Friday, June 8, 2012

No Gold In Them Thar Hills, but Enough Copper to Keep You Going

I received an inquiry from someone whose view of the horse/human relationship is entirely in line with mine. It was the kind of inquiry that I love to receive. It was not about why we have our program but how we have our program.

In short can one make any money off of doing what we do? The short answer is --yes. I believe that getting more kids and novices on horses is one of the most valuable services that one can provide to one's community. I believe that the greatest impediment to the provision of that service is that the established horse world is so adamantly opposed to that goal. They artificially send the cost of horse care through the roof by insisting on "necessities" that not only are not needed but are very detrimental to the health and safety of horses. Natural horse care, natural horsemanship, and natural hoof care are the keys to knocking these barriers to horse ownership down.

I was asked the nuts and bolts of the financing of what I do with our program. First of all, I am not a non profit. After years of very hard work we now make a profit. I could make much more of a profit if I had just a touch of Ebenezer Scrooge in me. I have never turned away a kid because they could not afford to pay. I do not charge parents to ride with kids because I think that it is great for families to learn together. I give too much of a break on fees for siblings. I do not charge for any of our extra programs, (music, horse training, etc).

Our fee structure is $160.00 per month for a single student. That student and the students parents can ride as often as possible at no extra charge. There are discounts for siblings. Many of my riders obtain a young horse from me and we train the horse together. Those riders are not charged any fee for riding lessons. They simply pay the board fee for the horse. My board fee includes hay, worming, provision of medical care as needed (not vet bills. I mean things like if a horse needs to have a wound cleansed daily for several weeks and the owner lives too far away to come out daily. I used to provide free hoof trimming but I am getting too old to trim all of these hooves and it is important to me that as many of my students as possible learn to provide professional quality hoof care. (A kid that understands natural horsemanship and can gently trim very rough horses can always make enough money as they get older to cover the cost of owning a horse. I trimmed professionally on a small level for 30 years. Eventually it got so that nearly all of the horses that I did for outsiders were those that know one else would trim. They were too rough for anyone else to do. I stopped doing outside trimming about five years ago.)

Cost containment is the key to making such an operation viable. Natural horse care is not only the healthiest option, it is the most affordable option. I nearly never hire anyone to do any work at the horse lot. What I cannot do myself my riders and their families volunteer to do. This is a very important aspect of how we do things. My riders feel a strong sense of ownership in everything that we do. It is wonderful when kids say "We have several Corolla stallions", instead of saying "Steve has several Corolla stallions."

My three highest costs are hay (they eat nearly 10,000 pounds a week), insurance, and wormer.

I have no doubt that a good manager could take our model and make it so that an operator could earn a sufficient living doing what we do.

I recognize that I have two enormous advantages over many others that might consider a program like ours. I started out with a significant of amount of land from my family at no cost. Secondly, I do not mind working around the clock because I have absolutely no interest in vacations, trips, going to the movies, shopping, etc. I could function quite well living the remainder of my life within 10 miles of the horse lot 24/7. I dine quite happily on a big hunk of cheese and some ice water. A half of a jar of peanut butter makes a fine supper for me. I could be referred to as low maintenance. The shirt that I am wearing at the moment was purchased in the early nineties.

I have one other advantage. I believe in this. Saving the Corollas is only one of the most important things in my life. Saving kids is the most important thing in my life.

So, for the person that asked me--this is how we do it.


Horseartist said...

Super post, Steve. Thanks.

Horseartist said...

Super post, Steve. Thanks.