Do you want to start a horse transport business? If YES, here’s a complete guide to starting a horse transport business with NO money and no experience.
Horses are amongst the top five owned animals in the United States with more than 2 million horse owners scattered across the country, which makes common sense for anyone looking to start this business as they stand to gain a whole lot.
If you are looking to start a horse transportation business, then you should know the three major customers that you are likely to be offering your services to. The customer segments are divided into; showing, recreation and racing and so knowing this will allow you know how to go about marketing to your clients and which segment is likely going to be more lucrative for you.
The fact that you love horses and have a basic knowledge about them does not mean that you are qualified enough to start a horse transportation business, as more than love and passion is required for those looking to start this business.
Before starting a business, it is important that you conduct market research about the business, and then discover what niche might work for you especially if there are already several competitors in the area where you intend operating from.
Asides from knowing about the business you intend going into, it is essential that you know the laws guiding the business, because what works for one state might not work in the state where you intend operating your business from.
So, if you aren’t familiar with the law and you do not want to break any law, it is best you contact a city official or get in touch with an attorney to help you out. Here is a comprehensive guide to start a horse transport business below.
Steps to Starting a Horse Transportation Business
1. Understand the Industry
There are more than 9 million horses in the United States with nearly 4 million being used for recreation purposes, 2.72 million being used for shows, 840,000 for racing and the remaining 1.75 million for other purposes.
Out of the 9.2 million horses in the United States, unspecified breeds top the chart with 4.64 million, followed by the American Quarter Horse with more than 3 million and the thoroughbred with nearly 1.3 million. Texas is the state with the largest horse population as there are purportedly 1 million horses there, while California and Florida follow closely behind with 700,000 and 500,000 respectively.
There are nearly 2 million horse owners in the United States with a majority of these owners being married middle aged females earning incomes of $50,000 and above annually and having full time employment as well. A large majority of these horse owners, about 85 percent, are recreational riders.
About 30 percent are those that participate in competitive events, 11 percent are horse breeders, 10 percent manage a horse facility, 9 percent groom horses, 7 percent are professional horse trainers, while the 2 percent own race horses. This goes to show that recreational riders constitute the major customer segment.
According to current culture and attitudes, those that were crazy about horses were the baby boomers but they are now aging, and while the new generation are also interested in horses, they are interested in many other things as well.
Some of those who do not own horses, according to a study, do not like them very much because horses are perceived to be arrogant. Also, the public concern for horses’ welfare is high and yet most members of the public do not have the basic knowledge of what good horse welfare is all about.
There are beginning to be a lot of unwanted horses and this is due to a number of reasons like, the horse being injured, old, wild, sick or no longer meet the expectations of the owner.
Some of the factors responsible for there being a high number of unwanted horses include a downturn in the economy, indiscriminate breeding, closure of several processing facilities in the country and the high cost of euthanizing and disposing a horse carcass.
The way the horses are handled when they are no longer required depends on what their purpose was, what breed they are, their age, sex and age.
The equine industry is said to have a direct impact of $39 billion on the economy and an indirect impact of more than $102 billion when taking suppliers and spending from spectators into account. On a global scale, North America and Europe are dominating and are followed closely by the Asia-Pacific where Australia and New Zealand have the major markets.
The horse industry in India is quite small due to the fact that most of the horses in this country are used for transportation and agricultural purposes, while most of the horses in North America and Europe are used for recreation and racing purposes.
This industry is one that does not have any major players dominating the market. The horse industry generates $2 billion annually and has had zero percent growth from the periods of 2011 to 2016.
There are more than 175,000 horses and its related business in the United States employing more than 180,000 people which goes to show that most of the horse businesses are operated by the owners.
The horse industry has experienced a series of declining profits which has affected those who own ranches and horse farms. It is however expected that demand will be stimulated as there is a growth in disposable income and increased participation in equestrian sports.
