Is Your Horse Boarding Operation Out of Space?
By Nikki Alvin-Smith

Is Your Horse Boarding Operation Out of Space? By Nikki Alvin-Smith

As a horse business owner you don’t want to turn away new clients and thus potential business that can help you build a better bottom line. As a horse owner in search of the perfect livery for your horse, you don’t like to be on the receiving end of the statement, ‘ Sorry, we have no more room.’

The fact is that if you are running a good horse boarding operation you will most likely have a waiting list. And a waiting list means you are waiting for profits. Who knows, the client could end up somewhere else and you could miss out altogether.

While your 10 or 20 stall barn may have been seemed a huge undertaking when you started your business, barns have a habit of becoming figuratively smaller every year, as they fill up with equine inhabitants and their owners. There is a balance between running the barn totally full of occupants and waiting for clients to move away or move out, and the worry of a vacancy factor that could undermine your operating profit margins.

Also, although you have some interest in investing some of your hard earned dollars in your business, and realizing you can amortize the investment and deduct interest payments if you finance another barn structure, you are probably loathe to gallop into extending your operation and developing it too big too fast.

Is Your Horse Boarding Operation Out of Space? By Nikki Alvin-Smith

The answer is to make a purchase of an inexpensive method of adding stalls while not incurring too much additional expense. The best style barn to achieve this is the shed row design. Here are a just a few of the features that make a shed row attractive:

  • Shed row stalls are one of the least expensive builds to construct.

  • You can design the shed row in a line, an L-shape or an angle so that it fits your property.

  • The stalls can be designed to any size with an overhang to protect from weather and additional space may be included for hay storage and equipment. It's a boon to have hay on the floor level and no stairs or overhead storage issues and have it close by the horse stalls.

  • Shed row stalls can offer a quarantine option for incoming horses or sick horses when not used full-time for boarders, and provide temporary housing for camps, clinics, shows and events with the added bonus that the additional hoof and foot traffic does not interfere with your daily barn operations or security.

  • Very popular for use with stallions and colts that may be upset with proximity of mares in a closed barn.

  • You can add to the line of stalls easily at any time if you wish to extend the stall row.

  • Multi-use features can include equipment storage, extended overhangs, turn out stalls directly to pastures if you want to offer rough board.

  • Horses love fresh air. Shedrow stalls are very popular for eventers/race horse operations, as these disciplines prefer horses stabled with optimum respiratory health conditions. Click here to hear what eventer Boyd Martin had to share about Horizon Structures at Windurra USA, his PA farm, which he co-owns with his wife Silva Martin who is an FEI dressage rider and trainer.

The shedrow building can easily be transported in sections, which make it easy to have delivered and set in place with the minimum of fuss in the minimum amount of time.

Before you trot in to look at the barns on offer around the country, it is wise to keep several facts in mind to be certain your are making a comparison on pricing that is accurate and that your purchase will withstand the daily abuse horses can dish out. The structure needs to be well built of good materials and great craftsmanship and must make a smart addition to your farm.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • What materials are used for high abuse areas such as kickboards and dividing walls?

  • Is the dimensional lumber used throughout the building heavy duty in size and type of wood used?

  • How are the grills treated? Are they powder treated to deny rust and maintain their easy clean surface? Are the gaps between the grill bars less than 4 inches to avoid foal hooves becoming trapped or horses biting each other?

  • Are the stall doors substantial and a minimum of 4 ft wide for safe entry and exit?

  • Are the windows of good quality and easy to clean?

  • Are Dutch doors hinged well with tie-backs for windy weather?

  • What is the quality of the hardware used throughout?

  • Do you have a choice of siding and roofing materials to complement your present barns or buildings on property?

  • Can the builder guarantee a price to the penny?

  • Can the builder deliver to your location and offer complete set up to your satisfaction?

  • Will the builder provide you with plans and advice for permitting? Are the plans engineer certified for your specific climate such as snow load/hurricane winds, and do they meet or exceed your local town ordinances?

  • Will the builder give you advice and plans for site preparation?

