Will My Horse Boarding Stable Be Profitable?

Will My Horse Boarding Stable Be Profitable?

Key Factors to Consider for Success with a Horse Boarding Business

First: What are your objectives?

  • Are you just interested in supplemental income from a property you already own and pay for?  
  • Are you looking to purchase a property and subsidize the mortgage with boarding income?
  • OR are you trying to create a profitable business from scratch? Determine what the long-term optimal outcome should be to call this a “success” and then you can use this to help guide your choices.
  • Make sure you weigh the benefits of owning a barn vs boarding your horse before you decide to buy. 

Second: Value and Size of the Real Estate

One of the biggest limiters is the size and location of your property. Just as in purchasing or owning any real estate, the #1 rule is always “location, location, location”. When considering a horse boarding venture, it’s important that you understand what the market will pay for what you have to offer.  Your location in large part determines the maximum the market will pay.

  1. Are you in or near a large city where acreage is scarce?  ARe there amenities on or near your property that make it more desirable?  The more convenience you have to offer, the higher your prices should be.  It is always a cost vs. benefit equation for your customer.
  2. If your property is rural, there is more land for each property, more properties to choose from so more competition, plus you are farther from most owners needing to board.  All these factors will serve to put downward pressure on the prices a boarder will pay.

Graphically, an interesting way to look at this is that the further away you are from a concentration of customers, the lower your boarding $ per horse will be.

Third: Revenue Potential vs Hassle Factor

If you have a ranch inside a city community with 20 acres you may be able to charge $700 per month for the full board because you are within a quick commute from so many busy horse owners.  You can calculate a per acre revenue here to use for comparison on other farms you are evaluating.  ($700/20 is $35.00 per acre/month.)  Add to the basic boarding fee additional amenities which you will also receive a premium on and your income per acre/horse could reach 40-50$ per acre.

Compare this to a 100 acre pastured farm 30 miles from the city where you can board and ride and offer the same amenities.   What is critical to your evaluation is that you begin to understand the metrics of these two extreme possibilities.  In this example, you can choose to earn a little over $5 per acre by going way outside the city or to earn an astounding 43$ per acre for prime city boarding convenience.

Hassle Factor comes to play in the number of acres you are maintaining as well as the size of the boarding operation and the number of horses you could potentially be caring for.  To determine the maximum number of horses you can graze on a property Mike Yoder, an expert in Horse Husbandry uses this basic rule: “I normally recommend two acres for the first horse and one additional acre for each additional horse. This acreage allows you to implement different management plans with a reasonable expectation that you will not over-graze your pastures,” Mike Yoder, Extension Assistant Professor & Specialist Extension Horse Husbandry at North Carolina State University.

Property Potential


Property A

20 Acre City Stable

Property B

100-acre Rural Stable

Monthly board base price 700 450
Room to ride/trails or land 100 50
amenities/facilities upgrades 75 45
Total monthly Charge 875 545
Revenue Per Acre 43.75 acre 5.45 per acre

# Horses total Potential

19 99

Monthly Revenue Potential

19*875 = $16,625/mo

99*545 = $53,955/mo


In summary, when evaluating the property potential you may feel that the rural property is far more exciting because of the total revenue it can generate each month.

Fourth: Understanding the Cost of Operations

As with any business adventure or misadventure, it is important to understand all the costs associated and what makes them rise and fall. Bringing in carrying costs associated with each property (taxes, insurance & mortgage) change the outcome quite a bit.

On the expense side, you will make some guesses for how much you will spend, again on a “per horse” basis (We estimate $100 per month in feed/hay and other hard costs).  This will then allow you to determine which sort of property might be best suited for you, depending on your own personal goals.

With a 20 acre property and a maximum of 19 horses, a 2 person owner team may be able to do all the work required, thus eliminating the need to pay additional labor charges.  As a guess perhaps we could estimate 1 additional person per additional 20 horses.  ON the larger rural farm this would call for an additional 4 full-time farm hands to manage 99 horses, plus the owners would still be pitching in full time for “free”.

You also should consider any equipment you may need. 

