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Offering Full care, self care, or co op?

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  • Offering Full care, self care, or co op?

    So we, my fiance and I, are currently in the process of purchasing a horse property/our first home(yay us). Besides finally escaping the 350 square foot apartment that we've lived in for four years, we are finally able to bring my horse home. The property we are looking to purchase is from a family friend who is moving themselves to a larger facility. The property has a lovely custom l-shaped shedrow that has a ten foot overhang with 12 stalls and three birthing stalls in another barn. All together they make a u-shape. Although we don't intend to fill all of the stalls since the property can't support that many horses we'd like to have a few boarders to hopefully offset the larger mortgage we are taking on.

    The property has a large beautiful all-weather outdoor arena with a full jump course, two large pastures, three very good sized paddocks, and a huge tack and feed room. We are located in Maryland, which if you don't know can be a pricey state for everything. Generally, full board prices around here run anywhere from $400-$600 a month, higher-end with an indoor and outdoor, the lower end usually with just an outdoor or indoor but it varies. It's challenging to find self-care around here, but we were thinking $250 a month. There aren't really any co-op barns around here so I am not really sure what the price of that would even really be.

    We would be limiting the total number of boarders to five or six total max so that we don't wear down the fields. While we are not looking to make heaps of money we just want to see what's going to be the best 'bang for our buck' to help us cover some costs.

    Any thoughts, tips, etc. are appreciated.
    Last edited by EveTaylor; Aug. 5, 2019, 10:21 AM.

  • #2
    The general consensus is that you can't really make a significant income from boarding horses! Co-op or self care boarding is problematic unless you can really pick boarders who are reliable and consistent in how they look after their horses. Full care means you have control of what is happening, horses are on the same schedule and barn is being looked after to your standards. That may mean hiring someone to do chores if you are working full time, but is off set by the increased boarding fees. The full care boarding fee you quote ($400-$600) seems low, even tho you don't have an indoor.

    Comment


    • #3
      Self care generally doesn't work unless you get really lucky. Not everyone keep their animal at the standard you do, in a nutshell. You can add fees for stalls that are not cleaned, or charge when the horse isn't fed etc but many times (in my area anyway) self care is phased out rather quickly due to the wear on the facility from irresponsible self-boarders and substandard care. Your best bet is to go full care or nothing to make sure all the horses are taken care of to a standard you find acceptable.

      Comment


      • #4
        Have you had horses at home before, or been responsible for horse's upkeep and care in a solo capacity? If you have been a barn manager, or something similar, that might help you form your opinion of whether or not allowing boarders is worth your while.

        Generally, one or two horses in full-care is not that much more work if you are handling the day-to-day chores yourself for your own horses.. but keep in mind this impacts your flexibility immensely; who takes care of the horses when you want to go to shows, or vacation? One or two full care boarders is a very different number than three or four. Five or six boarders is a lot for one person.

        Having gone this route as a barn manager, offering a few different services, I much prefer the full boarders to any others. Not because of the profit (which is not that much at all) but because I was able to control the horse's care and ensure they were getting everything they needed. I never had to worry if the horse's people were going to show up or not, etc.

        If you do go the co-op route, vet your co-op prospects very carefully.

        Something I have run across with the self-care and co-op contingent is that they tend to feed much less than I as a barn manager was comfortable seeing. This is not the case for all co-op/self-care parties, but it was the case for the majority of rough-boarders that I "acquired' during a barn takeover/transition; they would feed 2-4 flakes a day for their horses, who were skinny or very thrifty. They were also unreliable in terms of coming to feed their horse, or setting up food for the next day for their horses, etc.

        The big deal breaker for me, was that they would run out of grain or hay, or water. They "wouldn't be able to make it to the barn for XYZ reason, and do you mind tossing them some hay...?" Once or twice is fine, but more than that and I started to see a pattern.

