“We knew we wanted to create a website with all boarding facilities on a map where horse owners could find the info they actually care about – but then the lightbulb went off: what if we could show real-time availability?”
In our digital world, there’s a website or an app for pretty much everything: with a few taps of the screen, I can search apartments for rent, book a hotel room, even line up boarding or a house-sitter for my dog. Gone are the days of having to look up a phone number, ask around town or driving door-to-door to get these questions answered.
Yet somehow, in the midst of this app revolution, the horse world has remained firmly lodged in the past. When we want to find a new boarding barn, or locate an overnight stall on a long-distance haul, it’s still very much a game of who you know to call. Faced with the prospect of moving to a new city, the idea of finding a suitable boarding farm with the amenities you want can feel like a nightmare. It was to fill this need that GoHorse.com was born, the brainchild of boarding barn manager Jenny Fudge.
We spoke with Jenny to learn more about GoHorse and the accompanying app.
Fulfilling a need
“My husband Dustin and I have run our boarding facility Rebel Woods in Georgia for over 15 years,” Jenny detailed to Horse Nation. “Throughout those years we’ve fielded calls from all sorts of horse people with all sorts of horse problems and questions, with a lot of reoccurring issues about the difficulty of finding a boarding facility.”
Jenny estimated that perhaps up to 70% of those callers needed to move immediately, but had to call and check with each individual boarding barn for openings. Many horse business owners didn’t seem to answer or return calls in a timely fashion, and potential boarders were wasting time visiting facilities that were poorly described in conventional advertising and did not include the amenities boarders were looking for. There was no centralized location to find a lot of this information, and for anyone seeking to break into the horse world for lessons it was difficult to find a good barn easily.
One morning about two years ago, Dustin and Jenny shared what she called “a rare brainstorming moment”: “We knew we wanted to create a website with all boarding facilities on a map where horse owners could find the info they actually care about — arena size, whether it’s lighted or covered, what type of footing, facility size, turnout time, lessons offered, amenities onsite, et cetera — but then the lightbulb went off: what if we could show real-time availability?”
Jenny got her mother Laurie Massaglia on board — having created three successful start-ups, Laurie is “a business powerhouse” according to Jenny; the pair have been working almost daily since GoHorse’s inception to turn the vision into a reality.
“We see GoHorse, over time, solving one of the biggest issues in the horse industry, which is the fragmentation of information. There just isn’t a comprehensive one-stop horse place to go when you are searching in a geographic area.” To that end, Jenny is building the site around providing solutions for each market segment of boarding, training, farriers, vets, equine practitioners, lesson barns and more, letting the market determine specific needs.
For barn and business owners
“Initially, GoHorse was created to help ease the pains for horse owners trying to find overnight or monthly boarding — especially with those who are dealing with a last-minute need to move and don’t have weeks to put into researching. Now we are encompassing all horse businesses, because that horse person will also be searching for a new farrier, vet, trainer, acupuncturist, chiropractor, feed store, and more!”
It’s currently free for a business to list itself on GoHorse, and Jenny doesn’t see that changing any time soon. “Eventually, we will likely charge for some additional features through various subscription levels, but it will always be free to list a business — we want this to be the central resource for horse people.” Creating a new listing can be done with just a few clicks; the prompting questions will help convert business information into filters for customers to be able to search easily.
“A boarding facility with an empty stall is losing money,” Jenny detailed. “With GoHorse, you can highlight that listing with an availability flag, which saves customers time in calling barns to check availability. Thanks to the detailed information collected for each listing, people can search and filter with their exact needs, which means no more time wasted in directing people to a business that is not offering what they need.”
Jenny seeks to emphasize farriers and their services in particular: “When my farrier recently said ‘well, yeah, it’d be great to have more clients closer to home,’ he gave me a great snapshot one of the problems GoHorse will eventually solve for farriers — the excessive amount of miles put on their vehicles, time wasted on travel and money spent on gas.” Farriers tend to continually pick up business just a little bit further from their furthest point and eventually end up with a large coverage area; many farriers don’t charge a trip fee. GoHorse seeks to help farriers pick up more customers closer to home to increase their efficiency. (Check out a sample farrier page and a sample veterinarian page!)
“The overarching point here that applies to most equine professionals: the horse world is unique in that horses are 1,200lb pets that typically stay put while the equine professionals come to them. These professionals will benefit just as much from GoHorse’s map because more localized business means less drive time for them — which would mean either more time for more clients and money or more time off!”
Businesses can easily update their listings as needed. A review feature also allows customers to leave feedback and impressions, streamlining the process for a horse world currently fragmented across Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Yelp.
The future of GoHorse
“Once we’re positioned as the central resource for horse people, we hope to continue to add new features and services to make horse life easier to manage overall,” Jenny described. “As an example, we want to help the overnight boarding industry by making the reservation process easier — encouraging more boarding facilities with the right set-up to add overnight boarding to their additional income to create more stops for overnight travel, and then being able to take payments and reservations ahead of time. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to just decide to travel a few hours away, overnight at a stable near some riding trails and just go?”
Jenny also sees the farrier industry as an underserved population: “It’s pretty much word of mouth from barn to barn to find a farrier, and most of them don’t have time to create a presence on the internet. We want to be a marketing effort that farriers don’t have to pay to maintain, but a service for people bringing horses into the area.”
Overall, GoHorse will take its cue from the horse industry itself, feeling out what horse owners and business owners alike would find useful and helpful. Ideas in this vein from barn managers include a way to match up part-time help with barns in an area, or listings for farms selling good hay. Jenny hopes to offer emergency network functions during disasters.
“There are lots of websites out there that have some of this information,” Jenny stated. “But none have committed to the research necessary to find all of it. Since we’re physically based in Georgia that’s been our first state for concentrated research — even though GoHorse is national, we have to start somewhere. We spent months locating boarding facilities across the state and have found 1,280 barns! By the time we complete this stage of the project with nationwide research on boarding barns alone, we expect we’ll have over 50,000 stables across the country.”
Jenny and Laurie see unlimited potential for the future of GoHorse, including the app version currently in development. Driven by a strong desire to overcome the fragmentation of information in the horse world, GoHorse is committed to becoming the comprehensive central location for all aspects of the industry.