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Young Horse Training Tip #3: Ride every other day

Trial and error is always a big teacher when it comes to young horse training. Sometimes, what you discover will surprise you.

For many years at Halcyon Acres®, young horses were lucky to get a day off each week once training started. Probably a big part of this thinking came from the racetrack, where young horses ship in, get pumped up with grain & supplements and are denied turnout time to release the energy their youth and diets are struggling to contain. Many owners are afraid to pasture Thoroughbreds even on the farm, concerned about injuries.

Imagine how much fun it is trying ride out the exuberance that explodes after a day or two off with this combination of high energy feed and confinement. It’s more fun to watch than do – at least once you get out of your 20s, learn you break where you used to bend and lose that thrill for the challenge no one else can master.

On the trial and error front, fortunately, when you’re working with your own horse, you can experiment with him in ways that might be difficult to justify with a paid assignment.

Buster provided one of these learning moments, more due to neglect than intent.

Better young horse training approach discovered by accident

Young Horse Training Tip #3
Good young horse training requires you remember he’s still a baby.

About the time we were ready to start Buster under saddle, a large number of client horses shipped in. So, when time ran out in the day, Buster was the one who lost his turn.

Curiously, he progressed much faster when not ridden daily. With Buster, three days off to one day on proved to be the best approach for his pleasing personality and somewhat simple mind.

Given the chance to process lessons longer, Buster was able retain everything from prior days (instead of getting frustrated with poor progress). When we switched to two training days a week, he eagerly tackled each next training session ready to understand and enjoy a new challenge.

That experience held the key to new thinking contrary to precepts held by a majority of young horse trainers.

We started trying a day off for every day of training with dozens of young client horses. As we tested daily and less frequent under saddle training, we found most learned faster and enjoyed training time more with an every-other-day approach. Of course, these horses had ample time to frolic in the pastures between riding sessions.

While each horse is different (yes, this is an important consideration with everything you do to bring a youngster along), it’s worth experimenting to see if daily or a less frequent training schedule works best for your horse.

Remember, he’s still a baby

Young horses don’t have the attention span, nor the mental and physical capacity to train like an older equine. They can only process a little bit at a time. If you are able to teach your horse one new lesson with each training session, great! Quit and congratulate both of you for the achievement. You won’t get lasting success, nor a happy horse, if you try to cover too many things in too long a time period. Your horse will start to push back or shut down and resent training time.

In most cases horses are started long before their bones are done growing. Giving them a day or more in between riding trips gives their young bodies time to recover. Going slow keeps them comfortable enough to get excited about the next ride.

Are you wondering how you can you achieve that bonding experience promised from chasing a foal around the perimeter of a round pen and not risk soundness (of mind and body)?

You can’t.

Young horse’s soft tissue in particular, but bones too, are at risk anyway. This circular, prolonged pounding speed is not natural. There’s a better way to encourage your horse to do what you want – by helping him discover it’s what he wants.

Protect your horse’s mind and body with restraint

Spending daily hours in the saddle will undermine proper physical development of the young horse as well. Bones are still soft, the horse is still struggling to balance himself while carrying your weight and soft tissue is fragile. Keep lessons short and give his young body and mind time to recover and process his experiences between rides.

There’s no reason you should need to spend more than 20-30 minutes at a time riding in the first couple or few months of training, even if you’ve adopted an every-other-day or less frequent approach that suits your horse’s learning style.

Unless, of course, you’re dealing with a true alpha (most are mislabeled and misunderstood) where it’s critical to finish what you start. It’s best to choose your battles carefully with these types.

On those days where you wind up in an unexpected battle of wills, do plan to schedule time the following day for a (hopefully) short ride. If you can get past the prior day’s challenge without incident, quit quickly and give her a couple of days off to reward her “understanding.”

If you’re starting a horse under saddle that’s less than 5 years old, realize his mind is going to take longer to absorb what you’re trying to teach him than a more mature horse. Also know, his body is still growing (some breeds mature more quickly, others, like the Irish Draught, take longer). That means you can do a lot of damage to his long-term soundness if you push too hard. An every-other-day approach with short rides can help his body heal and mind catch up.

Be happy and he will too

Test your horse to see if he learns best with daily training time, every other day, or more days off before you tack up again.

You can still do training on the ground in between. This doesn’t have to be formal training time. You should be thinking about helping your horse understand how you’d like him to behave with everything you do. He’ll retain learning from leading to grooming to how you respond to his behavior at feeding time with your next lesson under saddle.

Give your young horse short lessons, time to process between training sessions, praise the moment he does what you want and a chance to be included in the training conversation and you’ll find him nickering when he sees you, running to the gate and excited to tackle new challenges come riding time.

Will your horse drink the water you give him?

Horse owners tend to be most concerned about water during the summer months. Some forget the importance of keeping it clean.

