How to Start a Trail Riding Stable
Trail riding stables are becoming harder and harder to find. These are places where people can come and ride a horse for an hour or more. Generally they are guided tours on horseback, using horses owned by the stable.
The stable should be easy to find, ideally right off the highway. Trail ride businesses do best near large cities or in tourist locations.
The location is key, there must be suitable areas in which to ride, ideally an extensive trail system with interesting topography. The land does not have to be all yours, many trail riding stables make use of park land where horses are allowed on the existing trails. For a very scenic trail ride there should be paths through some trees, on open ground, up hills, and/or through creeks. This will add diversity to the ride, making it more of an experience.
In an ideal situation there will be many trails so people might come back for a different experience and the ride itself wont be so boring for the horses to repeat day after day.
You will require public bathrooms. You should have an office where the public can come to sign up for the trail ride, read your rules and regulations, and where you can keep your files.
A barn is generally required, but the horses many not need stabling, however you will want a place to keep the saddles, bridles, and other needed equipment.
In addition to regular pasture space, you will need to have a place to tie the horses, as well as an area where the people can mount and dismount safely.
You will need to have parking, and may also want to have a place where people can get something to drink after their ride.
Most trail riding outfits do not let people take horses out on their own, although this was common in the past. Because of legal liability most trail riding places now have at least two people who go out on every trail ride, usually one in front, and one in back. The front rider guides everyone on the trail and is responsible for sticking to the time line. The rider in the back watches to make sure the guests are not having problems, or falling behind. Both help riders on, and off, their horses.
There will need to be at least one other person at the stable at all times. This way members of the public will not be walking around the stables when nobody is there.
The staff will need to feed and care for the horses, saddle them up book rides, and so forth.
The horses are very important to the success of any good trail riding facility. They must be safe and well trained, for riders of all ages. It is important that the horses are healthy and sound. Any horse that is shown to be a problem should be sold. Problem horses are those that bite, kick, run, spook, or have reoccurring lameness issues.
You must have enough horses to meet the demands and be able to give some horses days off.
Insurance is important, but very expensive. Some trail riding facilities carry insurances from other areas where it is more affordable.
Riders should sign waivers before saddling up.
Riders should be asked their experience level and assigned horses accordingly, noting that some people over estimate their ability, so even though you might have experienced riders, your horses should always be safe.
You may want to have some smaller saddles for smaller riders, and some larger saddles for larger riders.
Many stables keep the horses saddled up, with their cinches loose, and accept riders on a drop in basis.
Horses should be rotated so they always get at least two days off a week.
Halters should be left on, with lead shanks tied around the horses neck. This way if there is a problem when out on a ride one of the guides can lead the horse, as well it makes it easier to tie them up after the ride is done rather than having to look for where the halter was left.
Any problem riders should be warned that they will be asked to dismount and walk if they cannot follow rules.
Establish your hours and have them posted at the gate, shut and lock the gate after hours.
Signs on the highway work well to attract business. It's best to accept riders on a drop in basis as well as by appointment.
Be sure to advertise in tourist guides for the area.
Check to see what business licensing you need in your area.