I read a pretty gruesome post on a blog I love the other day. I'd post the link but it's been taken down* as it obviously caused a poo tornado but the gist was: freelance riding instructor is forced to fire worst client ever.
*Here is the story that prompted this article, not sure why I couldn't find it. Obviously it's an very extreme car crash example.
As in, extremely frustrating and antagonistic behaviour that carries on and on until the riding instructor just runs into a dead end and finishes the working relationship.
It's a story I've heard more than once from equestrian professionals and it got me thinking, how can we make sure our horsey professionals (instructor, vet, farrier etc) like us rather than loathe us?
I'm sure this is all common sense, but every time I hear another horror story, I do wonder.
So here goes, a far from exhaustive list of a few ideas to keep everyone happy, for the ultimate benefit of our horses. Because yes, they are the centre of our universe, and we're not planning to change that fact anytime soon.
1) Value their time
Once they've done their job, let them go. They're busy, and they have another client waiting. Don't make them walk backwards to their car while you desperately start up another anecdote. It's not that they don't want to socialise, it's that they only have so many hours in the day if they want to see their own family and friends.
Equally, be ready. Whoever you're waiting for, have your horse suitably prepared. Tacked up and clean for lessons, tied up with clean feet and legs for the farrier, caught and ready for their jabs when the vet is booked. It's not adorable to be pulling up at the same time as they are shouting "Won't be a sec!" before trudging half a mile away to catch your pony.
2) Pay them
They're not visiting for the good of their health. They worked bloody hard to get their qualifications and their mortgage payments happen every month, just like yours do. So if you find a great horsey professional, keep them in business. Pay them straight up, no forgetting, no flakiness. Ring in your vet bill promptly, have cash for your farrier. No messing. They cannot stay in business any other way.
3) Listen to them
Don't come at them with the same problem every single time having ignored all the advice they thoughtfully gave you last time. No good professional will mind answering your questions, but have the courtesy to take the answer on board and take action accordingly. If you know you find it hard to remember what people have said, take a pad and make some notes. Try not to use them as a human google either. They're not responsible for telling you the answer to every and any horse management question when so often the information is freely available and you just can't be bothered to look it up or consult the books on your shelf.
4) Cut them some slack
Bad things happen to everyone. But when you're self-employed the world keeps turning. If your vet seems tired, bear in mind they probably spent the night trying to save a mare and foal while you were cosy in bed and getting your seven hours. If your farrier is a little grumpy maybe her back hurts because the twat she was shoeing yesterday jumped about like a salmon on speed. Maybe your instructor fell of yesterday, or she's got the flu and is rattling with paracetamol. Don't take it personally if they seem a little quiet.
5) Offer them a cup of tea
6) Don't bad-mouth them online
So you're not happy, fair enough. Send them a well-thought-through letter that two people you trust and respect have read first. Make your point, don't go for the jugular, leave their mum out of it. Then take your business elsewhere and move on. Jumping onto Facebook to rip them apart is neither stable nor helpful, and often contravenes defamation laws i.e. you can get yourself into hot legal water. If you find yourself frequently unhappy with equine professionals the problem may lie closer to home. Maybe they're telling you something important and you don't want to hear it.
And finally, think about how you like to be treated. We're all human and kindness goes such a long way. When others make the effort to smile and be helpful, it eases the load a bit. Pay it forward! After all, we all need a pit crew to get the job done, so make sure you look after yours.