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.
Can thoroughbreds do dressage?
Almost any kind of horse can perform well in dressage if they have natural ability, good training and a skilled rider. However, some kinds of horses will bring different challenges for dressage riders to overcome.
Can thoroughbreds do dressage?
Simple answer: Yes, look for a relaxed thoroughbred.
Long answer: OTTB (Of the track thoroughbred) horses are often considered unsuited to dressage. There are biases against them because of the experiences these horses have in racing.
Some of them can be too tense for dressage, but assuming that all OTTB horses aren’t appropriate can cause you to overlook some very, very excellent dressage horses for potentially very low prices comparatively.
Resale needs to be a consideration; people looking to buy eventing horses are sometimes put off knowing they are thoroughbred. However, if you dedicate yourself to the horse and perform well in your dressage career, your horse’s performance will speak for itself.
Can standardbreds do dressage?
Simple answer: Yes, their spring and energy can be a positive.
Long answer: Standardbreds are often used in harness racing and are taught to have long trots. This is the opposite of what we want in dressage; a nice, collected canter. So the biggest challenge with an off the track standardbred will be getting it to relax into a canter.
On the other hand, standardbreds have a lot of spring and energy, which results in excellent stepping.
It is uncommon to see standardbreds in dressage, so you’re likely to meet the same aversion when reselling as you would with a thoroughbred.
Can Clydesdales do dressage?
Simple answer: Clydesdales can do lower level dressage, but struggle to compete at top levels.
Long answer: Clydesdales are able to perform at lower level dressage and will benefit from it just like any other horse.
However, Clydesdales have been bred to be strong and thick, for their pulling power. This prevents them from the agility and detail that is required of horses competing in higher levels of dressage.
If you’re aiming to go to the top, you should avoid riding a Clydesdale, but if dressage is a passionate hobby, they will do fine. They may even outperform other horses in the earlier stages because of their steadiness, and may be more forgiving for less experienced riders.
What is the optimal dressage horse?
Simple answer: Andalusian, Warmblood, Hanoverian, Lusitano, Oldenburg, Westphalian.
Long answer: The breeds above were the most popular horses used in dressage at the 2008 Olympics.
They are chosen because of their naturally good conformation and their ability to learn and adapt to the tasks that dressage require of a horse.
World’s Oldest Horse
Shayne is a Chesnut stallion living in a horse sanctuary in Essex. The incredible horse is in his 50s.
Amazingly, Shayne is still a strong, active runner and a lively old chap.
To find out how much your own indoor would cost, read our article.