The Horse Business Series: using your horse skills to plan your business
Starting a business, any business, is a process that merges excitement and creativity with fear and anxiety. This is especially true in equine-related businesses, where your passion for working with horses and their owners is intertwined with your concern for the safety and well-being of both the animals and the people in your care. That responsibility, coupled with the seemingly monumental task of setting up a business, can stop a lot of people from taking even the first steps toward realizing their dream of self-employment in the equine industry. It doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, horses have already taught you a lot of what you need to know about business. You just need to learn how to apply those lessons in a new context.
Let’s say someone asks you to teach their young horse, who has never loaded onto a trailer, how to get onto it backwards. You probably wouldn’t just take the horse up to the trailer and expect it to back in! Thinking about setting the horse up for success, the best approach is to break this challenge up into bite-sized lessons and build your way up to your end goal. You’d probably start by getting the horse used to the sights and sounds of the trailer, letting him sniff it, asking him to put a foot on it. You’d teach him how to back up on command in an arena, then how to back into his stall. Eventually, you’d knit different lessons together as the horse gains more skill and confidence. The point is, though the task might seem pretty big, you can’t focus purely on the end goal. You need to break it down into the steps you need to take to get there.
The same is true for business. While you need to have a vision of what you want to achieve, your focus should be on listing out the steps that it will take to get there. It’s a lot less overwhelming to knock those steps out one at a time than it is to stare down the big picture. Write down everything, all the stages you can think of, such as developing a business plan and your marketing strategy, even if some of those steps might feel unfamiliar to you. It’s then easier to identify areas where you might need to spend a little more time to learn something new, and you can focus less time on the areas that you’re already comfortable with.
Thinking back to when you first learned to ride or work with horses, you probably didn’t just hop aboard and canter off into your new passion. You probably had a coach or mentor to guide you; in fact, you’ve likely had several along the way, maybe even multiple coaches at the same time to help you develop your skills or solve certain problems. As you’ve improved, you’ve employed trial and error, looking for what works and changing what doesn’t. Your learning process didn’t just happen in a vacuum – you’ve sought out advice from others and have tested different approaches. Again, the same is true with business. There will inevitably be things that you don’t know that you need to learn. A mentor can help guide you through the process by answering your questions, directing you to resources, and supporting your journey to success. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – being a ‘solopreneur’ does not mean you have to go it alone!
The main thing is, just get started. You didn’t learn to ride by sitting at home and thinking about it. You learned by doing. You learned by trying. You learned by failing. When you fell, you got back up. When you were bitten, you learned to be more careful. And the feeling of pride and achievement every time you’ve reached a goal or accomplished something you didn’t think you’d be able to do has been worth any bumps along the way. Don’t let the fear of failing get in the way of doing. There is a reason why we horse people are so tough – because horses have taught us the joy that comes with perseverance.
I hope that you gain something from my series on starting and growing equine-related businesses. I have learned so much on my own journey to becoming an equine entrepreneur, and I am sharing my knowledge in the hope that you can avoid some of the pitfalls and challenges in order to accelerate your success. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask; you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org