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Considering taking the plunge....Hanging out the shingle and renting a farm

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  • Considering taking the plunge....Hanging out the shingle and renting a farm

    I know everyone who has a horse farm/business has been through this so I am coming to the COTH collective for any and all points of advice.

    A VERY good opportunity has come up and I am trying to decide/balance life/ find if I have the backing to start a business.

    The situation is this:

    A farm I know well is for rent with a LOT of amenities at a more than fair price here in the middle of Pa horsey heaven.

    I have someone interested in going in on it with me for half.

    I have gotten more folks interested in having me train their ottb's for the first couple months off the track or after turn out. (I have LOTS of experience doing this)

    I have other folks who are also local and been commenting about the lack of Layup/retirement board.

    The conditions on this place are such that I can't run a boarding or lesson barn as the owner doesn't want high traffic by the house (across from barn and will ultimately have tenants that shouldn't be disturbed) We have been okayed with 3-4 regular people in the barn but that's it outside of normal industry traffic (Potential buyers, vet, farrier etc)

    All that is fine by me as I have 2 students who I will happily commute to their farm to teach.

    I am doing a lot of cost analysis right now and my possible business partner and I toured the farm today. She loves it. I already knew that.

    How do you get over the "hump" of saying... "Ok I am hanging out my shingle!" I mean lets not dither here... I am a solid rider, a capable ottb retrainer and have tons of experience in many disciplines applicable in this area. But I am surrounded by Olympians and very big names. Do I have a hope in hell of making any kind of a difference with the horse community here?

    Game plan is simple: For the winter just have enough horses to cover the rent and go slow with both of us keeping our regular jobs. (Daylight hours being short and no indoor are motivating us both not to lose our full time income just yet) Come spring start accepting clients/ horses in training. (When appropriate with income levels etc, move to part time at my job. If all goes well... eventually make it a living. But I am a realist. I know that it can be tough and it may not become a career. But if I never try....how will I know?

    Background on me: I have managed a number of farms and this included all the day to day stuff, buying, budgets, cost runs etc. I have worked on the track as an Assistant Trainer and in the places I worked for also did the budgeting and supplies etc on the track as well, while galloping and running horses daily. I have been a seasoned barn manager/ groom with fox hunting outfits (private owners etc) This isn't new to me. In fact it's harder to board my horses and "just be" a boarder. LOL.

    I am not currently in a situation where I could take on any additional horses for training as the farm I board mine at is very small and at 10 horses is full.

    So even if I stayed with status quo, to accept anyone in I would have to 1.) find a second farm to work out of or 2.) move my guys to a new place.

    This at least has a ton of amenities and is in a prime situation.

    Any and all advice is welcome. I am not fully decided yet as I have more calls to make and vendors to talk to. Cost analysis' take time and I figure if someone snags this while I am doing my due dilligence, oh well. Wasn't meant to be.

    Thanks in advance.

    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

  • #2
    You need to have enough saved up to pay the rent completely out of pocket for at least 6 months.
    Honestly, the landlord wanting to limit traffic tells me you two will have a conflict in the first year... I can just smell it.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      The money is really in the lessons. Now, if you can get a decent lay-up program going, you might just make a go of it. Will there be some really great vets nearby?


      • #4
        Agree on the rent thing, unless you can pay it out of your own income, as 3 to 4 horses in the barn won't cut it unless your rent is basically free.

        I wanted traffic limited somewhat at the farm I rent out. Doesn't work and what petstorejunkie said, there will be conflict. Your idea of limited traffic and landlord limited traffic can mean two VERY different things. Then add in a tenant in the house, and their idea will be also different. You need an iron clad contract and please don't be a "yes" person just to get in and then think the landlord won't notice that you have 10 horses rather than 4 in the barn.


        • #5
          Will you be living on the property? I ask because that will affect what type of layups you can have there (I wouldn't want my valuable stall rest horse only being checked twice a day, for example - I'd want almost round-the-clock care, or at least midnight checks and some who is there all day every day).


          • #6
            If you have a niche, like OTTB's, then you stand a good chance. Olympians typically don't want them until they are more finished. Even so, the way that you are thinking of doing it sounds quite sensible.

            What do you think is the biggest risk?


