Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Entrepreneurial Lessons

Things I have learned as an entrepreneur:

1) it is entirely possible to run a business off of an iPhone. 

2) you should always have more ideas than money, more money than time, and more time than regret. If you don't, something has to change. 

3) good business owners aren't usually experts, but they know how to surround themselves with genius and mobilize specialists. And experts don't usually make good business owners. 

4) businesses fail without a community to support it. It takes a village of ambassadors. And that village can exist both in real life and online via social media. 

5) if you can't track multiple pots on the stove you shouldn't be in the kitchen. It's imperative to manage multiple ideas concurrently. 

6) the customer is not always right. It's your job to help them realize what they actually want and align it with what they need. 

7) people prefer to be laughed at than lectured or yelled at when being taught. Eventually if you do your job right they will start laughing with you. 

8) bad clients aren't bad, they are just more confused than other clients (meaning you failed at #6). 

9) you don't have to like everyone. But you better appreciate them because even if they aren't important to you personally, they are important to someone else and therefore they ARE an important person. 

10) you don't have to love what you do, but you have to believe in what you are doing. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

↑ Average Weights = ↓ Opportunity for Equine Industry

For our barn, the equation is clear:

Increasing Weights of Trail Riders + Aging Horses = Epic Problem for the Barn 

This year we no longer have two of our 220#-240# riding horses on the string. Two that used to carry more are also aging and we need to preserve them as long as possible, so I need to reduce their weight limit. This leaves us with only two horses than can carry a 250# rider currently and 3 that can carry 200#. 

Now, 5 horses that can carry a heavier rider sounds good right?

Well, the number of ride requests coming in for riders over 200# has seemingly doubled this year. Particularly men are rarely under 200#. 

While most people come in pairs, with only 5 horses we are greatly limited in the number of larger groups we can take out if they are heavier persons. Already we have had to book extra rides on our schedule because we couldn't pair riders into one group because too many people required our largest horses. 

This not only adds additional hours of work to our schedule, but additional hours of work to those two heavy weight horses. 

Do we need more draft and draftX horses? Yes. But does it make me happy that someday I may need to end up owning a complete barn of them? No. I love my little paints and handy little foundation stock horses. I thoroughly enjoy the thoroughbreds. And while I do like riding our drafts, that's not the only breed I want to offer. 

The rising weights of the American public is having a serious effect in the shift of this riding industry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How old do children have to be to join the trail rides?

Some children are not yet old enough for trail rides. Our insurance requires all trail riders to be 8 years old or older to hit the trails. This rule is a good rule because all of our trail riders must ride the horse independently and be strong and large enough to control the horse on their own. 
However, we do offer riding lessons for children ages 5 and up and tiny tot lessons for those even younger.
We NEVER allow double riding as it is A) dangerous for the child and B) dangerous for the horse. While we often see people doing this with their own children on their own horses, these are experienced riders taking risks with their own deep and well-founded relationships with their children and animals - something that is impossible for public trail riding.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Why buy a horse when I can ride yours?"

I've had a client who I have expected to buy a horse for a long time. It finally clicked that it is a SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT compliment when she says "Why would I buy a horse when I have so many nice horses of yours to ride?"

What this actually should have meant to me, especially coming from such a logical individual: 

a) a large number of horses in the stables are of a quality that someone of a certain skill level feels they have ongoing opportunities available to them that would make horse ownership unnecessary

b) that despite riding with a wide range and large number of individuals, our horses are well kept and happy enough to be lively, unique and have personalities that allow a rider to develop report and their own relationships with them

c) the value added that many people would find in horse ownership doesn't outweigh the cost, benefit or community involved in our programs. 

I'm not sure why it took me this long to view a multi-year postponement of horse ownership as such an advanced and intricate complement.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Don't Kick the Slow Horse!

Slow Horse = LESS Leg
Hot Horse = MORE Leg

Contrary to popular belief, adding more leg to a sluggish horse is NOT the way to get them to go faster. In fact, over time from ride to ride it will actually cause them to become even more deadened to the leg. A sluggish horse needs to be re-sensitized to the leg and by continually nagging them you are just teaching them that the leg is actually meaningless. So to get a sluggish horse to move, you need to not just kick them, but to give specific cues, know your other aids, and not be "the boy who cried wolf."

The hot horse, on the other hand, often needs more leg! And this is because they need to be de-sensitized to your leg. If you hold your leg off of them, when you do touch them that moment of contact is even MORE stimulating. Whereas if you keep your leg on you can ebb and flow the support and accustom them to the subtleties of your communication. Often a hot horse is also a nervous or excited horse - the support of your leg (the "hug") can be used to reassure the horse. And don't forget - STOP IS A SPEED TOO! More leg is needed to stop than go because honestly it takes MORE WORK!

At the end of the day, you need to RIDE BETWEEN YOUR LEGS!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nagging versus Drilling

The incessant nagging you do not only drives your partner mad, it drives him or her away and hurts intimacy. How can you learn to communicate more effectively and go from being a broken record to a poster child for relationship success? The first step is to recognize that asking for the same thing over and over again -- believe it or not -- just doesn't work.

