Purchasing an equestrian facility—or buying land and building it yourself—is expensive. Too expensive, in fact, for most start-up equestrian professionals. Unless you’ve won the lottery or inherited a chunk of change from Great Aunt Mabel, you might have to pursue horse training at someone else’s facility.
This is not a bad thing. Lots of professional horse trainers work out of their clients’ facilities or rent space from another horse business owner. No big deal. But before you jump into this type of symbiotic relationship, you need to get the ground rules straight.
When you start a horse training business at someone else’s facility, the general rule is that you pay a grounds fee, which translates as a charge for using their property and amenities. The grounds fee is generally negotiated before you “move in.”
If you won’t be bringing your own saddles, bridles, bits, martingales, lunge lines, lunge whips, jumps, barrels and other equipment, you might need to pay for equipment rental for horse training at someone else’s facility. This can be structured per-use or per-month, or another arrangement entirely.
In some cases, bringing in new horse training clients means that the person whose facility you are using benefits as well. For example, a client wants you to train her horse, so she boards at the facility where you work. In this case, grounds fees and equipment rentals might be reduced.
When you are horse training at someone else’s facility, you might have a specific block of time during which you are permitted to work. This might be during the day, for example, at a barn where the arenas are used primarily for riding lessons in the evenings. Keep this in mind for scheduling purposes.
The horse business owner whose facility you use for horse training might “lend” you his logo and other intellectual property for use in branding your business. Otherwise, you can develop your own brand to distinguish yourself as an autonomous equestrian professional. For example, some horse trainers create a barn name separate from the facility’s name for the purpose of branding. You own that brand, which means you can take it with you if you decide to move elsewhere.
When you practice horse training at someone else’s facility, you might be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. This document will prevent you from offering horse training services at another facility within a certain radius. Keep in mind, however, that these agreements are frequently lop-sided in terms of benefits and sacrifices, so don’t sign until you’ve read it carefully. In fact, I recommend having an attorney glance at it first.
The last thing I want you to consider before you decide to start horse training at someone else’s facility is liability. What happens if one of your clients is hurt while you are working? What if you are hurt? Find out if the barn owner’s liability insurance policy will cover you and your clients. If not, you might need to purchase a separate policy.