            • #7
              1. This is an ad.
              2. Haven't you been incredibly vocal about starting a family and working hard to get pregnant? I seem to recall a plethora of details.


              • #8
                I see a couple of issues here.

                The owner not wanting much traffic is a major issue. People want to be able to come visit their horses--in training, layup, or otherwise--in an unrestricted fashion. Some people like to bring their SO with them all the time, other times people show up with a bunch of guests, including children and people who know nothing about horses. People want to bring friends out to ride, or send a friend out to check on their horse when they can't. You can't reasonably restrict client visits beyond a certain point or ask your clients to tiptoe around the property.

                Re: layups, you are going to be very limited doing layups as long as you are maintaining a day job elsewhere and there isn't a night person at the farm. A lot of layups need around the clock care even if it is just someone around the barn with eyes on them or a midday dose of medication.

                Re: training, I'd be leery of spending money to put a horse in training with someone over the winter in an area like PA at a facility with no indoor. I'd be concerned about the regularity of work the horse would get, no matter how great the trainer. Somedays the footing is just going to be too crappy or the weather too bad.

                Also, I would be very careful to not underestimate your expenses and potentially how much time it will take to keep your facility running and maintained. Aside from the rent you will need trainer's insurance, liability insurance, CC&C insurance, and you will need to carefully figure out your other costs. Feed, bedding and hay are easy...but who will be doing/paying for repairs? Who is providing and maintaining machinery/equipment? Who will be mowing and weed whacking? Water, electric, buckets, etc? Everything always costs more than you think it will, and there are a lot of unexpected expenses that will crop up.

                Lastly, it takes a LOT of time to build a reputation and a client base. It is my experience that a lot of people TALK about wanting to put their horse in training/get lessons/move to a new facility, but that it doesn't always materialize the way you think it will. The first few prospective clients of any new facility/trainer are usually the area malcontents who haven't been able to fit in at other places. Good clients are usually fairly happy somewhere else and are going to wait to be sure that your facility gets off to a good start before they move their horse to you. If you think that you are going to attract customers with a competitive rate, think again. By the time you have added up all of your expenses you will realize that your fees are going to need to be at a certain amount to make sure that your venture is a business and not a charity. Also, while I am sympathetic to people who want to be economical about their horses, cheapskates can make terrible clients.

                I would NOT worry about the fact that you aren't an olympian. BNTs are generally some of the worst people to send young horses to, they are busy riding big name horses and going to big name competitions. They usually pawn off youngsters on assistants or working students who may or may not have a clue about training babies. I use LNTs who specialize in and have a system for bringing along youngsters, which it sounds like you do.


                • #9
                  In my opinion, now is not the time to give up your day job. Keep doing what you are doing work wise and horse wise and wait and see how the baby thing pans out before committing to something so physically demanding.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home


                  • #10
                    Ahhhh I wasn't aware that a family was in the cards...that does change things quite a bit.


                    • #11
                      New trainers are popping up like dandelions in the area. I would keep your day job, see how the baby thing works out and reassess at a later date.

                      The "limited traffic" thing is a huge red flag blowing in the wind too. You will need to be able to teach or have more boarders to make this work. IMHO


                      • #12
                        This doesn't sound like a viable venture.

                        Are you on good terms with any of these local Olympians? What about approaching them with your business plan to see if you can sublease a barn and some fields from them? You use their facilities, do the OTTB training, they get an early view at a bunch of prospects. You get the benefit of them allowing visitors at the barn. Maybe give them a commission on sales? Could be beneficial to both of you.

                        Good luck, sounds like you have plenty to offer, just need to find the right situation to do it.


                        • #13
                          OP, I'm not far from you--I'm in Oxford PA. I would be very cautious about the "limited traffic" thing as well. I made the mistake of renting a property like that. It didn't work out.

                          As far as competing with the Olympians for business, you really wouldn't be. It's a totally different market. I will say though, that lessons and sales horses have always been the only way I make money with show horses. (Racing is different.) You will, however, be competeing with a TON of other "local" trainers/instructors/boarding barns that need to make more money.

                          Only you can make the decision to make the move to hang out a shingle. But I agree with the others--don't quit your day job, unless your husband can (and will) support your business in the months that it's not making enough to pay the basic bills.

