Designing Stable Management Software ~ Need some insight

I’m new here, hopefully this is the right place for this.

I grew up on a farmette with a few horses, and learned to ride by taking lessons at a stable near by and from my father. I also helped out a lot with the feeding and cleaning. I am also an experienced software developer. I have worked on business management software before and I have been contemplating putting something together for stable management as a way to get involved with horses again.

I know there are already quite a few solutions out there (if you know of any more, please let me know):

http://barnmanager.com/
http://www.stable-management.co.uk/
http://www.rendaivu.com/
https://www.tlore.net/main/index.cfm
http://stablesecretary.com/features/

For anyone that has used any of these, could you share what you liked and disliked about them?

Here are a few ideas (I would love to get some feedback from anyone involved in stable/horse farm management):

  • Cloud based product, accessible by web (desktop computer), iPhone, Android, iPad, Android Tablet.

  • At the core it is database management for the manager of a stable, maintain data about horses, horse owners, clients (riders or other activity), veterinary data, stable employees, events, etc.

  • Allow easy download of user data, you can download all data you have in the site to a Excel file, word file or CSV. Can also produce relevant reports in Word File or PDF format. Help users upload their data to the product. The user owns their data, it should not be locked in the product.

  • Calendar for appointments, lessons, etc. Allow calendar to be embedded in stable’s website so clients can easily make appointments via the web. Perhaps allow other data to be embedded in other websites.

  • Facilitate communication between manager and employees. For example, when finished cleaning a horse’s stall, employee can record this data and it will be shared with everyone else.

Let me know if you think these features are helpful or not, and what is missing. Thanks for your help!

This is a far more general response, but I think an important one: as someone who has been both a boarder and an operator/part of stable operations, my main concern is the horse. Any software I use I want to be simple, streamline and quick/easy to use. I don’t have time, with something like your last bullet on communication, to go check in with the software each time I finish a stall. I think that sort of communication is total overkill and takes away from the running of the facility. Not to mention I highly doubt most owners care to know exactly what time their horse’s stall is done at, and if they do, they probably aren’t in a boarding situation anyway. They probably take care of the horse themselves.

In discussing communication, software tools like this WOULD be useful if we were talking about giving medications, applying first aid to a wound, daily bandage changing, hand-walking for the injured horse, etc. Being able to have flexibility with how those messages are delivered, i.e. boarders could choose to receive alerts via text, email, insta-chat, etc. Not everyone can check a particular website or their email several times a day. Ease of communication therefore becomes really important.

I have used Rendaivu for my own horses, never for a boarding situation. I like it, but I’m a pen and paper gal. I still buy daily planners, and I only just started using Google calender for my massage clients so that the front desk staff in the office I work in can book appts for me. I’d be unlikely to use any sort of software unless it was really a perfect fit and could be super-tailored to my set-up.

As far as ease of access is concerned, I also wanted to throw this out there: as someone who lives in a state with often very limited cell-phone service (I mean, seriously, you can be driving and have 5 bars one minute, go a mile down the road and have nothing), being able to access any sort of system on the farm from a phone or tablet that relies on service tower proximity can be tricky and sometimes impossible. I have no idea how you would circumvent that, other than perhaps designing software that allows you to upload data without web connectivity and then automatically updates when your device is able to connect/comes back into a service area.

If you want people cleaning stalls to enter each time they clean a stall, well, do you know who those may be, that plenty of those, at least here, may not even speak English, some don’t know how to read and write?

Taking that into consideration, try to make some of those programs very easily accessible and not dependent on written symbols.

Never looked at those products but what I would design:

  • Different ways to "see" the data - calendar, list, report, etc...
  • DB at back end with keys such as horse, services (farrier, vet, etc.), owner
  • Links - e.g. on calendar you see vet due and clicking on vet links you to vet contact info, current balance owed to vet, etc...
  • Financial tracking - tracks money in/out - possibly link to quick Books or another such application.
  • Search capability - if current view doesn't show what you want/need you can search your relational DB to find it.

For example - say the calendar “view”. It would show daily activities - vet, farrier, worming, etc.

Say you have worming on the calendar - using outlook (or a like application) you would set an “alarm/reminder” to purchase wormers so much time before worming is due to occur. Clicking on wormers would also detail you what type of wormers were lasted used (for wormer rotations) so you know what type NOT to purchase.

Use links to take you to vet Info - contact numbers - office, cell, emergency, …

A great example is calendar with Vet appt link. Calendar states timeline 10 am-1 pm and reminds User daily starting 7 days ahead of time in case farm needs to provide for someone to be at farm for visit (or prepare for visit).

