Ep 61 // Ethical Horse Businesses
In this episode, I answer a listener's question about whether or not it's possible to run an ethical horse business. In short - it is absolutely possible! I share my own experience growing up at a lesson barn, some simple changes businesses can make to improve the lives of their horses, the importance of having a good understanding of how to run a business, the benefits of working as a team with other like-minded equine business owners, and so much more! If you're interested in learning more about how R+ can be applied in a lesson barn setting, check out the podcast I did with Steph K of @stephkequestrian, Episode 44 // Lesson Programs with R+
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast, where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:29] Hello guys. So the podcast has been on a little bit of a break for. I dunno, it's been about a month now. Hopefully you guys can forgive me for that break. It's been a very busy time in my life. We've been moving for like the fourth time this year, and it's just been wild and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to now live in our new we live on a property now and all of that, but it's just been, you know, some stuff has had to take a little bit of a back seat just to allow some room for me to actually sleep at night and to not be stressed outta my mind and to actually eat. So that's where I've been.
[00:01:03] But we are coming back to the podcast and with some exciting news, the TWE foundation course is opening for enrollment, and this will be the second and the last time it opens for 2022, we have changed the frequency of when it opens to only two times per year to allow for slightly larger group sizes and then to allow for more focus on the individuals that participate in those courses throughout the course, and then to give me breaks in between the course. So. Only two openings per year. And this is the second time. So this is the last time.
[00:01:40] And also the other reason for that is I've learned over the years that there are some limitations like up in like the north United States or in other parts of the world where it gets actually like really cold in the wintertime. They can't, people can't really train. Whereas for me in Texas, the winter is when I do actually most of my training. So for me, You know, training over the, over the wintertime is ideal, but for a lot of the world, it's not. So, and then we also have summer breaks and then we have holidays and all that. So I try my best to situate and schedule the foundation courses around when it's going to meet the needs for the most amount of people around the world.
[00:02:20] So with that being said, the foundation course is opening. It should be open now, as this episode is releasing , this will be our last opportunity for 2022. We will have future foundation courses in 2023 and going forward. The, probably the next one will be in spring 2023, no promises. So definitely jump in on this one. If you are able to, I understand if it's not the right time, hopefully you'll be able to join us in the future, but to learn more about the foundation course and the academy, which by the way, the foundation course is the gateway into the academy. The academy is where I have all of my continuing education type courses.
[00:03:00] I have ridden, you know, clicker training, focused, positive reinforcement focused ridden courses. So like teaching horses to work under saddle with positive reinforcement. I also have cooperative care lessons and courses I have going through like lots of lessons and courses on working through different problem behaviors, such as trailering and separation anxiety related behaviors. Also things like biting and aggression and problems with leading and just on and on and on. I have so much continuing education, you know, type content in the academy. But that is all exclusively available to foundation course graduates. And whether or not you are a professional or just freshly exploring clicker training and positive reinforcement, I've created the foundation course for you.
