The LiveryList Guide to… Diversifying Your Livery Yard

Posted on 3rd April 2020

There is a huge array of livery options on offer now, from traditional DIY yards to fully equipped competition centres, self contained yard rental or boxes on private yards and people opting to ‘share’ or ‘loan’ horses rather than buy and keep their own. This means with increasing overheads and less horses ‘per box’ to fill, many livery yard owners are feeling the pinch with empty stables and unused facilities they are still having to maintain. Many yards are now diversifying by offering other services and using their existing facilities to boost their income. For some their ideas remain in the equestrian community, for others it reaches their local community and beyond.

Below we list just a few of the innovative ideas that are being realised throughout the UK to diversify yards and help cover the running costs- some may be obvious, and some are a little stranger but diversifying all the same!

Equestrian Diversity:

Changing Your Livery Options: Many yards are changing the package options they offer their clients to increase the monthly charges of the horse, or to reduce owner input and attendance on their yard. Firstly consider local demand. Do you turn potential clients away as you do not offer the livery package they request and is this something you could offer? Perhaps you offer DIY but an upgrade to ‘Assisted’ DIY for all clients could add extra monthly income for minimal extra work. Or how about finding a niche and switching your client base entirely- for example to a retirement livery or natural horsemanship style yard which are becoming increasingly popular and due, often, to these horses not being in work the owners will travel further afield for the right yard because there is not the requirement to visit everyday for care and riding.

Accommodation for Local Events: If you are lucky enough to be within half hours drive of a large equestrian venue or annual event it may be worth contacting the organisers to see if you can assist with accommodation for horses and transport during the event. Many of the larger shows and events (such as county shows, championships etc) offer temporary stabling but only offer a limited number leaving those riders not quick enough to book needing to find an alternative stable for the night or couple of nights. Often this would just need the use of a stable (plus supply of bedding and hay at an additional cost if required) and the owner does the rest. The cost for this can be £30 upwards per night for temporary stabling and an advantage could be close proximity and being able to offer better priced stabling than at the event itself. Do remember though that it is likely the owners will have large lorries which will be frequently accessing the yard and the owners may even want to camp overnight in their lorries to save on human accommodation costs!

Adding Service Options: A lot of yards just offer stable and grazing, simple as that. No services, no help, all ‘professional’ services are done by external providers and if the owner is away friends, family or other liveries step in to care for and exercise the horse. But these owners could be missing a trick. If a yard owner has the time and skill, numerous services could be offered, from morning turnout (for a couple of pounds charge), to full day or holiday cover (usually around £10- £15 a day), exercise (a part hourly rate for lunging, schooling or hacking) and even grooming services such as mane pulling and clipping can all earn extra income.

Equine Transportation: Most yard owners have a horsebox or trailer, and its not unknown that many will transport horses of liveries, friends or family for some form of payment on a casual basis. But if you’ve a half-decent and well maintained lorry or trailer sat at your yard have you considered either renting it out on a self-drive basis, or offering horse transportation yourself? There are qualifications needed these days to become a DEFRA approved horse transporter but not that difficult of costly to obtain. It can take up time to transport animals yourself- especially if difficult loaders or long distances- but the pay can be worthwhile usually for a fixed ‘call out’ fee per horse and then a mileage charge on top. Hiring out your lorry or trailer for self-drive is an easier option, ensuring the right insurances and precautions are taken, and can get you a fixed daily or part daily fee for something     that otherwise would be parked on the yard doing nothing!

Letting Spare Grazing: It is rare for a yard to have an excess if grazing but sometimes it can happen! Rather than leave the grass to grow and hay to be cut, could you earn more from renting it out as grazing? Either as a whole (usually around £100 per acre per month) or as individual grass liveries (usually around £15- £25 per week per horse). It is important to ensure any grazing is not overstocked, and well managed for longevity of the grass to sustain any inhabitants year round. Even during the summer months many horse owners who want their horses to live out 24/7 will seek short term grazing and this would enable you to have the field back for winter grazing if needs be but give you a little extra income in the meantime.

Buying and Selling: It may seem an obvious yet troublesome option for some yard owners, but sometimes if a stable is empty it can be worth filling it with a horse or pony of your own! If you’ve the time and skill there are always plenty of ‘project’ ponies and horses seeking new owners with the skill to rehabilitate them, school them, or simply show them some attention for them to be brought right and sold on. With little cost to yourself for keeping the horse short term, there can be a few hundred pounds made by the profit added on to the improved animal once it is sold to a new and suitable home. Another option is to offer ‘sales’ livery whereby you have a livery short term on behalf of the owner, care for and exercise the animal, promote the horse for sale, deal with the enquiries, viewings and allowing it to be tried using your facilities and then on top of a healthy weekly ‘sales livery’ fee you take a percentage of the sale price.