Clicking on calendar vet appt. brings up appointment details - Mr. Ed to get scoped for ulcers,… another click could take you to current account balance (due to vet) with a place to enter today’s bill (and ability to split bill by boarder - Valentina owes $125, HorsePoor owes $550, etc…, and ability to note payments (pre-payment by HorsePoor of $150 for today’s vet visit), etc… again tying back to Financial application for end of the year IRS work.

The idea to to have multiple “views” to get to the same data and tie views to “Role”: horse owner, Barn manager, Barn Owner, Accountant, etc… Also needs to produce reports and bills (boarders) with alarms for overdue bills. Maybe include email addresses for boarders so a reminder that “Your board is due/overdue” is sent out at a User defined interval.

@Abbie.S

Thanks for the reply. That is some really helpful information. I am trying to validate these ideas with people that have experience as users of these sort of products.

I’d like to discuss the communication point more. There are a couple directions of communications that I see, stable manager to horse owners, stable manager to employees, employee to employee, stable manager with horse owner and vet, and communication with riders or other clients, etc. I guess you are thinking more about the relation between the stable manager and the horse owner, right?

My point about mentioning stall cleaning is more for people managing the stables and not the horse owner so much. I would imagine that there are a lot of daily tasks for the employees take care of and they need to communicate that between themselves and potentially the manager. I remember last time I was at a big stable (many years ago) it was just clipboards hanging from the stalls to mark when and what the horse was fed, if they were bathed, stall cleaned, times out to pasture, who is riding today, etc. I would also assume those day to day issues are not as immediately important to the horse owner.

Good point about phone service connectivity. That is something to consider as well. It is definitely possible to hold the data until a connection is available.

@Bluey

Thanks for sharing those points. More importantly, is having that data about when stalls are cleaned, horses are fed, out of stall, in a lesson, etc. valuable to you?

I am actually a native Spanish speaker as well so I can certainly set it up so that it is available in Spanish. Of course, if they cannot even read Spanish than that is more challenging. For certain things symbols can be used to simplify communication.

Do you see any other issues?

@Valentina_32926

Thanks for sharing those ideas! It seems like scheduling is a big pain point that needs to be managed, and reminders in advance. I would guess automating personal reminders and reminders for boarders could help reduce spent managing those things. Also being able to connect it to another financial program would be useful.

Are you using any specific program, or do you just use outlook and something like Quicken?

[QUOTE=photi;7387200]@Valentina_32926

Thanks for sharing those ideas! It seems like scheduling is a big pain point that needs to be managed, and reminders in advance. I would guess automating personal reminders and reminders for boarders could help reduce spent managing those things. Also being able to connect it to another financial program would be useful.

Are you using any specific program, or do you just use outlook and something like Quicken?[/QUOTE]

For really great SW it would be nice to interface with exictsing financial SW (if possible). I use Quick Books Pro since SO purchased for his business.

At the very least I can have it produce files that can be imported into Quicken and have it read Quicken files. Would it be nice if it could do something beyond that?

Hi Photi,

A horse loving friend of mine referred me to this post because she knew about my software called LaRaedo and thought I could provide you with some insight. I created a software similar to what you are talking about back in 2008 and lasted until I shut it down in 2012. It had all the bells and whistle of a web based software that provided log in access for the farm owner, staff and client. Each had their own view and permissions. It provided the owner and staff a method to update the maintenance of the horses (anything billable) and provide an area for notes so there could be an exchange of information between client and staff or farm owner. All billable items would automatically be pulled into an invoice and tracked whether paid or not. There was a calendar feature for everyone with a log in to view any upcoming events (add, update and delete) so any training or lessons could be entered. There was so much more, I could go on. But what I found was that there wasn’t enough incentive for the farm owner to make the change. Sure they could easily charge their clients for this new service but it would require them to enter in data on a regular basis and what I found was they just didn’t feel there was time enough in the day to be bothered. So if you could figure out a way to make it far more attractive to them maybe something like this would fly. I had a web site, blogged regularly, marketed like crazy, provided free webinars and finally had to let it go because it was costing me too much money to keep running a software without any users :slight_smile: Hope that you figure out a method that works. I came up with the idea because I was a boarder for many years and keeping a horse is very expensive. It’s not just the boarding, but the training, lessons, shows, and everything else that goes into the care and feeding of this wonderful animal. I thought that if a farm offered me something like this, I would be so happy I’d be telling all my horse friends about it. But the timing wasn’t right or something. All is well though, I had great fun creating it and learning the ins and outs of a web-based software business. All the best to you!

