The Role of the Telephone in the Horse Business

The telephone is one of the most important tools a horse business owner can have in his or her arsenal. It serves a variety of purposes:

Fielding calls from prospective clients
Keeping in touch with current clients
Communicating schedule changes
Directing people to web sites and other communication methods
Connecting you with help in an emergency

Even if you primarily use your cell phone, the barn needs a land line. Period. And, like most tools, the telephone doesn’t serve its purpose unless you put it to good use.

Design Your Office Around the Phone

It doesn’t even have to be an office. It might be a bench in the back of the tack room or a desk pushed into a corner of the feed room. But you need a centralized location in which to keep your telephone.

Along with the phone, you need other tools that help you connect with current and prospective customers.

First, make sure your calendar or date book is within easy reach so you can schedule appointments, lessons, training sessions, and other events at the point of contact. You should also keep a pad of paper and a pen right next to the phone, just in case your calendar isn’t available or you need to make other notes.

You might also want to post a whiteboard, chalkboard, or bulletin board above the phone so you can scribble messages to other employees or write announcements to clients. This can become a go-to area when people need to connect with you.

Answer Professionally

Never pick up your horse business telephone and say, “Hello.” You’re a business owner, and you need to act like it.

Try some variation of: “Thank you for calling Riding Instructor University. This is Laura, how can I help you?” It tells the caller the name of your business and the name of the person they’ve reached, and it expresses your willingness to be of service.

Create rules about who is allowed to answer your horse business telephone, and instruct each of those individuals on how to answer appropriately. Make sure employees know that, if they don’t have an answer to a question, they should take a message and allow you to handle it.

Set Up Voicemail

If you don’t have voicemail with your phone service, go analog and buy an answering machine. Just make sure that someone answers your horse business telephone, even when you aren’t there.

The message you leave can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, a riding academy might change their answering machine message on inclement days to advise students that lessons have been cancelled. You can also tell people that you will return their call promptly, but in the meantime they can visit your web site (make sure to give the URL).

Return Calls

Your ability to return calls that come in to your horse business establishes your credibility. Fail to return calls promptly, and your credibility plummets.

That said, it is not a good idea to return calls as soon as you hear messages. Instead, listen to all messages, write down the information, then return them only when you have time to devote to them. Never pick up the phone when you know you have ten minutes before your next class starts.

If you can harness the power of the telephone and use it to your advantage, you’ll experience better communication with both clients and employees.


The Riding Lesson Program

Riding instructors often miss the mark when it comes to setting up their businesses. They look at each lesson in a vacuum, assuming that it stands alone as its own separate event. In reality, each lesson is part of an overall riding lesson program.

Or, at least, it should be.

Students don’t come to riding lessons to learn how to post the trot or hold the reins or execute a perfect circle at the canter. Those are all components of riding lessons, but they aren’t the desired end result. Figuring out what your students want is essential to developing a popular and sought-out program.

Maybe your students want to have fun. They don’t care about competing or developing serious careers with horses; they just like a good time. And they enjoy working with horses.

In this case, your riding lesson program should be designed to give students as much pleasure as possible during each lesson.

Or perhaps your students are interested in becoming professional showmen. They want to compete for a living once they learn all the necessary skills.

For these students, your riding lesson program should be focused on education. Each lesson should be geared toward accomplishing a specific goal, and there should be a focused timeline created for each student.

Is your riding lesson program formal or informal? Are your ideal students driven and goal-oriented or laid-back and easygoing? Do your students learn at a fast rate or a slower pace?

Answering all these questions will help you design an effective riding lesson program that looks to the future as well as one day at a time. When your students know they’re going somewhere—even if their destination is simply learning as much as they can so they can enjoy horses more—the program itself will be more attractive.


Sharing the Load

Running a horse business is no easy task—it takes considerable strength, skill, and energy on a daily basis. This is why many horse businesses run by single individuals often fail. You’ve got to learn to share the load.

Yes, you’ll make more money if you go it alone. And sure, it’s hard to find good help these days. But the most successful farms and ranches are those run by a close-knit team of professionals who work together in a logical, efficiency-minded manner.

This doesn’t mean you need to take out a bank loan in order to hire a full-fledged staff of equestrian professionals right now. That’s absurd. But you need to constantly be thinking about how you will weather growth as your horse business gathers more customers.

There are so many options available to horse business owners—some of which weren’t available a decade ago—and it’s important to take advantage of them. If you aren’t ready to take on an employee, consider hiring someone on a contractual basis to help you out. Or maybe you want to start a working student program.

