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.
15 Ways To Show Your Horse You Love Them
One – Take them on a trail ride.
It’s very easy for horses to get a bored. A trail ride is a great way to keep them stimulated and relaxed. It’s also a great way to destress for the rider and it’s the perfect opportunity to bond.
Two – Scratch their favourite itch.
You’ve seen the ones they struggle to properly reach. Get in there and scratch it for them. They’ll love you for it.
Three – Condition their tail.
Get some tail conditioner and make sure everything it nice and untangled.
Four – Learn to massage your horse.
There are lessons all over the internet – develop a little massage routine for your horse. When you’re doing it, make sure you’re aware of how they’re reacting so you can avoid anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Five – Buy your treats in bulk.
That way you’ll get them cheaper and you’ll never run out.
Six – Keep your grooming equipment clean.
Brushes that are already filled with hair can irritate the skin. Let your horse know you love them by making grooming as nice and comfortable as possible.
Seven – Dry any sweat after taking their bridle off.
Sweat and dirt can get caught under a bridle and make things uncomfortable for your horse.
Eight – Grow some carrots at home for your horse to eat.
The best part? Watching them eat the greenery of the carrot. Carrots are super easy to grow.
Nine – Be hands-on.
The more you touch your horse, the more comfortable they will be around you and the more you can bond.
Ten – Get a stall toy.
A simple stall toy that releases treats will keep your horse from getting too bored when you’re away.
Eleven – Visit a local apple orchard.
A lot of orchards have left over or discarded apples. If you have a contact with an orchard, ask if you can visit to clean up these left overs. Your horse won’t mind if they’re a little bruised.
Twelve – Make sure your saddle fits well.
Get a saddle fitter to take a look – there would be nothing worse than having to ride wearing an ill-fitting saddle.
Thirteen – Talk to your horse.
A soothing tone of voice makes it easier for your horse to recognise you and be comfortable around you.
Fourteen – Schedule spare time.
The best way to build up a bond is just to have some quite time with your horse when you aren’t doing anything in particular. Just be together, take some time out and get used to being around each other.
Fifteen – Be the leader.
Horses are social and are most comfortable when they know who is in charge. Let your horse know that you’re taking care of things. You can do this by gently pushing against your horse, leading them and taking control. Horses bond strongest with others they admire. Be a leader for your horse.
To see out horse arenas, download our brochure.
How To Calm A Skittish Horse
Easy-to-frighten horses are skittish and can be difficult to work with. But if something in the environment is scaring your horse, there are ways to help your horse be more calm.
Researchers tested three different methods to find out which was the most effective.
The Fear Stimulus: A white nylon bag.
This research used a white nylon bag that was able to be moved along a line. This was found to be universally uncomfortable for horses, and provided a good test stimulus.
The Habituation Method
Horses were exposed to the nylon bag repeatedly until they had become more calm.
The Desensitization Method
Horses were gradually exposed to the nylon bag. The first stage was much less intense than later stages and horses only moved onto the next stage when they were totally comfortable with the current stage.
The Counter-Conditioning Method
Horses were given food rewards every time the nylon bag appeared. This intends to build up a positive association that overcomes the negative association of the fear response.
Most effective method: Desensitization
The desensitisation method was the only method that worked for all participating horses. It was the most effective, longest-lasting and fastest process.
To see some of our horse arena photos, download an EquinaBuild brochure here.