For data entry, make it easy for me to input large amounts of info at once. Think about how that would look in my schedule. Because, let’s be realistic, data is not always (ever) going to be added in real time. For example, let me open up a farrier’s page and put in ALL the horses done that day. Don’t make me go to each horse and add a farrier visit. Same for vet visits, lesson schedules, etc.

Reminders would be great. As automated as possible. Think “board is due” (every month), “meeting today”(2nd wednesday of every month), “farrier comes tomorrow” (every 3 weeks), “lesson in an hour.” I also like the idea of an automated email for late payments, but I would want a notification first. Like: This email should go out to A, B, & C because their board is late. Press send to send. I might be late on entering a payment and an auto email would be bad.

Auto emails for lesson changes might be great too. (This might also including setting up a way for non owners to be in the system.) Cancellations, horse assignments, and make-up availability all come to mind.

I would never use employee check-in for daily activities. We don’t have the clipboard system you mentioned, but I would choose that over a cell phone system. With a clip board I feed, pick up a pen, and mark it down. With my cell, I feed, dig in my pocket for my phone, pull off my gloves, unlock my phone, pull up your system if it isn’t already, mark it, sleep my phone, put it away, put my glove on, repeat. And that’s IF my phone hasn’t shut off due to the cold. It’s just not time effective when you’re feeding more than 1-2 horses. I know my employees do their jobs.

However… I would use it for things that are more time sensitive/occasional. I’m thinking hand-walking, turnout of a rehabbing horse, etc. On this note, what if my employee doesn’t have a smart phone? Is there any way around this?

A picture feature would be nice too. I would love to add photos of horses/markings. Also a good way to monitor weight/muscling changes over time. I would also like to snap a photo of a receipt and “file” it into the budget/border account.

Hi Enquinemaint,

Thanks for taking the time to write. It is really insightful to hear about your experience building a product and trying to get it out there. I bet you definitely learned a lot and it is great that you can share that with us. I am sorry to hear it was not successful and I hope your current endeavors are more fruitful.

I am actually trying to focus on things from mainly the farm owner/stable manager perspective since that seems to me where most of the data management lies. My initial goal is to talk to people who would potentially use it and get a feel for what their pain points are, and then make a relatively small, core implementation of features. Assuming I am able to attract at least a few customers, then the next step would be to work with them closely and improve the product based on their experience with it and interests. If you have any thoughts on that plan of attack I would love to hear your opinion.

@Wonders12

Thanks for the information! That is a really good point about grouping data entry together, makes sense to be able to do all the vet info for all horses, farrier visit for all horses, instead of forcing you to do it per horse. Something I had not thought of but would definitely make life easier for someone doing data entry.

Email/messaging assistance and calendar/reminders seems to be a recurring theme so that is definitely a feature to have.

Good to know about the daily activity check in stuff. From the feedback here it seems like it would not be to useful. I am glad I am talking to you guys! Implementing that system is a lot of work so it is something I will put on the back burner unless there are a lot of people that suddenly have interest in it.

As far as employees without a smartphone, obviously accessible via a regular computer or a tablet computer, but unrealistic to have those while working. Other than that it would be possible to send an SMS/Text Message to a particular number with the information, but the data/message would have to formatted correctly so the computer can handle it and pass it on to managers account. Might be too much trouble for the employee in that case. If you have any other ideas of how to handle it, let me know.

Yeah, definitely will have photos of the horses. Good to know about tracking weight and muscle changes over time.

That should be sufficient - best ROI idea.

[QUOTE=photi;7387170]@Abbie.S

I’d like to discuss the communication point more. There are a couple directions of communications that I see, stable manager to horse owners, stable manager to employees, employee to employee, stable manager with horse owner and vet, and communication with riders or other clients, etc. I guess you are thinking more about the relation between the stable manager and the horse owner, right?

[/QUOTE]

I was, specifically, yes. In terms of ease of use, from looking at it from an employer perspective, I can see it a couple different ways. If I’m the owner of a big barn and I’m not on the property all the time or maybe not directly overseeing things day-to-day, and have set employees caring for the horses, it may be helpful to know exactly when things are finished. But, at the same time, I don’t want my employees taking extra time to punch in information and recording minute details. Certain things, yes, but time is money, and every check-in ends up on payroll. I used to work in a very large-scale greenhouse, and the place was a tight ship. We set up production lines to minimize the amount of steps an employee had to take between soil, pots, plant plugs/seeds, the conveyer belts, etc. Time is money, and time spent walking back and forth to a tack room or other location to punch in when each stall is cleaned adds up.