Whatever the case, pay attention to your horse business growth. And when you see a need for extra hands, fill that need as soon as fiscally possible.


Scaling Back: An Announcement and a Tip

Some of my regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been somewhat absent from the blog these last couple weeks. Part of that is because I’ve been sick (some sort of evil upper respiratory bug that just won’t die), and part of it is because I’ve had to re-evaluate my priorities when it comes to blogging for RIU.

The Announcement…

I love writing articles for Riding Instructor University. It gives me enormous satisfaction to know that I’ve helped someone—anyone—solve a frustrating or limiting problem. And I’m more grateful than I can possibly express to the people who visit each day to learn something about the horse business.

The problem is finding balance. In addition to publishing free content on the RIU blog, I also work with individual clients who need help with the horse business problems. I’m working on my first novel, exploring my new obsession with photography, and contributing articles to other publications. And, you guys, there are only so many hours in a day.

Especially when you feel as though your lungs are about to collapse in on themselves. Can I just say: I hate being sick!

The last thing I want to do is abandon my blog here at Riding Instructor University, but I have to respect my commitments in other areas of my life. And so, the solution: Scaling back. I’ve got to cut down on the number of posts I write every week.

From now on, I’ll be publishing three (rather than five) days per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

NOTE: To anyone who has e-mailed me with a question/comment on a blog post or other issue, I apologize for not having gotten back to you yet. You will hear from me this week, I promise.

…And The Tip

I encourage all horse business owners to take a good long look at their daily activities. Figure out whether you’ve taken on too much, then make a plan to scale back.

I encourage my clients to focus on a core set of services that best serve their gifts. If you’re a truly talented riding instructor, for example, you need to be in the arena with your students. Period.

You might offer other complementary services, and you will have to spend part of your day engaged in menial and administrative tasks, but it’s important to focus in the horse business (or any industry, for that matter).

Ask yourself: Where can I do the most good?

Start from there.


Mystery Shopping for the Horse Business

Sometimes horse business owners need to take the lead from other industries. If you want to find out how well your employees are performing on the job, mystery shopping is one of the best places to get objective, empirical information.

Mystery shopping is a form of quality control wherein someone poses as a customer and records observations about the business Fast food restaurants use mystery shoppers, for example, to evaluate the quality of prepared food, the level of customer service, the cleanliness of the restaurant, and other aspects of the customer experience.

In the horse business, mystery shoppers can be used to find out if your staff members are doing their jobs.

A horse business owner cannot be on-site at all times, and many of you probably spend less than 50 percent of your work week in the barn. You’ve got other things to do, and you’ve hired employees to fulfill the obligations you cannot perform yourself.

It stands to reason, therefore, that you would want to know how your employees behave when you’re not around. Ergo, mystery shopping.

You can use mystery shopping on a regular basis or you might employ it only when you suspect something is going on in your absence. You might use a company specializing in mystery shopping or you might just ask a friend to stop by the barn when you’re not around. There is no set protocol.

You can also decide whether or not you want to inform employees that a mystery shopper might be coming by.

The horse business is inherently dangerous, and for this reason it is more important than in other industries to check up on your employees. If for no other reason than to make sure safety protocol is always followed.


How to Challenge Students in Riding Lessons

Each riding lesson you teach should introduce your student(s) to new material. You might work on movements or techniques taught in previous lessons, but you must bring something fresh to the table.

I’ve met many riding instructors who hardly ever teach their students new things. Every lesson is just like the last, usually consisting of students riding around an arena at the walk, trot, and canter. And these riding instructors lose their students on a regular basis.

Why? Because students want to be challenged. They want to stretch the limits of their abilities so they can uncover new talents within themselves. They want to learn as much about horses as possible, constantly building upon their repertoires of knowledge.

This is why riding instruction is such an intriguing profession. If you want to excel in it, you must use your experience and creativity to keep your students involved.

The best way to challenge students in riding lessons is to introduce something new each class. Teach a new pattern, a new movement, a new theory. Engage their minds as well as their bodies.


Horse Job Spotlight: Riding Instructor

If you are interested in becoming a riding instructor, take heart in the knowledge that you aren’t alone. Thousands of other equestrians all around the world aspire to this career choice because it allows you to work directly with people and animals.

Most riding instructors were once students themselves, and therefore bring with them to their jobs the skills and techniques they were taught. Some riding instructors own equestrian facilities from which they teach, though the majority are employed by other horse business owners.

