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A Labor of Love

When my husband and I were looking for our next house (as ours had sold and we were living with my parents), we just wanted a place that I could bring my horses to our backyard. I certainly wasn’t looking to run a boarding business.

Our realtor encouraged us to take a look at a 13-acre existing lesson stables (with home) that had been vacant of animals for the past year when the price had a significant drop. It was priced at more than we wanted to spend, but after talking about it, my husband and I thought starting a small business would be enough to offset that.

And thus eight years ago this past Labor day weekend, my husband and I bought a farm and started a boarding business.

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It was a ton of work that first month. Cleaning out the lofts – putting up fences for paddocks, repairing stall doors, creating parking areas, more cleaning…we owe a lot to our family and friends who helped, especially in getting the house functional since we were spending so much time outside preparing the property for boarders.
When creating our business plan, my husband didn’t want the overhead costs of shavings, hay, or hiring employees. We decided to only do rough board, but with a small twist. I remember growing up and when we did rough board, my mom would have to go up twice a day to feed and turn out and bring in. If she was late our horses would be nutty, as everyone else’s horses would be fed and out or in, the opposite of ours. I had heard of the co-op barn concept, but I knew that a full scale co-op (cleaning everyone’s stall once or twice a week) wouldn’t work either. Thus our rough board/feeding co-op was begun.

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There are 10 stalls, two of which have run-in stalls. Every person has 1-2 feeding times per week, either an AM or PM shift. Basically if you board with me, you must still come up every day to do your stall and care for your horse, set up their feed, and water, but only once a week do you have to worry about being there for feeding and turn in or out. And once a week your paddock must be mucked out.

It takes the right person and right horse to work in my feeding co-op, because so many different people are handling so many different types of horses. I had a yearling who didn’t want to walk forward sometimes, who didn’t work out very well with the multitude of handlers. I have also had perspective boarders who wanted to get their first horse and board it cheap, but couldn’t figure out how to put a halter on when I asked them to catch my horse, during their initial farm tour.

AM feeding consists of dispensing grain, that has been setup in front of each horse’s stall by their owner. Then each horse goes out in assigned individual turnouts. Water is already setup by the owner. There are Tupperware containers, in front of each paddock, where hay has already been portioned out, by the owner. If the weather is bad and the horses must stay in the AM feeder gives grain, hay (there is always extra setup in front of each stall) and tops off water.

PM feeding requires bringing all horses in from each paddock and dropping grain and hay (if not already setup inside the stall), and just checking water to make sure there is enough for the night.
A night check is done, too. In eight years it, has caught three vet-required medical issues.
I coordinate hay and shaving deliveries, though no one has to purchase through us. I also make the AM/PM feeding shifts schedule.

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In the time we have been there, we have expanded the big outdoor and added lights. When the indoor was built, 4 years ago, we also put in a smaller outdoor that is great for flat work or lunging. And of course the indoor is AMAZING. It is so nice to be able to ride, no matter what the weather may bring. The farm started with 10 stalls. It now has 31 (15 attached to the indoor).

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It certainly is a labor of love. There are always projects going on. Always something to maintain or fix. Buying a horse farm has allowed me to go from one to three horses (one is my husband’s) and opened up a world to me that wasn’t previously available. I have met some amazing people and learned so much along the way. As exhausting as it can be at times, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Posted in Stories & Adventures

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One comment on “A Labor of Love
  1. Lorraine and Roo says:

    Dear Jess and Bill, great story and thanks for sharing. I often wonder where you get all your energy from and if you are having fun. So happy to hear your beautiful farm brings you joy. Roo and I are very happy here.

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