At Sweet Pepper Ranch, that’s what we’re doing: building an indoor arena. While it’s very exciting, the ‘go-ahead’ decision was not something we took lightly. It required a lot of penciling out and some tough decision making.
Maybe like us, building an indoor arena is something you’ve dreamed about for a while? If so, let’s step back a moment and take a look at some of the pre-construction considerations on a horse property that go into the final decision to build, specifically to build an indoor arena.
For us initially there was the needs-analysis. For years and years we’ve struggled with riding in the winter as we’ve only had an outdoor arena and/or access to trails. Even in the sunny southwestern Idaho climate where we currently live, there are about eight solid weeks when we can’t utilize our outdoor arena because it’s either too frozen or too wet. Beyond that, there are the shoulder seasons when weather is questionable.
All in all, we end up hauling to indoor arenas for three to four months each year and paying a per horse haul-in fee. If roads are in poor condition, or it’s cold and dark, we are unlikely to set out and tackle it. When temperatures soar in the summer it’d be a welcomed relief to ride out of the baking sun. All together, these frustrations make it hard to get ready to show in the spring, and limit the clients Matt can handle in training or the lessons he can teach. I am sure many of you share in these same frustrations.
So what about cost effectiveness? We can pay a lot of haul-in fees before it adds up to the cost of building an indoor arena. Our needs-analysis determined that the added business for Matt might help offset the cost a bit. But what other business strategies should be considered to recover costs for building?
According to Teri Herrera of Misfit Farm in Redmond, WA, where Horses for Clean Water recently had a farm tour, “When we don’t do a market analysis before building that’s when we can end up getting in trouble.” Misfit Farm is a commercial boarding facility that caters to the local dressage community and Herrera is a realtor who specializes in equestrian properties. Over the years she’s seen what works, what doesn’t work, and everything in between.
If you plan to build a structure as part of a commercial equestrian business, Herrera suggests surveying your community to look at similar services so that you keep in-line with prices, interests, and needs. If you are opening your arena to the public, beside insurance there are many other things to think about, like public parking, bathrooms, accessibility, and trailer storage if you have boarders.
At Misfit Farm, Herrera designed her facilities for an upscale dressage community and she made cost-effectiveness a priority. She looked at layout in terms of client use and needs, designed facilities with chore-efficiency in mind (such as stalls close to compost bins), used reclaimed materials from nearby structures being demolished, and incorporated materials (trees/lumber) sourced off her own land.
Herrera advised, “Look at all potential sources of income for your property. [Here] we have boarders, sell eggs and meat birds, joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to sell produce, we offer trailer storage, and we hope to someday also do Airbnb, as well as sell honey.” Herrera explained, “Making your land produce income should, at the very least, pay for your horse feed.”
Back to us at Sweet Pepper Ranch. A key income source for us is our horse motel and Airbnb. Plus we grow several tons of grass hay each year, and are able to graze our horses on our pastures all summer as well. We’ve determined our needs-analysis may just pencil out!
The saying, “if you build it they will come,” may hold true at times, but you will be way ahead of the game if you first do a cost-benefit analysis.
Stay tuned for updates on Sweet Pepper Ranch’s indoor arena project, and good luck in planning your own horsey projects!
If you're considering building an outdoor arena, take a look at our comprehensive tip sheet: Planning and Building an Outdoor Arena