        I did ask two to leave. Ultimately, the horses on the facility are a reflection of the barn, regardless of whose care they are in. I did not want prospective boarders to see these horses and think they were taken care of by me or the barn staff.

        From a business standpoint, the rough-boarders are more profitable as you are being paid for a single service (providing housing) without any additional labor or costs (shavings, hay, grain, etc) provided.

        However, they tend to not work long term -- as the self-care/rough boarders tend to be just as hard (if not harder) on facility and amenities as full-boarders, without the degree of flexibility or control a BM can excise on the horse's quality of care.

        If I were you I would sit down and devise a detailed "plan" of what each service is, and what it includes. "Self-care" and "rough board" mean very different things in different counties.

        Full board would usually imply the horse is solely taken care of by the barn. Feed, water, hay, stall-cleaning, handling to/from turnout, and general upkeep all provided by barn staff.

        Rough board generally means the stall/pasture are provided, but no other services - and owners pay for hay/feed and take care of the horse.

        So, sit down and decide what "self-care" offers -- and then you can decide whether or not it is worth it for you.
        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by beowulf View Post
          Have you had horses at home before, or been responsible for horse's upkeep and care in a solo capacity? If you have been a barn manager, or something similar, that might help you form your opinion of whether or not allowing boarders is worth your while.

          Generally, one or two horses in full-care is not that much more work if you are handling the day-to-day chores yourself for your own horses.. but keep in mind this impacts your flexibility immensely; who takes care of the horses when you want to go to shows, or vacation? One or two full care boarders is a very different number than three or four. Five or six boarders is a lot for one person.

          Having gone this route as a barn manager, offering a few different services, I much prefer the full boarders to any others. Not because of the profit (which is not that much at all) but because I was able to control the horse's care and ensure they were getting everything they needed. I never had to worry if the horse's people were going to show up or not, etc.

          If you do go the co-op route, vet your co-op prospects very carefully.

          Something I have run across with the self-care and co-op contingent is that they tend to feed much less than I as a barn manager was comfortable seeing. This is not the case for all co-op/self-care parties, but it was the case for the majority of rough-boarders that I "acquired' during a barn takeover/transition; they would feed 2-4 flakes a day for their horses, who were skinny or very thrifty. They were also unreliable in terms of coming to feed their horse, or setting up food for the next day for their horses, etc.

          The big deal breaker for me, was that they would run out of grain or hay, or water. They "wouldn't be able to make it to the barn for XYZ reason, and do you mind tossing them some hay...?" Once or twice is fine, but more than that and I started to see a pattern.

          I did ask two to leave. Ultimately, the horses on the facility are a reflection of the barn, regardless of whose care they are in. I did not want prospective boarders to see these horses and think they were taken care of by me or the barn staff.

          From a business standpoint, the rough-boarders are more profitable as you are being paid for a single service (providing housing) without any additional labor or costs (shavings, hay, grain, etc) provided.

          However, they tend to not work long term -- as the self-care/rough boarders tend to be just as hard (if not harder) on facility and amenities as full-boarders, without the degree of flexibility or control a BM can excise on the horse's quality of care.

          If I were you I would sit down and devise a detailed "plan" of what each service is, and what it includes. "Self-care" and "rough board" mean very different things in different counties.

          Full board would usually imply the horse is solely taken care of by the barn. Feed, water, hay, stall-cleaning, handling to/from turnout, and general upkeep all provided by barn staff.

          Rough board generally means the stall/pasture are provided, but no other services - and owners pay for hay/feed and take care of the horse.

          So, sit down and decide what "self-care" offers -- and then you can decide whether or not it is worth it for you.
          When I was young we had a horses at home but when we moved we started boarding. I have been a barn manager before however it was for a terrible barn owner who didn't want to spend money at all which is why I left. I was the only one doing anything at that barn and was caring for twelve horses on my own. Generally around our area self care is what you described as rough board. Just the stall is provided and the owners cover everything else.