There have been an increasing manufacture of trailers customized for horse transportation and this is regarded as a manufacturing activity that is specialized in nature because most of those engaged in this custom trailer manufacture have their major product line. The market for the manufacture of horse trailer is regarded as regional.
However, it is believed that the significant opportunities that abound in this industry will allow for consolidation but with the few barriers to entry, more competitors will soon be entering into this segment of the industry especially if the industry proves to be very lucrative.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
After a thorough market research, we have found that the demographic and psychographic composition of those who will demand the services of a horse transport company include those that own horses either privately or commercially, show horse owners, race horse owners, horse trainers, as well as horse boarding facility owners.
Therefore, if you are looking to define your demography in order to better position your business, you will find that those that are in the mid or high class income bracket are those that you would most likely be providing your services to.
3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
In trying to gain a variety of customers so as to have multiple sources of income and stand out from others in the same line of business, horse transport owners try to offer niche services.
A niche is a segment in the same business field that an entrepreneur goes into in an attempt to distinguish him or herself from others as well as earn extra revenue. In offering niche services also, companies that are large in scale offer more services than those that are small in scale due to finance and economies of scale.
Below are some of the niche ideas that are within this particular business;
- Horse Transport Services
- Horse Training Services
- Horse Boarding Services
- Horse Breeding
The Level of Competition in the Industry
The level of competition that can be found in the horse transport industry is dependent on the number of horse activities there – from breeding, training, private and commercial ownership and horse showmen.
Horses are transported for those looking to import or export them. In order to compete favorably, getting good equipment will help you as clients want to know that their horses are transported in the best possible way with a company that has all the equipment needed to provide comfort and safety.
There are several horse transportation companies in the United States and in order to stand out, it is important that you have several strategies in place. Therefore, in starting your horse transportation business, you will be sure to meet a lot of competition amongst those that already have a presence in the industry.
4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
In every industry, there are brands that have defined themselves and become quite popular not only to those within the industry but also to those that are outside the industry as well. What makes a brand stand out is their publicity strategy, their quality of service, their rates, and their customer care service.
Below are some of the well-known horse transport businesses not only in the United States of America but also all over the world;
- Air Horse
- Alex Nichols Agency
- John Parker International Horse Transportation Services
- Brook Ledge Horse Transportation
- Equine Express
- Horse Service International
- MG Horse Transport LLC
- Traveling Horse Home
The horse industry has a huge impact on the economy of the United States as it contributes nearly $40 billion directly to the GDP of the country. There are more than 2 million horse owners scattered across several states in the country, which makes it easy for businesses that cater for horses.
The equine industry in the United States has however been experiencing a decline as it saw its earnings fall during the great recession.
Now, there are less than 3 million horse owners in the country which is down from 4 million in 2004. This therefore means that while the market for other pets has increased during the same time period and is expected to continue to increase, that of horses has declined and is expected to continue declining.
However, a report by the U.S Equine Market stated that the same measures used for pets cannot be used for horses as they are quite different and do not need to follow the same trends. The report also stated that the bond between a horse and human goes beyond that experienced with humans and other pets because horse riding involves constant physical communication.
Also, the report stated that a large number of horse owners regard horses as members of their family, best friends, companion animals or performance partners. Therefore, even though unwanted horses might look to be a problem, the improvement of the economy will enable horse owners to keep their horses.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
When looking to start any business as an entrepreneur, one thing you must decide on is if you should start your business from scratch or buy a franchise.
It should be noted that each option has its merits and demerits and so if you haven’t had a major plan written down about how you intend to go about your business and what you intend to achieve, these merits and demerits might begin to make it more difficult for you to arrive at a decision that will favor your business in the long run.
In business industries where franchise opportunities exist, what the entrepreneur does is to buy a franchise that allows him not to be in control of certain parts of his business. There are however no franchises in the horse transportation business industry.
Because of this, the entrepreneur has to start the business from scratch or alternatively, buy off a previously existing horse transport business. Buying off a horse transport business will serve the entrepreneur a whole lot as opposed to starting purely from the scratch.