This is good news for young equestrian professionals who lack the financial capital and requisite experience to start their own horse farms.

Riding Instructor Schedules

For the most part, riding instructors teach children in the evenings after school, and all day during the summer and on weekends. Part-time jobs are common in this field because it is both logistically and physically difficult to teach riding lessons eight hours per day, every day.

This is why many riding instructors fill other positions in the horse business. Horse jobs such as horse trainer, stable manager, summer camp counselor, and horse trainer assistant all complement riding instruction well.

Since riding instructors often teach in the evenings after children are released from school, their days are free to pursue other endeavors. However, full-time riding instructors can teach adults and homeschooled children during the day if they desire.

In addition to teaching actual lessons, which usually last one hour each, riding instructors must also attend to administrative tasks. Billing clients, scheduling lessons, caring for school horses, and communicating with clients are all part of this horse job.

Riding Instructor Workplace

As with most horse jobs, riding instructors work at barns, stables, and farms. The majority of their days are spent outside, exposed to the elements. Although some stables are equipped with indoor arenas, it is not the same as working an office job.

For the most part, the riding instructor’s workplace is fairly informal. There are no required uniforms unless your boss prefers it, and you have optimum flexibility in terms of scheduling riding lessons and other appointments.

Riding Instructor Experience, Education, and Training

Riding instructors should be experts in horseback riding and horsemanship. They don’t need to be high-level competitors or world-renowned trainers, but they should have significant experience riding and working with horses.

Like other horse jobs, there are no formal education requirements unless a particular employer prefers it. However, it is a good idea for prospective riding instructors to get an education, especially in business administration and management. This will prepare them for careers as entrepreneurs.

It is also a good idea for riding instructors to obtain certification through the American Riding Instructors Association or similar organization. Even if they don’t continue to renew their certifications, the experience is good and it will establish credibility for employers and clients alike.

Some riding instructors apprentice with an established instructor before venturing out on their own. This type of arrangement is particularly beneficial because it allows the student to gain hands-on experience and valuable insight into the job. These apprenticeships are usually informal and arranged between two professionals.

Riding Instructor Responsibilities & Duties

Every riding instructor job is different. There are no set rules or even guidelines, so it is impossible to tell what will be required of a particular teacher without first speaking with the employer.

However, these responsibilities and duties are common in this type of horse job:

Teaching riding lessons in half-hour and one-hour sessions
Preparing school horses for lessons
Cooling down and putting away school horses after lessons
Looking after school horses
Scheduling riding lessons with new students
Communicating with students and/or their parents about progress
Taking students to horse shows
Schooling students during horse shows
Assigning students to school horses
Helping students buy horses for themselves
Selecting school horses for the riding program
Establishing and enforcing barn rules
Making sure minor students are picked up after lessons
Reporting and/or seeking help for injuries that occur during riding lessons
Organizing clinics, seminars and other educational events for students

This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give aspiring riding instructors an idea of what their professional lives will look like.

The primary responsibility of a riding instructor, however, is to keep his or her students and horses safe. This means observing the rules of working with horses and constantly watching all of his or her charges so he or she can prevent accidents.

Riding Instructor Skills

Inherent skills are different from education and training. Although some can be taught, it is important for riding instructors to possess inherent abilities that help them communicate with their students.

Riding instructors should be able to teach according to all the different learning styles (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic/tactile). They need to be able to explain and demonstrate horseback riding techniques so that students can understand and apply those techniques.

They must also be excellent listeners and they should be able to pair students with school horses for the safest and most efficient riding experience.

All riding instructors should be able to lift at least 50 pounds, and should be capable of working on their feet most of the day. Athletic riding instructors are the most successful because, like most horse jobs, riding instruction requires constant movement.

There are, of course, always exceptions. If a riding instructor is physically disabled, for example, he or she may be able to perform this horse job with the help of an assistant.

Riding Instructor Employment Prospects

There are numerous ways for riding instructors to find work. Because these horse jobs are not as easy to find as mainstream careers, it is important for aspiring instructors to network with horse business owners in the geographic area where they want to work.

Riding academies, summer camp venues, dude ranches, equestrian centers, and start-up horse farms are just a few places where riding instructors should look.

Riding Instructor Earnings

Riding instructors’ earnings vary depending on where they live and their financial arrangement with their employers.

Some riding instructors are employees, which means that they earn a specific salary or wage per hour. Full-time employees may receive benefits (such as health insurance, vacation time, and sick pay), while others receive no benefits.