As you can see there is much to be considered but doing your due diligence now will make life so much easier later. If you’d like help with your barn selection visit for a free guide, “ The Perfect Barn Buying Guide.”

Is Your Horse Boarding Operation Out of Space? By Nikki Alvin-Smith

How can you afford this new structure so you can place it on site now and reap the income benefits right away to have it paid off quickly? Look for financing from the modular builder. Many larger firms have easy access financing available, in some cases even if you are not the property owner but a trainer leasing the property.

The advantage of modular construction is that it is moveable. So if you move you have the option to move the modular structure with you. This can be a great help if you later buy a tract of land with no stabling and need a quick solution to place your horses under shelter while you complete other facets of the build at the new location.

Here’s a brief introduction to Mathematics 101 for the horse property owner that is contemplating a new barn purchase for their boarding business.

Back eons ago when I was fresh off the boat (Well, Pan Am 101 into Kennedy Airport actually), I worked in finance for an international corporation. At the time the company had hired a wonderful elderly Italian gentleman accountant from The Bronx named Bob, who visited every quarter and showed me how American payroll and corporate taxes worked. At year end as we sat at the round conference table working balance sheets and financial data he told me,

“Never be afraid of how big the numbers are, just worry about the cash flow.”

Sadly Bob died several years later in Florida, after he and his wife were car-jacked during a vacation. The stress and shock from this event sent him into cardiac arrest a few hours afterwards. He was a wealth of information and there was much he taught me, but this one statement is one of many that have carried me through many endeavors in my life since.

So to put it in the terms of a trainer or boarding farm operator, here’s what to specifically consider.

You cannot just look at the original cost of the new building and the monthly payments and say how long will it take me to pay that off based on charging X amount per month for each stall. This is because of these other factors:

  • The initial cost of the site and the building may be amortizable on your business tax return. This depreciation will bring a tax benefit each year and hence a cash flow benefit.

  • If you finance the building the costs for the interest portion may be deductible on your business tax return.

  • The building will probably add value to the resale value of your property.

  • While you may charge X amount for use of the stall for boarding purposes, the presence of each new client and their horse offers you the opportunity to increase your income by offering lessons and training, access to your trailer and horse show program etc. for such client.

  • The more horses you have on property the larger the discount you should be able to leverage from your suppliers such as shavings/feed/hay/vet services/alternative health services/saddle fitters etc. Thus reducing the equine per capita cost. These savings you can pocket or split with clients, your call.

  • The new stall space may save you damage to other horses, provisions or equipment i.e. hay not spoilt by bad weather because of additional storage available, horses quarantined and not infecting other members of the herd.

  • The extra stall space provides you the opportunity to grow your farm brand bringing even more clients, as you may now be able to offer shows/clinics and events that require overnite or daily stabling. These events when properly run can also yield additional profits. Note: Catskill Horse will be featuring an article on this topic this summer with heaps of advice on how to run a clinic for a profit.

  • Being able to host multiple events will entice more clients to board and train at your facility.

As a savvy horse business owner you’d have to be a blind man on a galloping horse not to see that limiting your education and vision for your business can limit your growth and your profits unneccesarily. But give yourself a break because no-one knows what they don't know. If the Math 101 makes sense for you then you should consider talking it over with your own tax professional and see where it lands for your individual situation.

I hope that this conversation has helped and that it has given you something to ‘chew over.’

Is Your Horse Boarding Operation Out of Space? By Nikki Alvin-Smith

You will need advice on the construction side and some accurate pricing and as Olympian Boyd Martin mentioned above, he went to Horizon Structures to find the solution for his needs. Which needs I might add, were very much an emergency at the time, as the previous barn had burned down and he and Silva needed a good barn in place fast. Horizon Structures answered that call to action and since that time the Boyds continue to purchase other structures for Windurra USA from Horizon Structures, such as gazebos for the arenas and run-in sheds for the pastures.

The Horizon Structures team is a friendly and knowledgeable team and you can count on their experience to guide you through. Don’t be shy to give them a shout at
888-447-4337 and ask for Mike Rinier, who is the Senior Project Manager and an awesome down to earth guy that will help you figure it all out.

Happy barn shopping!