How to Start a Riding Stable
With more than 9 million horses being used in the U.S. for sport or recreation each year, there is strong demand for training facilities where riders can receive proper instruction and board their horses. A riding stable business can be a fairly profitable venture if it is properly planned and managed.
Hire Experienced Staff
A riding stable requires multiple people on staff with extensive experience training horses, as riding instructors, or simply riding themselves. If a facility owner does not have experience in all aspects of a stable operation, it is especially important that they find and hire appropriate personnel to assist with the venture, including an experienced barn manager and support staff.
Luckily, those who ride often are passionate about horses and might consider a job at a riding stable as a great opportunity to work with horses. Network with those in the local riding community to find out who is passionate about such work.
Obtain Facility & Equipment
The easiest way to start up a riding stable is to purchase or lease an existing facility, but some individuals choose to purchase a tract of land and build to suit. A riding stable must provide its clients with arenas where they can practice. The best (and most costly) arenas are covered, with lighting that allows riders to train at all hours. A more common and affordable option is an outdoor arena, which is not covered. A key element of either type of arena is that they use a safe, consistent footing that it routinely dragged to ensure it is kept level. Footings may range from sand or dirt-based options to the most expensive synthetic creations. Additional features such as jump courses, round pens, and trails often are added.
Common necessities at riding stables include a barn with stalls, a feed room, a tack room, an office, fenced paddocks and fields, water troughs, proper storage areas for hay and bedding, and a full array of maintenance equipment.
If the stable will provide horses for use in lessons, a reliable group of horses must be acquired, along with necessary equipment such as brushes, blankets, and riding tack.
Riding stables must comply with all local laws, including zoning regulations and business licensing requirements. They also should secure insurance and post the standard limitation of liability notices around the premises.
Define Lesson & Boarding Options
Riding stables may offer lessons using facility-owned horses or those owned by clients. Both group and private lessons usually are offered in either 60-minute or 30-minute formats. Some facilities also offer transportation for the horses to shows and other competitive events. Boarding options for client horses are usually also offered.
Some larger stables may donate space or provide reduced rates to rescue organizations that foster horses in need of permanent homes. This can be a way to build goodwill within your local community.
The most successful facilities generally are the ones that can meet the needs of the broadest range of clients. Some clients may own their own horses but not have sufficient space to keep them on their own property. Riding lessons often are popular with children, and families who seek lessons often don't have their own horses, so the stable needs some available for that purpose.
Every riding stable also needs access to quality farrier services and veterinary care, so it is important to secure these relationships immediately. Suppliers of bedding, hay, and feed also must also be identified. Information about who provides these services should be readily available to clients.
Ensure Competitive Pricing
It is important, especially at the outset of your venture, that services are priced competitively for your area. It gives new clients a financial motivation to try your services. Research your competition by calling around to other facilities or visiting their websites to learn what they charge for similar options. It also might be a good idea to offer incentives to get the business up and running, such as new client discounts or referral credits.
Well-known, established riding instructors will be able to command higher prices for lessons and clinics. They also may bring clients from their previous facilities to yours, which is an added bonus.
Be sure to advertise your riding stable at local equine facilities like feed stores, tack shops, and showgrounds. Local newspapers and equine magazines also can reach your target audience. Advertising in horse show programs or publications from other major equine events can be an excellent business decision. If your facility’s riders perform well in competitions, this might draw additional clients who are interested in trying your trainer’s methods to achieve similar success.
Many riding stables create a website with photos, pricing options, and full details on their training program and competitive successes. The more information that can be placed online, the better.
Over time, the best advertising comes by way of referrals from satisfied clients. One well-connected customer can provide many referrals to their friends and fellow riders. It is the kind of advertising that money can’t buy.