It is more common, however, for riding instructors to be classified as independent contractors. This means they earn a set amount for each lesson they teach. If they own the stable where they work, they keep 100 percent of the profits. If they work at someone else’s stable, on the other hand, they will have to give the property owner a portion of their earnings—often called “paying a grounds fee.”

Riding instructors can earn anywhere from minimum wage to more than $75 per hour, though the reality is usually somewhere in between. A beginning instructor working as an independent contractor, for example, might earn $8 per student he or she teaches. If he teaches four students in a class, he would earn $32 for each hour of instruction. Keep in mind, however, that full-time schedules are rare for independent contractors.


Horse Job Spotlight: Horse Trainer

There are few horse jobs more well-known than that of the horse trainer. These are the professionals who get horses ready for everything from basic riding to high-level competition, and collectively they possess the most equine knowledge with regard to riding and horsemanship.

If you want to become a horse trainer, you’ll have stiff competition. This is one of the most coveted—and therefore the most saturated—horse jobs in the world. However, if you can offer your clients honest, reliable training services for a reasonable price, you’ll be able to find work. Guaranteed.

Horse Trainer Schedules

This is one of those coveted horse jobs in which the professional is free to set his or her own schedule, within reason. You might have set hours if you work for someone who requires it, but more often you’ll have the freedom to work when you want as long as you get the job done.

Horse trainers must work during daylight hours, for the most part, and may be able to find full-time work. This doesn’t mean you’ll be on a horse’s back for eight hours each day, but it does mean you’ll be working with and around horses for most of those hours. In addition to riding, you’ve got to attend to administrative tasks (e.g., billing, marketing, communicating with clients) as well as chores around the barn.

The precise schedule of a horse trainer depends on the services he or she offers. Some horse trainers will bathe, groom, and medicate their charges in addition to working with them under saddle. This is particularly common if you’re working with babies who need ground training as well as the rest of it.

Horse Trainer Workplace

As is true with many horse jobs, horse training puts the professional in the barn (and outlying areas). The weather is often an issue (hot in summer, cold in winter, wet all year ’round), which is why horse trainers should try to work at a facility that offers an indoor (or at least covered ) arena.

Some horse trainers work in elaborate equestrian facilities, while others train from humbler venues. It depends largely on the type of training the professional is performing. If you’re working with high-dollar show horses, you workplace is likely to be fancier than if you are breaking two-year-olds for auction.

For the most part, horse training involves an agreeable workplace with plenty of people around. It is typically not lonely work, and there are always colleagues around to help if you have questions or if you need to brainstorm on a problem.

Horse Trainer Experience, Education, and Training

There are no specific credentials required of horse trainers. There are plenty of trainers out there with no professional education or certifications who make great livings in their careers, but education certainly doesn’t hurt your chances of success.

A traditional college education is advisable, particularly if you’d like to eventually work for yourself. Classes in business administration, economics, equine science, veterinary science, anatomy, and marketing are all beneficial for horse trainers.

If you are going to take classes, seminars, workshops, or clinics with a professional horse trainer in order to advance your education or career, be cautious. Many of these programs cost thousands of dollars and yield nothing of value, so make sure you know the person who will be delivering the class.

Horse Trainer Responsibilities & Duties

At its core, a horse trainer’s job is to work directly with horses to achieve desired results. However, some horse trainers must attend to other duties on the job that are related to their core purpose.

These might include:

Scheduling and overseeing appointments with veterinarians and farriers
Grooming and/or bathing horses in training
Educating clients about training techniques
Collecting money from clients
Scheduling visits from clients and/or colleagues
Teaching riding lessons
Cleaning stalls, feeding, turning out, and other tasks related to the barn

Every horse training job is different, and it is important to ask prospective employers what will be expected of you. It is equally important to be honest about your skills and education so you aren’t asked to perform a task with which you aren’t familiar.

Horse Trainer Skills

Horse trainers must be kind, efficient, and committed to their work. They should be comfortable working with both people and horses in stressful situations.

One of the main skill sets that many horse trainers lack is the ability to set and assign reasonable goals. As you get more experience under your belt, you’ll get a better feel for reasonable expectations for both horses and clients, but it is extremely important never to overpromise.

Because horse trainers often set their own schedules and work on their own, they must be capable of efficient time management and self-supervision. They should be well-versed in safety procedures when it comes to working with young and unpredictable horses, and they must be willing to follow safety precautions at all times.

