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A horseback riding business offers lessons to people of all skills, from someone who has never been near a horse before to the experienced rider who wants to improve on a skill or learn a new skill, such as a different style of riding.
Who is this business right for?
The perfect person to run a horseback riding business is someone who loves horses, doesn't mind working outside regardless of the weather, and is physically active. Other factors include being able to work with customers, having business management experience, and having stable management experience. Depending on the side businesses you may want to add retail management knowledge and some knowledge in horse nutrition.
What happens during a typical day at a horseback riding lessons business?
Most days will be spent doing several activities. Some of these, you may do less frequently and will depend on the type of business you will be running in conjunction with a horseback riding business.
- Mucking stalls
- Feeding and watering horses
- Turning out horses
- Giving riding lessons
- Going on trail rides
- Cleaning the barn
- Caring for the turf in areas
- Ordering inventory
- Customer service
- Planning birthday parties if you offer birthday party rides
- Training horses
- Breaking green horses and/or training problem horses
- Keeping fields and courses mowed and maintained
- Ensuring watering troughs don't freeze
- Cleaning feed buckets and watering troughs
- Slinging hay
- Preparing for horse shows
- Maintaining any special equipment you might use for therapy riding
- Maintaining tack
- Trailering horses to and from your facility, whether for shows or to help customers get their horses to your facility
- Vehicle maintenance, including trucks, tractors, trailers and landscaping equipment.
What is the target market?
Customers my range from the very young to elderly. Experience may vary from none to years of riding experience. Your customers may be well off and prefer to pay for all of the services you offer for boarding and more, or you may have customers that prefer mucking their own stalls, using their own vets, and feeding their own food, whether for financial reasons or because they are used to caring for their own horses.
How does a horseback riding lessons business make money?
A horseback riding business makes money in several ways; though the largest stream of income comes from giving lessons and boarding horses. Other streams of income include doing special parties, trail riding, selling tack and feed, and training.
What is the growth potential for a horseback riding lessons business?
The growth potential is unlimited if you have the space to expand and if you are boarding, training, and giving lessons. If your facility gives only lessons, the growth potential is high. Lessons are usually an hour long and many stables offer lessons for a person once or twice a week. Adding other businesses on the side, such as boarding, selling tack, and training horses significantly increases your growth potential.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful horseback riding lessons business?
You may be really good at riding and training horses, but you also need to be able to teach others how to ride or how to get ready for a show. You'll also need horse training skills; basic medical skills to help horses in an emergency; retail, marketing, and customer service skills; and business management skills.
What are the costs involved in opening a horseback riding lessons business?
Opening a horseback riding business is a costly venture. You'll have to buy land if you don't have it, and you’ll have to build stables if you don't have them. You could expect to spend $3,000 and up per acre for good flat land, and about $100 square foot for stables and indoor arenas, depending on your location. Additional costs include:
- Any licenses and permits, including a certificate of occupancy and a sales tax certificate. These fees vary from county to county and state to state.
- Liability insurance.
- Horses that are fit for giving lessons. Prices for horses range from under $1,000 to well over $10,000, depending on bloodlines and previous training.
- Horses that are fit for trail riding;
- Fencing required to build rings and paddocks. Depending on the type of fencing you build, this could run anywhere from $20 a linear foot to over $40 a linear foot.
- Tack for each horse. Tack varies on brand and quality. In this case, you do get what you pay for.
- Inventory if you are selling tack and accessories.
- Horse feed.
- Watering troughs.
- A truck and trailer. You'll need a minimum of a 2500 HD full size pickup, but should preferably have a 3500 HD pickup. You could expect to spend upwards of $50,000 or more for a good truck.
- Tractor (optional – this comes in handy while mucking stalls). You might find a good used tractor with low hours for about $15,000 to $20,000.
- Indoor and/or arena(s).
- Utilities for the barns and arenas.
- Payroll for help if you are not running the operation by yourself.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a horseback riding lessons business?
Insider tips include knowing your horses and planning ahead to make it easier to expand. Instead of starting with a barn with a few stalls, if you plan on expanding, build the barn with 30 stalls right away. You'll end up saving money in the long run.
Knowing your horses is an important part of starting a horseback riding business. Some horses are great for trail riding but not so great for giving lessons to people who have little to no experience.
Also, be sure to have all of the equipment needed to clean stalls and care for the horses. Have a vet that will come to your facility lined up for emergencies. You may not be able to get a sick horse into a trailer. For boarders, be sure to have a contract that has been reviewed by an attorney ready to sign before you allow a horse to stay one night in your stables.
How to promote & market a horseback riding lessons business
Find out what type of clientele is in your area. Are there more who want you to care for the horses or more who prefer to care for their own horses? If you find there is a mixture of both, you might have two separate barns: one where you provide services such as vet services, shoeing services, feeding, and cleaning; and one where the customer provides all of that for a greatly reduced boarding fee.
If you just give riding lessons, consider hosting riding birthday parties, holding clinics, and offering trail riding sessions. And, if you have the space, add more barns for boarding or a retail store, or offer nutrition courses for the horse owners.
How to keep customers coming back
Make sure you understand your customers' needs and provide what they want. Even if you have to have two ranges of pricing for the different services you might offer. Be sure that you know how to give lessons. Knowing how to ride and imparting that information to another are two different things. You've got to have the communication skills. Keep the barns warm and dry and the horses well-cared for, and you'll find that you have customers for life.
How and when to build a team
If you find yourself running out of space, you may want to add more barns and more services. If you are considering adding more barns, you should have the income to hire paid help. Be sure to thoroughly vet each person you consider hiring. Remember, not only are thousands of dollars at stake with liability and the value of the horses and equipment, but a horse's life could be at stake if you hire someone who doesn't have experience.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a horse stable. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
A horse stable is usually run out of a large outdoor space. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease office space:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a horse stable..
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build office space:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your horse stable will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
The national average for horseback riding lessons ranges between $45 to $60 an hour, depending on your location, the student's skill, and what you need to charge to cover your overhead.
What are the ongoing expenses for a horseback riding lessons business?
The ongoing expenses are high for a horseback riding business and include:
- Mortgage payments on land and barns
- Liability insurance
- Additional horses
- Tack for your horses – you'll need different sized saddles for kids and adults
- Vet care
How much profit can a horseback riding lessons business make?
Profit is dependent on you. You need to figure the costs of running the business for a year and then divide that by 12. Subtract boarding fees that you receive. That will tell you how much you need to make with lessons, training, and retail to make the profit you envision. If your overhead is $36,000 per year, or $3,000 per month, you will need to sell 60 lessons at $50 to break even.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make your business more profitable by keeping expenses low, adding more stables for boarding, marketing your operation to sell more lessons, and building up your retail store, if you choose to have one.