Top tips to get your farm sitting business up and running.
If you have ever gone away for any length of time, you know that being on vacation can sometimes be more stressful than just staying home with your animals. Finding reliable, experienced people to watch over your horses in your absence can be a challenge – and this is why good farm sitters are in great demand. If you’re thinking about starting a farm sitting business, here are some tips to get you started.
I never really planned on doing any farm sitting, but I basically fell into it – it’s a natural fi t for many avid horse owners and riders. I was spending so much time working in and around the barn where my horse was boarded that it just made sense for me to look after the facility when the owner went away. Word of mouth soon found me looking after a few other farms as well, and I eventually found myself spending several months of the year taking care of various facilities.
What You Need
Basic experience with horses, and a great sense of responsibility. Looking after someone else’s property and animals is not something to be taken lightly.
A flexible schedule. Your day will revolve around the horses’ routines and any issues that arise. You need to be available in the event of an emergency.
A dedicated website, phone number, and e-mail address will come in handy and look professional.
An appointment with your insurance agent to discuss what coverage you might need.
A good contract, drawn up with the help of your lawyer. Your contract should include details such as:
– Each horse’s special needs and/or quirks, the routine, and any special instructions
– What veterinarian to contact and what treatment is authorized
– When your contract term starts and ends, your rate, and applicable services
– Emergency contact information and instructions
A record keeping system for the financial side of the business – your accountant will be able to advise you on this. Depending on where you are and the scale of your business, you may need a business license and/or sales tax number.
A schedule/log book to keep you organized and in which to write down the day’s events.
A set of rates. Do some research to look at what other farm sitters in the area are charging, and price yourself competitively.
The Ups And Downs
As with any job, farm sitting comes with its own set of pros and cons. Most horse people can’t imagine anything better than having a farm full of horses to look after – and while this can definitely be a great experience, it is also a little different looking after someone else’s farm over your own.
Farm sitting can be a great option for the involved horse lover. You get to be around and take care of the animals you enjoy, and get paid to do it. Additionally it allows you to live the rural lifestyle for a bit. Starting up a farm sitting business is fairly inexpensive, too – beyond transportation, you will have minimal costs.
The “downsides” to farm sitting are similar to those that come with just running or having a farm. You will likely end up working many weekends and holidays, as this is when most people will want to go away. You will need to organize your schedule around the farm’s routine, and if any animals need special care or become ill, it will require extra time and attention on your part, sometimes in the middle of the night. If you are offering live-in farm sitting services, this also means you are away from your own home and animals if you have them.
In the beginning, it can also be a little more stressful looking after a property and animals that you aren’t familiar with. Until you get to know everyone better, anything even remotely out of the “ordinary” will have you on guard. Also, we as horse people know how picky and specific we are about how things are done – everyone has their own way of doing things. All you can do is your best, but you may not do things exactly the way the farm owner does. In certain cases this won’t be a big deal, but in others it will. You’ll need to learn to differentiate between the two, and not let some complaints bother you too much.
Keep in mind that the horse world is very small, and word travels fast. If you treat farm sitting like an easygoing paid vacation for yourself, and don’t keep up with or meet the agreed-upon terms, your new venture will falter. However, if you do your best, work hard, and are dependable and respectful, you will find your business growing rapidly. It can be fairly challenging to find a good farm sitter, so once you have a client base started you will find them to be quite loyal and willing to spread the word about your services.
Isabella Edwards is an equine enthusiast and avid competitor residing in Ontario, Canada. She and her mare compete at the provincial level in both dressage, and hunter/jumper.