If you want to be a horse trainer, you should be physically fit and capable of engaging in hard labor for extended periods of time.

Horse Trainer Employment Prospects

As long as there are people who ride horses, there will be a need for horse trainers. In times of economic peril, horse trainers have more difficulty finding work because people are less likely to spend money on luxuries like horse training. However, this doesn’t mean that the work is fruitless.

It is a good idea for horse trainers to find a steady job and stick with it. Building a loyal client base is paramount, so horse trainers who move around a lot or get bored easily will have difficulty establishing a profitable business. It is much easier to stay in one place and allow your reputation to blossom.

Horse Trainer Earnings

The earning potential for horse trainers is limitless, provided the trainer is good at his job and capable of employing sound business practices. That said, most horse trainers aren’t living in million-dollar houses. The work is hard and often doesn’t pay as well as it should.

This, again, is why staying in one place and nurturing your reputation is important. As demand for your services increases, you can increase your prices accordingly. Horse trainers that are high in demand can make perfectly reasonable livings.

Most horse trainers, offering their services on a monthly basis, can expect to earn between $200 and $2,000 per month, per horse. As you can see there is a wide disparity between low- and high-earning horse trainers, so keep working toward developing a reputation.

Keep in mind that, if you’re working for someone else, you will probably not get to keep everything you earn. You might earn a salary directly from your employer if you are classified as an employee, or you might have to pay a grounds fee if you are an independent contractor.


A Horror Story (And a Warning)

Many young equestrian professionals would do anything to work with horses. They’re willing to “pay their dues” mucking stalls, cleaning tack, and attending to any other task if it might help them accomplish their goals down the road.

This is a great attitude, one of hard work and perseverance, but it can also get you in trouble.

I was one of those young equestrian professionals

Straight out of school, I landed a job teaching riding lessons at a local stable, but it didn’t work out. The owner’s methods were much different from mine, and eventually I moved on. Frustrated by my lack of prospects, I took to the Internet, searching for another job—it didn’t matter where. I just wanted to continue working with horses.

I found such a job within a few days of initiating my search. It was for a riding instruction and horse training position in a little town called Cave City, Kentucky.

Physically, I wasn’t ready to go back to horse training. I have osteoporosis, and it was stupid to think I could jump back in the saddle, working with babies and problem horses. But this was my chance, and I was willing to risk physical injury to achieve my dreams. Plus, my future boss’s description of the property and facilities dazzled me.

So I jumped on it

My boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I packed up my Ford Explorer with all the possessions we could fit, and we drove fourteen hours to Cave City, Kentucky. The owners of the farm sent us sufficient cash to cover gas and food on our trip, but we hardly had any other money between us.

We left at 2 a.m. and arrived at about 4 p.m. on an August afternoon. During the last few minutes of our trek up I-65, I suffered my first panic attack. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like the Explorer was closing in on me. Right then, I felt we’d made the wrong choice.

But we’d come too far to back out then.

We’d been told that, in addition to our salary, we would be provided with a house on the property. We were told that the facilities included a round pen, an arena, and a host of other amenities. All the pictures we’d seen of the farm were absolutely gorgeous.

And pictures can be deceiving

The farm was located in a “holler” between two ridges, just outside town. As we drove down into it, I felt my heart sticking in my throat.

Dozens upon dozens of dirty, haggard horses watched our arrival from tiny paddocks surrounded by eight-foot chain link fences. They stood in soggy mud that, in some places, came up to the middle of their cannon bones, and much of their pasture space was littered with planks of old rotted wood, chunks of unidentifiable metal, and lengths of PVC pipe. Most of the animals wore halters, which could easily snag on the chain link fencing, and I saw more than a few unhealed lacerations (not to mention scars).

The farm consisted of two parcels of property divided by a public road. Of the hundred acres my new boss had boasted, only four or five were usable; the rest were covered with woods that cascaded down from the ridges on both sides.

Our “house” was a broken-down shack at the center of the property.

There was, indeed, a round pen, but it sat on unlevel sand at the center of one of the aforementioned paddocks. I never asked, but I assume that the occupied paddock was supposed to double as an “arena,” never mind that it was uneven as well and not covered with sand.

So there we were

Stuck in Tiny Town, Kentucky (a dry county, by the way), with no money and no resources, and we had no choice but to make the best of our situation.

There was no “riding instruction” job. It turned out that none of the horses on the farm had been trained at all—most wouldn’t even lead. The owners wanted me to train all 80+ head so they could be used in a trail riding business for Cave City tourists. None of this had been mentioned to me during our earlier conversations.

