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Horse Boarding Barn Best Practices

Horse Boarding Barn Best Practices
How to run a tip-top horse boarding operation, from health considerations to communication tactics
Four horses stand in crossties, boarders fluttering about in various states of tacking up while chatting with one another about the weekend ahead. Two boarders are already outside—one longeing, the other schooling a pattern. One of the barn staff is repairing an outdoor waterer as a hay delivery truck, now empty, heads down the driveway.
In the midst of all this activity, the horse boarding farm owner and manager calmly tucks the checkbook in one back pocket after paying the hay guy and takes her phone out of the other to answer a boarder text about the farrier’s impending arrival.
Indeed, running a horse boarding operation is a balancing act—one of keeping the barn environment pleasant and safe while remaining organized and professional.
In this article we’ve interviewed two women who have proven track records running boarding businesses about how to operate one effectively. Whether you currently have a boarding business or think it might be something you’ll do someday, here are some practical management tips.
Gambel Oaks: Staying Organized
Linda and Jim Hitt own Gambel Oaks Equestrian Center, in Elizabeth, Colorado. On their 15-acre property they care for and train 55 Arabian horses in both English and Western disciplines, plus lease 10 stalls to another trainer. With 100 acres of greenspace next door, they also have boarders that trail ride year-round. It makes for a lot to oversee.
The Hitts are both trainers and multicarded judges with the National Reining Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association, and American Stock Horse Association. Linda Hitt manages their farm business and its books.
As soon as a new client moves his or her horse onto the property, Hitt has paperwork at the ready. “I put together a folder for them,” she says. “In there we have a boarding contract that every owner has to sign, a release of liability form, fee schedule, and a 3-by-5-inch emergency contact card complete with insurance information that goes on the stall front. If the horse is in training, we have a separate fee schedule,” that details what’s included in the program.
The Hitts’ boarding contract is a business necessity. “It states the responsibilities of each party and provides the business with some level of protection when clients fail to pay, are not timely in paying board, or the myriad things that can go sideways when you own your own business,” says Hitt.
“I find I have to be really direct with everyone,” she adds. “We treat everybody the same; you just need to communicate.”
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