What do I need to consider about boarding horses on my hobby farm?

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The fastest growing farm segment in the U.S.is hobby farms. A lot of hobby farm owners also have barns suitable for horse stables, or, actual stables on their properties. As a hobby farmer, you are likely looking at all avenues that can produce revenue. If you like animals, you may want to consider developing a boarding operation.

With an estimated 2-3 million privately owned horses, most of them require boarding facilities.

Who can be a stable manager?

Running a horse boarding operation does require some special attributes to be successful:

  • Do you have experience with horses or are you willing to obtain that experience?
  • Do you have the financial resources to start a boarding operation?
  • Can you interact positively with customers?
  • Do you have the time to devote to this endeavor?

These basic attributes will help you determine if you are up to the challenge of dealing with horses and their very demanding owners.

Types of Boarding Arrangements

The types of boarding services you will offer are important. Here are the basic boarding services that can be offered:

  • One Fee Covers All – this service includes all feeding, stall cleaning, possible minor care such as hoof care and parasite control
  • Partial board – the horse owner provides feed, bedding and stall clean-out and your responsibility is limited to providing the stall space and access to the pastures.
  • Depending on your regional climate, Pasture boarding may be an option – usually the horse stays in a pasture and you will want to provide some protection with a “run-in” shed. Feeding and other services will need to be negotiated with the owner. The big plus is that you do not need stables, if this option is available.

Looking for an Advantage?

To be successful as a boarding operation, you could consider offering special boarding services. Something others in your area may not offer.

This can accomplish two things:

  1. You can differentiate yourself from the crowd.
  2. Because you are a “niche” boarding operation, you likely can charge above the regular rates in your area.

Here are some examples:

Provide boarding for injured or ill horses – owners with horses with these issues may not have time to tend to them properly. This requires that you have time, devotion and some level of experience as you may be administering treatments prescribed by a vet.

Retirement home for horses – many owners of older horses no longer ride their trusted friends. This could be an ideal niche, especially if you have a soft-spot in your heart for older animals!

Other possible niches would be boarding stallions, horse hotel, or short-term boarding. The niche you will seek is as broad as the possibilities.

Now that you have some idea about the possibilities of starting a horse boarding operation on your hobby farm, what should you do next? Here is where the idea begins to morph into the possible. Plan your venture with these guidelines:

  • Is a horse boarding operation legal on your property? Check zoning regulations to determine if it is allowed.
  • Are there restrictions on how many horses you may keep?
  • Are business permits required?
  • Do market research to determine if there is a legitimate market. Also, learn what the boarding rates are in your area now.
  • Your insurance needs will change (and your cost will climb – consider that in your formula for determining the boarding fee):
    • Equine/Stable Liability will be required;
    • Care, Custody, Control to provide coverage for the “non-owned” boarded horses;
    • General Liability and Property insurance.
    • Study your state’s Equine Activities Liability laws (www.horse-insurance.com/law.html)  (only California, Maryland, Nevada, and New York do not have an Equine Activity Statute), then:
      • Be prepared to follow the requirements as stated;
      • Create a legal boarding contract and include:
        • Identification of the horse;
        • Detailed client information;
        • Fees and what they include;
        • Barn owner responsibilities;
        • Client responsibilities;
        • Include “Release of Liability”

Consultation with an attorney specializing in this area of law is always recommended to ensure proper compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and to guide you through the legal end of starting a horse boarding operation.

Want to start a horse boarding operation on your Hobby Farm? You have some homework to do!

 

Acadia is pleased to share this material for the benefit of its customers.  Please note, however, that nothing herein should be construed as either legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services.  This material is for informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.  Recipients of this material must utilize their own individual professional judgment in implementing sound risk management practices and procedures.

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