Some people choose to ride horses for fun or as a hobby while others seek out horse riding as a therapeutic activity.  In fact, statistics compiled by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association found that more than 40,000 people received therapy services and benefits from riding horses in 2008.  To cater to both hobby horse riders as well as those that seek the physical, mental and emotional benefits from riding horses, you can open an equestrian store.


Conduct an analysis.  Perform a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your local area and the surrounding region.  Assess what strengths and opportunities are favorable for opening an equestrian store business as well as what weaknesses or threats exist.  Create a plan for minimizing or overcoming these weaknesses and threats since they could be detrimental to the success of your business if they are not taken into account in the planning stages.  Learn what other businesses cater to horse owners and what products they offer.  Determine if enough demand exists for an additional equestrian store, and decide how you will set your business apart from your competitors. 


Write a business plan.  Create a written plan that details the basic operation of your equestrian store business.  Add up your initial expenses associated with obtaining a facility, purchasing supplies and promoting your business to learn what the start-up costs for your store will be.  Plan how to cover these expenses as well as make a profit by including financial information in your business plan.  Establish a marketing plan that will assist you in promoting and advertising your equestrian store.  Include plans for staffing in your written business plan as well since this is a requirement to make your business successful in the long run.


Apply for financing.  Meet with a local representative from a bank or credit union to discuss the financing you need to start your equestrian store.  Fill out the forms to apply for a loan, and review your credit history with the loan officer.  Be prepared to present your business plan to the bank as they want to ensure you have a solid idea and concept for your equestrian store before they loan you money.  Learn what additional funding options are available to you through the Small Business Administration, which offers guaranteed and low-interest loans specifically designed for small business owners.  Understand that you may need to seek alternative funding options to open an equestrian store if financial institutions won’t lend you money due to your credit history.  This may require taking money out of your savings or retirement to start your equestrian store.  You also have the option of taking on a wealthy business partner who is willing to invest his or her cash into starting the business with you.


Obtain a location.  Search for the right facility to accommodate the needs of your equestrian store business.  View commercial and business real estate in your area by visiting the website of LoopNet, or use the assistance of a commercial real estate agent in finding the right property to suit your needs.  Lease or purchase a property that is located in an area zoned for commercial and retail businesses, or seek out special approval from your local zoning board if you have a property that isn’t zoned for this use. 


Register your business.  Arrange to collect sales tax, if applicable in your area, on the products and supplies sold in your equestrian store by registering your business with the state and local department of revenue.    Obtain a federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service for your horse store by phone, fax, mail or internet.  Seek out a local business license from the government that has jurisdiction where your business is physically located.  Generally this is either the local city or county government, and getting your business license consists of completing a paper form and paying the licensing fee.


Purchase products.  Determine what horse supplies and equipment you will sell in your equestrian business.  Register with wholesale suppliers of horse products, such as Tack Wholesale or Pet Wholesaler, to obtain horse supplies in bulk quantities at wholesale prices.  This allows you to receive products at a discount rate and mark them up to earn a profit and make the prices competitive with other equestrian businesses in your area.  Complete inventory on supplies each week to learn what products sell well in your area as well as which ones you shouldn’t restock.  Consider offering non-equestrian supplies your customers might need on their horse farm such as dog and cat food, work clothes, shovels, etc. as this allows you to increase your profits by offering more products.


Hire employees.  Find staff knowledgeable about horses and able to provide customers with solid advice about which products or supplies to use on their own animals.  Consider having an equine veterinarian on staff as a way to set yourself apart from your competition as well as serve the needs or your customers who often have questions about diseases or problems with their horse.  Employ delivery staff as well to haul and load heavy products such as bags of grain to customer vehicles as well as make deliveries to farmers and ranchers at their location who are willing to pay the delivery charge for this service.  


Promote your store.  Advertise to the general public about the products and services offered at your store via television, radio and newspaper ads.  Learn what publications in your area cater to horse owners, and place advertisements promoting your equestrian store in them.  Sponsor local horse shows, and encourage youth to learn about horses by getting involved in horse projects through 4-H.  Consider offering special discounts periodically throughout the year to get people in your store.  Develop a website to sell your horse supplies to individuals outside your area.  Understand that word of mouth is often the best advertiser, and educate your employees on providing good customer service that encourages customers to come back as well as promote your store to their friends.