Now, obviously this is an extreme scenario, perhaps a very large barn with dozens of horses, and the need for very specific records. But for any of the barns I’ve been in and worked at, we are talking 30 horses or less. I don’t have much experience with the huge farms you see in other states: horse farms in Vermont tend to be proportionate to the size of the state, lol.

Wonders12 hit the nail on the head with what I was thinking: I want my employees taking care of the horses, not fiddling with electronics. Clipboards work just fine if the BO needs to know when each stall is done, each horse is turned out. But for stuff like wound care, hand walks, etc., an electronic system is more feasible.

[QUOTE=Abbie.S;7389131]
Wonders12 hit the nail on the head with what I was thinking: I want my employees taking care of the horses, not fiddling with electronics. Clipboards work just fine if the BO needs to know when each stall is done, each horse is turned out. But for stuff like wound care, hand walks, etc., an electronic system is more feasible.[/QUOTE]

Thanks again Abbie.S! Yeah, from everyone’s feedback I get the feeling that that feature would not be too important. Anyway, it’s good that I am talking to you guys first. At the end of the weekend I’ll put together what I think are the most important core features (based on everyone’s comments) for this sort of service and then see if I can get some final feedback before starting to work on it.

Oh, and if you really want me to use it, it has to be cheap. I don’t mind ads on the desktop version if that will help lower the cost, but I would prefer it not on the mobile version.

Also consider offering it non-profits for less. I have a board of directors who reviews all my expenses, and they might not think something expensive is worth the price.

I would also prefer a 1 time fee over a monthly subscription.

I use Rendaivu for the horses when I remember, but pretty much just for wormer & vaccines at this point, I have to type in too much crap to be bothered for shoeing or anything else, but have not applied it to the farm yet. While it’s useful, it tries my patience.

-I have to click too many times to get to anything.

-I want it to tie in to Google calendar. For the love of cod, don’t make me pull up separate calendars! Plus then I can share it easily. I just want to make one appt with one click for “farrier” on appropriate date and time and it’s on my Google calendar.

-The interface is awkward is so many ways I can’t describe. It’s dated, counter-intuitive, and did I mention I have to click too many times?

-The email reminders are AWESOME when I remember to put in the dates though.

-When I did look at it for managing farm-type stuff, it was geared towards public boarding facilities and pros/breeders. I’m an adult amateur with a private farm and just my horses. I do train and compete, but just for fun and I event so I’m not recording shows or placings (DFL is never a choice) and we don’t win money, LOL. And I sure as hell don’t want to add up my entry fees.

-I would like to (a) do everything for one horse on one page and (b) do the same thing for both horses at once. I can do (b) on Rendaivu with, say worming.

-I’m pretty wicked with Excel so I built my own farm spreadsheet there that I used for construction, including a sheet for the tractor (maintenance, part numbers, sourcing, repair needs). It also has lists of things I need to do, how much they will cost, whether they are immediate or later needs, and where I can get the stuff. I even used it to calculate the volume of my hay shed and using the average volume of square bale, figured out approximately how much hay I could store. I have it on my Google drive so I can pull it from anywhere. To give you an idea of what a private farm owner might use.

-I HATE SMARTPHONES and anything else with a touch-screen. This includes Windows 8. I have a laptop. With keys. And XP running Firefox which shall be pried from my cold dead hands.

-Agree that I would like an option for “poverty-ridden horse owners.” I’m fine with ads if they aren’t flashing at me or even a simplified free version. I don’t even need a download (like I need something that takes up space) as long as I can just download a data backup.

[QUOTE=Wonders12;7389905]Oh, and if you really want me to use it, it has to be cheap. I don’t mind ads on the desktop version if that will help lower the cost, but I would prefer it not on the mobile version.

Also consider offering it non-profits for less. I have a board of directors who reviews all my expenses, and they might not think something expensive is worth the price.

I would also prefer a 1 time fee over a monthly subscription.[/QUOTE]

I’ll keep that in mind. It’s possible to have different pricing for private use, non profit and business. It will be something you have to pay for but I am still contemplating the business model. For me personally anything you pay for should not have ads.

@wildlifer

Great feedback! Thank you so much. I think being able to tie in with google calendar is a great idea. Don’t worry I won’t force anyone to use a touch screen that doesn’t want to. User should be able to use it on regular computer or touch screen device with out any restriction but the first version will be a computer accessed website.

Pricing will be less lower for private use and small farms. Data entry I think per issue for all horses, and one horse for all issues are two good basic options.

Thanks to sharing how you use excel. Good to hear that you have made it work well for yourself. If people choose to use a smartphone, I have to find a way to simplify data entry. Actually typing on a phone right now and it is really challenging! I like keyboards as well!