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boarding survey - your input is appreciated!

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  • #21
    I used to work heavily in new product development, so I may go into more detail than you'd like, (and all comments are given with the kindest of intentions!) but here goes....

    Are you using this survey to test a product concept you already have in mind? If so, there is not enough detail for people to give you usable feedback on the product concept. You don't have a list of services that make up the rather vague product of retirement board. It's not clear what would be different about this situation than regular board. I don't get a clear value proposition for "retirement board".

    Are you using this survey to obtain ideas in order to develop a product concept? If so, you are not asking the kinds of questions that would help you determine what people are looking for when they go searching for retirement board.

    Awfully hard to write a business plan for a rather vague product concept.

    Writing surveys is a lot harder than people think. You need to decide what your purpose is (beyond writing a business plan) and then write questions to support that.

    A suggestion: take a look at pdma.org for a lot of helpful info about new product development. This book will help you with your survey as well - it's a fabulous resource:

    and has a chapter on surveys.

    And just to keep it horse related, I was astounded at the innovation that occurred in the horse business from the time I left horses in 1988 til the time I came back. Some very savvy people have been using NPD techniques to probe the brains of horse lovers and come up with bunches of new products. Very cool.

    Good luck!


    • #22
      I'm not trying to tell you how to do your project, but I do think you are coming at this from the wrong starting point. I get contacted ALL THE TIME by people wanting to start a retirement facility. There first question is almost always "what do you charge?" The people who start off asking this question are doomed. The question they NEED to be asking is "what do I need to charge to make the numbers work and provide a level of care that I am comfortable with?" I say this as someone who has a successful retirement farm, and prior to this owned a very successful recruiting company. You are approaching this like a horse person instead of a business person.

      If I were you I would be deciding where I wanted my farm to be based, then I would be looking at cost of land and facilities in that area, along with the cost of feed and hay in that area, labor costs, etc.

      Unfortunately I don't have time to provide all the free consulting I am constantly asked for although I wish I did. But if I did have time to answer the 3-5 times per week inquiries about how to start a retirement farm the above advice is what I would tell everyone.
      Blogging about daily life on the retirement farm: http://paradigmfarms.blogspot.com/
      Paradigm Farms on Facebook


      • #23
        I took the survey but actually, if my horse were retired, I'd keep him in the same barn he's at now. Stall, daily (private, because he's a monster to other horses) turnout for about 3 hours a day. Board includes feeding hay and grain and any supplements you provide, and cleaning stall once a day. This is the best barn for miles and miles around and I pay $600.00 a month. I know, board is pretty high in this neck of the woods. You can get it cheaper but the quality of the care and feed really do suffer.
        What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


        • #24

          Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare


          • #25
            Survey taken -- hope it will be of use to you even if I am not a US resident.

            Not everyone defines retirement board in the same way. In pricey areas, people usually have to move the retiree far away to reduce costs. Thus, they likely aren't able to visit very often and are looking for a full-care, true "retirement home" model. In less expensive areas, people can just choose regular boarding barns where the riding facilities aren't a priority. In my case, I don't care about any of the "perks" like grooming or pictures; because my retiree is close to home, I can check in regularly and handle my own vet/farrier visits. The place I chose is not a retirement facility per se; it is a very nice low-key private facility, just down the road from my other horses, that is inexpensive because it doesn't have an indoor arena.

            Good luck with your business plan!
            I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


            • #26
              OP, I think you need to have a clearer picture of what a Retirement Farm actually is. There are many levels of retirement, just as there are many levels of boarding. You need to modify your survey.

              I opened my Retirement Farm in 1998. At that time there was ONE other retirement farm in existence. I talked with the owner of that farm (Last Chance Farm) and discussed what she thought was the most important things. That is what you need to do. I don't know if Chris at Last Chance will talk to you, like OntheBit said, we get a LOT of "what do you charge" e-mails, that are just other barn owners fishing for info. At this point in my life, I just delete them. I no longer have time to help other people start their own business that will compete with mine, with not even a thank you. A serious Horse Owner will ask detailed questions. Those, I reply to.

              If you don't think it is a viable business, again, you have NOT done your research. I don't mean to be rude, but quite frankly I get tired of being thought of as a second class horse business because I don't compete, have a fancy indoor arena, or fling myself into debt trying to impress the neighbors/other barn owners. I pour my profits back into land, equipment, and making my retirees lives as good as I can possibly make it.

              Retirement is a horse business, but its focus is totally different then most others. We aren't out there churning the mud to get attention, we just want good customers that love their horses to find the right situation for them and their horse. There are different levels of retirement care, which is a good thing IMO. That will make your survey more difficult to complete.

              Good luck.
              Facta non verba


              • #27
                I offer retirement board in Florida; 24/7 pasture with a stall in severe weather, includes all supplies, worming, vaccinations, trimming (shoes extra). I feed top quality O/A during the dormant months and grain at the owner's direction (including supplements) The horses are hand-checked twice daily and fly sprayed and groomed every other day (sometimes every day if I have time, but every other day at a minimum). I keep manes pulled and muzzles trimmed. I charge $400/month; $400 + cost of shoes if required (I pay the farrier directly. I have an excellent relationship with him and prefer to keep it that way!). So all that being said, I agree that you were too focused on price. The profit margin I make JUST pays for my horses to eat. But the benefit is that it means my horses always have company should I go to a horse show and leave just one home. I couldn't charge any less and offer the services that I do; it wouldn't be worth it for me!
                Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.


                • #28
                  Wow, Punkie--I want to keep my horse with you!

                  You offer a lot of "extra services" (how I would love to have those!), I'm thinking that this is possible to do under certain circumstances--for example, a small operation--but is not feasible under other circumstances.

