We've got chilly, rainy weather - the horses are out in their rain sheets. Maisie's been doing really well with her half-day of dry lot turnout, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst is over.
The past few days I've been working on some financial modeling for our barn. Fortunately, we have very good data on our spending, as the husband of one of our boarders keeps our books and has detailed data for me to use. As anyone who's ever done (good) modeling knows, a model is only as good as the data and assumptions that go into it (a point that the creators of some of the synthetic mortgage-related products on Wall Street seem to have forgotten). We're basically a small business with some unique features. Our barn's a bit of an odd duck - it was set up by the developer about 15 years ago and is now owned by a non-profit corporation that we set up - so there's no one who's its true owner who could invest in it or profit from its operations. We've struggled for years - I've had at least one horse there for 9 years now - with the fact that we have very high labor costs and maintenance and capital costs due to the way it was set up and built, combined with relatively few horses. Property taxes, for example, are a real killer in this part of the world, even though we were able to get an open space abatement. As our number of horses declines - we have capacity for 12 currently but will be down to 10 when Maisie moves to her new barn, and I expect at least one or two more to leave over the summer - and our remaining horses age - many are seniors - we need to figure out a way to operate that works. We have no indoor, and really can't take boarders who aren't able to do quite a bit of volunteer work to make things go.
We've done versions of this analysis twice before since I've been here, and have made some substantial improvements, mainly related to working to reduce expenses where we can and carefully control labor costs. In one of my past lives, I did a lot of modeling and was a bit of an Excel spreadsheet jockey, and I actually enjoy this sort of thing. The model I'm working on shows our expenses by type - some vary pretty directly by the number of horses, and some are fixed - and their impact on the bottom line (money available for maintenance and capital improvements) under certain assumptions, including varying numbers of horses. The trick with modeling, I've found, is to find a way to not just show a bunch of data, but rather to present it in a way that highlights the critical issues and helps get a handle on them. I've done about 3 hours of work so far and should complete it this weekend. Then we'll have some conversations about what needs to change to make things work better. I'm beginning to get a clear picture, but still have work to do to have the data presented in a way that will clearly help others see what I'm beginning to see - or the data may show that my inklings aren't right - I'm not quite there yet but I think the fog is beginning to clear.