[00:03:48] I've had both professionals and complete beginners with clicker training, like take the course and have a lot of success with it and give me raving reviews about it. There's so much content in it. A lot of value for just kind of packed in there in the three months that it's open. We go through everything from working around with like food anxiety and meeting the horse's basic needs. We talk about the humane hierarchy. We talk about Lima. We talk about errorless learning. We talk about introducing food rewards, what type of food rewards you're gonna be using? We talk about body language. We talk about health and how the rest of the horse's health and lifestyle impact training success. We talk about the human mindset and where we're at physically and mentally and emotionally in our training. There's a big support system there. There's one on one coaching. There's group learning and live Q and A's every month. There's on and on... lots of lessons in the actual course materials themselves there's support from your fellow participants. It's just, it's really fun and so much to be learned there, even if you've been exploring clicker training for many months now, or years even, there's definitely something to learn there and I'm always adding content to it as well. So. So there's always something new being added. As I learn as your coach and as your instructor, I'm always learning what is needed and what will help people maximize their experience and be effective in their own training. And that's what I'm here. For is to be the best mentor and coach I can for you, so I can set you up for success so that you can then in turn to set your horse up for success. So that's my goal, ultimately with the foundation course is to set that foundation for you guys, is to help you help your horse and to achieve your goals and be successful in that. So if you've ever been interested in learning about positive reinforcement or clicker training, whether you're just gonna dabble with it, or you wanna just cold turkey, start from scratch and do the whole thing and just go all in. This course is gonna help you with that. And you can dabble or go all in as much as you want. And you, there will be something for you in the course. And then as a graduate of the course, you'll be invited to join the academy where we would love to have you, and you can stay for as long as you want with lots of fun stuff that is not included on social media. So I do post a ton on social media, as you guys know and I talk about a lot of this stuff on my podcast and in my blog, but in the academy, we go even deeper. We talk about more, I share about case studies. I share about my training successes and even my training like we'll call oopsies or mistakes, or I'm not gonna call 'em failures, cuz they're always a learning opportunity and I learn from them and we're successful later on as we explore alternative options and get creative. So lots of stuff there. And then also as an academy member, you'll have the access to the TWE virtual shows, which are positive reinforcement shows that are designed like dressage shows. But for positive reinforcement clicker training, Yeah, for focused on that. And so we have all kinds of patterns and levels, and we do ridden tests and on the ground tests and we have real ribbons that are mailed to you and score sheets and all that and multiple judges, it's a lot of fun and really helps keep the motivation there for the training and helps really polish it up and show you kind of where things might be needing some work and where you're really shining and it's also really fantastic for those of us that are, that really did enjoy competitions , but aren't necessarily wanting to be involved in the normal competition world anymore. And want to step outta that and focus more on training with positive reinforcement. This virtual show opportunity is fantastic for people like myself that do love to show but no longer feel like we can participate in the regular show world. So with that all being said, what I wanted to, well, I said what I wanted to say about that, which is that the foundation course is open and we'd love to have you join us. But, yeah, so that was one of my big topics I wanted to cover today. And then we're gonna dive into a quick episode where I am going to talk about ethics in horse business, and answer a listener's question that has been waiting to be answered for a couple of months now. And I I'm apologizing for the delay in response to this question. And hopefully you find the answer very helpful and it is a good episode to listen to.
[00:08:16] Hi Adele, I'm Leah and I'm from Western Australia. I'm just wondering what thoughts you have about whether horse businesses can be ethical. And if so, how? This question has come up for me because as a city based young horse obsessed kid, my only access to horses was through horse riding centers. So I now wonder whether horse centers are still able to offer kids the opportunity to interact with horses in a way that is, as much as possible, consent based, use positive reinforcement and addresses holistic horse welfare, while still being able to meet the business' bottom line of providing quality customer services and meeting financial benchmarks.
[00:09:03] Hey, Leah, that is such a great question. And one that do you know, I think we're still exploring. There's not going to be a solid answer as far as how to achieve that, but I do think it is possible in many situations, or I should say in specific situations, I think it is possible, perhaps it's not possible to run horse centers or as we really refer to them here in the us, a lot of times we refer to them as like, lesson barns or training facilities or things like that, perhaps it's not possible to run them in the way that they have been run and make it ethical and also to make it profitable. I don't know that that is possible. I have not tried to run it that way because it's, I've not been able to, well, I just don't want to, one and then two, they it's really just, there are too many things at odds with each other basically, and, and really you know, horses are expensive. They are so, so expensive. And right now we're at a time in the world when this podcast is being recorded, where like pricing is going up on everything, hay is going up, gas is going up. The transport cost of the hay is going up, which is causing the hay to go up. We've got droughts, we've got fires. We've got just everything is rising in price. And sometimes our paychecks are not rising with it. And there's just such a problem there. I mean, even for myself, I've been worried as of late, about being able to afford, to continue to feed my horses. And not that we have a problem right now, but I see the future coming. I see what's coming down the pipeline and I'm a little bit anxious about it and I'm trying not to be anxious about it. But what I am trying to do is prepare, prepare my horses, prepare myself and doing things like, you know, saving, being really wise with my money. You know, making sure I'm making a profit on services and that I'm offering switching some of my business model to things that are more cost effective and just are going, not going to spend a ton on gas and feed and just all of the different aspects that go into it. And then also I've been. Just as I can saving things. So like I've been getting extra shipments of hay and storing them just preparing for the pricing to go up. And so there's just a lot of stuff that goes into talking about this particular subject. And that's just talking about inflation. That's talking about shortages. That's a little bit of a unique situation right now in this time. You know, I know we've been through historically, we've been through other shortages, but I'm just talking about in this generation. This is we're in a little bit of a unique period, especially after everything the world's been going through.