                          I don't know you personally, but from some of the other posts, it sounds like you might be trying for a baby. While I did a lot (stalls, basic horse care, grooming, ground work, lunging) with my son in a backpack, riding was limited to my safest horse, while he napped in a stroller at the ring gate. I didn't have anyone except my husband to help me with him though, so your experience might be different. My son is six now, and I'm just really starting my riding business back up. But I was a stay at home mom. And we did began a race horse breeding business since he was born, and I'm the sole horse handler, barring my husband's one day off a week.

                          Most horse businesses fail, not because of the trainer's lack of ability, but because of lack of funds/lack of business planning (or ALL the what-ifs possibly forseen). Good luck with your decision.



                          • Original Poster

                            OK lemme try to answer a couple of things. In no specific order:

                            1.) "This is an ad

                            I can see your vantage point on this but I haven't got an existing business as a layup, retirement or retraining business. I teach lessons to 2 people and do it on their farm. I have 1 resale horse of my own. This would be a completely new venture and it's not a go or no go yet. I was asking people here for advice on starting a horse related business.

                            2.) The Baby Thing

                            Without getting too personal or into an area I am not comfortable talking about, it's not going well. It may be possible I waited too long.

                            3.) Low Traffic Restrictions

                            Would it help you all to know that the landlord in question is a former USET rider? Who knows exactly the amount of traffic many types of horse businesses generate. That I have and will continue to run exact estimates of the folks that would be coming onto the property. I have fairly calculated this to this point and will continue to as a result of my friendship and respect for this person. Everything is in the "Mull it over phase" and everything else is getting run by and eventually added to an iron clad agreement so we do have it in writing.

                            Of course if I have other peoples horses they would be welcome to visit their animals. No one would restrict that, we would work it in and if we couldn't obviously that element of my business either wouldn't be done, or I would find a different facility. Fyi, there are no restriction in place about how many horses I can have on the property. So even if I say I want to have 4 to start I am cleared to have more if we get an influx.

                            4.) Nighttime person There actually is a very knowledgeable horse woman who is living on the property in the guest house who I am approaching about helping us out with night checks and so on. (She's a friend)

                            5.) Budgeting
                            My budgeting list runs very deep. It already included the extra things mentioned here. And includes other that weren't mentioned here as well. The short version is that water is on a well, tractor and equipment maintenance is covered by the owner, as is mowing, fence line repairs etc as she has kept on staff my old co worker who has maintained this farm for 8 years.

                            We would pay for electric. We have spoken with the vendors for the normal stuff and would continue to get the farm's pre-existing discounted prices. $11.75 for a bag of 10% sweet instead of $13.50 for the same feed for new businesses. (just an example)

                            6.) Extra Funds I have about 4 months worth of rent.

                            I think to help people understand why I am trying to figure a way out to make this work I should list off the amenities we're talking about. This really is a remarkable deal.

                            150 Acres
                            sand ring (larger)
                            7 available paddocks
                            16 stalls. 10 in converted barn
                            2 wash stalls with hot and cold
                            wood panelled tack room
                            Lunging ring
                            sm xc course all over woods and fields
                            Large back hill with 1/4-3/8's mile uphill gallop (Depends on how you turn)
                            Natural running stream through property with crossings and area to soak legs.
                            Grass area for dressage court in spring-fall and mild winters
                            Access to the laurels across the street.
                            A part of the Cheshire Hunt Territory with a meet site in the field across from the end of the driveway.

                            Oh and the kicker... I managed this farm for 2.5 years and know it like the back of my hand. When we had 20 horses on it.

                            Bottom line if I think I can clear the costs I will do it. If not I won't. I have said very clearly in my first post that while I am still working my full time job I would only take on my own horses and resale prospects. In winter I would never be so stupid as to accept money to train a horse when I don't I have the time of day to do so. I have (so far) had a good reputation re: my work in the horse world. I do not intend to upset that now with my own business.

                            "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                            • #15
                              Obviously you don't need to share the specifics with a bunch of strangers over the internet, but I'm guessing the rent must be extremely low if you could pay for your half with what's left over after your other expenses (insurance, feed, hay, bedding, labor, etc.) from boarding four horses. So that's a good factor.