Colic can become a big problem in the winter if a horse does not have constant access to water. Just because there’s no concern for algae, doesn’t mean your trough, bucket or automatic systems stay inviting. Ice forms, critters can fall in and die and, of course, there’s always that pasture pet that delights in the sound of manure splashing into a water source.

We consider ways to ensure a horse will drink new water while on the road, but don’t always pay attention to ensure safe water intake at home. There are so many problems that can arise from contaminated water being ingested or, sometimes worse, not.

good horse care requires fresh water alwaysOne of the benefits of being involved in an equine community on Google+ is the scores of people sharing useful resources. +Anita Lequoia pointed to this video from the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky.

It’s a bit long at 7 minutes, but Dr. Roberta Dwyer does a good job of reminding even seasoned horse handlers about things to think about when making water containers safe.


Do you check your horse’s water throughout the day? Do you pay attention to where you dump disinfected tubs (guilty here of not always thinking that one through)? Do you have tips that have worked well for you in keeping horse water clean? Please share in the comments below.

Good horse businesses are clear about what they do and how they help

OK, it’s not New England, but close enough. This is what Christmas is supposed to look like.

While driving through Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York a few weeks ago, there was a lot that struck me during the trip. Of course, the storm devastation that was still apparent after months of cleanup efforts was incredible. The comfort of finding radio stations I used to listen to decades ago with the same format (and in some cases the same personalities) brought back some great memories. There was no snow, which makes a New England Christmas weird in so many ways, but the roads were clean, traffic was light and the trip was uneventful, which is always good. An odd thing caught my eye on the long ramp between the Mass Pike and the New York State Thruway as it deposits you just East of Albany. It brought my mind back to the business of horses (and marketing in general).

Dumb marketing moves

While passing a white van in the right lane, I tried to make out a small lettered graphic on the back door (when we were kids, we used to call out every new state we saw on license plates – my eyesight isn’t quite good enough to occupy my mind with that activity these days while keeping good focus on the road – you do what you can to keep the trip interesting). Anyway, this was obviously a commercial truck but it struck me as strange they chose a logo that was almost undecipherable. Once I finally made out the letters hidden in the font, I realized marketing geniuses didn’t come up with this one. The name of the company was Straight Line Painting and the almost illegible font they had chosen had paint dripping from crooked letters. Hmmmm – maybe someone thought this was humorous, but it certainly doesn’t do much to foster confidence in the quality of their work – or illustrate they do what they claim.

What do you think about the font choice for this series title?

Sometimes, people do dumb things when they’re trying to be clever in communications. I’m guilty. People still ask if Fulcrum is my father’s name (from Fulcrum Communications, the marketing and copy writing firm I founded in 1989 – even with the positioning statement ‘leveraging creative and cost-effective marketing solutions’ people don’t get it). Most ask what Halcyon (Halcyon Acres®) means, but that name gives me enough pleasure in its accuracy and imagery I don’t mind explaining the term. We’ve received comments about ‘printer mistakes’ with the font choice for the ‘Inventing Your Horse Career’ CD series (no need for alarm – it’s really supposed to be that way). It’s hard to know if the latter will have the memorable impact we were striving for as it’s still a bit early. No doubt there will come a time when it’s necessary to fix this choice as it’s sure to be dated over time.

Successful equine business providers are honest and consistent

When I talk to successful horse business operators, they are very clear about what they do and are consistent in presenting a message that reflects this. In addition, they’re passionate about their mission because their business is founded on a service or product designed to help people (and/or horses). Because of this, they know their audience and continue to enhance what they deliver to meet the changing needs of their customers. Whether you’re a horse business owner or an equine lover shopping for products or services, this applies to you – finding good people to do business with makes us all happier.

On the buyer side, I hear stories of people getting burned. In fact, I see it more and more as I’m getting an increasing number of requests for horse assessment engagements. It’s sad, particularly when it involves a novice who fell in love with a horse that will never be suitable for what they want to do with him. While I like to assume the best in people, it’s clear in many of these situations the seller knew this was not a good fit. What they don’t get is the days of finding a patsy and getting giddy over the short-term gains thinking they’ll prosper with the same strategy long-term are over. We can now communicate globally to share the good and the bad – in an instant. This is great news for owners of businesses that serve the horse community with relevant solutions. These people operate with integrity and understand how to be consistent with their message and client satisfaction to build a bevy of referral agents. It’s a good thing for purchasers too.

If you’re building an equine business – or are someone looking to buy a product or service, it’s relatively easy to ferret out the shysters from the saviors these days. The good guys care about you, the horses and leaving you feeling happier for having met them. Their focus isn’t on money, but first on determining what you need and if they can offer a good fit.

Ferreting out the bad guys

I made the mistake of not listening to my gut on a recent vendor hire. A substantial deposit was required before she’d talk about possible solutions. It turned out she misrepresented herself, refused to communicate with team members, blamed others for not delivering as promised and felt fine pocketing the deposit she did not spend the time to earn. The replacement hire has been a delight to work with. While it’s been an investment, he’s been wonderful about providing value beyond the specifics of our agreement, great about collaborating with the team and focused on making us better and smarter with his input. Her focus was on how quickly funds were deposited. That says a lot about character. Interestingly, she was a referral (from someone who had never done business with her – and now never will). He was someone I had been watching on Linked In. So, you never know where you’ll find that gem, but if you pay attention, you can learn a lot about their integrity and style pretty quickly.