Facility Hire: This may seem obvious but some yard owners do not want, and other have never considered, to rent out their facilities to external users. This can mean higher maintenance costs, increase of unknown animals and people to the yard and increased insurances. However, if you offer a reasonable rate and good facilities- such as show jumps, arena lighting and a quality surface- you will get returning clients. Many yards hiring their facilities get regular users, especially during the wet and dark winter months, as they are able to offer all-weather arenas with cover and lighting which is ideal for those horse owners working long hours, and whose only option at their own yard is perhaps to ride in the dark! You can also offer the use of other facilities too such as a jumping field in the summer months with a ready-built course, or XC courses too- either offer set schooling days or allow individual or group bookings. With some yards charging up to £50 per hour for an use of an indoor arena, or £20 per rider for two hours on a XC course, a couple of hours hire a week can certainly help boost the coffers.

Offering ‘Park and Ride’. Are you in a particularly good area for scenic riding and off-road routes? Why not share this with others. If you have a suitable hard standing (or empty paddocks in the summer with easy access) you can invite riders to leave their horsebox or trailer securely at your yard whilst they meander off and explore locally on their horses. This could be just to offer secure parking for their transport during their ride, but you could also consider offering an area for picnics, provision of water or tying up facilities. Rates will differ depending on location and what you offer but you could expect to receive around £10- £20 per day. Why not advertise through local riding clubs, hunts and Facebook Groups. If its really riding worth the trip you could end up with group meets and a few lorries turning up at once. You could even offer facility hire too if you’ve facilities worth the trip (an hours SJ practice followed by a meandering hour or twos scenic hack) or stabling if possible if they have come afar and want to mak it a longer trip.

Permissive Riding: If you are lucky enough to be on a large farm or estate with your own off road tracks others may be willing to pay to enjoy this too. Particularly in built up areas, riders are prepared to travel further afield and/ or pay annual fees to local yards to be able to access private tracks they would otherwise not be allowed to use. If you’ve got gallops that can be incorporated too… even better! There would need to be a system in place to check access be this members issued with a key, ID for the horses bridle (such as a permit or badge) or to advise in advance they will be on the land, but some riders happily pay between £25 and £80 a year to access off road tracks and to have a good canter and quiet hack off-road where otherwise this may not be possible.

Become a Riding Club Venue: Similar to Facility Hire many people shun this for the same reasons. However, local riding clubs are frequently looking for well presented facilities to use for their shows, clinics and training. This can often mean dedicating a morning, afternoon or evening to sole use for the club, but at the same time they are in complete charge of organising everything from putting the jumps out to who is attending. It may be worth contact your local riding clubs to see if they are seeking any new venues be it a XC course, grass, outdoor or indoor arena. The same as facility hire, many Riding Clubs offer evening training during the winter months so if you’ve an indoor and lit arena all the better, but even a simple outdoor arena or jumping paddock could be all that they need to add to their training venues. To have a Riding Club venue on site and visiting instructors may also prove a selling point for your yard and help attract new liveries.

Run Clinics: Again similar to above but self- organised there can be a good income made from organising clinics and group lessons for your liveries and local riders. Set aside one morning or afternoon a week, fortnight or month and book a good quality instructor to undertake several hour slots in a row. You can alternate between instructors and what is covered in the lessons (i.e dressage, show jumping, gridwork) to meet the needs of your yard and offer something for all. Advertise slots to liveries, and further afield if there are spaces available. As the facilities are already yours there is no need to cover that cost, just the cost of the instructor. With instructors costing between £30 and £50 per hour (many will offer reduced rates for block bookings), and riders paying between £15 and £35 for an hours lesson in a group of up to 4 riders there is plenty to be made even just from running one or two clinics per month. If you are an instructor yourself, or already have one working on the yard.. even better!

 

Clear Round Events: If you have a XC course with enough fences for a decent course, or a good sized arena with a good condition set of show jumps why not offer clear round days. Easy to organise and advertise, you can arrange such events in one of two ways- firstly is the option to allocate time slots for users to hire the facilities for ‘Clear Round Schooling’ for a set period- say 30 minutes as an individual where they can practice obstacles in a pre-set course as much as they like in that time frame. You can amend the height between users throughout the day, or they can amend their own fences as long as they retain the set course. The charge for this would usually be £10 per horse per session. The second option is to run a ‘pay as you go’ all-day clear round  starting low and building up through the day. Have a set course, and riders take it in turns to give the course one go as if it were the first round of a competition. However this is a lot more relaxed- even allowing them to take their instructors in with them- and if they are ‘eliminated’ they can still continue and give the other fences a go within reason. Those who get a clear round get a rosette. Often riders will give each course several attempts at varying heights and the height can be increased through the day as demand warrants, and even the course changed to give riders a different challenge. Usually riders would pay around £3 per round so if 20 riders turn up and have a couple of goes each its a fair bit of income in return for some low-cost rosettes.

