As you’re growing up and trying to figure out what you’re going to do for your professional life people always tell you, “do what you love”, or, “find something you’re passionate about and make that your job”. Naturally, any horse person will think, “AHA! I love horses so I should own and operate my own farm one day”!
Please, if this is you, PAUSE, think, & understand that this means you want to start your own BUSINESS.
Yes, a horse farm is a business and horseback riding is an industry.
So many times I see passionate people who love horses start their own farm and then get burnt out, go broke, or get stuck with a farm that’s falling apart and a far cry from what they originally wanted and dreamed about. That said, here are a few things to consider in order to make your farm a revenue positive business!
Quality lesson horses for a variety of levels
Lessons are the foundation to how you are going to make money and the lesson horses you have will either make it or break it. You want to attract junior riders who will inevitably bring their parents along to all their lessons. Yes, you need to fall off and get back on if you’re really going to learn how to ride but, wait until the rider is confident in the saddle before putting them on a dirty stopper or easy spooker. Set the parents at ease by having safe and reliable lesson horses for their kids to learn on. Now, here’s the important part. Lessons are only the entry point for your main revenue builder; shows. Have lesson horses that you can take to local horse shows in order to get the kids, and the parents, excited about competition. You want to make sure your kids are placing in the top four ribbons for their first few horse shows in order to get them hooked on showing. There are a few that will love it no matter how they place…but the truth is, it’s a lot easier to love showing if you actually do well every now and then. Eventually, they’ll want to show more and outgrow your lesson horse which is when you start looking to find them a show horse.
Sell or lease out your personal horses (if you have more than one)
Your lesson horses are now “your horses”. If you have one for yourself then fine but just because your horses are on your property doesn’t mean they’re free. Having a herd of your own horses that aren’t or can’t be used for lessons will drain your business.
Have a trainer!
In order to show you need a trainer. More importantly, in order for kids to learn how to ride and be comfortable they need a consistent teacher who they’re used to riding with. This might mean that you have two trainers, which many farms do…one for beginners and one for the upper level or actively showing students. Another fun option is to have an IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) team. This is great for kids who can’t afford their own horse but still want to show. Plus, it gets your farm name out there and can really build a strong foundation for your riders (look for my upcoming post with more detail on IEA!).
Purchase a trailer or two
Showing is a must unless you plan to be a breeding or rescue farm. Sometimes you’ll have one or two horses going to shows, other times you’ll have four horses going to shows. Competition is a great way to build relationships between your students and create a “barn family” or a greater community feel to your farm which is AWESOME for your barn! Having both a two-horse and a four-horse trailer gives you flexibility and allows your trainer to show in order to keep their name out there and possible get your horses name’s out there.
It’s safe to say that you’re going to end up with some show horses on your property and, as a member of the hunter/jumper/equitation show world let’s face it…show horses are prissy! Safe fencing is going to be one of the first things that new boarders look at when deciding whether or not to bring their horses to your farm. If you have to, get a bank loan or small investment through crowdfunding or other sources but it’s better to be safe about fencing then skimp on it at first and have to deal with it later.
Discipline doesn’t matter when it comes to footing. Make sure that your footing is going to be good for the horses and, for your outdoor ring, make sure that it’s put in properly so that rain, snow, and other kinds of weather don’t upset or unsettle the footing so much that it damages the ring. Indoor rings are a HUGE plus especially if weather makes it difficult to ride in the winter but, if that’s not in the budget, leave space for the possibility but maybe have a covered round pen or something so that boarders can still ride regardless of rain or snow.
People Google..and they will google you. So much is online now that if you’re not, it affects how people view your credibility. Even a basic website and some social media pages can go a long way! This is where a lot of farms drop the ball and having an online presence really does help you build your business, credibility, name recognition, and even show recognition. Have a blog so people can get a better feel for your trainer’s style, your farm’s identity, and who you are as a farm owner. If it’s ok with your riders (or their parents if they are minors) then post photos, videos, and articles about them and their achievements. There’s so much you can do that can help ensure your future success!
If you have any questions or are interested in talking further about building your barn’s brand, let me know!
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