[00:11:47] But in general, when we're talking about on a normal day with horse facilities as they have been training facilities, lesson barns, horse centers, as they have been and horses at, you know, how expensive they are on an average day. I think it's a little bit challenging, but not impossible. And really what it comes down to is the business model and being. A wise business person and also balancing that with the ethics and balancing that with our understanding of ethical horse keeping and training and management and all of that.
[00:12:20] And so it, I'm not prepared to make like a. A black and white rule list that everybody needs to be following. That's not what this episode's going to cover. But what I do wanna talk about is some of the decisions that I have made and plan to make going forward. And some of the questions I have asked myself and some of the questions that I would encourage other equestrians, other business people, other people who want to start in equestrian based business, I want them to ask themselves and the answer may be slightly different for them. But as long as they're asking themselves the question, I think we're in a good place and we're going forward in a in a good way. And really some of these questions boil down to, you know, what is, what does a horse need, right? What does a horse need to on a daily basis and throughout their life to be meeting their needs.
[00:13:08] So we know they need forage, they need friends and they need freedom. They need to not be in pain and they need shelter and safety. And we've, we've got there's there's different models that we can follow different. Like the, The five freedoms or the three freedoms or there's different ways to look at it, but you know, a horse needs their friends, so they need companions. They need to live in a pasture, they need to have social structure and social stability. And this means established herds that don't change horses every couple weeks to months and are consistent and reliable and they have companions and they can bond with their companions and they are not. Their calls for when they're separated from the other horses are not ignored or even punished and corrected that they're not dismissed as just the horse being silly or being overdramatic or whatever. Like we need to actually understand horse, social behavior and structure at its core and meet those needs when it comes to you know, their social needs. So when we're looking at a horse center or lesson barn, and we've got a bunch of lesson ponies or lesson horses, are we meeting those needs? Can we meet those needs? Can they live with a herd with companions and then still be able to do lesson programs? Yes, they can, but it will take specific management and specific scheduling and a lot of awareness and planning from the trainer side of things. You're not gonna be able to pull Blackie out of the pasture and leave Brownie if they're bonded pair right? So instead we need the lessons to be scheduled in such a way we're Brownie and Blackie can go to their lesson together and they're happy. Or Brownie gets to come sit in a pen with some forage and some water in a nice shelter in a nice breeze next to the arena while Blackie does his lesson. So there's different management practices that we can start implementing to help our horses feel comfortable and have their needs met and, and not be causing problems in that way while still being able to perform lessons.
[00:15:11] And that's just one example, when it comes to social stuff, then we've got forage needs, right? A lot of lesson programs that I've seen and, you know, depending on where you are in the world, at least some of them that I've experienced. The horses are pulled out of their pastures and, you know, tied up with their tack on for a good portion of the afternoon, and going from lesson to lesson to lesson, or even I've seen like trail riding programs like this, or whatever, where the horses are going for hours, and sometimes endless hours, it seems are like a good portion of the day without any access to forage. And that is not meeting their basic need. So providing that forage is a cost. It is expensive. And that is of where a large portion of my expense, where my money goes to is providing good quality forage to my horses on a daily basis, 24 7. And that's just something that I prepare for. And I'm I build into my business model and my business decisions. Is that, that is a non-negotiable basic need that my horses need, and I must provide it to them. And I will design my program around that and I will make my business decisions around that need. So when you're looking at a lesson program where the horses need forage 24/ 7, you know, maybe during tacking up there's hay net set up in the tacking up area. For me, I do clicker training sessions. And all my lessons programs are based around positive reinforcement. So we have food involved throughout the whole training session.
