So, a friend of mine asked me to have a facility tour and speak to 16 senior Iowa State University students in an Equine Business Management class. She said, “It would be nice if you could discuss your facility, what you do and how you make money.”
I thought about that for a few weeks. And, after I give a tour of my “facility” (which sort of cracks me up, it is just where I hang out), I will discuss the points of what I do and how I make money. I suppose they think they will be getting the nuts and bolts of it. That may be what they think they need. I hope I do not let them down when I give them this list of “what I do and how I make money.”
1) Have a grand vision for yourself and involve others in it.
Some people are dreamers and hard workers, other people aren’t quite as bold but want to come along on the dream or maybe have a smaller, similar vision that you can help realize. They will pay some or, as a group, all, of the freight of your dream if you are genuine in wanting to include them and help them with their visions. My dream is to ride excellently and I still am chasing that dream. Lots of people want that, so I help them come along.
2) Have boundaries.
If Thursday night is date night, don’t accept a lesson request for that night.
Keep at least one horse that is yours only and never consider selling it. You can share this horse occasionally if it suits you and that horse, but only if it suits you and that horse. Not everything is for sale.
3) Get right with The Man.
Whoever that is to you, do the work to develop a spiritual center. Jesus, Allah, Buddah, whatever. Consider that even Atheists have beliefs about spirituality. Spend some time thinking and learning about religions of the world and find out what works for you and incorporate it into your life. It is a private act that produces public results. Religion is not primarily for funerals. It is for life.
Consider tithing to an organization that you think is changing the world for the better, whether an animal shelter, Oxfam, your university, your church, public radio, whatever. Support the good. The quiet little secret about this habit is that it will also support your self-worth. People with high self-worth tend to make better decisions.
4) Put horses first and you will never go wrong.
See things from the horses’ point of view at all times. The people you are training for/teaching/selling a horse to are looking to you to be the horse professional. The horses are looking to you to be an advocate and to educate people who want to reach your level, or somewhere near your level, of accomplishment. Yes, you can be a horse advocate and make money without any conflict of interest. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you are courageous enough to share with people about what is really best for horses, and you do it in a tactful way, you will have devoted clients for life. You are showing them the real way to horsemanship, not simply using horses for ego-glorification. This is another example of having a grand vision and bringing others along. Let others see what can be accomplished by treating horses kindly and always striving for rider improvement.
Buy the best feed you know of, no matter what it costs up front, because it will pay you back down the line. Buy the best hay you can find for the same reason. Make large amounts of turnout on good pasture a priority.
5) Be honest with yourself about your potential life partner.
Does this person like the horse life? If you are a died-in-the-wool horse person, you need a partner who is also one or pretty close to one. For the most part, full-time professional horsemanship is a shared dream. Is this person someone who, for instance, enjoys mowing pastures on a Sunday afternoon or doesn’t mind paying someone to do it? Do they see the value in hard work? Do they love animals? Difficult as it is to believe, simply loving you is not enough. If you don’t believe me, go on the Chronicle of the Horse Board and read of the heartbreak of marriages that break up because the partner is jealous of the time spent with horses.
6) Put a curb on your ego.
You don’t know anything. I don’t know anything. The horses know everything. Ride and listen to horses. Resist the urge to think you know more than they do.
Then, ride with the best instructors you can and try everything they say with your whole heart. And keep riding with the best instructors you can your whole life.
Read, consider, discuss. Surround yourself with people who are also striving to improve.
Join clubs and volunteer your time helping others, organizing clinics, or raising money for the clubs. You don’t have to volunteer for everything, in fact, you shouldn’t. See “Have boundaries” above. But you should volunteer for something. And not when asked. Agreeing to work when asked is not volunteering. Actually volunteer. The big secret about volunteering is that that is how you meet the cool people. If you need to bottom line it, it also happens to be a great way to make contacts that can become or send you future clients. There is actually a secret society out there of people who want to help you. You meet them by being generous first. That’s how they recognize people who are worthy of their help.
7) Don’t let the local standard be your standard
Look up. Get on the internet and watch video of people who are at the highest levels of your sport, or go to a live international competition and see what can be done. Do this at least yearly, to reset your standards. If all you see is adequate riding, all you will be is an adequate rider.
8) Become uninterested in drama
Good horse training should be boring to watch. It should just be a calm horse learning, like a kindergarten class. As the horse advances up the levels, things should still be as calm. Competition can be exciting, because it is a testing of the learning. There should be no drama in training.
If you run a boarding barn, do not allow drama. If you have a bad egg, warn them once and if it continues, send them on their way. When it becomes clear that your barn doesn’t tolerate drama, you will attract drama-free people and horses and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief.
Do not contribute to drama. Don’t gossip, don’t hang out with people who enjoy gossiping, don’t wish ill, don’t be jealous. Do be kind, do wish well, do know that you have enough and things are happening as they should. This relates to “Get right with The Man”.
If someone is unkind to you or gossips about you, always take a breath and ask yourself if there is truth in it. If so, fix it. Don’t defend. If there is no truth in it, remember that whatever anyone says about anyone, is always really about themselves. That is a difficult one that took me years to learn.
9) Have a hero
Or several. Have someone to look up to for their horsemanship. If you can get to know them, great. If it is only reading their books or blogs or magazine articles, that works too. Always keep a blueprint that inspires you to greater things.
10) Take frequent breaks.
You wouldn’t work a horse 14 days in a row and you shouldn’t work yourself that much either. Have another hobby. Watch movies. See your friends. Walk your dog. Get an internet pen pal in Germany. Whatever. It is the rest that refreshes the love for the work.