Operating Expenses


Property A

20 Acre City Stable

Property B

100 acre Rural Stable

Labor Cost 2 Owners FREE Labor

2 owners FREE Labor

Plus 4x600= 2400/wk or 10320/month

Property Cost 100,000 / acre 10,000 /acre
Property Value


1,500,000 mortgage


750,000 Mortgage

Average Tax Rate/Bill 1.14 City = $22,880 /yr .835 Rural = $8350 /yr
Annual Income 199,500  
Tax & Labor Charges Free labor, -22,880 tax Free labor plu -123,840 4 people, 8,350 tax
Feed/Hay ($100/mo) 1200*19 horses = -25,080 1200*99 horses = 118,800
Possible Net Income 151,540/yr 386,470/yr
Net Income Per Horse 664.65/month/horse 322.06/month/horse

Average 75% Mortgage

3.92% 30 Years

85,104 /yr 42,552 /yr

Net After Mortgage

66,436 /yr

343,918 /yr

In these two illustrations, we are assuming “full” capacity.  This gives you a great idea of what the "Best Case" Scenario would be.

Fifth: Allowing for “Most Likely Vacancy” Scenario

Applying some guesswork to our potential scenario helps to gain some perspective on the risks associated with each property.  What if we are able to keep 17 horses on the 20-acre property because of high demand but can only attract 30 horses on the 100-acre property because of all the location factors and the size of the boarding population?  

Most Likely Vacancy Scenario

Property A

20 Acre City Stable

Property B

100-acre Rural Stable

Horse Income 178,500 196,200
Expenses tax/labor -22,880 -23,350
Expenses/horse -22,400 -36,000
Mortgage -85,104 -42,552

Most Likely Net Income




Property A Conclusions: Break Even at 12 Horses

In the example above the large mortgage and tax costs on Property A are dragging down the net income substantially.   It could be that a City Property would not make sense unless you either don’t have a mortgage or you only want to cover a mortgage in exchange for the work of boarding so that you can have your own horses in the city.  The most important number here is that in this example you need to have 12 PAID boarding horses to cover the cost of owning the property.

Property B Conclusions: Break Even at 15 Horses

On the Rural Property B above, once you reach 15 paid horses boarded you will be paying for the expense of owning the property.  This means for about the same amount of work, and without hiring anyone to help, you could be paying for owning this much larger property in a rural setting.  This scenario might be most appealing if you want to run a large boarding facility and take income from it, or if you are most interested in having the property for your own use and don’t mind taking care of enough horses to ensure that the land is paid for.

In Conclusion:

As with any business the big determinant is drawing the customers that you need to meet your goals.  With a smaller barn in a high demand area, the odds are much better that you will be able to stay close to full.  Larger barns require more total sales to fill it, (in this case 5 times as many) and then secondarily demand is much lower due to the number of choices that customers may have.

You can choose to minimize vacancy risk by purchasing a location that will be in a high demand area, but you will be required to invest more capital dollars and have a higher mortgage and tax overhead commitment.  This should be remediated by the high demand and higher fees, as long as you can deliver a high-quality boarding experience.  So the risk here is more around delivering a boarding experience that is perceived as “worth it” to a customer paying twice the price for in town boarding - than around worrying about filling the slots.  You could be confident that you can fill them “at some price” but the size of the property limits your income potential dramatically.

Or you may be more interested in owning a large piece of property personally, and then finding a way to at least support all or part of the mortgage payment.  The risk factor here would be primarily in scaling up the operation and doing it profitably.  It’s a lot more work overall, management of supplies and labor on a much grander scale, but if the tradeoff is having a substantial place to enjoy your own horses outside the city, it can still make sense.

Here are some qualifying questions that will help you evaluate your boarding barn’s potential for profitability and what type of barn might best suit your needs.

  1. What does the successful project look like?  Location, size, home, barn stalls#, net income, labor required by you.  Describe in as much detail as possible.
  2. How much time are you willing to put in per week to maintain the facility and horses?
  3. Do you have a secondary support person and how much time will they contribute?
  4. What are your gross net income requirements for the property? (ex: barn should contribute x$ per month toward the mortgage vs.I need the barn to pay all property expenses PLUS some income for my efforts)
  5. How much time can you give the project to succeed?  How much runway do you have before you have to be running at the desired rate? 6 months or 5 years?
  6. Are you willing to manage a staff?
  7. Average prices in the area you prefer for the services you want to offer?
  8. Do you know enough about running a business to make it work?  Do you have a marketing plan that will bring you enough customers, can you control expenses well enough to meet your income goals?
  9. What special talents do you have that will ensure success?

Good luck with your quest toward owning or running a profitable horse boarding stable!