[00:16:32] Maybe your program is not designed around positive reinforcement and you're not using food rewards. So instead, maybe we just do the best we can to keep the lessons a little bit shorter. Maybe they're 30 to 45 minutes at max. And, you know, while they're tacking up, they have hay nets. And when they're untacking they have hay nets or something like that, and then when they're out in their pasture, the rest of the time they have 24/ 7 forage. So we're meeting those needs still. It's okay for a horse to go for short periods of time without forage. We just need to make sure that that's not too frequent or for too long. It's not too an extended period of time.
[00:17:04] So we've got the social needs, we've got the forage needs, then we need the freedom. Right? So a lot of programs have, especially in the city, we keep horses stalls and in small areas, horses need areas to, they need room to move. They need to roam. They need to stretch their legs. They need to be constantly moving. And I know in some areas of the world, land is restricted. There's not a lot of availability. And you just, in this area, we have to do the best we can. And we have to make decisions that allow us to provide the best we can. So, you know, maybe we have a couple of different pastures. Maybe we create track systems, which doesn't require a ton of acreage, but it still allows the horses to move around more.
[00:17:45] Maybe we, I don't know, we could come up with some different ideas based on where you are, but you just, you need to be doing the best you can in those, in those areas. And then sometimes I may, I'm gonna be honest here. Maybe it's not possible to have a horse. Maybe it's not possible to have a horse center in that city and in that area, which is really frustrating and disappointing I know for some and it would be for me if I ended up living in that city as a kid and I wanted to be around horses as a kid, I would have a hard time understanding, like, why can't I go ride horses, all of that. But as adults, as a professional equestrians, as people who were educated in the horse's needs and what their core needs are, it is critical that we are their advocates, that we are pushing for that, and that we don't prioritize our own needs as a human over another species. Unless it's like a life or death situation, like I'm talking about, I mean, this is a pleasure sport, right? It's a hobby. And some of us make it our profession, which is fine. There's no problem with that, but it is at the end of the day, not a life or death situation, whether you get to ride a horse. I mean, usually I'm talking about the majority of the world here. I'm sure there's some areas where that may actually be the case. And I'm not talking about those areas. I'm talking about like lesson barns in major cities or like, you know, anyway, so, you know, we sometimes it's just not going to be possible and you might have to travel longer distances to get to the lesson barn, maybe do summer camps, but you don't do regular lessons. It's tough because I know for myself growing up, I grew up in the city and there was a lesson barn that was down the road. I'm great very, very, very grateful for this lesson barn and who knows where I would end up nowadays without this lesson barn, to be honest. I mean, so it's kind of tough to say this, but the horses stayed in their stalls. Sometimes two to three days straight two to three days, straight in a 10 foot by 10 foot, sometimes 12 foot by 12 foot stall without turnout. They got one day a week where they got a couple of hours in a larger square pen by themselves. And then the rest of the time, they stood in a 12 foot by 12 foot stall that got cleaned at best once a day. And they got ridden. Maybe every other day, sometimes if they were lucky, it was every day. And then otherwise they stood in their stall. And sometimes their owners would come out and hand walk 'em, but that was their life. That was how they lived. Oh. And then they got two flakes of hay in the morning at most, and two flakes of hay in the evening at most with a bunch of grain. That's how they lived all day and no wonder we had so many behavioral issues, no wonder they had were in a lot of pain. No wonder we had chronic thrush, you know, like on, there were so many issues. And so, yes, I got to have this amazing experience as a child being around horses. I got to walk to the barn every day. I got to spend time with horses. But those horses were living in such a terrible life. I mean, it was honestly, so, so I, you know, looking back is my happiness like, I don't know, is that experience more valuable than that horse's long term wellbeing and everything that they were experiencing? I don't know. Cuz then we could start asking the question of like, well, if they weren't there, then where would these horses be? Would they maybe be, would they be without a home? Would they be in the slaughter truck? Like I don't, I don't know. And so it is a tough question. There's not really a black and white. There's a lot of gray area. So, this is where I just keep pushing the question to people. Like, are we doing the best we can to meet their needs? Are we trying our best? Are we constantly looking to improve? Are we you know, doing as much as we can. And like, in this situation with this lesson barn they had limited acreage and yes, they were running a business. And it was like a horse center, basically. That's what it was. When I look back and think about it, though, there was quite a bit of acreage on this property that hadn't been cleared and it didn't and it was reducing the amount of turnout that was available. So that's like an area like, could we have done better? Yeah, because we could have made more turnout area. Could the owners have been pressured more into coming out and walking their horses more and hand grazing them? Absolutely. Could we have turned some of the areas in between the barn and the arena and over by there was like this, like, you know, fake trail area thing into pasture area. Absolutely. Could we have made their stalls larger? Absolutely. Could we have provided more enrichment for them on a daily basis? Absolutely. Could we have provided more forage for them on a daily basis. Absolutely. And I'm not saying we have to start shoveling in huge bales of hay that they're all going to stamp all over and pee on and stuff like that. No, I'm talking about putting in a slow feeder net, which would slow down the consumption as far as the rate goes, and you would be able to provide them with forge throughout the day. And your expenses may go up some, but not like you're not throwing, you know, hay, or you're not throwing money in the trash. Right. Could we have cleaned out their stalls more often? Absolutely. Could we have done other things with them besides just riding them? Absolutely. Could we have managed pain better? Absolutely. We had the lesson horses had tack that, and this goes into that free of pain, you know, that basic need of not being in pain. The lesson horses at this horse center at this lesson barn all shared the same saddles. There was five of the same exact saddle, and they all shared those same saddles for the lessons. They were not custom fit to the horses. And I'm not talking about going out and getting a $6,000 custom saddle. I'm just talking like nobody spent time finding a saddle that fit these horses. And we had horses that were, one of our lesson horses I remember she was an Arabian. Like a little 13 hand high Arabian, the another one was a 16 hand, quarter horse. Another one was a shark withered 16 hand thoroughbred that was slab sided. And then we had another one that was like a downhill little paint pony that was maybe 14.2 hands. Like there was no way on this planet that those horses all fit the same saddle or the, yeah, same saddle fit, all those horses. It just is not possible. And so making decisions like that are going to lead to improved ethics in horse centers. and lesson barns.
[00:23:40] I'm not saying everybody needs to switch over to positive reinforcement and clicker training. I think we could argue for ethical practices, even without that meaning that it is possible to do it ethically without doing the clicker training positive reinforcement. Would I like to see more programs switch over to positive reinforcement clicker. Absolutely. Can they do it? Absolutely. It is possible. And you can meet your bottom line. You can run a profitable business. It just takes planning, management and being good at selling what you do. So that's part of it. And I mean, as much as sometimes sales feels a little bit greasy or whatever, like it is part of it. We do need to be selling our, what we're doing. And then that supplies then what the horse needs and meaning money for the hay and all of that. And then we can continue and that's how the business goes around. So. Absolutely. You can do it with clicker training, positive reinforcement. And this is one of the big things I try and encourage people too, is that kids love clicker training. They love positive reinforcement. It's usually the parents that are pressuring the kids into jumping and to doing competitions and riding faster and more and higher and on and on and on because they see their friends, kids doing that, or that's how they grew up or that's what they're seeing on the TV. Kids don't care. I mean, maybe as they get older, and they have many years of it being in a traditional program. They're gonna be in a little bit, they're gonna have a little bit of a hard time switching over to a a positive reinforcement focused training program. I have experienced that where I've had a kid that was in a traditional program and then switched over to mine and it was a little bit tough. But it is possible. And especially if you make it fun and exciting for the kids, especially if you start teaching them how to communicate with the horses and how to listen to the horses and how to teach and how to train and, and start teaching them more than just how to ride. And that's the thing we're so focused on the riding aspect. Anybody who owns a horse, anybody who keeps horses, especially on their own property or boards horses or has their own facility knows there is so much time and so much work and so much knowledge that goes into keeping horses, forget the riding part, just keeping them, just having them, just taking care of them is a full time job. Riding is just one thing. It is the physical like sport part of it, but the keeping and the, and taking care of the horses is such a different, big step to the whole thing. And if people, if kids wanna have horses of their own, and this is another part of this, and I feel like I'm just going on a long, long tangent and ranting about how I was raised around horses, but that's okay. Hopefully it would be beneficial. I rode and had horses. I owned horses. Since I was 10 years old. So, so I had horses, kept horses or, sorry, I had horses. Like I owned my own horses and rode horses every single day. And I was highly competitive, traveled all over competing, had big fancy horses. I didn't keep horses like on my own property or in my own barn or whatever until I was almost 19 years old. So it was nine years of having and owning horses before I kept 'em on my own property and took care of them, myself because I switched from my full service facility where they did everything, they picked my horse's supplements. They picked their feed, they scheduled their farrier appointments. They blanketed them when they needed to be blanketed, they put the fan on when they needed the fan, they cleaned the stalls. They did everything. I essentially showed up to my lessons and I did a bunch of hand walking of my horses, cuz I was always wanting to do more stuff, but I rode and rode and rode a ton. And I groomed and groomed and groomed a ton. I cleaned my tack. I rode other people's horses. I hand walked my horses, but they did the other parts. Right. They picked the feed, they anyway, all that stuff. It was a huge shock taking horses on for my, with, you know, just caring for them on my own. I didn't even like, this is how, this is how ridiculous this whole thing is. I didn't know how often my horses got their feet trimmed. Or how to get a farrier out to my place, to put shoes on. Now you have to realize this is pre-social media, okay. So I was lacking in some education, like a lot of education and a lot of exposure. I was not happy. I was not happy that I didn't know the first thing about taking care of my horses. I didn't, I was a really good rider. I was very competitive. I won, I did all of this. I had no idea how to take care of my horses.
[00:27:54] So that's a little bit off topic, but my whole point is. Now, like I run my lesson program as if my kids, these kids that I'm teaching are going to own their own horse in the next year or two, and I teach them everything. So yes, we ride, but we also do, you know, how do we fix, you know, the horse doesn't wanna lead, you know, safely next to me, how do we fix that, how do we work on that? My horse gets injured and I use that as a learning opportunity. How do we bandage a leg? Okay. What are the symptoms of colic? How often do my horse's feet get trimmed? This is the signs of thrush, you know, on and on and on. We run, I run my program, not just about riding, but about being horse caregivers and horse providers and guardians and whatever you wanna call it. You know, ownership of the horses, I try and avoid using that word. Cuz sometimes people are leasing horses or just caring for their neighbors, horse or whatever. So I wanna be inclusive of all that. We are caregivers for these horses and how do we be the best caregivers we can be for these horses. And we need to teach these kids, this, this is what's going to set up the equestrian industry to be successful going forward, is we need to start expanding our lesson programs to be to be including more about behavior, more about equine learning, more about ethics, more about caring for horses, how to prepare people to take care of horses, how to be you know, making good financial decisions when it comes to horses and saving up to keep horses and where do we need to be? You know, do we need to be spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on fancy, you know, tack that is in and cool right now, or should we be saving that money for the next medical bill? Like there there's so many decisions and things that we can be teaching kids and teaching our students, whether they're adults or young people about horses that go beyond just the riding and my students love it. They love it. And this allows me to implement a very horse minded, ethically minded practice and business. And because I don't have to sacrifice my horse's wellbeing to teach my students, I am teaching my students about horses. Like horses, like the horses that we love, the horses that we want to be around. I'm not trying to morph my horses into meeting these needs that have been culturally conditioned into us that we should be doing. Instead I am changing the expectations of my clients to understand what the horses need. And like, if you love horses, this is what a horse is. This is what a horse does. This is how a horse communicates. This is what a horse needs. This is what my lesson program is centered around is learning about all of this. So it's an education program, not just a riding program. And I think, and this whole thing was to go on to the point of, yes, it's possible, but I think some big changes are needed in these lesson programs. It is necessary for us to start changing our mentality around the horse centers and what is being taught in them and the lesson programs and the lesson barns and the training barns. We as the professionals, whether that's because you're the barn manager or you're the trainer at the barn or whatever it is, or you know, we, as the professionals set the expectations of, or help at least set the expectations of the clients and we need to be communicating a different way of doing this whole thing. And if we can do that successfully, and so far I've been successful in it, and I know other programs that have been successful in it when, and if we can do that, we can simultaneously offer our horses a really good life, a really good life that meets their needs that provides them choice that provides them a cooperative experience, a consent based experience a positive experience with these students while also still meeting the needs of the students and educating them and keeping them safe and still providing them with the riding that they enjoy and find reinforcing. It's all about managing the horses and that whole situation and the business side of it, and also the clients.
