I’m going to let you in on a little-known secret about the horse business: Being in the horse business is really just being in the people business.
I know — how can that be? But think about it. Horses don’t write our checks. People do. The reason that folks are drawn to your program, be it training, raising, showing, selling supplements, gear or what-have-you, is because THEY enjoy horses.
It’s our job as their agents to take that privilege seriously. Although most of us are in the line of work with animals because we, well, prefer animals to our human counterparts, the fact of the matter is that relationships with others is a huge part of what we do.
I think, more than ever, this has really spilled into the sales side of things. Our market has become so seller-friendly, and the internet has made the entire process such a low-interaction situation that we forget how important it is that there are human beings on either side of the transaction. Sellers, we need to remember that buyers have needs, limitations, talents, concerns and feelings. Buyers, we need to remember that the relationship with the seller means a lot. Sometimes, auctions and decisions are high-pressure, which is ok. But don’t buy a horse just for the mane. Or the name. Or because some random person told you it’s a unicorn.
Reputation is everything. Education is important too. If you don’t know, ask. If you don’t know what to ask, make sure you find someone trustworthy to help you that does. I hear so often how it’s easy to be taken advantage of when buying horses. That’s because the modern-day buyer has allowed this to happen. Find high-quality sales and sellers, know what animals are worth (and what an individual is worth to YOU) and educate yourself accordingly. Together, we dictate this market.
Because hey, we’re in all of this together. Those we compete with in the show pen and in our businesses are our allies. Every interaction we have with another person who enjoys the equine side of things is an opportunity to make a positive connection. Just as with anything, honesty, integrity, full disclosure and a bright attitude can be better than any sort of trick marketing gone viral. The horse world is a small world, and though it is willing to forgive mistakes, it’s hard on forgetting the coyotes.
I know a lot of cowboys and horse trainers who say that they ride for a living because they can’t deal with the people. To me, that’s really too bad. They are missing out on some interesting and wonderful folks from all corners of the world and walks of life. Some people have had their lives saved by having a horse in it. Some of them have ruined their marriages for the same reason. Anyone who wants to have horses be a part of his or her world just can’t help themselves. It runs through our veins. We share a common thread. We all have our different reasons, different goals, different opinions and different paychecks, but in the end, we are all tied together somewhat on this roller coaster that is our horse business.
That is (at times, yes, even begrudgingly) a people business, after all.