That said get to know the people you’re considering doing business with (whether you’re a buyer, vendor or service provider). People who put themselves out there as something they’re not are getting easier to identify. A simple Google search can reveal a lot. Are they even there? Are they consistent about how they’re presenting themselves (or do you see a jack of all trades chasing rainbows as you look at how and where they show up)?

If you’re looking for a local provider – who’s talking about them and what are they saying? Do they seem to care about you or are they too busy, too important or too focused on selling to give you the time to explain what you’re looking for? Are they willing to give you customers’ names and contact information before you buy? Do they offer some consulting time prior to purchase to ensure what they have to offer is a good fit for your needs? Can they illustrate success stories on what they offer?

What you say stays

Getting back to this truck, I don’t know about you but I’d be concerned about buying from Straight Line Painting given the logo they chose to represent the company the same way I’d hesitate to do business with a company that chose the moniker Going Broke Stables. Might be cute for a moment, but is that really the message you want to put out for prospects? If you’re a buyer, would you find such humor compels you toward a purchase? I doubt it. Yes, integrity is critical and most good equine providers (whether they deal with horses directly or not) thrive on referral business. Still, what you say about yourself matters. It also tends to color what others put out there for you. Being consistent about how you present yourself is important. So is following through on the promises you make in your marketing messages and general communications. If you do – or if you don’t – it counts.

Are you looking for inexpensive booklets on horse training issues? We’re in the process of making them available through this website and Kindle. We should have two available next week including one focused on alpha horses and another offering help on transitioning former Thoroughbred racers to new careers. Is there a particular topic you’d like to see covered? Please share what would be useful to you in the comments below. If you offer an idea that we use, we’ll give you credit in the booklet!


Exciting news from Horse Sense and Cents™

This might be the best resource you’ll find if your dreams include a career with horses in the mix

Wow – what a crazy six months it’s been. I’ve been working with over a dozen equine professionals to bring something together that I think most of you will find incredibly valuable and timely. Check out the Inventing Your Horse Career announcement below. Plus, we tore down the site, recoded, reloaded, incorporated a theme that should provide a much better experience for you and are working daily amending the pages to ensure you can quickly find what you want. Please let us know what you like, what you don’t and what you’d like to see more of as we continue to modify the site to make it more fun for you to explore.

Inventing Your Horse Career

One of the features we’ve added to the site is a search bar at the top. If you enter Inventing Your Horse Career, you’ll find a summary page of all that’s up to date, but we’re adding new material every day. Many of the Contributors to this CD series have also provided tons of free stuff that should get you charged about what you can do – with guidance on how to get there.

But that’s not what has us all giddy this week. After six months in this labor of love, we have a product that everyone involved is extremely excited about – and proud to be a part of. If you’ve ever dreamed of a job with horses in the mix or want to see more detail on who’s involved, go to Inventing Your Horse Career. Briefly, what we’ve done is assembled an array of some of the most interesting and accomplished equine professionals in North America with 9 CD series that highlights stories, tips, resources, lessons learned, success secrets and contact information. It’s amazing how candid and generous all are in these interviews – and how focused they are on giving back. In addition, we highlight a number of success stories in horse career opportunities you may never have considered – with people who have found creative ways to craft a rewarding and extremely lucrative horse job with imagination and grit.

If you have a special someone in your life that has always dreamed of a horse career (we also feature professionals who decided to chase their passion later in life to find fulfillment and financial security), this is a great holiday gift. Consider too, how you could change a life for a loved one (including yourself) determined to make 2012 the year of life transformation and resulting happiness.

Free horse tips newsletter

We’re also launching a new feature for visitors to the Horse Sense and Cents™ website – namely a weekly newsletter. Simply enter your name and e-mail address on the top of the right column of this post and you’ll not only get features that include a quote and tip of the week, useful resources to check out, some regular introductions to people in the equine world you should get to know and special finds, but also bonus surprises on training tips and horse care issues. Please add your name and e-mail address above to start learning and chuckling from these brief and relevant treats.

Turning Challenging Horses Into Willing Partners

Find easy ways to reach the difficult horse
Now available in Kindle too!

Through the end of December, we’ll be offering signed-by-author (you can ask for a personalized message) copies of the Turning book with free shipping and handling to the US and Canada (thanks to the large number of those to the North who have ordered this book – we’ll take a hit here but you all have been incredible with your interest and support and deserve a nod and reward). There’s a click through on the home page, or you can go here.