Starting your business from scratch allows you to make major decisions that could make or mar your business, which is why it is advised that you write out a comprehensive business plan for whatever business you are looking to start.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
In starting a horse transportation business, it is vital that you expect some threats and challenges that could either aid your business grow or give you some level of difficulty in growing as a business. It is very important that you understand that not all threats and challenges can be easily handled and that when those that are difficult arise, the best you can do is hope for the best.
Some of the threats and challenges that you are likely to face when starting your horse transport business include; pending legislation from the federal and state government regarding the industry, issues regarding horses’ welfare, economic downturn, decline in horse ownership, processing of horses for meat as well as new horse diseases.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
One of the steps you will need to take when establishing your business after getting an identity for it is determining whether you will operate the business as a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). It should be noted that each of these entities have their pros and con and so you should choose the one that will favor your business the most.
If you are confused as regards what to choose, you might need to consult an attorney to help you in choosing that which will be best for your business.
A sole proprietor is a business entity that is being run and controlled by the owner of the business. There are no huge formalities required in setting up this legal entity and all you will be required to do is to register the name you will be using to run your business called a Doing Business as (DBA).
The entrepreneur is entitled to all the profits of the business as well as the losses. Most entrepreneurs often start off as sole proprietors because of how easy it is to set up. There is however no protection for the owner’s liabilities in this kind of business.
This is exactly the type of entity you should be looking at running.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
In starting any business, one of the major aspects that must first be taken care of is what the business will be identified as.
The name that a business will be called is very important as it should be a name that is catchy, memorable, and indicative of the industry the business is in. Some of the catchy business names that are suitable for your horse transport business include;
- Jack Reacher Horse Transport Services
- Hoofs Transports Inc
- Mane Transport Services
- Equity Horse Transport Services
- Key Equine Transport Inc
9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
As a horse transport business owner, it is important that you take the interest of your business very seriously by purchasing insurance policies especially as an unfortunate event can occur during the transportation of the horses. If you aren’t sure of what insurance policies will be best for your horse transport business, it is essential that you engage the services of an insurance agent or broker who knows.
Below are some of the basic insurance policies that you will need to purchase when looking to start your horse transport business;
- Equine Mortality Horse Insurance
- Equine Loss of Use Insurance
- Equine Theft Insurance
- Horse Transportation Insurance
- Care, Custody and Control Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Commercial Auto Insurance
- Property Insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
The horse transportation business is one that is service oriented in nature and as such there is no need for an entrepreneur looking to start this business to be bothered about acquiring intellectual protection.
There is however no business in the United States that does not have intellectual property of some sort which may include company name, logo, domain names, artwork or any other material tied to the business. It is however not considered a priority for entrepreneurs in this industry to apply for intellectual property protection and those who bother to do so are those that have made a name for themselves.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
What the horse transport business really needs is love, knowledge and passion for horses as well as the financial requirements; professional certification is not one of its requirements.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
When starting any business in the United States, it is expected that you have all the necessary legal documents in place that will enable you to run your business without having any problems with the law. If you aren’t sure of what legal documents that you would need, you can engage the services of an attorney or visit your local city council to make appropriate findings.
Some of the legal documents that you will therefore need to run your horse transportation business include;
- Certificate of incorporation
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Business Plan
- Insurance Policy
- Business License and Permits
- Horse Shipping Contract
- Employers Identification Number (EIN)
- Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
One of the major issues when starting a business is startup capital as this is what determines if the business idea becomes a reality or if it can run and become a successful entity. A startup capital is expected to be enough to not only start the business but to run the business till it starts generating its own revenue.
Sourcing for startup capital can be daunting for any entrepreneur, which is why it is advised that a comprehensive business plan be written especially if the entrepreneur intends to seek for funds from external sources.