                              I think another factor to consider is what level of maintenance YOU are expected to provide for the property. Taking care of a nice 150 acre facility and keeping it nice is no small task, I'm not sure it is compatible with a full time job. Of course you've worked on this farm before and you know what your hours were and what help was needed to care for it, and maybe the owner is going to be helping you out significantly with this.

                              I'm curious (but of course you don't have to share this) as to how you would potentially plan to care for the horses and keep the facility running if you are working full time at another job. You said that you have someone lined up for nighttime coverage, but what about daytime? Who will meet the farrier and the vet and the hay guy? What if you go out in the am and a client's horse is colicking and needs an experienced hand to stay with it to wait for the vet? It's tough, but it's hard to do a boarding/training operation "halfway."

                              The other thing to consider is that during the in-between stage while you are still working but trying to build your business at the same time, your life could be a little rough. Get up early, drive out to the barn to care for horses, drive to work, drive to barn again, muck stalls, feed, ride, return home exhausted to an annoyed SO...wash, rinse, repeat. There could potentially be a significant cost in terms of your quality of life and your relationship with your SO.

                              OTOH, finding good, reliable part time help is hard, maybe you've got an "in" on that with someone you know. Hiring, training and supervising staff, doing payroll, payroll taxes, paying for workman's comp, submitting withholdings, it's a PITA.

                              Anyway, when you are calculating your financials, make sure that you calculate the time you will be spending working on the farm and make sure that at the end of the month you aren't working for 50 cents an hour. Put your own time in at a fair rate, because you will be working hard and you will deserve to have something in your hands above and beyond "breaking even."


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by currycomb321 View Post
                                1. This is an ad.
                                2. Haven't you been incredibly vocal about starting a family and working hard to get pregnant? I seem to recall a plethora of details.
                                I find this to be an odd first post!
                                F O.B
                                Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                                Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Linny View Post
                                  I find this to be an odd first post!

                                  Sorry, I am not new but it had been so long since I actually logged in I forgot my password. I've been around forever. It doesn't matter to me who starts what business, but a lot of Emilys posts look like advertisements. Whether it is for her sale horse or what, they are frequently thinly veiled ads. Just from casually reading what is always written, I get the strong feeling she wants to get a piece of the pie from CANTER or one of the other organizations. In fact, I suspect her beef with the RRTP new protocol is that she wanted to be one of the trainers.

                                  The only reason I mentioned the baby topic at all is that I once innocently clicked On a topic and got an eyeful of uterus, IUD's, super sperm, sex habits, etc. Way too many personal details for a public board.

                                  A Complete stranger should not have that information about you.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Ok let me defend myself a moment here.

                                    On the topics of baby stuff... you're referring to my thread started on the Off topic Forums on a OT Day. 41 and trying to get pregnant is not a breeze for the rest of the world and I am supposed to have any number of qualms or anxieties with what is a whole mess of unknowns. Coth memeber made me feel a lot less in the wilds of the unknown. I know a LOT of my fellow coth'ers as folks in my normal life. (like as in we see each other and talk etc) They're not that much of a stranger to me. And since there were 4 pages of replies... I am gathering that the folks on here who "know" me and those who don't were equally comfortable sharing their experiences, advice and so on.

                                    2.) Would not have been a RRTP trainer with a full time job. Couldn't even if I had wanted to, which I don't. But do want to see "normal" people having a chance to show that they too can train an ottb without a professional at their hip all the time.

                                    3.) I don't believe my posts are any more advertisements than others who post about their horses that they have said they're going to resell. And if I am proud of my ottb and all he can do why should he not get some of the limelight he has earned? Sale or not, I post pics because it once again shows what an ottb can do in a very short period of time and what an under 16 hander can do period.

                                    4.) I just looked back through my history and I see me grieving for 2 dead dogs, a lot of TB topics, promotion of the TB shows that are blossoming and a mix of copyright infringement, amateur rules and ottb opinions. Not sure how I get to be posting "thinly veiled ads" a lot without the mods calling me out.

                                    5.) I am happy to help out CANTER. Why is that a bad thing? I don't work for them but I will happily promote their horses to anyone.

                                    It is interesting to me that I started this thread asking for advice on starting a business. This seems to be more like the movie, "Defending Your Life."

                                    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                                    • #19
                                      Great movie.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        I agree with you there! :-)

                                        "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries