Equestrian diversification is a popular farm innovation

Guide to facilities and other considerations

EBC can advise on all matters in this article

There are horses and horse owners over all rural areas of the UK, so the opportunity for new business development is very high. Although competition may be high, offering something different or unique will attract customers who want to spend money.

Vision

The main consideration is the vision of the farm diversification strategy, the geographic location and the appetite for the specific challenges relating to having the public on your land.

Considerations

Livery yard

  • Horse owners will often only travel about 30 minutes or so to their yard, possibly more if the facilities are exceptional.
  • Owners prefer good riding on a surface (riding arena) and/or hacking. If you have accessible bridleways, byways, cross country routes, beaches, water and so on, these all add to the attraction of the facility. However, these items are not a must have, if other on-site facilities are available
  • The key decision is the livery service you want to offer. DIY requires typically less customer interaction and face to face customer service. Part, Assisted, and Full livery each require a higher level of service, but fees and overall income  is much more. Staffing skills and the appetite for staff management may help determine the service delivery.
  • Pricing should be calculated by either being the best in the area to mid-level to the most cost effective. The services provided, the facilities and customer demographics will all play their part in this equation.
  • Note – VAT differs from one type of service to another and EBC can provide advice in this regard.

Riding school

  • Catchment area is fundamental to determining the type of lessons and prices you can charge. This requires more consideration than a livery yard in many ways because although income can be very high; safety, accreditations and welfare facilities tend to be more demanding. Footfall will (hopefully) be high depending on the lesson types offered.
  • Skilled and accredited instructors will be required, and opening hours may be determined by their availability, unless you have teaching skills within the family enterprise.
  • A riding arena will almost certainly be required. These can cost tens of thousands depending on the size and surface. The higher the use, the better the quality of surface that will be needed. The costs can be very much reduced if the farmer has access to their own equipment and the in-house skills required to put in drainage and fencing. This is an area where most farmers will have a huge advantage over commercial yards in keeping costs relatively low. Lighting needs to be added to the list of considerations.
  • Land can be an advantage as well. If the land drains well and is accessible to the stable-yard, farmers have an advantage due to their ability to harrow, roll and top the fields and maintain the grassland paddocks. Good fencing, usually electrified, will be required.
  • An indoor arena is not necessary but is desirable. If an open barn is available, this could reduce costs considerably, otherwise a build project will be required.

General considerations

  • Stables – riding school horses can be kept in loose boxes or in communal barns. Most livery customers prefer individual stables, usually in a block and if available, in an indoor ‘American Barn’ configuration. There are many stable suppliers and stables can even be hand built if the skills are available in house.
  • Business rates are likely to apply to a yard being of commercial use.
  • Planning advice needs to be taken for the development project.
  • As listed above, VAT advice must be sought and factored into the business plan from the beginning.
  • A well thought out capital project can reduce overall costs considerably and save any surprises half-way through.
  • Marketing the business is fundamental so people know you are there, what you offer and why they should come to your establishment. This might be something that will be new to a farm and is a consistent daily process. This can easily be outsourced if required, at least initially.

Summary

Wide ranging opportunities can be exploited in this sector and margins are very good for well managed facilities. A well thought out business plan and cash flow forecast linked to a sales and marketing plan will deliver profitability in a short time frame.

Equine Business Consultancy has a depth and breadth of experience in all financial, commercial, operational and compliance matters in this sector. We can advise on any single aspect or a whole project. Our services can include a full or part managed service solution from start up, growth through to the mature phase of the business.

Please call us to discuss your thoughts – the first call is not chargeable so do contact us. We are client focussed and we will always advise on the best solution for your business based on your vision. You are in control.

As ever the theory sounds sensible and simple but behind it is hard work, permanent attention to detail, team building, being proficient at marketing, be willing to talk to all your customers (not just the preferred friends) whilst retaining the flair, creativity and positive attitude of a business leader.

Over the last seven years, my wife Jo and I have built up a very successful enterprise that we are proud of www.reinandshine.co.uk  We made our own mistakes and learnt a lot on the way.

But when we started there was no help anywhere, from anyone in the riding centre market. A few marketing people but no real insider business knowledge specifically for riding establishments. Well now there is. Visit our website www.jamesg62.sg-host.com

John McDonald
Director
01666 860005

johnmcdonald@jamesg62.sg-host.com

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