Equine E-coaching

We’re now offering e-coaching for horse training, horse breeding and foaling and horse care issues. For those who sign up prior to December 31st, you can tap into a one-time special offer of $399 for the year or 3-months for $199. After that it will be $699 for the year or $249 for three months. We’ll have this set up on the products page (which may change to ‘store’) in the next few days, but feel free to call (585) 554-4612 or (888) 875-3551 (in the US and Canada) if you’re too excited about this to wait.

Horsing around

Please do take a few moments to visit the changes we’ve made to the site, explore the free offerings, sign up for the newsletter and surprises and tell us what we can do to help you. This site is all about giving back and reaching out. So, we appreciate any feedback you can provide to make this a better experience and opportunity for you. Feel free to share in the comments below.  Hope you all have a very happy holiday.

How’s fighting with your horse working for you?

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” -William Butler Yeats, writer, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)

Few seem to have mastered the activity of standing your ground without being combative when it comes to horses. Of course, being insistent isn’t even always appropriate, depending on the nature of the horse you’re working with, but fighting with him will rarely get you the results you seek (unless your goal is an angry, untrusting or frightened horse).

So often what we do affects how our horse reacts. Have you argued with yourself lately to explore what you’re doing to create your ‘problem horse’?

This Yeats quote applies to horse/human relationships in so many ways – perhaps moreso than it’s intended direct at people to people. Rhetoric isn’t just about language, as critical as that is when it comes to reaching horses on their terms – it’s about arrogance (look a little deeper into the definition and you’ll find bombast – a synonym for bluster). Ah – and what a glorious moment it is when we look inside ourselves to discover the communications breakdown with our equine friend and alter our approach to make poetry in motion with the resulting partnership.

My horse needs to respect me

Respect is a two-way street (uhg – did I just use and idiom?). Sure, you can create a subservient horse that succumbs to your direction by demanding respect, but you won’t get one that appreciates and trusts you (no matter how many cookies you give him to show your love). Nor will you build a relationship that results in a partnership that includes a thinking horse that will do more than you imagine to accommodate and protect you.

If you’re really looking for an equine experience that comes from mutual respect, listening to what your horse is trying to tell you is key. That doesn’t mean you always answer with ‘yes,’ but you do need to acknowledge his input. If you merely stick to your training plan for the day without considering his concerns or issues, sooner or later a fight will happen. Sadly, even if you think you won, you didn’t. Your horse will remember and his attitude will suffer.

How do I read my horse?

As you look inside yourself for the answers, one of the most critical discoveries will be new insight into reading your horse. If you don’t know why he’s objecting to what you’re asking, you can’t offer an effective solution.

Equine Pain?

Is he in pain? No amount of discipline will assuage physical discomfort, so before you decide your horse is acting up, make sure he’s not acting out because he hurts. Get him well (or change your tack to fit him, riding style to accommodate him or career demands to adress his aging body).

Is your horse testing you?

Does she view you as an unworthy guide? If your horse is a confident, strong-willed and dominate mare, she won’t respond well if you sublimate every time she challenges you. The best course of action with this type of horse is to stand your ground – but pick your battles very carefully. It’s not about getting nasty – that’s the worst thing you can do with this personality. Merely continue asking no matter how intimidating they get until they agree. There’s a big difference between asking and demanding. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the latter with these girls. Either they’ll wear you out past resolve or you’ll rob them of the spirit that makes them so special.

Do you have an equine lacking confidence?

If you’re dealing with a horse that’s afraid or doesn’t trust you, insisting they buck up isn’t going to get you very far in your confident partnership quest. Here’s where the calm insistence doesn’t work. Instead, you need to be unflappable and patient encouraging them to face their fear with your quiet, clear and unreactive response to easy to accomplish requests customized to your equine’s penchants and offered in a way that encourages him to do what he’s comfortable with at his own speed.

Bad start?

It’s sad, but so many horses get their brain’s scrambled by people who usually have good intensions, but lack the knowledge to understand what they’re doing to the horse’s mind. These critters can take a lot of time to reach, but most can come around. In these cases, usually you need to figure out where things went wrong and go back to a time during the schooling trauma prior to that point and rebuild. Groundwork is the best way to start with such equines. What you build in terms of trust, understanding and rapport can transform the horse’s attitude in a way that translates to subsequent under saddle work. The benefit of starting on the ground is it makes it easier for both of you to see how each is trying to communicate.

Get personal with your horse

There are so many other reasons equines may act out when you ask for their cooperation, but each will respond best if you offer a customized approach that includes your horse in the conversation. Interestingly, the more you get in touch with your issues, the easier it is to see what your horse is trying to tell you. Quarrel with yourself and you might find the debate results in a better relationship with your horse. Think about it.


Do you have a story to share where self-discovery has resolved issues you’re having with your horse? Please share in the comments below.







Horses do the strangest things

It’s always amazing to witness horse herd behavior – even when it involves domesticated equines. We’ve been dealing with a sad situation at Halcyon Acres® in recent weeks, but it’s been fascinating to watch how the horses are respond to these odd circumstances.