Some of the financing options for your horse transport business include;
- Using your personal funds as startup capital
- Sourcing for soft loans from friends and family members
- Applying for loan from commercial bank
- Getting a business partner to split startup capital with
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
When starting any kind of business, you choice of location is very important as this will determine how much revenue you are going to generate in the course of running the business; which is why it is very important that you choose your location very carefully.
The horse transport business is one that can be run by a single person especially if starting off on a small scale. All you need is a place to park your trailers and trucks as transport personnel can be hired on a need-be basis as opposed to having them on your payroll.
If you do not have the money to run a large scale business or travel very far, you might need to run the business within your local area first and then slowly expand as your business grows where you can hire people.
Most entrepreneurs that run this kind of business usually own a large property or ranch where they can also build an administrative facility to handle the administrative area of the business and keep vital documents and contracts safe. If you aren’t one that owns a ranch or large property, then you might need to lease or buy a place that will allow you run your business efficiently.
There are many real estate agents that have knowledge of the local areas as well as zoning rights in the state and you need these ones in order to be able to get the right property to start and run your business. You can run other businesses as well as you might not be transporting horses all the time.
If you are going to be leasing or buying a land for use, ensure that you tell the agent your budget and preferred location so that you do not end up causing a strain on your budget.
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
If you are interested in starting this business, it is good if you already own a truck and a large trailer that can accommodate a large number of horses or have the capital to purchase them. If you are going to be purchasing new ones, then you should know that it is going to take a significant chunk of your capital.
Some entrepreneurs often get a customized multi-horse trailer and a commercial truck in addition to other equipment that they will need to be able to transport the horses safely and conveniently.
The horse transport business is capital intensive and your start-up capital will be used to procure capital assets like trucks and trailers but it must also cover travel expenses, salaries of your employees, food, fuel, license fees, and lodging, insurance as well as marketing campaigns.
The trailers should not only be designed for maximum comfort and safety but should have fans in it so that the air will be circulated during transportation. To run this business and be able to compete with your competitors, you might need to get different trailer sizes. Ensure that you not only have single and double configurations but that there are also box stalls.
Most trailers have roof wells that are used to store equipment and all trailers must be disinfected on a regular basis. Other equipment needed to run your business successfully include, lead ropes, buckets, halters, first aid kits, tool kits, tracking equipment as well as emergency equipment. You will also need office supplies such as pen, paper and pencils as well as phone and computers.
It is necessary to build a solid business structure when looking to start your horse transport business for while you can run the business alone, it will be on a small scale and you might not be able to cater to customers that are in other areas save your local area.
If however you are looking to start on a medium to large scale, you will need to hire capable individuals such as professional drivers who must be experienced horsemen as well, customer service executive, admin and human resources manager, mechanical officer, and accountant.
From the above analysis, you will need at least 6 key individuals to be able to run your horse transport business successfully.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
The equipment you procure when starting your horse transport business is very important as you will be transporting other peoples’ horses and so your equipment must not only ensure efficiency, it must also ensure that the horses are safe and comfortable as well.
The services you offer to your customers will be dependent on so many factors such as the kind of customers they are, what they want as regards how their horses are transported and what they are fed and any other special circumstances that may arise. This does not however mean that you cannot establish general and even supplemental fees for all circumstances including the special one.
Most horse transporters are now introducing modern technology into their services so that clients can comfortably track their shipments and also contact the personnel involved if need be. This helps to ease the anxiety of the clients.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
Marketing is one of the major ways a business can generate the revenue that will sustain the business and allow them generate profit as well. No entrepreneur hopes to use their start-up capital forever, which is why every business plan must have an intended objective and strategies that will help attain these objectives.
Marketing means being able to anticipate the wants of your customers and helping them achieve these wants. Before you can however identify the wants of your intended target market, it is essential that you conduct a thorough market research that will enable you understand your intended target market, know what they expect from you and what you should expect from them as well.
If you are overwhelmed by the various marketing strategies available, you can employ marketing executives or engage the services of a marketing consultant who has vast experience in your industry to help you with the different marketing strategies that will be suitable for your business.
