Looking to Open a Livery Yard in 2023?

9 March 2023

As we head into spring, we tend to see an influx in the opening of new livery yards – hoping to fill their stables with happy customers and horses with the aim to make a real success of their business.

Many yard owners are not used to running an equestrian business and all of the trials and tribulations that can accompany it.

If you’ve just opened your livery yard, or you’re looking to in the future then you’ve come to the right place.

Livery List and SEIB Insurance Brokers Ltd have partnered together to highlight the important factors you need to consider when opening a new livery yard.

1. Charging the right amount

One of the biggest mistakes a new livery yard owner makes is not fully understanding how to work out their costs, and finding out too late that they are underselling what they offer. It is vitally important before they even get any stables filled that they properly calculate the running costs of the yard and apportion these correctly to their livery spaces.

There is a huge list of potential outgoings for a yard, from the basics of rent or mortgage to utilities, insurances, professional fees, maintenance and repairs, equipment, plus the consumables such as forage, feed and bedding if they are looking to offer this within their service.

Yard owners need to consider every single cost from muck heap removal and fertiliser to arena levellers and loo roll.  If they fail to charge the right amount, then they may well find themselves subsidising their own liveries horses!

Most importantly, livery yard owners must remember to factor in the time that they and any other family members may spend running and maintaining the yard, including time for admin work, and ensure that a suitable hourly rate is allocated to this and included in the costs. So many yard owners run their yard to cover costs but don’t actually earn an income that reflects the time they spend working.

It is also important not to be influenced by the costs of other local yards. If a yard owner has properly calculated their costs, then they may well find they are more expensive than other yards in the area, but must not be tempted to reduce their prices to compete, nor to take their prices as a guideline for what they should be charging before they have worked out their costs.

No two yards are the same, even if they may be in the same area offering similar packages and facilities, and it’s important for each individual business to calculate their costs and charge what they need to ensure that their yard stays viable in the long term.

It is also important that livery yard owners regularly review their costs on a six-monthly or annual basis.  As part of the livery yard contract, it should be stated that prices will be continuously reviewed by the livery yard owner and if deemed necessary will be increased.  Again, costs will need to be worked out in detail when reviewing to ensure if increased the reason for this can be demonstrated and truly reflected to liveries.

2. Finding the right liveries

As a new yard owner with empty stables to fill, it can be tempting to take on the first people who come through the door, perhaps even if they might not be exactly the right type of livery client.

Livery yard owners must ensure that any potential liveries and horses they take on are the right fit for the yard, and for the services and facilities that are on offer. It may take a little longer to fill the stables but they are more likely to retain clients if they find the right ones in the first place!

When you advertise your livery yard, you should include as much information as possible about the livery package you offer, the facilities you offer, the services that are included, plus any other important information that may help a potential client decide if the yard is right for them. Make sure you keep any adverts up to date, with current contact details, and good quality photos.

When taking enquiries or showing someone around the livery yard, it is important to fully explain what the yard can offer, to ask questions about the potential livery or their horses, and explain that it will be necessary to view certain documentation- such as insurances, vaccinations and horse passport. It should also be explained if there may be any factors that may affect their decision, such as restricted winter grazing, yard opening and closing times, rules on instructors or loaners, or other specific restrictions or rules in place.

The inclusions of livery packages should be explained, along with the applicable fees, and any other charges the horse owner may incur. Only once this has been fully explained, and the yard owner has discussed with the horse owner about their horse’s needs, can an informed decision can be made about how suitable they would be for the yard.

It can also be tempting to adjust what a yard offers just to fill spaces, to make exceptions for rules or use of facilities, or even reduce prices to lure in new liveries but this can be a false economy. A new yard owner needs to stick to their prices, not deviate from their packages and find the clients willing to pay the right price for the packages and services they have planned to offer.

3. Documentation

It’s important to be administratively organised with a business, and running a livery yard is no different. It is wise to have a good standard of administration and records to make sure all of the necessary information for clients is on file and can also help if any problems or disputes arise.

Livery contracts are one of the most important factors, as they clearly set out what a yard is offering, what the responsibilities and obligations are of both parties- the yard and the horse owners- as well as laying out any important rules or points of note that may affect the agreement. Payment terms, deposit, notice periods and actions that may be taken if clients cause issues or run up debts should be specifically detailed.

Yards should also have detailed information on the livery clients– contact details, address and next of kin for example, and also for the horse – usual vet, farrier, dentist and suchlike which can all help the livery yard owner deal with any problems quickly if issues arise.

It is also wise for a yard owner to consider requesting a security deposit from livery clients, to act as a damage waiver and deterrent for those leaving without the adequate notice period. This would usually be taken when the livery yard owner agrees to have the livery or with the first livery payment and would be returned in full on termination of the agreement if there were no issues.

4. Insurance

Having the correct insurance in place is a vital part of running a yard, it is important to ensure a yard is appropriately insured for the services on offer.

From grass livery, full livery, or anything in between, livery yard owners should have a public liability policy in place. This will help protect against again claims of negligence again the yard owner in the event of damage, loss or injury to any parties – human or equine.

Even if all horses on the livery yard are insured for liability, if something happens that could be deemed the fault or negligence of the livery yard owner, then those affected may want to make a claim for their losses and in the absence of adequate insurance the livery yard owner could be found personally liable.

If the livery yard owner has any employees , freelance staff or helpers on the yard then a suitable employer’s liability policy must be in place too.  Yard owners should speak to their insurer about the scope of services they offer to ensure they are correctly covered, not forgetting to mention if they offer any other services that may need insuring such as instruction or facility hire.

It is also sensible to ensure that all horses on a yard are insured for public liability, that all horse owners have their tack, transport or other equipment insured, if kept on the yard, and that anyone providing services on the yard also holds appropriate insurance – which a yard owner is well within their right to request a copy of.

Livery Yard owners must also consider an appropriate Buildings and Content policy is in place for the premises and facilities. The yard owner should also consider including anything that may be stored on the premises such as tractors, tack, forage, feed or bedding stocks. If the livery yard is rented, it’s important to outline who has a clear responsibility to insure the premises or its contents, and to ensure the landlord is correctly insured for a commercial lease or tenancy agreement.

Care, Custody and Control (CCC) insurance can cover injury or death of a horse in the livery owner’s care. It is advised to take this insurance if you own or manage a DIY livery yard, as there may still be occurrences where the livery yard owner or manager could be found liable in the event of injury or loss to an equine on the livery yard through the livery arrangements provided.

Livery yards are a unique business format, and therefore the most cost-effective way it to select a dedicated insurer specialising in equestrian insurance.

Aside from the four points above, there are a huge number of factors to consider when opening a new livery yard and starting a new business. The LiveryList Yard Owner Hub offers a huge amount of free resources, templates and guidance of all aspects of yard management, and is ideal for both new and established yard owners. You can also find other useful information and articles written by us, and in relation to setting up your livery yard here…

What’s in a Livery Package: Horsemart

Essential Paperwork for Yard Owners: Horsemart

Marketing Your Livery Yard Effectively: Horsemart

How to Price Your Livery Services: Horsemart 

Avoiding Common Mistakes as a New Livery Yard Owner: Horsemart

Getting Insurance Cover Right for Your Yard: SEIB

As Livery Yard insurance experts, SEIB covers all types of equestrian insurance- both personal and professional- and can put all of your needs on a single policy giving you peace of mind that you are covered suitably.

Speak to a member of their team today by calling 01708 850 000 or email info@seib.co.uk

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