I was talking with my husband a few days ago about “natural” horsemanship (NH) and some social commentary on the topic. He was reading a blog on the Eclectic Horseman magazine website. The writer, Sylvana Smith, in a blog post entitled Conversation with a Critic, addressed questions often asked regarding NH, its merits and relevance in today’s society. As a horsewoman and student of Buster and Sheryl McLaury, Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, Bill Torrance, Tom Torrance, Betty Staley and more folks with a desire to better the horse/human relationship, I understand the difference between force and willingness. Moreover, experience still teaches me the value of quality work.
Doing a task better doesn’t necessarily mean doing it faster. This past Saturday I spent over an hour with my horse, Smooch, trying to accomplish some basic tasks we’ve been working on since July, picking up a soft feel, turning a circle, backing up and walking at a slow pace. Sounds simple, right? I thought so too before I began riding my very forward horse. Smooch has been a topic in past posts because he constantly challenges me to be a better person. Some of you may be stuck on the statement above when I mention I’ve been working on these techniques since July. Yep, it takes a while. Most likely, I’ll still be working on them next July. Little by bit, I’ll add a new thing here and there, as Smooch and I get more comfortable with each other. Patience for me is a learned, rather than an innate virtue. I hone this skill with Smooch most days we spend together.
I was born a TYPE A person. I write this in bold because it dominated my adulthood for years. I want things done right and done fast. Thing is, much of the time I couldn’t have both. So I’d get angry and frustrated, alienating friends and employees alike, probably some customers too. Thankfully, I learned a lesson early on about stepping back from a BIG PROBLEM rather than tackling it with no plan.
About a year after opening my first store, we moved from our location into a new strip mall on a busy street connecting two main shopping districts in our city. We worked hard, got the store open and decided to take a break, to go see my folks in Florida. It’d been a crazy year, opening then moving our store. The store(s) I owned dealt exclusively in natural dog and cat foods, supplements and supplies. The bar was set high from the beginning. If a food, treat, supplement or other item did not meet our minimum criteria, we did not sell it, no matter what the current fad. It was a hard line to tow, but it was that way from the beginning.
So there we were in Florida, our first vacation in quite some time, when I received a frantic call. I should preface this by saying when I take a vacation, it’s from nearly everything, including the news. So I was shocked when one of my employees called to tell me there had been a huge pet food recall due to tainted food from China; dogs and cats were dead; it was tragic. No one at the time had all the facts or even knew which foods were affected. This was my test, my first BIG PROBLEM. My initial thought was, “Cut the vacation short! I need to get back to the store!!” My husband’s cooler head prevailed. So we continued on in Florida while I sent emails to my dog food reps, distributors, etc. It took more than a week to find we had no items in our store affected by the recall, because our standards had been set high to begin with. Had I immediately run back home I would have jumped in with both feet, made some rash decisions and created some crazy in my store. By staying back from the crisis, I saw things from a much different perspective. It slowed me down so I could think before reacting.
Within a year or so, more dog food recalls began. It was an unfortunate reality I dealt with several times, along with buyouts of high-quality, family-owned natural pet food manufacturers by Purina, Procter and Gamble and others. Since I learned early on not jump the gun when a crisis hit (most of these buyouts weren’t disclosed to retailers until the deals were completed), I, with the help of a fabulous staff, instead developed a transition plan each time we had to drop a food we carried because it no longer met our minimum criteria. We informed our customers over a period of usually two to three months, giving them time to adjust to the change. During this time I found new and better foods to replace those we lost. It was always a gain for the store in the end. I’m thankful I learned early to take my time. Doing something faster doesn’t always mean doing it better. Have a blessed day! ~ R.