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Increasing "board" rate for close friend

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  • Increasing "board" rate for close friend

    I am not a boarding facility. No intention of ever boarding. However, I keep my very good friend's two equines at my private 4 stall barn while she travels the country for her job. Technically, she's an "absentee boarder" (fully understood upon agreement) leaving me completely in charge of all care, holding for vet/farrier, arranging appointments, feeding, grooming, worming, etc. I charge her $300 for both! I arbitrarily chose this number without much thought to cost of care and the fact that she's a good friend. I'm now realizing that I'm basically losing money. Just dropped $3,000 on hay and had an "oh shit" moment. Granted, I also have two horses of my own.

    The issue is that I haven't/don't keep great records as I'm not doing this as a business so I don't know the specifics (exactly what her horses are costing me). I didn't want to nickel and dime her for things like "holding fees" but I'm realizing it's definitely more work and money with 4 vs 2.

    I'm not trying to make money on this but I'd like to raise her rate.

    I'm anticipating negative feedback here...but give me your opinions please! How to go about this?

  • #2
    I would first find out how much her horses cost you. It shouldn't take a long time to figure it out - ie: horses get one scoop of grain per feeding, find out how much per bag. That will determine how many bags per day/week/month which will figure the cost of grain. Same with bedding - how many bales of straw/bags of shavings per day/week/month? How many flakes of hay and how many flakes per bale?

    Once you have those numbers, figure out how much time you spend with the horses and give yourself $10/hour (just above minimum wage since you aren't looking to profit). If it is rare you are holding/working with the horses and more that feeding time and stall cleaning time takes longer, time yourself then divide by 2 and that's roughly how much longer it takes to take care of 4 instead of 2 and that's roughly the extra labor time you should look at charging.

    Compare those numbers to what you are charging now. Look at cost of food versus board paid and see how much more you would have to charge to add labor in. $150/horse is very inexpensive around these parts, so if someone raised it to $250, I wouldn't care much. Raising it to $500 would be a bit of sticker shock.

    Once you have the numbers, you can call her and talk to her about it.

    I board my horse at my friend's place and work there to compensate for the fact that she cuts me a deal. I still spend more on field board there than where I was before but the facility is much nicer, the grain and hay higher quality. I know she charges just above what it costs to keep my horse there and my horse is part of her mortatily farm insurance (all horses on the farm are covered.

    If she doesn't appreciate a reasonable board increase, then she isn't really your friend.


    • #3
      I think keep a spreadsheet and nickle and dime everything, so you can send the spreadsheet and show where the cost actually is.
      I mean a good friend would be horrified to think you are supplimenting their horses cost and im sure they are grateful for everything you do.
      And then just send the spreadsheet and say, hey ive been keeping track of the horses expensis and its a lot more then I thought, see attached sheet.


      • #4
        I do something similar for a very reliable friend who feeds evenings. I provide horses basically whatever living situation they want. I charge $300 each and she buys any special feed beyond the ration balancer I use. She can use all the hay and bedding she wants.

        you are dreadfully underpriced basically anywhere.

        i don't really make any money charging twice what you do, but I love my boarder because when I travel she is incredibly reliable. I would charge a lot more for an absentee and I am a low COL area.


        • #5
          You are extremely under cost on this. She should understand, and I agree with comments above, do a spreadsheet with actual feed and bedding costs etc. She should understand, and if she doesn't she's no friend, she's a user.


          • #6
            Just be honest with her and say you took a hard look at your budget and unfortunately you can't afford to keep her horses for below what it costs you. Then put it in writing! "As we discussed, as of [date] the cost to keep X and Y at my place will be $Z / month, which includes [things]." If she objects to your ceasing to subsidize her horses while she travels... she is not really a friend.

            Also keep in mind that while you say "I'm not doing this as a business" your insurance company may disagree if anything ever happens and they find out that you are accepting money for services. I see you have a farm name as your handle so maybe you *are* officially a business with the proper insurance, etc., in which case never mind!
            ... and Patrick


            • Original Poster

              Wonderful feedback. Thank you all. I know she'll completely understand but I didn't want to go into it saying "I need to raise your board by $200-300" without numbers to go off of. I am now working on a spreadsheet of a monthly price breakdown and it's making me not feel so bad.... I should have done this a while ago...


              • #8
                No angst, no drama-- just tally up your costs and set a rate that at least covers your costs. And present it without apology. This is simply what it costs, and if this friend can't afford that, then she can't afford to own two horses and needs to sell one or both. (If she's stretched to just cover board, give serious thought to what will happen when (not if) one of her horses has a major vet expense. Will she stiff you on vet bills? Leave you with a lame horse that you know is in pain but she won't treat due to $$?)

                While you are tallying your costs, make sure you check whether your insurance covers this business activity. By accepting money (or even just trading in-kind services, like doing barn chores) for boarding services, your insurance company will probably consider you a commercial enterprise, no matter what you say to the contrary.You could easily find yourself with a cancelled policy. So, find out what the rates would be for you as a commercial entity, and adjust your boarding rates accordingly. Or don't board. As you'll find if you do a search on this board for similar private boarding setups, the property owner often quickly decides it's not worth it.


                • #9
                  I don't believe for a dead second that your 'friend' doesn't know she's wildly under paying for TWO horses.


                  • #10
                    I board my two at my best friends small farm. I pay her nothing.
                    BUT- I pay ALL my horse expenses- I provide feed, bedding and pay for half the hay bill (we each have 2 big horses and we share the mini).
                    I come out 2-3 days a week to do chores/stalls with her- she does the others and covers when I travel for work.
                    Her kids/friends/family/etc are allowed to use my horses-

                    We basically just share them we call all 6 "ours" (we have one out on a lease as well). It works for us.

