Successful Boarding Operation

Courtesy of PennState Extension

To have a successful horse boarding operation, your facilities must make a favorable impression on your clients. For the comfort and convenience of your clients, you should provide ready access to clean restroom facilities, a telephone for use in emergencies, and sufficient space to store tack and equipment.

The services you provide will determine the type of facilities you need for boarding horses. Site selection and the arrangement of facilities require careful planning.

Your top priority should be the safety of horses and people. Other important considerations are cost, efficiency, flexibility, maintenance, and local zoning codes.

Housing can be as simple as three-sided sheds to protect horses kept outdoors. Make sure open sheds face away from prevailing winds. Enough space should be provided to reduce the chance of injury to the horses. Timid or less aggressive horses can become trapped in small, enclosed areas or corners. The recommended space for horses in loose housing is 90 to 150 square feet per animal.

Individual box stalls are commonly used in boarding facilities and are preferred by many horse owners. The minimum stall size for most light horses is 10 feet by 10 feet, but 12-by-12-foot or larger stalls are preferred. All interior stall surfaces should be durable, free of projections and sharp edges, and easy to clean.

Sanitation, comfort, ease of cleanup, and safety are the primary factors to consider when choosing floor and bedding materials.

Proper ventilation is critical to prevent respiratory problems and protect the health of stabled horses. Well-ventilated barns allow a continuous exchange of air to maintain proper air quality and humidity and reduce odors. Sufficient ventilation usually can be achieved with proper placement and use of windows, doors, vents, and louvers.

The feeding program should be tailored to meet the nutritional needs of each horse. This will depend on the animal’s age, size, health, and temperament as well as breed, degree of activity, and season of the year. Your veterinarian, feed company representative, or extension office can help you develop a balanced nutrition program or analyze your present feeding programs.

Establish and maintain a regular schedule of at least two feedings per day. Horses evolved as grazing animals and forages are necessary for their digestive system to function properly. Quality hay or pasture should be the basis of the feeding program.

Vitamin and mineral supplements may be necessary if dietary deficiencies exist. These supplements are usually provided by the owner.

Fresh water should be available to horses at all times and free of dirt, algae, and food particles.  An average 1,000-pound horse will drink about 10 to 12 gallons of water a day. Serious health problems can develop quickly if a horse’s water intake is reduced.

When planning your horse facilities, consult with a nutrient management specialist to determine how you will collect, store, transport, and dispose of manure. Be prepared to meet local and state regulations and codes.

Safe farm operations are essential for a successful horse boarding business. On a regular basis, inspect and evaluate the entire facility for potential hazards to horses and people. Fire prevention is a major concern and the following practices are recommended:

  • Regularly inspect electrical wiring.
  • Install lightning protection devices.
  • Properly store fuels and combustible materials.
  • Post “no smoking” signs.
  • Have fire extinguishers readily available throughout the facility.
  • If possible, store hay in a separate barn away from heat and electrical sources.

Other safety recommendations include the following:

  • Provide safety training and supervise employees, customers, and visitors.
  • Regularly maintain facilities, machinery, and equipment.
  • Remove trash from the barns and elsewhere on the farm.
  • Install fencing around the perimeter of the property, if possible.
  • Fence all hazardous areas, such as ponds and lagoons.
  • Store machinery in locked buildings, or if facilities are unavailable, store outside with keys removed, brakes locked, and wheels blocked.
  • Store chemicals in secure areas.
  • Post “no trespassing” signs to discourage unwanted visitors.