If there’s one thing equine professionals know, it’s how to plan. We chart out show schedules and conditioning programs months in advance. We buy hay for the year, and line up vet, farrier and dentist in the most cost-effective way. We schedule our summer camps in the dead of winter. We know that time moves fast in the horse world, and that while we might have change our plans a dozen times, thinking forward helps us move forward.
We’re guessing that in the midst of all this planning, you probably did not pencil a global pandemic into your 2020 calendar.
The world’s a little different now, and your business might look different, too, depending on where you live. Maybe you live in an area that’s relatively unaffected, or you have strict government rules and plenty of guidance for safe operation. We’re located in the US, in rural Georgia, a place that is not exactly winning gold stars in the effort to corral COVID-19. Various health challenges have also made our family high-risk, which means we have to put extra caution and thought into everything we do – including teaching lessons for a living!
The good news? There's another thing horse people know how to do, and that’s manage risk
Every time you open your barn doors, you become responsible for the welfare of your clients – and with a coronavirus pandemic the stakes are higher than usual.
But if you can keep a pack of children happy on the backs of 1000 lb. prey animals, you’re probably pretty good at developing safe practices.
Sometimes limitations are a good way to practice thinking outside the box
We’re doing a lot of that – and we’re really curious about how other equine professionals are making things work.
If you’re just getting back into the swing of things post-lockdown, or you’re still figuring out how your business can make peace with a pandemic, your process might start by figuring out….
What’s your bottom line?
Navigating your pandemic business challenges is going to involve one tough decision after another – especially since everyone has their opinion about the severity of COVID-19.
If, like us, you live in a place where you get to make all of these decisions on your own, you’re going to need to create policies that help you stay in business and still sleep at night.
A few useful questions to ask yourself:
Your answers might continue to evolve and change - and that’s okay!
Being able to read the room, or in this case, your local health scene, is now an important part of making business decisions.
Just be ready to stand up for whatever you decide, and communicate clearly with clients so they know what to expect.
What programming is pandemic-friendly?
Your schedule may need a little restructuring. Group activities with a dozen six-year-olds might not the best way to make a living right now, but maybe you can create space for fun new events you’d normally never have time for!
What if you can’t meet clients in-person?
We’re used to our barns being a safe space – but in a pandemic, you can’t take this for granted. If you are exposed to COVID-19 and need to close temporarily, or a new government order requires you to scale down business, your equine educational programs might need to look a little different.
A few outside-the-box options:
There's no one-size-fits-all solution to running a horse business in a pandemic
This whole experience feels kind of like riding a wired green horse in a crowded show ring. Bowing out isn’t always in the horse’s best interest, but neither is you getting bucked off. You don’t want to hurt anyone else there either.
No right answer: it’s always going to depend on the horse, the environment, and how well you trust your seat!