          At the barns I've been at generally the boarders we all we vetted pretty thoroughly which is what I intend to do before accepting anyone. It's pretty common around here to ask for references before accepting someone as a boarder since it's a pretty small community. Right now it does come down to calculating what the costs would be. Around here some people even only allow a certain amount of bags of bedding before charging for any extra or even allowing only say a certain lbs of feed a month before they care you for the extra.

          Has anyone had experience with CO-OP boarding working?

          Comment


          • #6
            Welcome to COTH. You’ve already gotten some good thoughts - there are also tens, if not hundreds, of previous threads on boarding to read through. Lots of suggestions, cautions, best practices, and horror stories (especially about co-op/self-care).

            You don’t mention what part of MD you are moving to, but I agree that $400-$600 full board for those amenities sounds low. Whatever you do, make a business plan! One extremely common complaint heard here is how easy it becomes to subsidize other people’s hobby, due to operating expenses and most boarders’ price sensitivity.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by EveTaylor View Post
              Right now it does come down to calculating what the costs would be. Around here some people even only allow a certain amount of bags of bedding before charging for any extra or even allowing only say a certain lbs of feed a month before they care you for the extra.

              Has anyone had experience with CO-OP boarding working?
              That is universal standard - most barns will have a business plan, and the costs associated with running said business itemized -- so they know exactly how much or how little shavings/hay/whatever they can provide and still make a profit. It's not a matter of cutting corners, but a matter of trying to make a profit and keep above operating expenses.

              In my experience there is not much money at all in boarding. Boarding operations get their "additonal income" from lessons and fees associated with lessons: coaching fees at shows, trailer fees, truck-in and schooling fees -- THAT is where most barns get enough money to break even.

              For instance, I keep my horses at home. I know exactly how much it costs to feed one of my average keepers ($250/mo for roundbale + grain). That does not factor in labor ($), time ($$), real estate tax ($$$$), water ($), electricity ($), gas/diesel for the ranger/skidsteer ($$), repairs of fences, or any other expenses when it comes to running a boarding operation. If I had to have a boarder, it would have to be for at least $600 to make it worth the additional time and wear/tear on the facility.

              The best thing I have found, is finding someone who wants to work off board versus pay for it. Those types seem to be self-starters, who have some grasp of how much it all costs and what needs to be done, vs hiring someone who may not have much investment or interest in the longevity of the operation besides their paycheck. My two cents is the barn staff working off board tend to have much more investment in making sure everything is done, particularly to the barn owner's standards.
              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you all for the input I really appreciate it. Those were the numbers I used because that appears to be the normal around here. I am moving to the North eastern part of Maryland.15 minutes from the PA border and about 20 minutes from the Conowingo dam. What is the average 'profit' (I use that word lightly) on those running a full care boarding facility? $50 a horse? $100 a horse?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Quasi-co-op member here! "Quasi" because there is an individual who daily during the week feeds, cleans stalls, turns out, brings in, as well as Saturday a.m. feeding and stall cleaning. Saturday and Sunday evenings there is a schedule and each boarder takes a turn to bring in and feed; Sunday mornings, there is a schedule of a group of boarders to feed, turn out and clean stalls. Works well because everyone has a stake in getting things done, but during the week no one has to scramble to get out to the barn to bring in horses after work - the BO/BM are present and keep a weather eye out in case the radar shows incoming nasties or the horses are getting terrorized by bugs.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by EveTaylor View Post
                    Thank you all for the input I really appreciate it. Those were the numbers I used because that appears to be the normal around here. I am moving to the North eastern part of Maryland.15 minutes from the PA border and about 20 minutes from the Conowingo dam. What is the average 'profit' (I use that word lightly) on those running a full care boarding facility? $50 a horse? $100 a horse?
                    One of the biggest challenges in most boarding operations - particularly smaller ones - is the notion of profit. That is generally because lots of people add up the out of pocket costs for things like hay, grain and shavings, and forget to put a value on their time But you also need to think about what percentage of your fixed costs are going to be allocated to the business, the need for additional CC&C insurance, and the impact on your privacy that will come with sharing your property with others.

