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From The Publisher – Are You Having Fun Yet?

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14 – November/December,2015

Are You Having Fun Yet?



There are a few facts about the horse industry that are undisputed. Every horse has an owner. Every horse owner has varied expectations of what they will get from the endeavor. However, you can be assured that everyone who has ever owned and shown a horse has done it because they wanted some enjoyment from the sport. They wanted to experience the competition, as well as the camaraderie of like-minded individuals.

Some owners and exhibitors choose to do it themselves. Others get the assistance of a professional trainer. There is no right or wrong approach to the sport, and people have been successful using both methods. Again, they still share the same reasons for entering the sport of showing horses. They spend their hard-earned money and valuable time doing something they love and, hopefully, have fun doing. The reason I mention this is that the minute they stop having fun is the minute they stop having horses.

So how does an industry starving for new entrants (i.e. buyers of horses) make sure that those already here are satisfied while also attracting new people? How does it compete for dollars with other recreational pursuits? How do you make sure the guys and gals who are having fun with horses keep having fun and don’t go buy a boat?

There are no easy answers to the dilemmas mentioned above but there are some places to start. First of all, we need to make sure that every exhibitor, owner, and professional feels welcome. It doesn’t matter if they have been involved in the industry for as long as memory serves, or if they just came on the scene yesterday. We need to encourage them and, most importantly, we need to mentor them.

Second, we cannot take advantage of inexperienced newcomers. Warren Buffett said, “Your career is long and the business world is small. Always act with integrity. Never take the last dollar off the table. You can always do a slightly better deal, but that incremental dollar or windfall is not worth creating an imbalance that affects the relationship. You have to have the intuition to know when to say, ‘I’m going to make sure that we walk away feeling like we’ve both done well.’” Truer words have never been spoken. As an industry, we have idly sat by and watched some within it take advantage of new entrants, both financially and emotionally. Very rarely has anyone ever received any justice for this bad behavior. We need to begin policing our own industry. We need to acknowledge the fact that collecting as much in commissions as the owner of the horse is collecting on a sale is wrong. We have to leave something on the table for the new owner so that he or she, in turn, can make something. I know this sounds like a broken record, but I will keep repeating it until the industry acknowledges and fixes the problem.

Third, we need to keep in mind that not everyone shows horses to win a gold trophy or a silver buckle. Not everyone shows to win $100,000 or a new trailer. We must keep in mind that state championships, ROMs and Superiors are valuable to many people and they aren’t something to make fun of at the horse shows. We need to realize that some within the sport (me included) would like to have a ribbon won at a local show handed to us in the ring and not have to retrieve it from a box in the makeup ring or show office. We must address the fact that not everyone is concerned about qualifying for the World show. Some people, many in fact, go to horse shows to have fun, blow off some steam, and see their friends. This is hard to do when a show has 100+ classes and runs 18 hours a day with three judges in the pen. Maybe we need to reevaluate the need for all of these individual classes and multiple judges.

Finally, the professionals in our industry need to remember that their clients chose them not only for their ability with a horse, but also because they like them as people. Their customers want to be around them, they want to learn from them, they want to feel valued as customers. Those clients understand that the show and barn is your office as well as the responsibilities you are charged with while there. However, they also want to have fun. They want to have dinner with you once in awhile so they can get to know you better. They want to be at your stalls and get to know the other clients in your barn. They want to be able to play with their horses.

Most successful businesses are built on successful relationships between the people that run or own the business and the clients. You can have the best business in the world and fall flat on your face if you treat your clients poorly. In a great business climate when things are booming, you might be able to overcome poor customer service, however you will pay for it when things get bad.

So it’s up to us to make sure that our shows are a fun place to be. Are we up to it? I don’t know, but time will tell.

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