A Tragedy

On our third day at the farm, I noticed one of the colts was lame. He was maybe three months old, and he was pastured in a muck-filled paddock at the edge of the property with his mother. My boss called the vet, who at first could find nothing wrong with the colt.

I suggested perhaps the vet should look at the colt’s feet. He was, after all, standing in mud, manure, and urine all day long, so it wasn’t too far a leap to suggest he suffered from thrush. Since the colt had never been handled, he put up quite a fuss when the vet tried to examine the bottoms of his hooves, and the colt wound up on the ground.

With a broken shoulder.

The colt had to be euthanized, and the vet suggested the animal’s body be left in the pasture overnight so the mare could “come to grips” with her loss. Next morning, my husband (then boyfriend), had to drag the poor colt’s stiff carcass out of that cesspool and bury it.

Talk about a rude introduction to the horse world.

Getting out

Looking back, we should have called the authorities. They probably wouldn’t have done anything about it because the horses were being fed, but they were living in deplorable conditions. My husband and I lasted a few months before we were able to put together enough money to go home.

During those months there, we worked with horses who had hardly experienced human contact, and we did our best to improve things—though we didn’t make much of an impact. Our main jobs were to get up in the morning and feed, then to feed in the afternoon, and I refused to ride horses when there wasn’t a safe place. My boss wanted me to ride on the road that ran through the farm.

The horses ate from communal buckets, which means some of them didn’t eat at all, and day before we left, my husband saw our boss try to pull a mare out of her paddock with a rope and his pick-up truck. It was a terrifying (and illuminating) experience, and part of the reason I started Riding Instructor University.

You Just Never Know

If you don’t have the capital to start your own horse business, you’re probably looking for gainful employment in the horse industry. This is fine, but you have to be careful.

Before you take a job (particularly one that requires relocation):

Request references from current/past employees and/or clients.
Visit the property and conduct your own in-person investigation.
Verify memberships to professional organizations.
Ask about farm policies, practices, and philosophies.
Look them up via the Better Business Bureau.
Get an employment contract in writing.

Trust me, you don’t want to wind up in the situation described above.


7 Ways to Spruce Up the Barn

No one wants to look at overgrown lawns, out-of-control bushes, peeling paint, or broken fencing. Neglecting the aesthetic aspects of your barn will turn away prospective clients and give current clients a reason to look elsewhere.

If you need to spruce up the barn, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars. Following are seven easy ways to give your horse business a facelift without going into debt.

1- Mow and/or re-sod. And I’m not just talking about the pastures where the horses graze. Focus on giving the grounds around your barn a healthy lawn, as this will give the impression that you care about the little things. Then, once it looks nice, commit yourself to mowing, fertilizing, and watering on a regular basis to maintain the appeal.

2- Paint everything. The barn, the fences, the railings, the shed—give every exposed piece of wood a new life with a fresh coat of paint. Use durable materials that will last, and ask for volunteers among your clients so you don’t have to pay workers for the help.

3- Plant flowers. Most barns have bushes and trees, but flowers add an extra pop of color that can make a distinct difference in how your barn looks upon approach. Find flowers that are native to your area and that don’t require much upkeep to stay alive.

4- Buy a sign. This is one area where I recommend spending some money. Have a professional sign made for your barn that gives the name, contact information, services offered, and a pleasing graphic. Make sure it’s large enough to be noticed and put it in a visible location.

5- Clear the cobwebs. Clumps of dirt, dust, cobwebs, and other matter can build up around the barn, and it makes everything look dingy. Take a trusty broom and sweep from the top down, then go back over metal parts with a cleaning solution. Do this once every six months at least to cut down on the debris.

6- Establish uniformity. Purchase identical tack boxes to put in front of all the stalls rather than letting your clients bring their own. Create name plaques for all the horses and hang them on the same place in front of every stall. Install blanket racks, halter hooks, and other hardware on the stalls. Uniformity is pleasing to the eye.

7- Hide the clutter. And finally, get rid of the clutter that makes your barn look trashy and uninviting. Store, give away, or throw out broken equipment, and store working equipment in sheds or carports. Pick up halters, lead ropes, trash, and other equipment and find a place to store it all. Build cabinets for supplies. When things aren’t lying around in plain view, the whole barn looks better.

I’m not saying these tips will make your barn look new, but they will show you care. Keep up with the appearance of your barn, and your clients will have more confidence in your ability to provide for them and their horses.