A filly was born here in May out of one of our best Irish Draught Sport Horse (IDSH) producers, a mare that has always been a devoted, protective and superb mom. It’s been a difficult four weeks for mom, baby and me.

Herd mechanics experiment

We’ve been exploring using herd mechanics at Halcyon Acres® a bit in new and different ways (for us, anyway). After our spitfire colt of last year kept figuring out remarkable feats to get to the main herd and away from his mom at a very young age (jumping a 4-foot, 4-strand high-tinsel coated electric fence; managing to crawl through two-strands of interior electric without touching the wires; rolling under the fence; running through it; etc.), we decided (read gave up) it would be best to save the maiden mare the angst of being separated from her darling and turned the pair out with the farm-owned crew. He was a huge, independent and smart colt who managed to buddy up with everyone almost immediately, unscathed.

So this year, we made the decision to put our broodmares and babies out with an appropriately selected group of horses who weren’t towing a foal (or waiting for one) after a brief period of giving mare and foal time to bond. The older I get, the more I come to welcome the help other horses provide in schooling young horses – and realize how significant an imprint the right horses can make on a foal’s behavioral development. At about five days of age, Crooked (I need a better nickname for this foal – suggestions?) and her mom joined three other gals in the big digs.

Foal challenges – filly takes a turn for the worse

Right about the time we moved the pair into this segregated herd, health issues started escalating with the foal. Early on, we were focused on a localized infection near the umbilical cord (she came out of the mare with a huge stump and large hematoma right in front of the site – likely due to the cord breaking in the birthing canal) and noticed the crooked legs, but hoped they’d straighten over time. Then, she almost doubled in size in less than a week. The front tendons contracted first, next the back, which were worse. Now, most of her time is spent lying down to minimize the pain – she’s also recently been relegated to stall rest all but 2 hours of the day. Tried small paddock turnout, but the mare was so much more interested in the gals, she ran the foal ragged and knocked her down if she traversed into her tantrum path.

Mare’s aloof, client filly steps in

As I write this post, a three-year-old client filly is standing at the gate screaming to the foal in the barn. This big gal spent the winter in low status with her gang of ‘babies.’ They left, so we culled out a few kind horses to keep her company. When the birth mare started to ignore, leave and reject the foal (she’s still letting her nurse, but otherwise seems to wish she were gone) this young mare kept watch over the baby as she lay in the grass for hours, resting her sore and constricted legs. Mom left the filly, heading up the hill for richer grasses – or into the barn unconcerned about her whereabouts at feed time. Funny, this nurturing role seemed to boost this filly’s confidence (and rank and popularity in the herd) in ways no grouping of horse company could.

Horses will surprise you

Horses do things you never expect. This mother went ballistic for the better part of a week a few years ago as I tried to remove the second twin – born alive, unlike her sister – when she died after a struggle to save her. By the time I was able to separate the dam and the carcass, she had scraped all the hair and skin off the baby in an effort to get her up. Witnessing her now ignoring a young foal because it isn’t perfect is a shock. Similarly, this three-year-old TB filly is a classic follower. Watching her take the lead in giving this foal the comfort and protection the mom failed to provide was a joy to observe. This experience will likely serve both horses well. The baby knows where the milk is, but clings to the filly for other needs. The stand-in has blossomed into a confident and expressive equine in many aspects of her existence, which should carry over into future career requests.

It will be a very sad day when the two must part, but the weeks where they touched each other will likely last them a lifetime in terms of how they handle future challenges.

Do you have horse stories to tell?

Have you witnessed surprising behavior from horses in the herd? Please share in your comments below.

How to start a horse business

Lisa and Desi – a business advisor who understands “horse crazy”

by Lisa Derby Oden

Nanette’s note: Lisa’s a gal I’ve come to respect a great deal as a person, a resource and a savvy business mind. She’s evented extensively (so gets the horse passion), has run her own riding stable and is now focused on a successful and busy business designed to help other equine enthusiasts thrive. She’s a woman of character – and one who speaks softly but says volumes. Having someone with such integrity in your corner as you strive to establish or expand your horse-related business can mean the difference between learning the hard way and finding your stride early. I appreciate her taking the time to offer some tips below.

Horse Sense – look before you leap

The American Dream….that means different things to different people. Home ownership is often at the top of the list, and for many being their own boss and owning their own business is right there at the top too. Those of us that own horses often dream of running our own horse business. Just imagine…surrounded by horses, lifelong learning in a realm we’re passionate about, becoming a pillar in our community. These are definitely among the benefits of running your own horse business. It’s important to remember that any career choice that you make will have its pro’s and con’s, and it’s really smart to be just as comfortable about the con’s that you’ve chosen as the pro’s. Yet many people venture into running their own business without doing so, and this is where the American dream can become an American nightmare.

Thinking about starting a horse business can result in a confusing tangle of questions and uncertainty about where to start. People often jump to opening their doors in their excitement of “just do it” rather than sorting it all out and tackling the research and strategic thinking.  They soon discover that what they skipped over in early planning reappears as a stumbling block. It often has grown to become a bigger issue requiring more attention, and potentially more money, than if it had been given due consideration earlier.

There are generally two paths  that start-up businesses take. As mentioned, one is the person that jumps right in and opens their door with little, if any, planning. The other is the person that plans and plans and plans and never takes action. A hybrid approach works best – lack of planning is a key reason that businesses fail, so planning is your friend. On the other hand, getting your business off paper and into action by conducting a market test allows you to see if you really can sell what you have to offer. My observation of the horse industry is that there are more “doers” than “planners.” After all, we’re a hands-on bunch! Think of planning like riding without stirrups – at first you feel unsure but the more you do it, the better you get, and the stronger and more secure you become.

Horse business startup ideas to help you win

So let’s untangle those questions and consider a step-by-step process that will get your horse business started on good footing. There are 5 fundamental steps to take when starting a horse business:

1)      Make sure running your own business is right for you, financially and characteristically. Understanding your financial expectations and needs begins to set the stage for determining feasibility. Knowing yourself, your energy level, skills and skill gaps, creativity, resourcefulness and ability to self-motivate advances you another step.

2)     Find out what the requirements are for running a business in your town and your state. Investigate what responsibilities you have federally as well.

3)     Evaluate the market and identify your target market. The better you know your target market, the better you’ll be at reaching them and giving them what they want. Can you do a market test that helps you further refine your offering and market knowledge?

4)     Calculate financial feasibility. Figure out what it will cost you to run your business, what the cash flow looks like over the course of a year and when you’ll reach break-even. Lots of people don’t realize it can take a few years and sometimes many years to reach break-even.

5)     Set short- and long-term goals. People often start with goal setting. I firmly believe it should be done AFTER the steps above have been taken because the steps offer up information critical to setting goals that are grounded in reality.

Guess you’ll have to go to her site to see what her whole logo looks like. I give up trying to figure out why WordPress is being wonky about the cropping.


The 5 fundamental steps help you to minimize mistakes that can cost you valuable time and money. No one can know it all, but we can all increase what we do know and decrease what we don’t know. This improves the ability to succeed in business because you’ll be making INFORMED decisions. Yes, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, but they succeed because they are CALCULATED risk-takers.

If you’d like to work step-by-step in a systematic process to get your horse business venture off the ground, take a look at this upcoming teleseminar series: 5 Fundamental Steps To Starting A Horse Business. It includes Q&A, worksheets that will be reviewed and provided feedback when completed during the series, calculators to plug your individual numbers into for customized results, downloadable recordings and a student workshop center with additional resources. Join me, drop those stirrups, and get ready for a great ride!

Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and leadership consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Ms. Oden is author of “Growing Your Horse Business” and “Bang for Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing for Your Horse Business.” She can be reached at: (603) 878-1694 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (603) 878-1694 end_of_the_skype_highlighting; email at; or visit her website at .

Horses can be wonderful teachers: particularly those that shatter your convictions

This winter a young gelding came into Halcyon Acres® for starting under saddle training that presented a host of challenges. He was dangerous to himself and the people around him because of the way he processed (or didn’t) information.

His reactions to imperceptible stimuli were explosive, yet he’d handle things with ease that would freak out a typical young horse.

It was obvious he was a kind horse, but that didn’t reduce the angst whe

Horse sense rules: when scripts for success aren’t working, stop the stupidity

Friday’s Opinion

Seeing dumb marketing moves is like finger nails on a chalk board for me. I have the same reaction when horses are blamed for being bad because some human has scrambled their brain. Just because an ignoramus decided to try to shove a talented but difficult equine into an inflexible system designed as an easy quick-fix for the human doesn’t make it right. Sadly, when the horse finally starts acting out in a dramatic fashion, culpability rarely goes where it belongs.

Seeking higher education?

There’s a TV ad campaign going on now for a technical college that must have used a script writer who graduated from the School of Bad Grammar and Unintelligible Phrases. The sad thing is, they lose all credibility (maybe I’m the only one paying attention – it’s that grating thing) because they take some of the most dreadful language offenses and attribute exact phraseology to multiple people in their ‘candid interviews.’ I get making a mistake once and learning from it, but where’s the team that vets this stuff?

The same holds true with bad horse training practitioners and the clients who should be holding them accountable. Of course, almost every business-savvy multiple-horse-owner who has engaged vendors for training find themselves stuck with a bill that delivers a horse that is not only ill-prepared for the stated job request, but also set back by human mistakes made in the ‘schooling’ process, ONCE. What really puzzles me is why there are so many who go back for more. They complain to everyone who will listen about how disappointed they are with the results of their investment, yet continue to fill the charlatan’s coffers with new requests for services.

Whether it’s a team responsible for a series of college commercials, or those parading as equine teachers, an error is just that – repeating it with new voices – or different horses – doesn’t make it right, but does make one wonder who the brains are in the outfit. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s baffling how some can proudly display these errors repeatedly. Makes you wonder how careless they are with critical issues you can’t catch.

Catch me once . . .

Some time ago, I was managing a stable and lesson program for a fairly rinky-dink facility. The lovely location attracted some affluent boarders. One included a family that had bought their daughter a pony hunter for a veritable fortune at the time. Shortly after the purchase, this steed was diagnosed with moon blindness. When they revealed this to the seller (a high-brow show stable owner who turned a lot of horses to bolster facility profits), they were referred to the contract and told it was their problem. What shocked me is, they went back to the same seller and paid twice the price for a replacement. Catch me once . . .  yep, I get that, but twice? Dumb.

Broke horses should keep you broke

Today, I see horses coming into the track after ‘being broke’ who can’t even make it around the shed row on the end of lead without their eyes bugging out of their heads. Then it’s ‘look out’ time as they bolt, duck or freeze with every new sight. Forget about being able to pick up their feet, tie, saddle and bridle easily or handle a bath. And these horses are expected to proceed with confidence and ease on a racetrack with 50 other horses zipping around in different directions? Some even boast they ‘broke’ the horse in seven or ten days, yet it takes another six months before the horse can travel in a straight line. How is this saving money? Or helping the horse be the best he can be? I’m not seeing the ROI here.

Instilling trust, understanding and an enjoyment toward training goes a lot further in helping a horse understand and relish job requests in a faster fashion, even if the initial time is a bit longer. These same trainers who invest huge sums struggling to get such frightened horses race-ready, only to lose a race (or a horse) because he bolted from the lead pony, flipped in the gate, unseated the rider or got taken down as his ducking and diving interfered with another in the race go back for more of the same. Huh?

Take the time to discover good horse providers

I don’t have much sympathy for those who “expect different results from the same behavior,” to paraphrase Einstein. My heart goes out to those, though, who trust and get taken.

If your equine vendors don’t make you feel good about what they deliver, fire them. Sure, you’ll have to invest time in the research and discovery process to find a better provider, but they’re out there. It’s easy to be lazy and hold your course with ‘good enough,’ but the fact is, that’s not OK in today’s economy, particularly if all or part of your livelihood involves the health and performance of equines. Believe me, it’s a lot more expensive for clients that come to Halcyon Acres® with ‘problem horses’ than those that bring young equines here with a clean slate. Not only have they already paid for someone else to confuse their horse, but the time it takes to undo damage tends to be a lot longer than what’s involved in bringing a horse along right from the start.

Too remote, small, populated, locked-in to attract good equine providers? Think again.

For those who believe they don’t have choices, you’re wrong. Halcyon Acres® is located in a rural area by anyone’s standards. The population of the town where the farm sits is 1830 people (900 households). The entire county (which is large geographically) has 25,000 residents. Admittedly, I felt stuck with the standard (and popular) fare for a number of years. There’s a county veterinary practice that ‘everyone’ uses. After more than a decade of being billed outrageous amounts to educate their cow vets on equine issues, I got fed up (the final straw was a jaw-dropper – involving about $20K of costs and damage). What was their answer to the damage and loss caused by unconscionable errors? “We don’t guarantee our work.” Duh and cute.  Where’s the chalk board? I need to log a customer service cringe – offer me an apology and at least $25 off my bill. I paid in full, but they lost a huge client. They did me a favor. With strong motivation to get them gone, I found the best vet I’ve had the privilege of knowing in my 36 years of owning horses.

Helped a blacksmith out as he was new to the area and building his business. He was great with the babies (that’s huge for me – early patient experiences with vendors shape lifelong attitudes and behavior) and so, I spent a number of years referring others to him to help him grow. In September, he asked to reschedule an appointment (so he could attend his birthday party). No problem – but I spent another month asking him if he had looked at his calendar yet for a date. When I finally pushed him as the state of the horse’s feet were getting pitiful, he admitted he was too busy to make the drive and was firing me as a client. Now, I get the need to stay closer to home as business builds, but the way he handled this was idiotic. Give me notice and I’m happy to understand and still sing your praises. Leave me in the lurch scrambling to find a new provider after a month in wait for a promise to be fulfilled – now I’m annoyed and sharing the (bad) story.  This ranks way up there on the scale of dumb moves to alienate those who have helped foster your success. Who was it that said something like be careful of the bridges you burn on your way up as you’ll meet them on the ladder down? Where’s the chalk board?

The good news is, my (fantastic) new vet provided two blacksmith referrals that were thrilled to come out quickly and add a relatively large client with extremely well behaved horses to their mix. One scheduled an appointment to handle the entire horse population at Halcyon Acres within days of my initial query. It’s nice to be appreciated again.

Economy aside, your attitude is the real factor

Today you can’t afford to alienate good clients and referral agents. Great providers aren’t being hit by the noted downturn, but those providing lousy experiences are sure blaming it for their struggles. Everyone realizes mistakes are made, and most are extremely forgiving when you are fair and honest when problems arise. Few are as understanding when dumb moves are repeated.

What’s even more irksome is being treated without regard by a vendor that you’ve supported in a big way over an extended period of time.

I’ve fired clients too – and get that this is a part of business growth and/or a change in focus. How you do it, though, can mean the difference between good will and resentment. This effects your future prosperity. Make people feel discarded and unappreciated and you’ll lose critical referral agents. Help them ease into a new provider with notice and an explanation that helps them understand your choice, and you’ll likely keep a crusader. You never know what tomorrow will bring. I have people I left well still referring business to me decades after our business relationship ended. Of course, if you’re cocky enough to believe you’ll never need the people who got you there – go for it. I wish you luck (you’ll need it).

Share your stories

Do you have a vendor that has you thrilled to know them? Please give them credit in your comments below. Is a horror story haunting you that you’d like to share so others can avoid your pain? Consider how your cautions may save another from mistakes with your insight through experience by sharing your message as an extension of this blog post. Thanks.

P.S. I did a Google search of the technical college in question seeking exact phrasing on the two quotes I wanted to include in this blog. Couldn’t find them (the website is pitifully void of much more than a sign up requirement), but did find dozens of parody videos on the TV commercial search that blasted this school for their results. It seems they’re consistent in their attitude toward excellence. So are most equine providers. Notice the little things and that will tell you a lot about the character of the people you are considering as business providers.

What’s all this horse talk about “respecting my space”?

The Halycon Acres herd naturally safely shares space with human visitors

Friday’s Opinion

It’s troubling to see so much being put out there offering formula approaches to reach every horse. The latest mantra seems to be “respect my space” and is often used as an excuse to dominate a horse into submission. This is especially prevalent among novices, who spout the term with conviction, nod in agreement to the need, yet fail to really understand what they are doing to the horse. Sadly, they’re getting this belief from some self-proclaimed professionals. Novices are sponges when it comes to learning, and I think we need to get a better message out there to ensure future happiness – and safety – for horses and their human handlers.

Do you really want to teach a horse to learn through fear, exhaustion or pain to surrender to you? Wouldn’t it be better for both horse and human if space was shared and respect was mutual?

Sure, there’s a time and a place to send a horse off, curtail rude behavior or demand compliance, but for the truly happy partnerships, this is rare.

Smart horses with heart make the greatest competitors if allowed to chip in to the team effort (although they’re certainly not the best mounts for novice riders). Given the opportunity to contribute to the conversation and goal, these horses will outperform more able equines on heart alone. They’ll also turn into eager pleasers once introduced to a human they can respect on their terms. Sadly, the respect conviction some hold, practice and promote that encourages an “alpha” persona (another misunderstood concept) can rob these horses of their spirit as they are demanded to conform to a process that doesn’t consider their input.

Additionally, young horses in particular (now often in novice’s hands) need to be heard, understood and considered individually in training regimens. Putting rote boundaries in place to teach the horse to avoid you until called doesn’t give him a lot of confidence (in himself or you) during the learning process. Some horses are timid, frightened or leery.  Such horses usually thrive when offered a kind, helpful and patient approach “in your space.” Using formula programs that discipline him for having the courage to approach you is counterproductive if the aim is a well-adjusted horse.

Those of you who follow this blog know we had a group from an assisted living facility visiting the herd at Halcyon Acres this month. None of these horses have been programmed to “respect” an invisible perimeter around people. It’s a good thing too, because the experience for these residents would have been far less rewarding – and probably more dangerous.

Instead, these horses are all asked to follow a few simple rules (get along or you’re out of the herd; go into your proper stall without a lead when you’re brought into the barn; no biting, kicking or aggression toward humans; I decide who’s coming in first – and last; and a few other basic requests to help keep all safe and farm operations running smoothly). They’re allowed to be friendly and sociable with humans, and relish the opportunity to approach known and unknown people for a pet and a visit. Of course, each gets customized training in ground work and under saddle training and because they are offered a say in the process, they are eager to have a job to do and choose to watch for and respect requests. Consequently, they can be trusted to be smart, safe and responsive when any human comes into the mix. It’s not about dictating compliance – it’s a mutual trust and understanding that develops from two-way communications.

I have to say, I don’t get this “my space, your space” approach. Of course, there’s a lot to body language with horses and with this arsenal, you can usually put a horse just about anywhere you want. So, it’s hard for me to see why training a horse to avoid you makes any sense at all. I certainly haven’t encountered a horse (at least not yet) that shines when respect is a one-way street. For me, I’d rather encourage horses (both client and farm-owned) to join the conversation and tell me how to make the experience fun, exciting and engaging for them. If that means the herd expresses their excitement at training time and jockeys for position to be first in line, I’m OK with that. In fact, it’s rewarding to have horses that not only enjoy training, but also anticipate the joy to the point they’re competing for the attention. If all were forced to succumb to a formula approach and were “trained” to “respect my space,” I don’t imagine they’d be so eager to saddle up.  Different strokes, I guess.