THE TEAM APPROACH
Backyard horse-people are typically do-it-yourselfers. They might get some family/friend support, but many folks do most of their own work. All the feeding, mucking, monitoring, doctoring, organizing, scheduling, trailering and riding falls on the backyard horse person.
No man is truly an island though. Very few of us could do all that plus be our own veterinarian, farrier, body worker (like massage and other complimentary therapies) and riding instructor/trainer. Not all of us can grow our own hay- thank you all you hay farmers out there! And don’t forget those farm/pet sitters if you ever want to leave home without your critters! If you are considering backyard horse-keeping, I would highly recommend putting a team of professionals in place BEFORE you bring your horses home.
Many folks may readily understand the importance of securing a veterinarian and farrier, but may forget about a riding instructor/trainer. Even if you chose not to show or chose only to ride at home, you may at some point in your journey need the input of someone with more horse skill. Stuff crops up with horses with some frequency. It will likely increase your confidence in knowing that you can draw on the skills of others. You may need help through rough patches in communication with your horse. You may need help when things are going well, but you want to get to the next level with your horse.
You may have to work to find just the right person to fill each position. The more you will see that person, the more important finding the right person becomes. For example, of all the horse professionals I interact with, my farrier is the one I have seen most frequently year in and year out. To me, it is important to have a farrier that is not only competent but is personable enough to listen to concerns and answer questions. I don’t want to be inviting onto my property every four to eight weeks a person who I dislike. At times I have worked with various professionals who clearly demonstrated that they were completely uninterested in me. They were condescending, dismissed my concerns, made rude comments about my horses and were unwilling to answer my questions. I have read lots of articles written by horse professionals complaining about clients (and I cringe when I read them as I often see a bit of myself in their complaints!), but let me tell you, there are many disgruntled clients out there too.
While you may be tempted to overlook a bad bedside manner due to someone’s professional success, keep your horse in mind. For example, it does your horse no good to be holding them for the farrier while you are disrespected and maligned. Horses will pick up on your tension but likely will not understand why you are upset. They may instead interpret that there is danger lurking in the environment or that your negativity is directed at them. This does nothing but possibly detract from your relationship and make your horse more unruly during farrier care. An occasional bad experience is just part of life but regularly exposing your horse to this kind of situation is asking for trouble.
Your horses are counting on you to find the right team. Just as we can’t be all things to all people, we can’t be all things to our horses. The better the team, the better the chances of creating a happy and healthy life for your horse.