December 18, 2017

Apparently I’m Abundantly Average…

            I was reading a survey that was done by the folks at Stable Management magazine. I remember being asked to participate in this online survey, so I was counted among the number of people who responded. They asked many, many interesting questions about those people who run, manage or work at equine businesses. Here is just a sample of the questions and responses-

1. What is your position?
66.1% Barn Owners
15.6% Trainers/Instructors
11.3% Barn Managers
5.4% Breeders
1.6% Employee

2. How long have you worked at or owned the current business?
36.8% Over 20 years
26.8% 11-20 years
25.7% 6-10 years
10.7% Less than 5 years

3. Age of the respondents (in years)-
61+- 30.5%
51-60- 36.0%
41-50- 19.3%
31-40- 10.2%
Under 30- 4%

4. Education level-
High School- 20.4%
College- 57.3%
Master’s- 17.2%
Doctorate- 5.1%

5. Residence State
California 9.6%
Florida 6.8%
Pennsylvania 6.6%
New York  5.6%

6. 80% of respondents own their property. Property sizes-
Less than 5 acres- 15.5%
6-15 acres- 24.6%
16-25 acres- 10.7%
26-50 acres- 13.8%
50+   15.5%

Making Money
65.2% of respondents said their equine business was their secondary form of income. Only 20% were making more than $100,000.00 per year in gross income, with the largest group (64.3%) making under $50,000.00. Most of the respondents felt they were underpaid (56.2%) while only 0.9% felt they were highly paid.

            Boarding was the largest source of income reported at 42.8%. The average (47.0%) board fees for full care ranged from $251.00 – $500.00 per month. Lessons came in second on the income spectrum at 18.9%.

            Most respondents felt they had no change in income from the previous year (37.6%) while 25.7% felt their income had decreased by at least 15%. Only 2.7% felt business had increased. The largest expense reported was feed at 60.5% with labor coming in second at 14.3%.

Staffing & Hours-

            Most of the equine businesses are being staffed by sole proprietors while a few have some help.

            Just me- 46.2%
Less than 5- 44.5%
6-10- 4.2%
11-20- 3.0%
20+ 2.1%

            A full time work week is usually considered to be 40 hours. But in the equine industry, that is not the case. Most owners work well in excess of 50 hours weekly.
Hours worked per week-
50+- 27.4%
40-49- 19%
30-39- 16.9%
20-29- 23.2%
Less than 20- 13.5%

            So looking at all these statistics tells me that I fall into the following categories along with most of my counterparts.

            I own the property and have worked at it for over 20 years.
I live in California.
I am over 51 years old.
I have a college degree.
I am grossly underpaid!
I work more than 50 hours a week.
Our biggest expense is feed.
It’s a good thing Steve has a great job or I wouldn’t be able to do what I love every day!

            I remember reading somewhere that if you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well,  I do what I love and it (usually) doesn’t feel like work. Having great horses and clients makes everyday worth getting up for!



  1. I too am in the same range with the majority of the respondents. I live in Oregon, have supplemental income which rounds out our financial picture. I had my dream and was blessed to marry (the second time) a man who knew how to make my dream a reality (he is NOT a horse person, he is a contractor who specializes in finish carpentry, custom cabinetry, furniture,etc.) We are and always have been the “roll your sleeves up”, dig in, very “hands on” workers, so in what we have created at Crescendo Farms, there is very little paid labor in the cost of construction.

    Growing up in a family who owned their own business, my parents involved us in board meetings and other aspects of business ownership so being a business major/with an HR emphasis was a natural fit. I have always been an independent person and a hard worker. I put my heart and soul into my goals and have always been determined and dedicated to accomplish them. I started working a job with a “real paycheck” at age 14 and had two jobs since the beginning of high school (about 36 years of my life so far).

    I was fortunate in Jr High to have a few dedicated teachers who backed up my parents philosophy of anything worth doing was worth doing well, and taught their students what it felt like to work hard towards goals and accomplish them, what success felt like. I also grew up going to church and having faith in God and throughout my life that faith has lead my journey. I am one of few people I think that can say the are doing what they love for their life’s work and are passionate about what they do. When I walk in the arena or get on a horse I might be tired from an already long day, but teaching “fills me up” in a particular way. It is very rewarding and energizes my soul, lightens my burdens and lifts my spirit. When I come back to the house after a long day I often have more energy than when I left for the barn.

    Life and success are measured by many things, only one is the bottom line on your annual tax return. We don’t make a ton of money, but we do OK, and even more important (to me) is that it feeds my body and my soul. We are stewards of and get to live in the paradise God provided for us. There is a lot to be grateful for – and a work ethic that only farmers know is one of them!

    It’s not all fun and easy (like now with weather in the teens and twenties!) but the overall quality of life that caring for, training and having a partnership with horses gives me is amazing. I am blessed to do what I do and I’m sure many others in the business feel the same!

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