Goals, Skills, and Things to Learn

What I’d like to do

  • Start and train young horses (primarily for eventing)
    • Purchased or bred
  • Breed future eventers
  • Retrain off the track thoroughbreds for resale

            It has been said in some of my circles that eventers don’t buy young stock, so I’d like to help, in a small way, create a landing pad for young event horses to grow up and get their start.

             My ideal facility would have both indoor and outdoor arenas with at least a small cross country course. To help fund this I would let people pay to trailer-in to use the facility. Cross country courses for free-choice schooling are sparse in my area, people travel far to gain access and with cold winters indoor arena access without needing to board there would also be desirable to people.

I’d rather do arena rental than have full-time boarders because then we can set the hours a bit more strictly and know when the arena is available to us without dodging boarders. This control can be critical for young horse training.

The skills I already have

Riding skills:

            I’ve been riding for many years. Those close to me (some professional) say I’m quite good and that I have a quiet seat and hand. Which I intuit would be perfect for young or sensitive horses.

I already am riding several relatively green horses – some with a little buck in them ;). I’m patient and can just have a laugh when a horse does something silly, rather than getting mad or frustrated. As always, my skills can be improved, but I think I have a good foundation to work with.

Marketing skills:

            I’ve long had a hobbyist interest in photography and graphic art. This would help me with marketing my sales horses and facility. I know how to take a good picture that will show off the horse in an appealing and accurate way.

I also have some web design experience, but it’s likely so out of date. I’d still be best served by making a website through a service that allows you to build the site without coding. But my experience does help me understand how to organize my pages and what information to include.

Translational science skills:

            I believe my science experiences have given me a foothold on “soft skills” that will be useful in any future endeavor. For example, I’ve managed a laboratory. This gave me experience with organizing a workspace, keeping track of inventory, and planning for special events. I actually quite enjoy the logistics side of my former work and miss that piece greatly as I work on my thesis.

            Scientists keep highly detailed laboratory journals to document everything they do so that later they can reference it to repeat the procedure, report it in an article, or troubleshoot (there is a LOT of troubleshooting in science). Outside the lab, this means I’ll keep detailed records. I intend to have a file on each horse, particularly sales horses. In it, I’ll record not only their medical record but also a training journal. This will be given, in print or digital, to the purchaser of said horse for their reference.

            Science, like training horses, is a very slow process. Full of setbacks and disappointment. This makes me patient and ready to work hard for the long-term goal. Any hint of progress is a win and even what looks like a failure often gives you information with which to move forward.

            Academia has also introduced me to the wide world of grants and outside funding. So, I’ll certainly be seeking grants and perhaps sponsorship to help fund this business. My search so far seems to indicate a lot of grants in the horse world are for educational opportunities, which is useful given that I love to learn.

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The skills I’ll need to gain

Riding skills:

            I’ve never started a horse under saddle. I’ve worked with some very barely green broke horses and I know a lot of theory, but that is no substitute for hands-on experience from the beginning.

            On the other end of the spectrum, I also want to improve my skills at the more refined end of the training spectrum. For this business to work I need to be able to consistently train horses up to at least 1st level dressage and jumping 3″ courses. I think the horses will be easiest to sell if ready to go Novice. Even better if they’ve been to a few shows and have a consistent performance. I also need to show more, I’m rusty.  To be profitable I’d need to be able to do this is short timeframes. Not rushing the horses, but I can’t fuss around at get it wrong for several months when that horse could have learned it faster had I done something differently.

Breeding:

            I have no experience breeding horses. So, I need to learn nearly everything about breeding, pregnancy, birth, and weaning. Like my knowledge of starting young horses, I know some of the theory, but have zero hands on experience. As I work towards this business this is a key experience I’m going to seek out. I hope to find breeding barns to volunteer at and perhaps a mentor to work with. I do have a few acquaintances answering questions that I have, but most are far away and cannot provide hands on experience.

Farm Management:

As you might expect, I have not maintained a farm before. Nor have I cared for property. I think I have a mind that will allow me to be handy, but right now I don’t have much practice or skill. I’m going to need to learn about maintaining pastures, buildings, fences, and equipment. I’d like to have a workshop and learn to make my own jump standards and the like. This will both be enjoyable for me as well as help save a little money as we get off the ground.

Conclusion

Personally, I think I have a good foundation and set of talents. I wouldn’t be ready to start tomorrow. But I’m only at the beginning of this journey. I plan to take my time, to learn as much as I can and to gather capital to start this venture. As well as expand my network of support.

What do you think?

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