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Owning a boarding/show barn lucrative??

I have been riding for 16 years. I have grown up competeing in jumpers, but have recently started a serious career with my OTTB in three day eventing under a wonderful trainer in Atlanta, GA. That said I am incredibly passionate about horses, and not just the showing side. Everything horse I love. I am constantly reading wanting to know more, learning, experiencing new situations, and so on. Plus add on my time learning from my 16 years of riding. With that being said I’m doing all the right things ensuring I have a secure future. I’m attending college and getting my degree in business management, essentially making sure I can have horses in my life. It’s sad, but true!

My question is though can you make money owning a boarding/ show barn? I have the idea of working in a field with my degree for roughly ten years, saving money, then pursuing my dreams. I also wanted to hire a great trainer who has been there done that, let them live on property and maybe bring their horse to sweeten the deal?? I personally want to train to a level I know I can, and then push them along to the other trainer.

I have also thought about getting my certificate in equine massage therapy/ chiropractic care to help with income. I know this is something in my life that will make me undoubtedly happy, but I don want to be in debt up to my eyeballs. So is it feasible to be comfortable and own a boarding/ show barn??

Sorry for long post, just want advice and opinions on this matter.

I don’t know that I have ever hear anyone call the horse business “lucrative,” but maybe your starting point would be to interview barn owners/managers about lessons learned.

All of the barn owners I know are lucky to break even. Many don’t.

You are smart though, in planning ahead and getting the business degree. You can start working on your business plan and assess the area you want to be in …

I wish you luck



Running a boarding/show barn is a lifestyle choice, not a business decision. For the vast majority of people in almost every area of the country, owning a boarding/show barn does not make economic sense when compared to the other options, e.g. going to college and getting a good paying job so you can support your horse habit.

There’s an old joke: “How you you make a million dollars in the horse business? Start with 2 million.” It’s not just a joke, it’s the truth.

Now, obviously, there are people out there who do make a living running a boarding/show barn. But, it’s hard work and coming into it with money or having a spouse with a regular off-farm job with benefits is a big help. Most of the younger people I know about who run boarding/show stables are horse-poor, rely on the income/assets of a spouse or parent to help make ends meet, and/or run side businesses to bring in extra money.

A little Monday morning pessimism to get your week started. Sorry. :slight_smile:


Running a boarding stable involves almost as much people management as horse management, and often the people are a LOT more difficult than the horses! I’m not referring to stable staff as much as I am owners…it takes a unique individual to keep a bunch of crazy horse people (of which I am one - it’s a compliment) happy. I wouldn’t take that job even if it paid 8 figures/year. I like horses far more than most people!

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Okay, well - I know people say it doesn’t make money but it actually does. The mortgage gets paid. What maybe doesn’t get paid is your salary to manage it. Unless you have services hat are basically profit ie training, the boarding portion is likely break even but it pays for your property which is not, in and of itself, an actual loss of money. It also really depends on your area and what the going rate for full board is. If it’s $300, maybe not. If it’s $700 at even a pretty shitty facility, then maybe so. Too many variables.

if you’re getting a business degree then you should understand the economics of it. If you would only be working to pay your mortgage, then maybe working “for free” makes sense. To others it doesn’t make sense and that’s fine too.

But as far as “comfortable?” No, you aren’t going to make high five figures above and beyond the costs of the place, drive a nice car, etc. you’ll need a “real job” for that.


Our barn is very new – so still paying off all the big buildings, etc. The boarding component just breaks even. The lessons/training program makes good enough money for me to live a decent life. Clinics break even, schooling shows and other “fun” events make ok money (typically a couple hundred bucks a day of profit).

We are one of the most expensive barns in the area, and with that you have to be prepared to build one of the nicest facilities, have more/better staff, and be more flexible. We pay our employees a few dollars above mimimum wage, but I’d like to work up to being able to give them them more. They are all part time (2 people working 4hr in the AM, and then 2 people working ~4hr in the PM – I don’t want people working alone for safety reasons). Also, the barn owners are EXTREMELY hands on work wise. To replace them with paid workers would put the place well into the red.

The place honestly won’t be far above the break even line until the major structures are paid off. At that point, the place will be profitable (but still not radically), but you have to do this business because you love it, and you need to plan on having income come from things other than straight boarding. Honestly, the only way I think anyone could actually make decent money on plain boarding is to do pasture boarded retirement horses (no riding facilities to be maintained, minimal labor hours, etc.).