                    Obviously, if you are going to keep your own horse(s) at home, you will perhaps want to consider the value of offsetting some of your fixed costs by taking in a few boarders. In other words, you will have the expense of your mortgage, farm upkeep etc even if your horse is the only one on the property. Having some boarders will typically increase some of the wear and tear - more broken fence boards, having to drag the arena more frequently, etc, but having a few boarders can help with cash flow. And depending on what your thoughts are regarding barn help, there may be a benefit to having a few more horses at your barn, as it can be difficult to find a groom to look after just one - it's just not economically worthwhile.

                    Also consider that having a few more horses may make it more likely that you will be able to get service from your preferred professionals. There are lots of areas where it would be very difficult to get a good farrier to come out for a single horse. There are also sometimes benefits to be had from purchasing in bulk that make more sense if you have a few more horses on the property.

                    You could not pay me to offer a co-op.

                    **********
                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                    -PaulaEdwina

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Please, please, please don’t get into this on the basis of your boarding income covering any part of your mortgage. You cannot depend on it regularly as there are a million hidden costs involved with any kind of boarding, Water, utilities, insurance, fencing, repairs, access road maintenance, possibly snow removal and the worst, empty stalls and non/slow pay boarders.

                      You need a business plan before you do anything else. And to be able to cover the mortgage from regular income so a bad boarder or two don’t cost you your house.
                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Do you and your fiance have full time jobs? That will figure into the time you'll have for running/owning a boarding facility.

                        What about equipment? A tractor and drag for the arena? A mower? Equipment and maintenance needs to be included in your operating costs.

                        How many acres is the property?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would suggest that you research local costs for feed and bedding and hired help, and that you get an accountant to walk you through doing a business plan. I would also say that you should do full board, and charge at the high end of the local spectrum for a botique operation . You can also make things more attractive by getting a trainer in your own discipline to work with clients part time at your facility. Work out what to charge them. This will help attract horse owners in your own discipline and that will make things much easier for you.

                          Charge at the high end because honestly you don't want most people who are looking for a budget deal. You don't want people who can't afford vet, farrier, supplements, proper tack, or who are spread thing between multiple part time jobs. You want the top of the market.

                          If you find that you can't manage all the work, then take *one reliable boarder* and offer them board at cost if they do chores a certain number of times per week. Don't ever drop your work/board barter below your real costs of feed, bedding, etc.

                          I would suggest that you move your horses home, run the place for a month or two to see the rhytymn, find a local trainer who travels, and then advertise your boarding.

                          I would say that a smaller barn, owner-run, with an actual jump facility and nice stalls, is a real gem for the right people. I think if you keep it looking smart and tidy, and if you are a reasonable person who is friendly but can set appropriate boundaries, you should be able to charge towards the higher end of local rates and attract sane adults who don't want to be in a backyard or a big lesson barn.

                          When you do your pricing, you will need to think through details of feed and supplements, how or if you customize horse's diets, whether you will be home in the daytime to hold for vet and farrier and if so whether you will charge, blankets on and off, turn out and turn in, etc. Might make sense to roll those fees into board, with the proviso of maybe 2 blanket changes per day, or one farrier or vet call a month, or whatever. So if one of the horses's needs a vet every 3 days for 2 weeks, you can charge extra. Will you have rules on shots and worming? If not, you will surely get some boarder who "doesn't believe" in worming or shots, and puts the other horses in jeopardy. Will you allow trailer parking and what will you charge for it? How much gear can people bring to the barn? Parking 5 trailers at $50 a month each is passive income if you have the space to just safely leave them out of the way. Etc. think it all through.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Will you few borders actually make you enough to pay for the insurance they will cost you?