Nagging is repetitious behavior in the form of pestering, hectoring, or otherwise continuously urging an individual to complete previously discussed requests or act on advice. The word is derived from the Scandinavian nagga, which means "to gnaw".  As expressed by Elizabeth Bernstein, a Wall Street Journal reporter, nagging is "the interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed".

Most naggers don't know they nag -- they think their nagging helps and is just the repetition of useful tips. But the truth is, it's not up to them to decide if they are nagging or not: a helpful reminder becomes a stinging nag when the person who is being nagged says so.

Upholding your Horses' Reputations

While there is much truth to the fact that not every horse works with every human, that is not something that equine professionals have the luxury of entertaining. 

As professionals we have to work with every horse that is put in our path without any emotion. The best horse in the world is the horse between our legs. We must bring a blank slate to every ride in order to give horses a fair chance to show accomplishment. 

Yes, you can get pissed off, frustrated and upset sometimes; but the next ride you have to come back to each horse with a clean slate!

While this may be an article about humans, it has some great points that fit with my theory of how we the way we represent our horses reflect how horses will come to be seen:

The key points being:
  • You can't stop others from maligning a reputation, but a good reputation can come to its own rescue and defense.
  • A good reputation provides you a target at which to keep aiming. 
  • A good reputation represents a great marketing strategy. 
  • A good reputation inspires others. 
In our barn, we joke about how a past employee taught one of the little boys riding in our stables this script: 
"Which horse is your favorite?"
"EVERY horse is my favorite!! Especially the one you are riding."
But, quite honestly this little script has to be truth when you work in a stable because the emotions professionals display about their horses are contagious. Not just to clients but to staff, interns, volunteers and everyone else listening in. 

One comment or facial expression that displays that you don't like or prefer a horse has the potential to completely ruin a horse's reputation and end them on the "worthless" list permanently for everyone in the barn. This is because, lets be honest, there actually is some logic that if the professionals don't like working with a horse a novice wouldn't stand a chance.

This is why I rephrase things so often when describing our horses: 
  • not cuddly or girthy -> ticklish, sensitive
  • lazy or slow -> energy efficient, babysitting, protecting rider, making sure rider is ready
  • hot -> enthusiastic, tries too hard
Even the littlest positive can make a big impact.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Holistic Horse Buzz Words

A couple buzz words, that when I see on social media makes me skeptic of the poster:
  • Natural Balance
  • Barefoot Trim
  • Parelli
  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Bitless
  • Treeless Saddle
  • Natural Horsemanship

Do I follow most of these trends in my own stable and training techniques? Yes, totally! Many of my horses are barefoot and all of them can be ridden bitless as well as play the Parelli games. But some wear shoes, some perform better with bits, and others better partake at the more traditional training routines.
Do all of those trends have merit? Yes, totally! The experts that use these techniques on specific horses in specific ways are phenomenal.
The buzz words are used to sound smarter, forward-thinking and more educated, rather than in proper context with depth of experience. Whenever I hear those buzz words, honestly what I imagine is: 
A horse plowing over it's owner and completely ruling the relationship while the human is subservient to the horse's every need. I see lots of supplements, specialty tack, and branded toys, many unnecessary. I see a barefoot lame horse that isn't ridden very often as a result. I see tricks instead of occupation. 
I understand that there are professionals and true horse people who really got this figured out. But this image is what I see from their following, have taken these ideologies out of context and more often than not latched onto with undying loyalty by novice utopian idealist animal lovers on the Internet rather than fleshed out by inquisitive and practical expert animal handlers.
A true equestrian is one who works with what they have:
  • the horse's conformation
  • the horse's personality
  • the job description
  • the footing and environment
  • the horse's history

There are a MILLION tools out here to help horses. Some are more obviously extreme on both the "Holistic" side as well as the traditional side. But understanding WHY each technique is used is more important than finding the only answer. The best ways to understand a trend of thought, is to understand the negatives of what you adhere to and the positives of what you disagree with. Only then do you probably have an idea of what is the right answer for an individual animal.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Internship Q&A

What do you suggest for our personal specialty project?
Specialty projects can literally be anything. Here's some ideas from the past:
  • Working with babies and young stock
  • Providing extra-attention to the non-riding horses or lame horses, whether with rehab or just keeping their minds busy with groundwork and games
  • Building Projects, such as construction projects on the barn, building arena obstacles such as jumps or our hunter pace course
  • Management Skills - managing our teenagers and volunteers on various shortterm or longterm tasks
  • Teaching or Co-Teaching Lessons
  • Barn Organization and Creating Efficiency Systems
  • And beyond....
Can I take lessons?
You can totally either pay for lessons or apply your stipend towards lessons at the barn. We can give a large discount for this as well. 
We also strongly encourage our interns to teach one another and exchange knowledge. Teaching each other provides pedagogical practice for the teaching intern and a set of eyes and instruction for the riding intern.

Do I need to bring towels and bed linens?
We have linens here! Don't worry!

Will there be laundry facilities so I can do my laundry?
You have full use of my laundry - just use your own soap. We only ask that you don't go overboard and use up all of the hot water all of the time.