with the place once it's sold?
              That seems like a lot of horses for such small acreage.

              I have 5ac total with a house, 36X36 barn attached to 60X120 indoor and barely enough pasture to keep my 2 horses in grass. Even if I redid the fencing so the house was an island surrounded by pasture I bet I'd still be buying hay.

              If I multiply the number of horses grazing by 13 there is no way on Earth the pastures can support them without a horrendous amount of maintenance on your part.

              Maybe put pencil to paper before making a final decision.
              To buy the place for yourself is one thing, but to intend for it to make a living - let alone a profit - for you is a whole 'nother thing!
              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


              • Original Poster

                Thank you all for your input - many points I had not considered. We'll certainly be talking it over for the next few weeks. Or years LOL!


                • #9
                  Hold up... Fiancee? WhadI Miss?
                  Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                  • #10
                    With that many horses on that few acres, your pastures are essentially dry lots.

                    The other cost people fail to factor in is the endless replacement cost, fencing, stall boards, gates,water buckets, feed tubs, you name it they will break, bend, fold, spindle or otherwise mutilate it.

                    Then there is also equipment maintenance and repair. Not to mention electric. All boarders know how to switch lights on, it's the off that's hard.

                    Can't remember how many times people started boarding, or bought a boarding operation because on paper it looked so easy.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                      Hold up... Fiancee? WhadI Miss?
                      I didn't make a big announcement (I know, strange for me ). I got engaged about 4 weeks ago. We're ring shopping, although barn shopping is quite fine instead.


                      • #12
                        Well congratulations! I think I'd take the stable over the ring myself!
                        Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                        • Original Poster


                          I'm not too keen on a ring. I never wear jewelry (what's the point, it'll get covered in mud, manure or fly spray anyways, or lost or broken) and I'm definitely not a diamond-blingy girl. Probably just get a plain band and forget the whole engagement ring thing. We'll see...


                          • #14
                            First congrats on engagement and farm shopping. We very briefly toyed with the idea ourselves and I couldn't come up with enough pros to take in boarders. The per/horse income was too low ($100 +/-) to put up with the headaches. How many horses will you need to make your bottom line. What about PITA boarders - good, solid payers, but personalitys that clash with you - do you put up with the PITA or give up a reliable monthly check. There will always be people who will push the rules.

                            Especially in this economy, I would be very leary of opening a new boarding operation. I don't know, but I would imagine horses are no different than houses and theres alot more people these days that can no longer afford them and just don't pay.

                            You also become the first responder to any emergency and may have to handle euthanasia if an owner can't get there in time. How are you in an emergency situation. Can you handle people's grief or their anger/frustration with something happening to their horse - some people instantly blame even if you did nothing wrong and you may take the brunt of it.
                            Epona Farm
                            Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

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                            • #15
                              OP: How well versed are you in lay-up care?

                              One way I could see making 26 stalls work on 5 acres is to have some clients that require no t/o.. which means they're layups, only requiring handwalking and stall rest. You'd have to develop a relationship with the closest big equine vet clinic, and local show barns, but I'm sure it could be done.

                              You could always throw up some 15x15' layup or 'sacrifice' pens as well.

                              Your fees could be charged a la carte for the different types of care the vets order, ie: handwalks, bandaging, cold/ warm hosing, poulticing, liason w/vet/ farrier & owner, administer meds, etc.

                              Still sounds like an awful lot of horseflesh on a tiny bit of property, to me though.


                              • #16
                                a thought just crossed my mind...how do you dispose of manure/shavings created by a 26 stall barn?


                                • #17
                                  Manure removel is going to be your big problem and here in il waste management charges insane rates for removel... I would keep shopping and find yourself something with a little more room...
                                  I want to be like Barbie because that bitch has everything!


                                  • #18
                                    Okay here are my experiences.

                                    Cash flow can become tricky when boarders can't pay on time.

                                    Boarders can be a PIA- there are lots of types out there... the know-it-alls, chronic complainers, the unsafe idiots, gossip whores, some who don't show up to pick hooves or groom for like... months..., or bring in new nonhorsey type strangers to pet the pretty ponies, I could go on they are somewhat tolerable when you have awesome boarders to counteract.

                                    You always get the PIA annoying horse too. The one who inevitable is determined to break every damn board in the place. Or kicks, or bites, or cannot be turned out with anyone, or good thing you didn't have a gun on you or you might have an immediate opening

                                    Employees can either be self sufficient or royal headaches. Know that you will have to search exhaustively to get the good ones and pay well to keep them!

                                    Plus you have to be prepared for emergency situations... colic, kicks, bumps, bruises, gashes, puctures, seizures. Gotta know what to do until the vet shows up or if the boarder decides they don't *need* a vet. (see comment on 'know-it-alls').

                                    Sometimes you have to babysit boarders to keep barn sanity. "She did what? with the wheelbarrow, leadrope, and pony???"

                                    Of course there are the financial matters...
                                    vehicles, trailers, equipment, neverending quogmire of insurance options, employee benefits, taxes, feed cost and fluctuations, bedding costs, disposal, utility bills.

                                    I mean you can wing it... Not recommended but many barns can and do fly by the seat of their pants. I mean on paper I probably looked like I was winging it but I did have financial back-up (personal funds) and when push came to shove, I did tap into it a couple times over the years. Overall, as long as the books were breaking even I was content to enjoy running the barn.


                                    • #19
                                      Come and run my 10 stall barn on 5 acres for a week and see what you think. Perhaps the end of March? Say around Spring Break? You could try it out.
                                      Actually I totally agree with what everyone on here has said. And the number one problem will be MANURE. Especially if this is in the burbs. I pay out the nose to have it removed here.
                                      Number two problem will be the actual boarders. I have seen the kind of care you provide for your horses, I do the same for mine and it is maddening to have had boarders that don't give a damn. Then there are the crazies, the cryers, the ones needing medication, babysitting, the list goes on. The different personalities can be really difficult!!
                                      It is usually the people, not the horses that put you over the edge. Then there are the horses too, the one that mommy says is a perfect angel, however it has no ground manners and tries to kill you everytime you turn it out. I say nooooooooooo to the big barn. Find a smaller one and have 1 or 2 boarders to cover the cost of feeding yours. You will be much happier, and might actually be able to attend a show!!


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Thanks again to all of your input - it's been very helpful!

                                        I think we'll pass on this. There is already an offer on the property so it probably isn't meant to be anyways. We'll see what comes up - I'd like to have my horses at home, with a few extra stalls to help pay some of the bills. The only reason I was considering this large of a facility would be to lease it to my trainer, but since relationships in the horse business can sour so quickly I don't want to rely on that as a long term solution. You never know. I'd like to think we'd be great for years to come but... it's horses!

                                        My trainer is a Saddlebred/Saddle Seat trainer, so turnout isn't as much of an issue were it a regular boarding stable. But, should the trainer leave and I have to open it up to boarders, turnout would definitely become a problem. Most folks, myself included, prefer to have a decent range for their ponies to wander.

                                        Not to mention the other issues you guys brought up! So thanks again... looks like this will be a "nay."