What it Takes..A Story on Boarding

What It Takes To Run A Boarding Facility
Hi, my name is Michelle Gordon, a lot of you know me but for those of you who don’t here is a little about us.

My Husband (Robert) and I own and run R&M Equine Boarding Ranch in Elwood, IN. It’s a “rain day” here on the ranch and with so much still left to do and so many things not going to get done because of the rain, I decided to sit down at the computer. Now on days like this my mind tends to go a mile a minute thinking of things that I don’t normally have time to think about.

One of the things I was thinking of today is something that most facilities will not talk about to boarders or potential boarders, and that would be, why boarding fees are anywhere between $400.00 to $900.00 per horse per month and what does it pay for. So many times I hear from boarders or potential boarders that boarding facilities (including ours) should lower their rates.

The reasons these boarders or potential boarders give are too numerous to list but I’ll give you just a few examples, “So and so’s boarding facility down the road only charges $XXX!”, “It does not take that much to take care of a horse!”, “You could fill up this place if you just lowered your rates!”, “If I provide the hay, grain, dewormer, do all the work for my horse, and feed my horse every day would you lower your fees?”.

Well, I decided that I would sit down today and right up a little summery (or story) of what it takes to run a boarding facility and why almost 75% of facilities in the industry charge what they charge and why they will not come down on their prices. The reason I wanted to write up this little tidbit of information is because most people who board horses, and do not have their own facilities, do not understand what it really takes when it comes to money, the physical aspect, or knowledge wise to take care of a horse and the facilities for that horse.

Lets start this story off with just the day to day basics of the physical aspect of this job. Every morning you wake up a the crack of dawn (in most cases anywhere between 5 and 6 am) grab your cup of coffee and head out to the barn for feeding time.

Depending on how many horses you have at your facility will be the reason for you taking anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to load up hay, ready the grain, clean out and fill the water troughs, throw the hay out, feed the grain, and check over all horses to make sure everything is “A OK” and that nobody is hurt or sick. Then you head back to the barn for cleanup.

You clean the stalls, you clean the shelters, the alleyway/breezeway, the tack room, feed room, round pen, the riding arena, and you clean anything else that might need cleaned. Again depending on how many horses you have and how big your facilities are these tasks will take you anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. So now we are at the time of day (between 11am and 1pm) that you might just get to stop and grab a bite to eat for yourself.

After that you head back out to the barn for the afternoon feeding. This will take you anywhere between 1 and 2 hours to complete, depending on how many horses and how big the facility. Now, if your lucky and have good pasture and the horses are out on that and you don’t have to do an afternoon feeding, then you move onto your next set of chores.

At about 2pm or 3pm you go out and check the fence rows to make sure everything is still up and running so the horses can not get out. You fix anything that might need fixed with the fences, barn, shelters, and gates. You check the fields and paddocks for anything that might hurt the horses such as trash, debris and rocks. If by some stroke of luck you don’t have anything that needs fixed then you can jump on your mower/tractor and mow the fields and paddocks that always seem to “get away from you” or you might weed eat the fence rows.

In any case no matter what chores you have to do that day it will take you anywhere from 2 to 6 hours to complete them (again, depending on how many horses and how big the facility). Now the time of day is anywhere between 5pm and 9pm and your stomach once again is telling you it’s time for you to eat so that your body can have the energy to keep up with you. Then you head back out to the barn, once again, and feed the evening feeding which will take you another 1 to 2 hours (unless your horses are on pasture).

Now, if you’ve had a “light day” then chances are you have time to groom out all your “personally owned” horses and get to bed at a decent hour. But, if you’ve had to do all or most of the above chores then you probably either wont have the energy to groom them or you’ll be getting to bed around 11pm or 12 midnight after you do groom them.

Also, let me explain that this list is just what needs to be done around the boarding facility on a day to day basis and does not include your “household chores” or any “running into town” you may need to do or if you have a family and the hours it takes to take care of them. It also does not include the hours taken if you’re a trainer or give lessons or if you have a sick or injured horse that needs taken care of or if you have a hay delivery, a farrier or vet scheduled that day, which all take a lot more time out of your day! Now lets move onto the knowledge part of this industry.

You need to know what type of hay to feed and how to tell if it’s good or bad hay when delivered and when feeding it. You need to know how and when to feed. You need to know what types of vitamins and minerals the hay you provide or your pasture gives so that you can adjust accordingly with your grain and/or supplements. You need to know approximately what weight each and every horse at your facility needs to be at, how to weigh them, and adjust the feeding accordingly. You need to know the signs and symptoms (what to look for) to know if a horse is sick or injured.

Here are just a few of the things you need to know about: abdominal pain, collapse, dehydration, tying-up, burns, heat stroke, insect bites/stings, poisoning, shock, wounds/injuries, diseases, coat/skin/hoof problems, allergies, eye/ear problems, mouth/teeth problems, colic, nasal irritations, respiratory problems, head/spinal cord trauma, broken bones, and on and on and on (this is just the tip of the iceberg).

You need to know how to handle and restrain and treat a sick or injured horse, when to call a vet and when not to, when to call the farrier and when not to, what types of vaccination shots are required for your horse and your area of the country, when your horse needs to have his or her sheath or utter cleaned and teeth floated, etc. etc. etc…

You need to have the knowledge to repair and keep up with your facilities, what type of facilities you need, and how to build your facilities accordingly. So maybe some of this is why, I myself, will not lower my boarding fees or waver on the type of care provided to the horses boarded here. Because so many people that own horses do not have the knowledge needed to take care of them properly.