                    Why not have friend start providing all needed feed/hay, etc, and then either don't charge for care/board (like my bestie does) or work out an amount you think is fair.
                    ~Former Pet Store Manager (10yrs)
                    ~Vintage Toy Dealer (
                    ~Vet Tech Student
                    Mom to : 2 Horses,3 Dogs, 1 Cat


                    • #11
                      Who rides/trains/exercises her horses?

                      Both of you may want to reconsider the whole horse owning and care and management, so both your needs plus the horse's needs are as good as they need to be and fair to all sides.

                      I would get all figures down and concerns over the whole deal and sit down to talk it over.
                      You don't need to make a decision then.
                      Both of you take your time to decide where to go next, how to handle it all, including the money part.


                      • #12
                        You're way underpriced; I was thinking $300 per horse at the very least.

                        It might be useful to look at what boarding facilities in your area charge. They are trying to make some money, but it will give you a sense of what your "competition" is. In other words, if the friend is unreasonably unwilling to up the amount she pays, she may become more reasonable when she sees what her options are.

                        You should spell out what your costs are for her. Tell her what you feel you need to charge, and then give her effectively 30 days to either accept your new terms or move the horses.
                        "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                        • #13
                          Discussing money with friends is always a dicey business and has ended more than one friendship.

                          Right now your friend is getting the Deal of the Millennium. If you doubled the rate it's still the Deal of the Century. If you tripled it they would approach, but not quite reach, a reasonable commercial level.* I suspect they know that!

                          Do make a quick "yellow pad calculation" of your expenses, including your time. Then do a quick "market survey" in your area and find out what a commercial establishment would charge. Then decide what percentage you're going to charge.

                          Be honest and straight with your friend but be quietly clear in explaining your problem. There's no need for drama or long stories or the like. Unless, of course, your friend likes drama and long stories and then do what you need to do to put the question to them in a way that will induce them to agree with you!!!

                          Good luck in your program.


                          *This is clearly dependent on location. If you are near a big city my numbers are low and if you are very rural they might be high.
                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                          • #14
                            If your friend has any self awareness, she knows she's getting one over on you.

                            I board my retired horse and this year moved him to a backyard type boarding place. Not fancy at all but just really great care. I could not believe what she charges for board ($225) and have said more than once if my horse is eating more than you expect PLEASE let me know and charge more. I have a feeling she won't ever do that. I am aware of what a great deal I am getting and wouldn't be upset if she tells me she has to charge more at any point.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by babecakes View Post
                              I don't believe for a dead second that your 'friend' doesn't know she's wildly under paying for TWO horses.
                              Playing Devil's Advocate here, but if friend has never kept horses herself - always boarded - she may really not have a clue as to what upkeep costs a small farmowner.
                              No discount for buying feed or hay in bulk, no commercial-type overhead, etc.
                              She may think boarding barns are gouging when in truth they are treading water for the most part (Fancy Show Barns excepted).

                              OTOH, OP, you are completely justified in doing the numbers & presenting her with facts.
                              Like others said, keep it emotion-free & just explain you need $XX to meet your costs & continue to care for her horses along with your own.
                              Hope it works out for both of you
                              *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


                              • #16
                                When I bought my own place I also let my friend keep her horse here. I charged her what it cost me to feed her horse, plus the cost of bedding and 1/2 of the cost for manure removal. Then I was injured, and had to hire someone to clean stalls. After almost a year I showed her how much more it was costing to have someone clean the stalls and how much hay and bedding had gone up, and told her she'd need to pay more. She moved her horse out the next day.

                                A year later she bought her own place, and was amazed at how much it cost to keep her horses at home. She actually apologized to me for "bad-mouthing" me when she thought I was trying to gouge her for more money. I totally agree with 2DogsFarm that people don't realize how much it really costs to keep a horse at home.

                                It was an uncomfortable conversation when I told her she'd need to pay more, and she did leave in a huff, but we remained friends. I wasn't offended that she'd choose to leave.


                                • #17
                                  In addition to checking with your insurance company, you might want to also check with your accountant regarding taxes and if you are running a business or not.

                                  You are getting income, even if it doesn't really cover the real cost of keeping your friend's horses.. How are you reporting this income?
                                  Maybe the reason I love animals so much is because the only time they have broken my heart is when they've crossed that rainbow bridge


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Where'sMyWhite View Post
                                    In addition to checking with your insurance company, you might want to also check with your accountant regarding taxes and if you are running a business or not.

                                    You are getting income, even if it doesn't really cover the real cost of keeping your friend's horses.. How are you reporting this income?
                                    If her expenses are more than the board payments, she really doesn't have an income. It's more of a hobby than a business.
                                    Off Topic Discussion about Life, Interests & Politics


                                    • #19
                                      I wasn't sure how that would work (having never been on the BO side of boarding

                                      Shouldn't one, at least as good practice to document expenses and income to ensure it falls in the hobby category?
                                      Maybe the reason I love animals so much is because the only time they have broken my heart is when they've crossed that rainbow bridge


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Lah0808 View Post
                                        If your friend has any self awareness, she knows she's getting one over on you.
                                        Having had a boarding operation in the past I can assure you, people who have never had their horses at home have NO IDEA. Most have no clue what a ton of hay costs, nor a bag of grain. Even if they have some idea of what those expenses are, they have zero awareness of how much it costs for upkeep on a horse property and never factor in time/labor. That's why any time a B.O. fiiiiinally breaks down and raises their rates it's a crapstorm to some degree or another.

                                        OP - You've had some great advice. You know your hard costs - add those up and factor in your time and upkeep for the areas her horses are using. Be honest and firm and hopefully she'll understand. If not, she'll move and you will have much more free time and money on your hands.