The current financial situation is putting mental wellbeing and equine welfare on livery yards under pressure.
SEIB Insurance Brokers has undertaken a pair of nationwide surveys to find out how the cost-of-living crisis and surging interest rates are affecting livery yard owners and their clients. Over 1,400 people took part in the surveys which asked respondents how much prices are increasing for them and the impact this is having on livery yard businesses and their clients.
The surveys found that the significant increase in costs is biting but that at present people are ultimately putting their horses first whilst making necessary personal sacrifices. Many yard owners are anxious about having to increase their livery fees on the back of surging fuel, maintenance and staffing costs as they know their already cash-stretched clients cannot afford to pay more.
SEIB’s Chief Executive Officer, Suzy Middleton said: “At SEIB we pride ourselves on understanding our customers and their needs, we are part of their community. Ultimately, we know how crucial the service provided by livery yards is – for horse and yard owners alike. Our team has undertaken this detailed research which reflects both sides of the industry and we are keen to share and highlight the results with equine welfare and human mental well-being firmly in mind.”
“We urge people to think hard about ensuring they have livery yard insurance in place to cover them should the worst happen. The peace of mind that comes from having reliable insurance cannot be overestimated.”
Livery yard customer survey findings
The survey by Horse Insurance and Horsebox Insurance specialists SEIB directed at finding out the increase in livery costs for yard clients had 1,137 respondents from across the UK. The survey found at one end of the scale that, as yet, just under 40% of people have not experienced a recent increase in livery yard fees. However, livery has gone up by £30 or over a month for a fifth of those with horses at livery. The remaining 40% have experienced increases of between £5 and £30 per month.
SEIB’s Social Media Executive, Georgina Dewar commented: “Having established that many people are facing increased costs, are these costs sustainable long-term? What impact will this have on mental health? 44% of people responded that they are making personal sacrifices including turning their heating at home down, trying to reduce supermarket bills and cutting back on socialising. Doing these things a few times over a short period is straightforward, however, over the long-term, it could have a big impact on mental health.”
The survey found that people are very much putting their horse first when faced with scarcity of money. Many people are competing less, but over 90% are pleased they bought their horse and would do so again being fully aware of the cost. However, many people are turning to less frequent physiotherapy appointments, leaving longer gaps between shoeing / trimming and some are cutting back on saddle-fitting professionals. Although fewer people said they would delay their equine dentist appointments, one respondent commented: “We are cutting back on physio appointments as my pony isn’t in a lot of work at the moment. In my opinion, these are less important than routine veterinary and dental appointments.”
Jim Eyre, Chief Executive, British Equestrian, the national governing body of equestrian sport in Britain, said: “There’s little doubt that all of us are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis as we search for ways to save money where possible. For horse owners, this comes with added concerns around equine welfare as owners have to make difficult decisions, often without all the detail to make informed decisions. We would encourage every owner to carefully consider the lasting impact of any decisions and that you do your research fully ahead of making any changes.”
Livery Yard Owner Survey Findings
Two hundred and eighty livery yard business owners responded to the SEIB survey on the cost-of living crisis and the impact of increased inflation rates. One in five yard owners have not yet increased their livery yard fees although many plan to do so. An oft-cited reason in the survey for not putting the fees up is worry that their customers simply can’t afford any increase. One respondent said: “The market won’t accept the type of price increases that yards need to apply in order to stay profitable. It’s such a worry for the whole industry as those on low to medium income will be priced out of the industry and it will become elitist.”
71% of those that have increased prices say feed, bedding and straw prices are a reason, 69% say that energy price rises have contributed and 48%, yard repairs and maintenance. A sizeable percentage of yard owners feel that their customers don’t seem to be aware of the knock-on effect of waste and leaving lights on. “We try to work with the liveries, explaining that wasting haylage, wasting bedding, leaving lights on will result in increased costs, If they can help reduce costs, fees can be maintained. We are all in this together.” These unseen costs such as water, electricity and fertiliser were mentioned in many of the responses.
Inflation and the cost-of living crises are taking their toll on the work / life balance and the mental health of yard owners. The survey found that half of yard owners have reduced their staff hours and taken on more tasks themselves to cope financially, although this number fell to just under one in five for those that have had to let staff go altogether.
Sylvia Bruce works as a mental health expert for the charity, Riders’ Minds, she said: “Findings from many leading wellbeing organisations’ studies show that a poor work-life balance impacts on our mental health. A recent Mental Health Foundation survey found that 1 in 3 feel unhappy about the time they devote to work and when over working, 27% of people feel depressed, 34% face anxiety, 58% feel irritable and 65% have stress related sleep problems. The study also found, that 40% are neglecting their personal life because of work.”
“These findings apply to livery yard owners. The cumulative effect of over working, a skewed work-life balance, business stress, lack or loss of disposable income spirals and has a detrimental effect on lifestyle, life enjoyment and ability to socialise, leaving livery yard owners vulnerable to deteriorating mental health.”
Suzy Middleton added: “Having found out where the key issues are for livery yard owners and customers regarding increasing costs, we are keen to get this out in the open to begin debate about these big issues. Livery yards are such a big part of the equine industry, they make horse ownership accessible to so many people that otherwise wouldn’t be in a position to have a horse of their own. At SEIB we are determined to do our best to support increasing accessibility to equestrianism.”
“Our team have close relationships with other equestrian businesses and we are working with these companies to see if we can offer our customers ways to benefit from savings on feed, bedding and supplements as we approach the, always costly, winter months.”
SEIB as a company has a strong belief in ‘putting something back’ into the markets in which it operates. As part of this ongoing support, SEIB set up the SEIB Livery Yard and Riding School Awards in 2019 to celebrate the yards that are often referred to as the ‘backbone’ of the equestrian industry. These awards have run annually since and grown to include title support from Horse and Hound. In 2023, British Equestrian are onboard as well for the SEIB Yard of the Year Awards in association with British Equestrian and Horse & Hound. The results of this survey into the impact the cost-of-living crisis and interest rate rises have had – and continue to have – on livery yards will help provide further support at this much needed time.
For more information visit www.seib.co.uk
Please note, owners who hold an SEIB Insurance Brokers Equine Insurance Policy must adhere to the following SEIB Policy Wording. Horses must be vaccinated against tetanus and equine influenza, wormed or satisfactory worm-counted at least twice a year, be wormed against redworm in winter and have regular and proper foot and or hoof care from a Farrier or Equine Podiatrist alongside regular dental attention from a vet or Equine Dental Technician. Owners must also take precautions to prevent injury or illness – an example of this would be having your horse routinely attended to by a Physiotherapist.