Running your own horse business would be a dream for most of us. The perfect life. Everyone will warn you that it’s a lot of hard work (a lot!), and that you won’t earn a lot, but the lifestyle itself is enough to pay for that.
We’ve put together a list of 11 steps you need to take if you want to start your own successful horse riding business.
Start by teaching freelance.
If you have the skills to teaching others to ride, start by offering to visit people that have their own horses. There’s still a market here, and giving lessons won’t cost the large overheads that a full-blown horse riding business will.
It’s the perfect way to test the waters – you can travel around a little, visit new places, meet new people, and get a sense for how the role suits you.
Get ready for muck and hard work.
If you own a horse, you know what it takes anyway. But teaching riding lessons will often account for less than half of your time. The rest will be the regular effort of keeping things clean, tidy and your horses healthy.
If you’re the kind of person who looks on the bright side of things, you might be able to think of it as part of why you love horses. You really have to earn it – and when you finish a day of work & riding, the tiredness you feel will be a good tiredness.
I hope you’re still with me, because now we can take the next steps to growing into a full riding business.
Do you have enough school horses?
Your biggest assets will be your school horses. You need to have enough to teach clients without tiring your horses out. You’ll also need horses that are relatively easy to ride and are well trained. If you have a few horses, you can compensate for weaknesses in one by teaching to natural strengths in another.
As an estimate, 20 students a week can usually be covered by 3 school horses.
Teaching, training & trail riding.
When it comes to the time you spend with your horses, you need to do more than just teach with them.
You’ll also need to train them when you can, so they’re easy to work with and become better for skilled riders. You’ll also need to go trail-riding occasionally to keep them stimulated, interested and happy.
The good news is that being told you have to spend a lot of time with your horses is probably the best thing you could possibly be told. Spend more time riding! It’s important!
Take care of your tack.
A lot of people will be using tack that you own, so you need to make sure that it’s kept in good condition. Spend the time it takes to teach your students to be respectful of tack and other equipment; it’s a habit that will serve them well.
Offer free introductory riding lessons.
When I was young, I used to go to a tennis store that had courts out the back where you could test a new racket. I loved the place and we went there again and again.
Offering free lessons is a great way to let your clients fall in love with your business. I can’t imagine how much I would have loved this as a kid. This will get people through the door. They’ll get a sense of you as a teacher, they’ll see your facilities, and you’ll get to introduce yourself.
Put out local ads.
Start with fliers on community noticeboards. Because these are so local, you’ll have success without having to spend too much.
If you want to expand your marketing, consider making something useful like a calendar that people are likely to keep around.
As with any business, a lot of your success will come down to your efficiency. Establish systems and habits so you know what you have to be doing at what point. Make sure your students know, too. Good systems make the difference between being a hobbyist and being professional.
Hire working students.
One great option to help with your business is to hire a working student. This is someone who helps out with maintenance of your barn and your horse work in exchange for lessons.
Working students are beneficial for both parties, and even though they don’t generate income, they make your work easier and might lead to referrals.
No business, especially not a horse business, should expect to blow up immediately. You should try to start small and gradually get bigger and busier. A steady stream of clients is the best way to do this.
Focus on doing everything as well as you can. Pay attention to detail and make sure that your clients enjoy working with you. This will lead to reliable growth. 4
THE GOLDEN RULE: Activity breeds activity.
The best way to keep busy is to keep being busy. The more you get involved with, the more people you meet, the likelier it is that business will come to you.
Offer to be part of local events. Find a way to participate in markets, parades, special gatherings. Meet people and share with them what you do and where you want to end up. Getting things happening is the best way to get your business into a nice trot.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED
- Good, friendly school horses (preferably at least 2, but 1 can work to start).
- Your own horse.
- Tack + Helmets.
- A fenced arena.
- A bookkeeping system
If you’re unsure about whether a horse business is right for you, go through these questions:
- Are you a skilful enough rider to teach others?
- Do you have the space and the horses?
- Is your target market large enough? Is there demand?
If you’re looking at building horse facilities, download a brochure to see what Central Steel Build has done for other horse owners in the past.
Everything You Need To Know About Dressage
Dressage is a french word which is interpreted as ‘training’. It is considered widely as the most artistic and elegant of equestrian sports. This sport requires a rider and horse to be in perfect harmony together whilst performing. Dressage riders and horses perform ‘tests’ that consist of a course of movements and are judged on a scale of one to ten on these.
Dressage is seen to be the foundation for mostly all equestrian disciplines. Due to the precision required in the movements, the rider and horse need to be balanced and aware down to the most subtle aids.
There are ten different levels of dressage. These range from very basic skills up the highest levels which require literal perfection and years of training to master. Each level until the sixth has three tests of which the rider can choose.
For the first four levels of dressage there is only one judge for tests. Judges score movements on a scale of one up to ten. Competitors and their horses are scored on collective marks and the score for each movement is added together to come up with a final number of points. After this the number of points is divided by the highest number of points achievable and multiplied by ten to create a final percentage score.
Dressage riders are required to wear formal clothing in tests. The dress code for all tests up to the fourth level is a short riding coat of conservative colour with a tie, choker, stock tie or integrated stand-up collar, light coloured breeches, boots, and protective headgear. There are more specific rules relating to certain levels.
Generally expensive breeds of warmbloods are used for dressage. Warmbloods are extremely talented horses with nearly all breeds having foundations in European countries. Whist these horses are beautiful and athletic you do not have to have a warmblood horse if you wish to compete in dressage.
Indoor Arena Etiquette
Quick note: People ride because they love it. Intentions are always good, so try to be kind and understanding if errors are made.
Always wear a helmet
Even if you aren’t riding. If you step into the arena, you need to have a helmet on.
Mount outside the arena or in the very middle
Otherwise, you risk getting in everyone’s way – which is dangerous. This is the same for making adjustments to your stirrups etc.
Ride in the direction of the other horses
Don’t ride against the flow, it will make things more difficult for everyone.
Close the gate behind you
Don’t leave any gaps open through which horses could escape.
Let faster horses/riders travel on the outside of the track
Fast outside, slower inside. This helps things flow best.
Don’t leave horses unattended
Sharing an indoor requires everyone to be aware and cautious of their horses at all times.
Announce your intentions
If you’re about to pass someone from behind, say ‘passing on your left’. Do this for all actions that it would benefit others to know.
Maintain a horse length from the horse in front of you
This allows everyone time to react to anything unplanned.
Don’t talk over the rail
Doing this will put you in the way of other horses and riders. If you need to talk to your trainer, make sure you’re out of others’ path.
No dogs on the arena
This could spook other horses. Dogs can also get in the way of riders.
Give your commands quietly
Don’t shout or yell when commanding your horse. This makes the arena more difficult for everyone to enjoy.
Clean up afterwards
Make sure that any mess you’ve made is cleaned up when your session is over.
Warm of any loud noises
If you’re going to do something you know will cause a loud noise, let others know. A loud sliding door could spook other horses.
Read more: 16 equestrian tips and tricks
Download: Dressage arena dimension sheet