                  My mare (who had a foal in June, is just "hanging out" until the weather improves, at which point I may leg her up again and start riding her if no one takes her on a breeding lease) is presently at a farm, on "field board"--not retirement board--but similar.

                  For $350 a month, she gets a pretty large pasture by herself, she is an Alpha beeyotch, so since the BM has plenty of fenced pastures, she is going to try to keep her by herself and see how she does. She is out 24/7 (with no run-in, she would have to be in a field with other mares to have shelter), with her own roundbale. She has eaten most of it (the hay is generally good quality); I'm assuming it will be replenished as needed. They feed her twice a day via a bucket on the fence, and have blanketed her as needed with my Rambo T/Os, so far she has stayed warm and dry. They don't groom or pick feet, she is not brought into the barn--unless she needs her feet trimmed (not included), her pasture is a hike away from the barn. De-worming IS included, and that's about it.

                  The BM has a huge operation with lots of horses and a number of properties; there is no indoor, and only one sand outdoor (not near the barn where my mare is, so no chance to really work her while she's there), that barn is mostly occupied by broodmares.

                  My mare has a shallow water trough which is checked and filled daily, but no tank de-icer--so it freezes solid overnight in very cold weather. I insisted that the BM address this issue early this week, since temps have been in the teens--she agreed to bring her into a stall overnight on those frigid nights (so that she would have access to water in a bucket), but it will cost me an extra $10 a night--which I am happy to pay! No way will I risk her getting an impaction colic from not having access to water for 8-12 hours (before they break the ice on her trough in the morning.)

                  She gets a once-over daily, and that's about it. She seems healthy and happy otherwise, so I am trying not to obsess about it (the barn is a hike from me, so I've only been getting out there 2-3 times a week.)

                  This is a great thread, and it's very interesting to read the variety of services provided (and the different price points); the geographical area obviously has a HUGE impact on what BMs can and do charge!

                  I think this is definitely a "growth industry", so as such--it should be competitive, yes?
                  "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                  "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")


                  • #29
                    Chiming in with the other retirement farm owners...

                    Like onthebit said, you first need to figure out your costs before you know what to charge. Sadly, not enough people doing boarding do this which is why you tend to see great discrepancies in pricing. You need to know your exact fixed costs of hay, grain and bedding first.

                    Boarding as a sole business does not make much money and retirement boarding is especially difficult because many people price shop without looking into what is offered or not offered.

                    I charge $400/month plus $28 state sales tax. Of this, approximately $100/month/horse goes to hay ( I feed up to 2% body weight in hay and I buy from NY so that is my biggest fixed cost), roughly $50-$65/horse/month in grain/added oil and $45/month in shavings. That's between $200 to $210/horse/month in fixed costs alone. That does not include electricity, fencing, maintenance or anything else. That leaves me a "profit" of $190-$200/horse/month. It sounds like a lot, but if you break it down to an hourly wage, it is about $6.50-$7 per hour. I cannot even afford to hire help because I make less than minimum wage.

                    I think the problem with retirement boarding is that many people think when they no longer are riding their horse, the board should be much less. A retired horse costs the same, if not more, to feed than a healthy young horse. The stall is the same amount of time and money to clean and maintain.

                    I don't have fancy facilities, so there is no need for an indoor arena and the amenities that serious riders are looking for. That is where the savings is by retiring at a farm like mine vs keeping the horse at a facility with all the amenities. I think those farms range from at least $650 a month up to $1,000 per month.

                    As with anything else in life, you get what you pay for. There are all sorts of retirement farms based on different needs. Some horses do just fine out in large pastures with big herds. Others need lots of individualized attention. Most fall somewhere in between.

                    The posters like onthebit, SMF11, lawndart and others have well thought out and run retirement facilities. They post on here often and are very generous in sharing their knowledge with others.

                    There is a lot of work and worry in boarding retired horses. It is like running the equine equivalent of a nursing home. When you get horses with special needs-those that can't eat hay, for example, the work escalates because they need to be feed multiple times daily and everything must be soaked. I think the people considering doing retirement boarding because they think it will be easier are in for a big shock when they learn all that it entails!


                    • #30
                      I did the survey, but don't think it was much help since I probably *wouldn't* board at a retirement facility, at least not right now/in my current financial situation.

                      Now, that being said... If I were to pay for retirement board I would expect prices to be either at/or a little less than prices at a riding facility. Just because retirement creates the gist of not much/any riding being done, so the owner isn't really using the facility, so much as the horse is.

                      Around here, full care is anywhere from $250 to $400. I'd expect retirement board to be on the $250 end of that spectrum.

                      Originally posted by katarine
                      I don't want your prayers, tiny cow.
                      Originally posted by Pat9
                      When it's time for a horse to go to a new person, that person will appear. It's pony magic.


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by SMF11 View Post
                        There's another very fancy retirement barn 2 miles from me that charges $2,000/month. How does he do that? That's the interesting question for you to figure out :-)
                        Well, *I* want to know how he does it. You guys are in Dutchess County, right? How long a ride from NYC? But Two Grand! I'd expect my horse to have his own slave child to follow him around and scratch itches in the winter/keep the flies off with a palm frond in the summer.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #32
                          Originally posted by mvp View Post
                          Well, *I* want to know how he does it. You guys are in Dutchess County, right? How long a ride from NYC? But Two Grand! I'd expect my horse to have his own slave child to follow him around and scratch itches in the winter/keep the flies off with a palm frond in the summer.
                          Yes, we are in Dutchess County, 2 hours from NYC. The main way he does it is to have one big client: he has a 16 stall barn, and one client with 12 horses with him. And yes, the care is very labor intensive.
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