[00:32:06] And here's the thing. Horse people. I, I'm pretty convinced that, you know, we all, not all of us, but a lot of us get into horses because we love horses, right? We don't necessarily have a strong understanding of business and money management and how to be good at business. And all of that, we don't really have a really strong foundation in that. We have a strong foundation in horses and we love horses. And therefore we do, we turn that love of horses into a profession. So we turn passion into our business, which is great. But if you don't have a good grasp on business or you at least don't have somebody helping you with the business side of things, you are going to stretch yourself very thin and you're gonna be drowning. And then we're gonna be pushed to a point where we have to start making sacrifices. And we have to start making cuts. And a lot of times, unfortunately those cuts and those sacrifices end up being at the expense of the horse. So we start cutting back on how much hay they're getting. We start cutting back on how much turnout time. We start collecting too many horses. So we have too little space for all of these horses, so we need to start using stalls more. We start not being able to provide as much pain management or being able to do, you know, kissing spine x-rays to be able to make sure that this new lesson horse we got, or before we get them is actually gonna be able to do the lessons. And then. We're not able to treat for ulcers and we're not able to provide the supplements that the horse may need, or the feed, or the best quality farrier care, whatever it is, we start cutting corners. And then we start feeling a lot of pressure to start building on how the number, the clients of that we have and start taking on more and more people that may or may not be actually good fits for us and what we want to do, so you might be tempted to take a client on that wants to do more riding and really isn't game for all of the cooperative care and clicker training, all that they just wanna ride. And you're like, well, just take on this one client, cuz I really need the money and we'll just make it work. Well, then you're stressed and stretched thin and then you're stretching your horses thin and stressing them out. And then the client is, anyway. It's just, it goes round and round and round and it just comes, becomes this messy not very good position to be in and everybody starts suffering. So it's usually not just the horses, the trainers start suffering too. And because we see, we see what's happening, we see what we're doing and we, but we don't know how to stop it because if we stop it, then it feels like we have to sacrifice, like we have to give up our horses. And if we have to give up our horses, then really, where are they gonna end up? And so it feels like it's the lesser of two evils to be cutting corners and just pushing the horse through the situation and putting on too many lessons, you know, signing this horse up for too many lessons each day, but that's better than sending him off to who knows what, you know, life. And so I get it and I get the pressure that we're under and then this makes us really bitter and it can also be very draining and lead to burnout. And then we're not successful and we're not making ends meet. And then we're not taking care of ourselves. And round and round and round and round it goes. So to be able to make good business decisions and run an ethical practice in an ethical lesson facility and horse center and all of that, it's really about three different things. It's about setting the criteria setting, you know, criteria for the horses and how we're gonna keep horses and meeting those basic needs. Like we need to be strict about that. This is a, an area I'm not willing to compromise on. That's kind of what we need to tell ourselves, like, is this and this and this, this is what we need for our horses, and I'm gonna make these decisions to make that happen. Okay. Then we also need to have a really good grasp on business and making good business decisions and good money decisions and understanding money and how to spend money and how to save money and how to make money work for us. And rather than chasing money constantly and feeling like we're just spinning our wheels. And then the third thing is we need to understand people. We need to understand people. We need to understand clients, how to talk to clients, how to have those hard conversations and how to set our clients up for success and make sure that we're on the same page and our expectations are being, they're being met, that client's expectations are being met, but also our expectations are being met and, and that we're having this conversation that's mutually respectful and understanding of eachother and being able to just really just understand people and understand conversation, having good conversational skills. And this is another area that sometimes horse people struggle with because we love horses. Right. A lot of times we get into horses because we're eh, so, so on the people, right. So we really wanna spend more time with horses. Oh, we'll just make horses, our profession. We wont have to deal so much with people. Usually, that's not the case. I deal with a lot of people. I deal with a lot of people and yes, I deal with more than normal because I have a podcast and social media and my blog and you know, all of that. So you don't necessarily need to deal with as many people as I do, but you still need to have good conversation skills. You still need to have good people skills to be able to run a horse business and be able to meet, make ends, meet and keep up your standards, as far as ethics go and meeting your horse's needs and making sure everything is running streamlined. And then, you know, this all rolls into the staff too, like being able to be on the same page with the staff and having good conversations with the staff, being able to supply them with their income that they need and making good business decisions around that this all gets rolled into it.
