I often joke that my older sister, who works as an actress in New York City, “stole” all of the creative genes in our family.
Growing up, I hated arts and crafts. I was always the first to finish making my gingerbread house during the holidays, so we could move onto the next activity. I had a brief stint in acting and dancing, but quickly found opportunities to fill my days with the practicality of farm work. Give me a stall to clean or a fence to fix instead, any day of the week.
I also struggled (and still struggle) with change. I’ve always loved my planner, I always seem to thrive on consistency, and I’ve typically experienced a moment of panic when things go awry. When I was younger, this made me a star student, sitting in the front row (without fail) while always turning assignments in early along with having the daily reading done and referenced. But my career with horses doesn’t fit into that neat little structure.
I do not have to tell you, as horse people, that very little goes “to plan” with horses. Change is inevitable, as new challenges arise daily. In attempts to handle my general anxiety around change, I came to realize the importance of change, and the interrelated relationship between creativity and change.
What sounds like my personal nightmare – embracing creativity and change – has actually given me a new burst of energy, as I don’t feel stuck in an expectation, structure, or format. I’m allowed to grow within my own business.
Just like in horse training, there isn’t one “right” approach to a business plan. Some equine businesses focus on boarding; some on lessons; some on competition. I have friends that primarily support themselves off of clinics, and others that start young horses. Others write, create social media content, or have online training libraries. Many do some sort of mix (myself included) in order to be more productive and efficient with their time. Even Harvard Business School has seen creativity support improvement and growth.
If you aren’t willing to try something new — hosting a day camp at your farm, building an online platform, or connecting with other facilities to collaborate — businesses can stagnate. Training can stagnate the same way, if you approach a challenge in a way the horse doesn’t understand day after day. You just remain constant.
As we head into winter, I’m already brainstorming ways to engage clients in different ways, if weather makes training challenging or inconsistent. I’m working to find ways to bring a fresh breath of air into the day to day. I’m exploring logistics to a horsemanship mini-clinic series, unmounted community engagement days, and online content and collaborations to further improve my clients’ strength, balance, and general equestrian knowledge. My hope is that this not only brings increased diversity to my business model, but that it also brings a new and exciting service to the community around me.
This process of broadening my plan and being creative and flexible in my approach is still wildly uncomfortable. I’ve found a routine that works… it’s hard (and honestly a bit scary) to change something that’s good, even with the hope of creating something potentially exciting. I’m writing this column to encourage others to pursue creativity and change in their own lives, but also, selfishly, to hold myself to this commitment. I’m hoping you all hold me accountable.
So, please, force me to continue stepping out of my comfort zone to jump head first into a business approach to arts and crafts. Let’s push each other through these upcoming winter months!