I am a full time horse business. By that I mean, I don't have an outside job, but rather I make all of my income through some aspect of horses. Ok, it also means I'm poor, but hey, I figure it's an even trade for the lifestyle.
I have mostly made my income through the sales of horses. I don't breed and sell foals though (usually). I do breed, but I raise the horses until they are ride-able, and then sell them as broke horses. Over the last few years I have slowly been switching over from Appaloosas to Stonewall Sport Horses, and hope to eventually switch over to almost completely Sugarbush Drafts. The breeds are connected, with each being used in the breeding of the next.
Well, and as all horse people know, the horse market tanked. When the writing was on the wall, I slowed down breeding, and only have numbers that I can afford to keep if they don't sell. Currently, I am dropping those numbers back even more. Selling some of my Appaloosa mares, and the "foals" who are now started under saddle.
But, I suddenly find myself with free time, and my income being limited due to lack of sales. I have always trained horses, but previously they were only mine, or friends/clients who I knew were sane. My problem with taking outside clients is that so often they want me to push their horses beyond what the horse can do. I won't do that.
I have a whole list of things I won't do. I won't start a 2 year old. I won't ride a bred mare in her last 3 months of pregnancy (unless it's a very fit mare, and she's being pampered, but not a client mare in training!) and I won't rush a horse's training to get a "showy" result leaving holes that could get someone hurt. There's more, but you get the idea.
I also specialize in what I call the "middle market". There are plenty of big name reining, dressage, cutting, jumping, etc trainers who will make a nice show horse. There aren't many good sane trainers out there who will make a nice and safe PET horse. The middle market are people like myself. Middle aged, middle income, middle of their horse experience, middle management... well, you get the idea. Real people, with real lives, and a real desire to spend some of that time with a horse.
I have been told that working for this market is... derogatory (or something) to the people I intend to work for. Evidently, all horse people should aspire to be the next big thing! I disagree. I think it's much more noble to know your own desires, and to work for that, then to push yourself or your horse to areas that do not make you happy. I turn out safe, sane horses who love their owners, have great manners, and are a joy to be around. The type of horse you can load easily, take to the trails, and know you'll have a safe ride with minimal spooks, no bolting, and you will get home safely.
Hey, at my age, who wants to spend time getting thrown, right?
But, a part of this middle market is that we, the horse people in it, aren't rich! We cut corners where we can, but we put our hard earned money into our "babies"... the horses. So, I don't have a fancy facility, it's just good, clean, and working (and improving all the time) and I work hard to keep costs down.
So, I'm currently taking in training clients. I charge $350 per month for training AND board. That's as low as I can make it, and still afford to do this. Horses are not kept stalled (and I save money on shavings). Horses are not given a dedicated paddock, but moved as to their needs, and available space (which allows me to keep vet bills down). I buy everything in bulk, such as feed, and supplies to keep costs low. And, I just happen to have stupidly low overhead, because I bought a piece of crap property (former owners trashed it, and were almost in foreclosure, but the land and facilities are nice under all the trash they left), and have been doing the work myself.
So, I ran an add on Craig's List. I figured, why not, I have space for 3 horses, and I can get a feel of the demand. I was booked for the first month, and into the second within 24 hours. And not with bad clients, but with exactly the type of people I love working with the most!
I now have 2 mustangs here, in "training". I use quotes for them, because they aren't really getting as much training, as they are hours. These boys came from the Ft. Worth. Extreme Mustang Make Over, and were 2nd and 5th place rides. They are wonderful horses, lovely, well mannered, and their owner is a great guy. He understands that horses are horses, and he is a joy to work with.
So, soon, I will be posting updates about the client horses as well as my own. I work horses 5 days per week, if weather permits. If the weather interferes, then I make up those days in the following weeks. As an example, I take Sundays and Mondays off. This week I expect to lose Friday to rain, so I will be riding horses on Monday instead. If I loose 2 days to rain, I will ride the next 2 Mondays to make it up.
My potential clients have asked me how I can keep costs down. They are confused that I have references, example horses, and understand that their horse is their family member. Because part of that training fee is for boarding, clients are welcome to show up at any time to see their horses, with out notice. All I ask, is that if they want to see me work their horse, they let me know in advance, so I can arrange the horse's training to be when the client is there. Call that morning, and let me know what time, and that's all I need.
I'm not perfect, and I can't train everything. I make sure my clients know that. I won't waste someone's time saying I can handle a horse that I can't. And I'm pretty honest about my riding experience (mostly English, some Western, and tons of "fun" type learning).
So, because so many people have said that they read my blog to keep up on what's happening here, and now that I have internet access again, I will be blogging about the new training horses. Owners can see what their horse is doing, with out having to make sure they call before bedtime. I can't promise pictures, but I will try. Granted, it's hard to take pictures of yourself riding!
I can honestly say that the clients and potential clients I have recently talked to have all been wonderful, and I don't regret the decision at all to open my doors to outside horse owners.
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.