[00:37:32] Really to sum up that whole thing is that 100%? I, well, yes, I do think it's absolutely. I know it's absolutely possible. I know it I've seen it happening. However, we are still in a learning stage. We are still exploring what's possible and not possible. We are still experimenting with, in what areas this works and what areas it doesn't, where we can do this, where we cant. And potentially the solution, or I should say the answer to not being able to meet the needs of the horses and not being able to do it ethically is to not have a business in that area. And maybe it requires the trainer moving to a different location so that they can meet their horse's needs while also running a successful business. Um, or changing the business model. So maybe it's less about running a horse center, and it's more about becoming a behavior consultant that goes to clients that are already established in the area or working, or maybe changing over to being a farrier or something like that. Like you're still dealing with horses, but you're not managing a horse training facility, a lesson barn facility type situation, because maybe it's not possible in that area. So we just really need to be paying attention to all these different factors, getting a good grasp on business and money, a good grasp on people and conversation skills and a good grasp on horse, you know, basic needs and ethics and learning and behavior and all of that and what they need, and then combining all together.
[00:38:59] And yes, there's gonna be a learning curve. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will end up making a certain decision that you realize maybe wasn't the best decision later, but that's okay. As long as you look at it's a learning opportunity and you don't continue to do it, and you make changes that are appropriate to, to meet the needs of the horse and you don't sacrifice the horse, then you're doing okay. And we're all in the same boat and we're trying our best and we're doing as much as we can, because we all love horses and we wanna see horses continue to be in our lives. And we want to see future young equestrians and older equestrians be able to experience horses. We want to share our love with other people. And I want that to be something that is accessible to a wider population of people. So I am all in support of that. And I do wanna see that continue to happen and if you're not sure if it'll work in your area and you have questions, maybe it'd be worth reaching out to some local businesses in your area that are doing something similar to you. Get some pros and cons from them, figure out what their struggles have been and what they've been successful with. Maybe watch them run their lesson programs and then also potentially reach out to business consultants. Even if they don't understand horses. I think they could still help in a lot of ways. I would also reach out to people who consult on being able to communicate to with people. And that's a really good area to start exploring and learning. And then one of the big areas is I would reach out to other you know lesson barn, trainers that are training and running their program in the way that you want to run your program, even if it's not in the same area as you and start consulting with them or start having them consult with you. And obviously, probably gonna need to pay for their services and their time. But I think it's so worth it, it's so valuable to get that experience, to learn from their mistakes, learn about what's working and not working. And then you can go and apply it in the area that you're in and hopefully be successful in that area and continue to expand this new world of keeping horses and doing lesson programs in an ethical way that keeps the horse, you know, front and center and their needs met and doesn't sacrifice the horse for our experiences. And so, yeah, that's pretty much my thoughts on the matter. And again, it's not black and white. It's a lot of gray area and I don't have solid answers here. And if anything that I said sounded, you know, you're not so sure about whatever, I encourage you to reach out to me and let's talk, let's have a conversation and I'm happy to consult. I, you know, don't know everything there is to know about in this area. I'm still exploring. I'm still learning in this area and I always will be. But I probably have some stuff to share. And I know other, also other programs that are being successful that are successful currently, that I can put you in contact with as well that would be more than happy to consult and more than happy to assist you in getting your program started. Cuz we are all on the same page in supporting each other and getting each other out there. You know, go, we want you to do your passion. We want you to be successful in this. We want you to continue to support other equestrians in learning and, and we want you to support horses in that. So definitely don't hesitate to do that.
[00:42:13] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcast, if you'd like to learn more head to our website, the willing equine.com, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram TikTok, YouTube, Facebook.
[00:42:37] Pretty much everything. We also have our blog, our training services and the T w academy where you can enroll in the foundation course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening. And I look forward to chatting with you in the next