                            If you are planning to do self care, do you have space for them to store their stuff (bedding/hay/feed/tack)? Are you prepared to deal with people whose idea of a clean stall is very different than what yours is?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Good feedback here.

                              Here are some other things to consider:

                              Will a commercial license be required to run a business?

                              Will you be able to afford insurance to cover everything those horses and their owners will get into?

                              If self-board, DIY, what rules will you put into your boarding contract about who feeds the horses? Will your insurance cover boarders' friends and relatives who get roped into feeding when the owner can't, or who will come by to "check on" the owner's horse/s?

                              What rules will you have about children at the barn? Helmets?

                              Does your barn have a bathroom? What contingency plan will you have in place for when the toilet backs up, for replacing hose nozzles that will get broken when boarders drop them on the floor?

                              What rules will you have in place about farriers? Annual checkups and vaccinations? Does the owner need to contract with you to be present to catch and hold their own horse for the vet/farrier/dentist? Will you charge for this service if you are to do it yourself, and how will you do it when you work full time off-property?

                              You mentioned your acreage of pasture. What space is there for trailer parking, and parking of boarders' cars/trucks?

                              And what do you plan to do about boarders' dogs? I suggest having a NO DOGS clause in your boarding contract, and enforcing it.
                              Rack on!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                You would generally be better off just taking a 2nd part time job if you need the additional income to afford this property. You say it will take away from your riding time? So will managing a boarding operation. But unlike boarders, that 2nd job won't accelerate the wear and tear on your facility, won't create potential for major liability lawsuits that require expensive insurance, won't clutter your farm with other people's stuff or diminish your sense of privacy. etc etc

                                You seem to be starting from the wrong direction, when you ask what can I charge for board?, or how much profit can I make per horse? Those answers are the OUTPUT, something you'll arrive at only once you've itemized your costs. Add all those up and it will be obvious how much you'll need to charge to cover your costs.

                                Like others have said, create a real, written, thorough business plan. If you find you can't muster the time or interest to create that business plan, then you're not ready to run a business. The US Small business administration has lots of good advice and templates on their website . And some good advice here, too: https://stablemanagement.com/articles/creating-business-plan-2155

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Have known a co op or two that worked well for years BUT they were on seperate, leased property with no member living on or owning the property. The property lease fee was split among participants and one boarder acted as manager, laid the bills and kept the books for a reduction in board. They met bi monthly and decisions were made as a group, repairs were split equally. Other co ops that did not operate so successfully we’re not run as co ops but more like self care places with nobody at all in charge or even on the same page.

                                  OPs situation is vastly different as she will be keeping her own horses there besides being the property owner and manager. Not really an equally split, self managed co op.

                                  Strongly suggest OP get her horses home and spend several months managing them, then make up a business plan before thinking about taking on boarders in any format. If they need boarders right away to pay the mortgage, they can’t afford it.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Lucassb View Post
                                    You could not pay me to offer a co-op.
                                    OP, you've received a ton of great advice. On paper, boarding may look like it is lucrative, but it really isn't. Most operations are lucky to cover their costs.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Random thought which may or may not be worth considering - I am wondering if you could find a small volume trainer who would like to set up in your facility. I can think of a few trainers in my area that might have the right profile - their characteristics are typically that they teach and train in addition to another job, only have a handful of clients, and maybe take on one or two training horses at a time. If you could find a trainer who is the right fit and come up with a solid agreement about who is responsible for what, you might be able to avoid some of the headaches that come with offering boarding to the general horse-owning public

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by demidq View Post
                                        The general consensus is that you can't really make a significant income from boarding horses! .
                                        I hear this all the time on here and it just makes no sense to me. I agree that some barns are in the red, but a majority are probably doing well enough to make a living or they wouldn't' be in business.

                                        Having a good head for both business and people probably has something to do with their success. Something that many BO's obviously are lacking if they can't make some kind of profit.

                                        I would only offer full board. Self care unless you choose the right boarders would be nothing but heartache in my thinking.

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