If you’ve been in the horse business long enough, you’re going to meet someone who has no qualms about thanking you for your kindness by taking your property or unpaid work-product into their possession. It’s sad that some people operate with an entitlement philosophy that deems it OK lie, steal and abuse liberties given, but, sadly, there are some in the world that are artful manipulators who exist without integrity. Don’t blame yourself for being stupid to have empowered such players – we’ve all fallen victim to naive trust.

Questionable characters are rarely the culprits. Even if they are, you’re prepared for unethical behavior with these red flags. What really burns is when you go out of your way to help someone, donating time, resources and wisdom, to be rewarded with thievery.  It happens and it hurts, but there are things you can do to help avoid bad decisions concerning  the staff and clients you choose to bring into your equine business. While one will slip through occasionally, we’ve found some early vetting can uncover most bad actors.

Tips for equine business money decisions

Bad decisions build horse sense

Some years ago, we gave a kid of little means an opportunity at Halcyon Acres. She had a young horse parked on the acre where her family’s trailer sat. Her attempt to start this pony under saddle created a monster that learned violence was her best defense to a training regimen that didn’t reward efforts.  So, with donated training and lesson time to reprogram the filly and the rider, the two parted better connected – and better equipped with a good deal of supplies stolen from our tack room. We installed locks after this incident.

More recently, we opened our home to a twenty-year-old. She was a clever manipulator and adept at portraying herself as a victim to the trusting. Her departing acts would have ended her career as a jockey if we chose to press charges, but we decided to let it go. We filed the police report paperwork needed to resolve some of the resulting problems, but refrained from supplying a name and OKing and investigation that would have resulted in an arrest on federal felony charges.

The fact is, there’s little reward in vengeance for such acts, but you sure feel violated when you decide to extend yourself to someone who sees kindness as an opportunity to case the joint for their profiteering plans. Take solace in the fact that such little minds live a miserable life. If you let them suck you into their world, you’ll spend countless hours shrouded by negative energy that will ruin your day (or week, or month, or year). One trip to small claims court (we won), was enough to realize the cost is too high for any of the rewards to cover the loss.

Think before you leap into horse business hell

A much better strategy is to be smart in how you screen and/or prepare the people you decide to embrace as you work to build your equine business and reputation. Couple this with the realization that no matter how hungry you are, a client who doesn’t pay or makes your life miserable will cost you dearly and isn’t worth the price, and you’re on your way to working smarter instead of harder.  The next time your gut says no or whoa – listen, slow down and consider the consequences.  Set your mind to turn away clients that don’t fit and wait for employees that do and you’ll be amazed at how more profitable and in-demand you become.

Do you have a story about an employee or client that you want to share? Questions on warning signs you may sense but need confirmation on relative to hires or clients? Great experiences you want to tell to serve as models for others? Ideas others can benefit from? Please leave a comment below to get the conversation going.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Nanette, I sure recognise a lot of what you’re writing. I’ve workes in horseracing since my teens, in Holland. Trainers often are so desperate to get horses in training that they allow owners to get away with allmost anything. They will knowingly take on horses from owners who didn’t pay their fees to an other trainer. It’s important to state your expectations from the outset, and ask clients to do the same. Then make sure you’re both totally clear about it and in agreement, or, if not, in the friendliest way possible suggest they take their business elsewhere. You may loose some this way, but they are the onse that will only give you grieve. Many clients will respect you more and want to do business with you because they in turn feel you take them seriously and respect them.
    We all get the clients we deserve…

    1. Els, thanks for commenting. You provide great ideas for people to consider. I’ve had some experience with the horse racing business in the United States and realize there are some notorious non-payers. Fortunately, most are honest (at least around here) – and it’s a small world so if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you get warnings. And you’re right, most can probably relate to the idea of being hungry enough starting out to do dumb things. A long time ago, I discovered that the cost of a bad client extends far beyond the financial drain. It’s just not worth it. And you’re right, if you provide great results and seek out respect that goes both ways, that tends to draw good clients to you. If a lot of your equine business traffic isn’t coming from referrals, you’re probably doing something wrong.

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