Starting an equestrian riding centre is a dream for many horse lovers, but it can be challenging to get off the ground. You will need a good head for business and finances, along with a love of horses and riding, to be successful. The cost of keeping horses is high, so you will need to find creative ways to earn money and keep your school viable.
Here are some of our top tips for anyone wanting to start a horse riding school from the ground up.
The first step to building any business is to get the right advice. For example, you could talk to organisations aimed towards helping start-up businesses or get in touch with equestrian specific governing bodies like the British Horse Society (BHS). Talking to start-up organisations will give you all the advice you need for getting your business up and running, and equestrian organisations will be able to provide you with advice tailored towards horse specific business requirements.
You should discuss your plans with your chosen organisations and give them your full business plan to assess. It is important to listen to the advice you are given to have the best chance of success.
Select A Suitable Location
You will need a location that allows you plenty of room for stables, outdoor and indoor arenas and grazing paddocks for the horses. You will also need to be close enough to built-up areas to make your business easy to access for your customers. It can be challenging to find a sufficiently rural location while also staying close to built-up areas, so be prepared to spend some time searching for the ideal spot.
Work Out Your Finances
You should make a budget of the costs you will incur. This should include the initial costs of purchasing land, supplies to build stables and arenas, buying horses, food and tack, and hiring staff. You should also consider your monthly costs, including insurance, horse food and maintenance, farrier bills, utilities, and a cushion for any unexpected expenses.
Once you have worked out how much you will need, you should consider your funding options. Many start-up loans and grants are available, but the amount you will need for a riding school may exceed even the most generous of grants. It may help to talk to investors for additional funding and consider bank loans to help cover costs.
It would be best if you considered hiring an accountant early on to get the best ongoing financial advice. For a riding school to be profitable, you will need to keep a close watch on your finances and ensure minimal waste. An accountant will give you expert advice on what you need to do to remain viable.
Consider What Sets You Apart
All businesses need a unique selling proposition (USP). You should consider how you can make your horse riding school stand apart from other riding schools. This could be by offering unique classes like horse yoga or making your stables a horse therapy provider. It is essential to factor in the costs of hiring professionals who can safely provide these lessons and finding horses that will be suitable for the practices.
Make Best Use Of Your Assets
Once you have set up your riding school, you may find there are times throughout the week where your riding custom is quieter. Typically, the peak times for riding lessons are weekends and after 5pm on weekdays, meaning your arenas will be sitting empty for the rest of this time.
You should consider what kind of services you could offer that will be taken up throughout the week. For instance, you could provide training services for individuals hoping to start a career working with animals or partner with a local training college.
You should also consider the animals in your care. All your horses will have to earn their keep, and a horse with behavioural issues may end up costing too much for you to keep. You should select your horses carefully when setting up your school to ensure that they will all be a good fit as educational animals.
Consider The Aesthetics
The aesthetics of your stables are crucial to attract and retain customers. Your stables should be clean and tidy at all times, and everything should be organised and in good condition. It may help to look at your stables and buildings with a critical eye and have family and friends visit to get their opinions.
One excellent way to make your steel arenas look their best is by having some attractive cladding fitted. Take a look at this advice on choosing the right cladding for your steel building from Kit Buildings Direct. Cladding can not only make a building look its best, but it can also provide much-needed insulation for the winter months.
To get your riding business seen, you will need to utilise marketing. Marketing is a broad area to cover, so it may help to use the services of a professional marketing agency. You typically need to market in traditional ways like word of mouth and paper advertisements, as well as digital marketing.
It may also help to get active on social media. You could create profiles on the major platforms and ask customers to follow and share your business with their friends and family. Content is crucial for good social media engagement, so you should start coming up with ideas for engaging content straight away. For instance, you could post a series of “Meet The Horses” posts with images of the different horses in your stables.
Find The Best Insurance
Insurance is crucial for a horse riding business. You should have insurance that will cover you in case of serious accidents or major events that disrupt your business. It may help to do some research into the different types of insurance available to find the best deal and coverage for your school.
Hire The Right People
Most riding instructors are in it for the love of horses rather than monetary gain, but you should still offer an attractive salary to find the best people. It may help to find instructors who have extensive experience training riders of all ages and abilities. When first starting, it may help to begin with one or two instructors until you have started building up a decent customer base.
Set Up A Business Website
In today’s world, every business needs a good quality website. If you don’t have experience building websites yourself, you should consider hiring a professional to do the work for you. Your website should include details of all the services you provide, your contact details and customer testimonials.
You will need a website that is intuitive and easy to use, with an attractive interface. A professional website is a clear sign to many customers of a professional business, and it is an asset that no company can go without.
The Bottom Line
Opening your own horse riding school will take a lot of hard work, planning and dedication. You should be 100% certain you are ready for it and the ongoing challenge of keeping your business viable. A love of horses is as essential as a good head for business. You should ask for help when you need it and heed any advice you are given.