Ensure that you monitor your marketing strategies all the time so that you can remove or modify the ones that are not as effective in bringing the desired awareness to your business or helping you attain your overall corporate goals and objectives.
Below are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that can be used for your horse transport business;
- Ensure that you place adverts in racetracks, shows and sales programs in order to create awareness for your horse transport business
- Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin to advertise your horse transport business and ensure that all the pages are linked to your site
- Hire a professional to create a professional and user friendly website for your business and deploy an SEO strategist to ensure that your website ranks high in several search engines
- Create an email newsletter in order to keep in touch with your current customers as well as get the attention of potential customers
- Place adverts in local newspapers, equine magazines as well as on radio and television stations
- Pass out handbills and fliers in various strategic locations as well as during horse shows and events
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
Any entrepreneur intending to start a business should expect to have competitors and should be prepared accordingly. Any entrepreneur that does that have competitive strategies in place that will allow them best the competitors in the industry is not serious or committed about the business because competition must always exist. One good thing about having competition is that it keeps you on your toes as regards your quality of services, rates and customer relationship.
Some of the competitive strategies that you can therefore use over your competitors include; having the best customer care service, providing quality services and having the best rates.
18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
Every entrepreneur knows that no matter how much startup capital they have to grow the business with, at a point in time, the business will need to generate enough revenue to start sustaining itself and even expand from there. Attracting customers is therefore one way to generate revenue and make profit.
However, while developing strategies to attract customers is a vital, retention strategy is also very important for a business as well.
According to statistics, businesses that retained a high number of its customers spent less than those that lost their customers consistently and had to seek for ways to keep attracting customers to their business, and so it shows that creating customer retention strategies is one way to ensure the sustainability and growth of your business.
What most customers in the horse transport segment want is quality customer service, this means that if they don’t get standard treatment that is above board, they are likely not going to patronize your business again, which means you will be losing them to your competitors.
Another reason why customers leave a brand for another is the quality of service that they are getting. If their horses are not treated as humanely as possible during transportation, not only are you likely to be sued but you will also be losing customers as well especially if the word spreads as regards your services.
19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Every entrepreneur who is out to generate revenue and make profit knows the importance of effective publicity campaigns.
With publicity, you get to push your business out so that not only your target market can see you but also your competitors as well who may be forced to make adjustments in order to make their own services better or compete with you effectively. Publicity therefore enables every serious entrepreneur to be on their toes.
Because of the effectiveness of publicity, many companies do not mind setting aside a huge sum of money to effectively publicize their business and create a positive identity for themselves. It is however vital that you know which publicity strategies will help your business attain better visibility to your target market and even the general public.
Like all business decisions that you will be making regarding your business, it is best that you conduct a thorough research about the methods that you intend to use, their effectiveness and the budget that you might need to set aside. This is because while some of your intended strategies might require more money in order to be effective, not all will need a huge sum and so it is in your best interest to strike a balance.
The internet has really been helpful to entrepreneurs as they can now use different means to reach their intended target market. It should be noted that because competitors will also be using the internet, you might need to deploy other alternatives to get the attention of your target market.
Below are some of the strategies that you will need to create awareness for your brand as well as create a corporate identity for your horse transport business;
- Ensure that your vehicles – trucks and trailers – are well branded and not only have your logo but also have your contact information
- Create business cards and flyers and distribute as well as paste them in various strategic locations around the area where you are operating from as well as at horse shows, race tracks and any other areas that have high flow of traffic
- Reach out to racehorse trainers, riding instructors, bloodstock agents as well as farriers about your business and what incentives they will get in referring customers to your business
- Place advertisements in the local newspapers, equine magazines and on local radio and television stations as well
- Ensure that your horse transport business is listed in yellow pages as well as in online directories
- Advertise your horse transport business in major equine websites as well as on classified advert sites such as craigslist