- Be multi-talented. Many of our pony breeds have been developed to be versatile. In some cases, for instance, the same pony was expected, depending on the day, to be ridden, driven, used as a pack animal, and used in harness for draft work. Most of the successful equine businesses I observe are also multi-talented. One combines breeding, selling horse real estate, and marketing nutritional products; another gives workshops, sells videos, and teaches individual lessons. Expect to put lots of your talents to use.
- Know your carrying capacity. Because ponies are smaller than horses, pony enthusiasts are often asked what a pony can carry. In my experience, ponies enjoy work; we just have to scale the work accordingly, making sure they can handle the weight we ask them to carry. If we are going to be multi-talented in our business, we also need to make sure we can handle the work load. Take on what we can handle but not more or we may suffer from being over-weighted.
- Be smart. Many of our ponies tend to be on the think-first, run-second part of the equine spectrum. In business this translates to making sure both our heads and our hearts (and not just our hearts) are involved in business decisions. Many of us have an equine-related business because of our love and passion for these animals. Being in business requires us to use our whole selves.
- Put on weight when the getting is good and save for the lean times. While pony owners are all too familiar with the ability of our equine friends to gain weight during the summer and then hopefully lose it in winter, veterinarians say that this natural cycle is inherent to all equines. In business, it translates to understanding if we have uneven cash flow, identifying when that is, and making sure we know how to save that cash for times when we need it to sustain our business.
- Be strong for your size. Draft pony enthusiasts believe that pound for pound, ponies can outwork larger equines. Being strong for your size means being cautious in business decisions, being careful to not burden our businesses with commitments we can’t handle. It’s related to being smart, too: make sure significant effort, such as a long trek across a paddock, is really worth it just for a carrot. Don’t do it if the payoff doesn’t seem good enough. I’ve sure had ponies that make this decision!
- Sometimes things won’t be pretty. I have a pony named Beauty, and one of her favorite things to do is roll in the mud. Afterwards, she doesn’t come close to resembling her name. In business, sometimes things won’t be pretty; sometimes we roll in the mud, intentionally or otherwise. We have to learn to let the mud dry, shake it off and move on.
There are also some nuggets that come from equines in general:
- Live in the Present. Our equine friends are masters of paying attention to what’s going on right now. In the context of business, this means paying as we go, avoiding debt as much as possible. Consider taking on commitments to the future only when they are not longer than gestation (eleven months). Keep your financials up-to-date so you always know where you’re at.
- Be honest. Like it or not, our equines are always giving us honest feedback about everything in their world. Applying honesty in our business will ensure that relationships with clients, employees, and even ourselves are the best that they can be.
- Just like there are all kinds of horses, there are all kinds of horse businesses. Yours will be a reflection of who you are and therefore won’t ever look like anyone else’s because there’s only one you!
- Recognize when our head is up and our tail is elevated. If we’re a little on edge about finances or something else, don’t ignore the feeling. Do something about it!
- In natural settings, equines will graze for as much as sixteen hours a day and do other things for the remainder. Even if we love our work, we do need to take time off to nourish ourselves. It’s not about slacking; it’s just the way life is. Accept it!
What have your ponies taught you about business?
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015