With the increasing loss of agricultural jobs, many farmers and land owners have started to look at ways to diversify and generate alternative income. A popular way to do this is to setup a livery or riding school on surplus land. In this short article, we give you an overview of the considerations you need to take into account before embarking on a new venture like this.
Experience Is Important
With proper planning and management, a livery yard or riding school can be a very profitable and rewarding business. However, if you are to make a success of it, it is important that you, or anyone you appointment to oversee the developments, has extensive experience working with horses. Many people underestimate the extent of work needed and having an experienced head on board can make the difference between success and failure.
Ask whether you have the experience necessary to make it work, or if you know anyone who does that you can afford to pay to run it for you.
Stable Management and Facilities
The facilities found at a livery yard are essential for efficient day to day management and whether it is considered an attractive location to customers looking to stable horses. From a facilities point of view, there are a number of questions you’d need to ask yourself:
- How many stable units do I need to meet initial demand?
- Do I have the space available to scale the business over time?
- Am I able to provide an appropriate level of security on tack/animals?
- Is there a facility to store hay and feed or an outdoor tap for water?
- Do I need to install additional equipment like stable fencing?
- Are there decent bridleways close by?
- Can I provide on-site parking and toilet facilities?
Another key question to ask is whether you would be likely to be granted planning permission. Indeed this is probably the first stage of any development project so make sure you’ve gone through the proper processes before investing significant time and money in other activities. Also ask whether you are planning to offer lessons or not, as extra facilities will be needed to do so.
The start-up costs of a livery business are relatively high compared to most businesses so you’ll need some sound financial backing, at least to begin with, to invest in infrastructure and market yourself before it becomes profitable.
Perhaps the key question to ask before beginning a new venture like this is to ask whether the demand is there? Do you believe there are enough horse owners in the area in need of services you can provide them? What about competitors? Are there any other livery yards in the area not providing a good enough service and leaving a gap in the market that your new livery can fill? This market analysis is very important and you need to think about your strategic approach from the beginning.
As with all businesses, you will also need to think about your overheads like business rates, insurance, general maintenance, staff costs, utilities costs and account for unexpected expenses. As it is a livery yard, you need to also account for water, hay, straw and other feed – working out how these costs will affect your income and determine how to charge for services. Analysing the running costs involved in this will impact on how you plan to our your livery services as part, full or DIY.
Whilst qualifications aren’t necessary for running a livery yard, they can definitely go a long way in attracting future customers. Horse owners will likely want to see evidence of proficiency and you can easily take courses in stable management through the British Horse Society.
Your livery yard will also not require a license, unless you plan to offer lessons, in which case they fall with the requirements of the Riding Establishments Act 1964. A license can be obtained through your local authority.
Because you plan to accept payment for providing a service, you need to create contracts for your customers and include details about legal liability for breach of that contract. People can get very protective over their pets so you need to make it boldly clear what is included in the contract – from responsibility of vets bills to turn outs and food.
While not compulsory for livery yards, if you plan to run a riding school alongside it you will require public liability insurance. Injuries are common in this type of business and you’ll want to ensure you are covered for every eventuality. If you employ any staff, you will also need to investigate employer’s liability insurance too.
Starting a livery yard can be an extremely challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience. We have covered only a small selection of issues to be considered in this article and you must be prepared for many more unforeseen demands. This article is designed only to give a loose idea of what to expect from what can be a demanding business venture. However, if you love horses, there are few better ways to earn a living.
If you are starting a livery yard and would like some advice on how many stables to buy, or how to lay out a stable block, contact us today for advice or download a brochure for more information.