Tamara & Tracey Alexander

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Hosting sleepovers with a horse has provided a novel diversification for two farmers in the Lake District.

Searching to create a new income stream to keep their family on a farm which had not made a profit in decades, sisters Tracey and Tamara Alexander set up Stable Stays in 2019.

They combined Tracey’s passion for horses, specifically Friesian horses, with Tamara’s business skills to create a unique diversification project.

“This unique experience was the first of its kind in the world,” says Tamara.

Holidaymakers can stay in a double stable with a luxury bed, where their chosen horse can put its head over the dividing screen to ‘say hello’ to anyone on the top bunk. Guests can see through the clear screen to watch their stablemate sleeping or munching on hay.

There is also the option of a Shetland pony, which can join in the accommodation side of the stable.

This expanded on the Friendship Barn, where visitors can spend time with a chosen horse in a sitting room environment. Customers include young children with autism who have found it a calming space, as well as elderly people who have spent time with horses in the past but do not have a safe space to do so now.

Social media has been used to market the diversification, as well as print articles, television segments and featuring in the Netflix series Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father.

“The diversification has fitted neatly into our core business of grazing land and equestrian facilities by utilising the farm buildings and animals in unique ways,” says Tamara.

Going forward, the cost of living crisis has been flagged as one of the biggest challenges as it has slowed down bookings. But they are taking proactive steps by distributing leaflets and reaching out to local schools and care homes.

In the future, the family are also looking at expanding the concept with another overnight experience alongside their small flock of pet sheep.