Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hot, flat and crowded

I rarely talk about the day-to-day realities of being a pro. One side of it is that it's busy, so the ability to write and write well about any subject but carving out 20 meters in my sand box tends to get lost around 8pm. The second reason is that like the Great and Powerful Oz, there are certain things that should be left behind the curtain at the end of the day.

Being a professional in any industry is tough. But when you're industry is more luxury versus necessity, the playing field for capital resources tends to be very tight and ultra-competitive.

Capital resources in the equestrian community can run physical, such as barns, arenas, horses; to the human element, specifically speaking, ownership.

I have zero qualms with putting out there that the majority of my horses, minus Sinari, are either owned or co-owned. My ownership is diverse ranging from breeders to PhDs to Executives of major corporations. There's not a day that goes by that I feel that I'm not appreciative of the business they've allowed me to have.

My business is run more as open community. While some people (namely the attorneys) view this as a socialist experiment with hippie-dippy flower power, I realized a long time ago that I cannot be everything to everyone. Nor can I got out and make every horse an FEI horse (nor do I want to). In short, no person is an island.

A prime point for this are the babies.

I stopped backing horses years ago. I really feel that I'm not in a position anymore to a) take that risk or b) be fair to a horse that's just starting out. I hand the reins over to a rider who does nothing but babies. It's a great relationship. He rides quality horses and moves his career further in the direction he wants, and I get a sane baby  with a job description at the end of it.

Same goes with horses that I don't get along with or who are really out of my depth. Over this year, I've given up two rides to other riders who the horse simply went better for them. There's no guilt or shame over it.

So, for a lack of better term, I outsource.

Outsourcing, which is usually a negative thing, is a great resource for professional riders building their community and network. Got a horse that doesn't go well for you? Find a rider that will make them shine so they can be sold on to another home. Need help finding a barn for that big clinic because your barn can't handle the capacity? Network so both facilities can benefit. Student having trouble? So and so has this neat-o exercise to give a go. Or my favorite- co-oping through outside disciplines to source good horses (e.g. one man's trash is another man's GP horse).

But this kind of relationship is a two way street. Yes, it does take an understanding. Also, unfortunately on some occasions made people overstep bounds and pilfer or use the reference as an excuse to behave in a less than stellar fashion.

I had this happen three times recently. Once, with a young rider, once with a client and one professional in the community that indefinitely overstepped their boundaries. Each time I was lucky, either the damage was minimal or the ownership and contract was in place to secure my spot; and the rides were unavailable.

Pilfering is nothing new in the community. It happens, a lot. It's why riders vanguard their owners heavily throughout their careers with them. Owners are huge investments for riders and finding good ones, are like finding rare gems and developing a long term relationship is a very big deal.

 Which in many ways is sad as well because owners, like the Mrs. Mars, the Akiko's, the Thomas' should be shared and developed within a community of riders to help them achieve goals. Because even though we are a global sport with a long reach, the truth is, our overall resources are shrinking and the competitive landscape has become much more hot, flat and crowded within the last decade or so.

So while those peoples' ambitions and actions were incredibly short sighted it reminds me that while the community is changing with an overall perspective more in mind, it's not very long before the overall community's perception is changing for the better.