I’m not saying that you should not own a horse if you don’t have the “full spectrum” knowledge to care for that horse. I’m just saying please be honest with yourself when it comes down to it and ask yourself, “do I really have all the knowledge it takes to take care of my horse properly?” and if not then that is ok, because that is what “our job” as a boarding facility is, having the knowledge to do it all and to help you learn how to do it.

I don’t ever want our facility to become known for anything other than “a good place for you and your horse to be”. I don’t ever want a “bad call” going out about our facility for neglected or abused horses. So many times I have seen facilities get that “bad call” made about them because they decided to let the owner of the horse take care of the horse themselves so that the owner could pay a lower boarding fee and in the end the owner of the horse did not have the knowledge to take care of the horse properly, there for the horse ended up neglected, sick, dehydrated, malnourished, or abused.

So now we are at the money end of this task of taking care of horses. I will try my best to explain why the boarding fees are at the rate they are and why most of the boarding facilities in this industry will most likely never lower their rates. First off I will explain Q-Brook Stable’s boarding fees to give you a general idea of what it takes to pasture board a horse with shelter:

Per month per horse:

$144.00 feed (5 Qt per day per horse)

$8.00 fly control (does not include fly spray, the boarder still needs to provide their own)

$8.00 electrolytes (estimated water usage for weight of average horse)

$5.00 salt and mineral blocks (estimated usage for weight of average horse)

$10.00 deworming paste (broken down for deworming every 60 days)

$10.00 misc. (for anything that might come up such as extra deworming needs or extra feed if under weight or first aid supplies, etc.)

$300.00 hay (6-8 flakes per day for weight of average horse at $10.00 per bale) PS the days of the $6.00 bale are LONG over (if the horses are on good pasture during the grass months of the year, this fee goes towards the upkeep of those pastures such as reseeding in the fall, mowing, weed control, gas for the machinery, maintenance on the machinery, etc.)

$100.00 feeding services, deworming services, misc. labor services (this helps to pay for the ranch owners utility bills, mortgage, land taxes, gas/plates/insurance for vehicles and machinery, upkeep/improvements of facilities, food on the table, clothes on the back, etc.)

$60.00 land, round pen, fencing, feed/water buckets/tubs/supplies, cleaning supplies, tack/feed room, tack racks/shelves/misc., electricity, water, shelter, and barn – usages (again, this helps to pay for the ranch owners utility bills, mortgage, land taxes, gas/plates/insurance for vehicles and machinery, upkeep/improvements of facilities, food on the table, clothes on the back, etc. after all, this is their job, same as if they were to go work a 9am to 5pm desk job. Ranchers and farmers can’t live on air, as some might think.)

Total $645.00 (Pasture Board Costs)

Now if the boarding facility offers stalls that would be another $50.00 to $150.00 per month depending on if they include bedding and cleaning services for those stalled horses (extra work, extra utilities used, extra taxes imposed on ranch owner, and extra supplies).

If the facility has an indoor arena then that would be approximately another $25.00 to $50.00 per month, and another $25.00 to $50.00 per month is normally included if the facility is large enough to have their own trails for you to ride (extra work, extra utilities used, extra taxes imposed on ranch owner, and extra supplies).

Also, other fees that run anywhere between $50.00 and $200.00 will sometimes be included depending on what the size of the facility is, if they have exercise equipment available such as polls/barrels/jumps/round pen etc. for use, if they include grooming or exercising your horse for you in the boarding fees or if they offer lessons and/or training as part of the boarding fees (again: extra work, extra utilities used, extra taxes imposed on ranch owner, and extra supplies). Fees can also be up there on the “high end” if the facility is large enough and has more horses than just one person can take care of and the ranch owner has to hire in help.

Now, lets do a little comparison between boarding your horse and owning your own place to keep your horse: (now when I say “basic utilities” what I mean by that is your electric, gas, and water. This is not including the “extras” that most people have such as satellite or cable TV, phone, cell phone, groceries, internet service, car payments, etc.)

Boarding your horse includes (at most places) just about everything you will ever need for your horse and can run you, lets just say around the high end, $900.00 per month. In most cases your only outside cost for your horse will be your vet and farrier bills, which will run you around $45.00 per month (broken down and does not include any illnesses or injuries).

You never have to worry about feeding your horse, fixing facilities, paying a LARGE mortgage or utility bill. You almost always have somebody there everyday to ride with, you make new friends/riding buddies, and you can learn a lot more about horses because your around more “horsy” people. Your normal mortgage, upkeep, and basic utilities on a “non-horse” owned property only run you around $1,000.00 per month all together. So boarding your horse, your basic utilities and horse needs would run you about $1,545.00 per month.

Owning your own place to keep your horse will run you anywhere between $3,500.00 to $5,000.00 per month JUST for your mortgage and land tax payment alone because in almost every county of almost every state there is now a law stating you have to own 5 or more acres to be able to have a horse on that land.

Just your basic utility bills for a “horse owned property” will run around $350.00 per month. And to feed and take care of your horse will be around $350.00 per month, plus your vet and farrier (broken down to monthly) will be around $45.00 per month (this does not include any illnesses or injuries).

You have to pay for your own facilities to be built and maintained which will, at a minimum, run $200.00 per month (broken down). So just your basic mortgage, utilities, horse needs, and facilities will run you around (on the low end) $4,245.00 per month.

So lets recap:

Boarding your horse and paying your basic bills is around $1,545.00 per month.

Owning 5 or more acres for your horse and paying your basic bills is around $3,600.00 per month.

That’s a savings of about $700.00 per month to board your horse instead of owning your own place to keep your horse (that’s around $8,400.00 per year you save when you board instead of own).

I do hope that this information helps EVERYBODY, in the horsy world, better understand “why boarding fees are between $400.00 to $900.00 per horse per month and what that money is used for”.

Michelle Gordon
Elwood, IN. 46036