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I read somewhere (reputable, but I do not remember where), that the boarding barns that make a profit are typically less than 5 horses (basically one person does all the work), or more than 20 horses. And then most of the profit comes from lesson / training / show fees, commissions on horse sales/purchases. The boarding side of the business is pretty much a “loss leader”.


If you always keep that end goal in mind, it can be done. [ETA: “it” being having the nice barn and on-site trainer at all. not necessarily making a bunch of $$$ off of it!]

I have no idea what your background and current relationship with money is. I do know that I wish I knew at your age what I know now! So in that spirit, I will recommend that you read a few books, and then read a bunch more in this same genre. They won’t all resonate. I’d get them out of the library first, and only buy a copy if its one that you will re-read and internalize (if you want to give away a copy to everyone you know because it’s that good, that’s a sign!)

The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life – this one is especially interesting because it began as a series of letters a father wrote to his daughter.

The Total Money Makeover - Dave Ramsey – I hope you are not already in debt. If you are, stop, do not pass go, and figure out how to fix it. (There are religious overtones to this book, you can totally ignore them if that’s not your thing.)

The Richest Man in Babylon – fun little book of parables that distill and reinforce the basic lessons of paying yourself first and not being in debt.

Branch out from there and maybe find some blogs to follow and read – look for stuff on Early Retirement, which is essentially what you want to do, since running a barn is not likely to be a lucrative endeavor. Frugal Living is another topic to explore. Can you cut your expenses way, way, back, without feeling resentful and deprived?

Good luck!


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This is exactly what I have been told.

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Sure, if you plan to throw the horses out in a crappy pasture and not really care for them you can probably make money. We board retirees only. I have six miles of 4-board fencing, 4 small barns (instead of one big one), 7 run-in sheds, and tons of overhead. LOTS of facilities to maintain, 200 acres of pasture to seed/fertilize/mow repeatedly each year, all the horses still need to be fed good feed 2x or more per day, etc. Older horses are MORE work, not less.


Our barn pays for my horses and our mortgage. I have a great education, which translates into a great day job. The salary of my day job is such that we can’t afford to go without it (strategic error).

Trainers are difficult. We have a great one now but have parted ways with several. It’s difficult for a non-trainer to build business and most trainers aren’t vested in the barn owner’s business and have been treated unfairly by barn owners in the past.


Sorry. I wasn’t trying to disparage retirement boarding – it’s vital to so many people. Just that you don’t have to have $$$$$$ invested in multiple riding arenas, and since most retirement horses live out, you don’t have stall cleaning labor. So less expenses than a comparable barn that has stalling and riding facilities. But I have no idea what you can charge for retirement board vs full board at a riding barn. I’ve been fortunate that all my super seniors could stay with me.

My question is though can you make money owning a boarding/ show barn?

maybe if the place has oil and gas wells with proven production rates


There’s a lot of factors that can impact economic solvency - but the general answer is going to be no. You can get by and pay the bills, but factoring in expenses like health insurance, retirement savings, and unexpected expenses (of which there will always be some regardless of best laid plans!) it is not an easy way to make a living.

Outright purchase price of property, standard maintenance and upkeep, necessary equipment, facility upgrades, staff wages, and regular budget concerns (utilities, feed, etc) are all expenses that often can completely eat into what a barn makes just from boarding. Echoing above posters, most barns I see make profit on lessons, training,or other “extras”. On the boarding side depending on your market and clientele, it seems standard to just break even.

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which might be a problem as a legitimate business, according to the IRS has a primary purpose of “income or profit” … break even kind of raises all sorts of red flags

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A lot is going to depend on the land costs in your chosen area.

The catch is that close to cities and clients, especially clients with money, land prices are crazy high, so whether you buy land and have a huge mortgage or lease land, you will have a big expense before you even put a horse on the property.

On the other hand, when you get far enough out that land is cheaper, then there are fewer clients plus anyone who wants to keep a horse can probably afford their own little acreage and keeps them at home.

If you had a family farm that is now near an expanding metropolitan area, and the farm is paid off, running a boarding stable might make sense. Until all the farms around you go to condo developments and you are bought out or run off as a stinky nuisance.

As others have said, a boarding barn carefully managed that can be somewhat selective about clientele can be a very good foundation for a trainer/coach who will then be able pocket the income from training, coaching, groups lessons, and doing day fees at shows. But if you plan to bring in an outside trainer, rather than teach yourself, you lose that income stream.

