We started small, as many lesson businesses do.
We had two horses, Zahtar and Heaven, our personal riding horses that were old enough, schooled enough and safe enough to use part-time as lesson ponies. We thought they could teach three or four lessons per week to help earn their keep.
And earn their keep they did: suddenly, we had twenty students, summer day camps, in-house schooling shows, and the phone just kept on ringing!
The ponies were definitely teaching lessons more than three days a week … and getting cranky about it.
Out came the saddles, back went the ears
Zahtar, our resident saint, started drifting longingly toward the gate, and could only be coerced into the trot after a lengthy look at the crop.
Heaven, normally a Ferrari disguised as a horse, became similarly reluctant to canter – assuming you could catch her in the first place.
We were learning a persistent truth about the lesson business: finding good school horses is hard, making good school horses is harder, and keeping them good is hardest of all.
Eventually, we had a much larger equine workforce that could share the load, and our horses gained a reputation for being rock-solid, lovable partners.
Along the way, we developed some strategies to keep our horses physically and mentally sound.
When your business booms, you have to become an advocate for your horses as well as for your bottom line:
Of course, one of the most important things we can do for our horses is to create compassionate students who prioritize the horse's well-being over their own goals
Teach your students to read subtle equine body language, and emphasize the importance of unmounted education (including basic horse psychology) from their very first lesson.
If you don’t advocate for your horses, you can’t expect your students to!
We expect our school horses to turn a profit, and we expect them to work long hours along with us
In exchange, we want them to think their lives are pretty great.
It takes happy horses to make happy customers… and if your horses aren’t happy, then your lesson program might be missing the point!