Pony Camps: Pony camps are becoming increasingly popular- and not just for the kids! Adult Riding Camps are growing in popularity as a horsey break away and time devoted to some intensive training and horsey banter. If you have adequate land, varied facilities and either are an instructor yourself, or have suitable contacts this is quite easy to arrange. Yes you need to factor in costs of food, accommodation (riders can bring their own tents), instructors and somewhere to keep the horses (ideal if your yard herd is out 24/7 in the summer and empty stables can be utilised as many camps do not offer turnout for the duration for horse safety) but with riders paying in excess of £120 for two nights accommodation and four sessions of tuition there is an additional income to be had.

BYO Riding Holidays: Being able to take your own horse away on holiday is a bit of a new concept. Many riders who hail from more built up areas of the UK like to travel and explore further afield-be this the coast, forests or national parks- with their equine friends. Ideal in the summer when you may have empty stables you can put together a nightly package for visiting riders to stable their horse and park their transport. Ideally you could offer B&B at your own property already, but if not make contacts and business relationships with local B&B’s or hotels and offer the visiting riders discounted accommodation. Knowing your own area, you can provide the riders with guided rides or provide them with maps to explore the local areas.

Horsey Car Boots: Ever popular is the concept of the equivalent of an equestrian bring and buy sale! Popping up more and more across the country some of these have turned into major regular events! Advertise locally for an evening (ideal if you have an indoor school you can utilise), or a weekend (in a field or outdoor arena) and have a set fee per table for private and trade sellers (usually around £10 and £25 respectively). With many horsey car boots having at least 20 or 30 sellers- and some many more, and many car boots charging buyers as well (usually 50p or £1 per adult entry)  it is good income for a couple of hours work. You can even have a stall of your own, or offer drinks and snacks to add to the income of the evening! It can also be a great way to promote your yard, especially if you offer out facilities or have stables available.

Non-Equine Diversity

Doggy Day Care: With enclosed stables, plenty of land and secure arenas many yard owners are diversifying into canine care too. Either on a boarding or ‘doggy day care’ basis to look after dogs in their owners absence or while they are at work for the day. There are plenty of fields to run about in, empty stables can be utilised to provide accommodation for the dogs and an indoor arena makes a perfect all weather play area! With some dog owners paying £25 a day for their doggy friends to be kept company and have the freedom to run around it pays a lot more than horses!

Dog Agility: Going back to an indoor arena being an ideal play area- many local dog clubs often look for new venues to undertake their obedience and dog training either an indoor or outdoor arena, or even just a field! No different to hiring the arena to a rider for an hour or so you would do this for a fixed hourly fee, with the club bringing along their own equipment and organising their attendees. Always worth contacting local dog clubs to see if they need a new venue, or promoting the advantages of yours over their existing sites!

Renting Land: Horses are not the only animals that graze. There are often smallholders looking to expand who may need additional seasonal grazing for sheep, goats or even llamas. It is a good way to mange your excess grazing and get an income from it with no concern to yourself about the animals. You rent the land to the owner on a tenant basis and they are liable for responsibility of the animals and maintaining the grazing and fencing during their stay.

Camping: If you are lucky enough to have adequate land for your yard, strange as it may sound camping may be a way forward. By offering nothing more than a parking space for a camper, or pitching space for a tent you can make a small extra income with little effort. This is ideal if you are close to tourist attractions or other large events such as music festivals where short term temporary accommodation is high in demand.

Parking Spaces. If you’ve plenty of land and are in an area with demand for parking- close to a large city centre, airport, event venue etc – then you could offer considerably cheaper parking than the venues themselves. By ‘renting’ part of your driveway or hardstanding for the duration of events or holidays you could make yourself a few extra pounds with little inconvenience. Websites such as JustPark make it easy and simple and deal with the bookings. You just provide the space and receive the hourly or daily fee.

Above are just a  few ideas- with plenty more to be had. From opening tea rooms in unused outbuildings to offering lectures and demonstrations there are innumerable ways to diversify your business and increase your income. The most important aspect is to make sure that any benefits outweigh the costs. Whilst a lot of these suggestions can provide additional income and help cover your yard overheads, it is important to do them properly. Ensure there are good practices in place to prevent any affect on the welfare of yur own herds if external horses and riders are to enter the yard, and to be on the ball when it comes to yard security ensuring no valuable items are left on display or, ideally, that the main yard areas are out of bounds. Additionally make sure you are fully insured for any new activities and research thoroughly what else is on offer locally or nationally to make yourself competitive in both cost and services provided. 

You can find further resources and templates on this topic on the following YOH Resource pages:

Facility Planning, Management and Hire

Business Management and Planning

IMPORTANT

This information as provided above is intended to provide guidance and areas for consideration for those intending to enter into such arrangements, and is best advice to our knowledge at the time of publication following extensive research. Anyone proposing to enter into agreements, processes or actions based upon the information contained herein are advised to carry out their own due diligence to ensure the information above remains current and factual. 

© Livery List 2020

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