Anyhow, I suggest you get your business degree and then go do books for a big barn for a year or two, and get an inside look into how they run in your area. There are so many variables, from land cost to hay cost to potential depth of client base, etc., that a give model of barn might make a lot of sense in one region and no sense at all in another. Local conditions vary a lot from place to place.


The answer to the question, like so many other things, is “it depends.”

Some say they can make a living off a modest sized barn paying all expense (operating and capital). Maybe so. But maybe not.

Like all real estate questions the answer is based on three factors:



And Location.

You need to sit down with your yellow pad and pencil and figure the operating costs (forage, fodder, bedding, labor, etc.) in your area for basic care. This will give you a baseline. Then you add the capital costs for land, structures , fencing, access, taxes, etc. Remember to include depreciation, upkeep, insurance, etc. for your fixed assets. Then add your profit (remembering that the Tax Men, IRS and State, have an interest, here). Now decide what kind of board you’re going to offer (full care, self care, pasture, etc.) and divide your costs by the number of horses you’ll keep. Then do a market survey and see how your projected pricing compares to the market where you live. If you can beat the market you’re OK; if not then you’ll run partially full at best and likely not make it.

This is for boarding only. If you can add extra services (lessons, show coaching, custom grooming, etc.) then you actually have a chance at making a living.

Good luck, but remember that luck has little to do with the economics of equine husbandry!!! :slight_smile:



Read all these responses several times… maybe print them out. They all contain painful pearls of wisdom.

Having a boarding barn as just that, without offering lessons or training that you control, is a break-even business in most locations, and under most circumstances, if you are lucky.

If you are a trainer/instructor and also boarding horses, then often the cash flow from the boarding covers most of your expenses, and then the teaching parts of the business create your profit. That’s the ideal business model, in my opinion… and you don’t have to be a world-class trainer to pull it off.

In fact, I would wager that well-run lesson programs including summer camps and riding academy programs may, in fact, have a better chance of yielding a good living for their owners than if the owner is a highfalutin’ pro. But a highfalutin pro does have the opportunity for some sales in there too.

Horses are a labor of love. If you don’t love horses, you will not love the labor involved.

And almost any legitimate business will be a better place to invest your time and money than a barn… but the barn is still an emotional winner in many situations.


I won’t waste your time here. The answer is a clear no. You will make much more money and be much more comfortable financially working at just about any other job. Jobs in the non-equestrian sector usually offer much better pay, much less stress, and extremely important benefits like health insurance and retirement.

I have experience both in horses and in other businesses/fields. Please do not try to make a career out of a boarding business. Boarding alone is a break even or loss leader service that is usually used as a client base for other services such as training/lessons, sales, high end layups/rehab, which is where the money is made. Even with those extra services, it can be very difficult to make money. It is a very competitive business and good clients can be hard to find, especially for someone who is new in town.

When people tell you that their boarding business is “making money” I would (politely) ask for more details on the numbers or simply use your common sense. For a business to be profitable, it has to pay ALL of its costs and then there has to be some $$ left over that is profit. Most people consider their boarding businesses “profitable” in a very loose sense–i.e. they are failing to factor in major costs like their own labor, or the cost of owning/maintaining the property. Many people don’t run their numbers accurately, leaving out losses due to no-pay clients or abandoned horses, etc. Many “successful” boarding barn owners have spouses that work jobs that provide things like health insurance and retirement, because a boarding barn won’t generally support those things for a BO.

I challenge you: look for a boarding business that exists in your area where the business (or person owning the business) is not supported by inherited land/facility, family money, another family member’s job, a training/sales business, or some other outside source of income/support.

Don’t forget, a boarding barn has INSANE startup costs: land, barn, sheds, fences, arenas, tractor, mowers, arena grooming implements, jumps, etc. In order to even start a boarding business, you already need to be independently wealthy. So unless you are independently wealthy already…how would you propose to get started in business? FWIW, if you are already wealthy, there are many much better things to invest your money in.

There are many good articles on the internet as to what it costs to really run a boarding barn and how to calculate costs.



As previous posters have said, the best run boarding barns barely break even and boarding is often a loss leader for teaching and training. You can make money teaching and training, but it is a difficult lifestyle and requires the discipline to be self-employed.

Hosting a show or event or show series can be quite lucrative, and I know of some large boarding barns that do so. But here’s the catch - the infrastructure has to be in place first. If you already have the facility, hosting shows can be a great way to leverage your investment and generate more income. But that is not without its risks. AND no one can amortize the cost of building the facility by hosting shows - that’s not a workable business plan.

If you have a day job that doesn’t suck that provides you with the means to enjoy horses and ride, I would not give that up.