I woke up this morning and sat down with my cup of coffee (lightly sugared) to catch up on the news while my dogs ate their breakfast. It is my daily “down time” and I relish in it, savoring every last minute and every last drop.
As I was sipping on my steaming hot coffee, I heard the news anchors begin to speak of the lottery, and how the Jackpot was the highest it has ever been – at $700 million dollars. I began to visualize what I would do if I won that much money, and was astonished to realize that my taste wasn’t that expensive. Things like a new truck, as mine is on its last dying miles. A new blanket for my (very) large horse, as he is currently borrowing his brothers. Entry fees for all of those events of 2016 that I currently can’t afford. The list was long, but the majority was simple. Things that most American’s, or at least those who own horses, would also have. There was no Aston Martin. No island in the Caribbean. No private jet.
In fact, there was almost nothing elaborate….well, except, for a farm. Because if I won $700 million dollars tomorrow, that first thing that I would purchase would be a farm. The farm of my dreams. The farm of my significant others dreams. Luke and I have been sending each other links to farms for sale for the entirety of our 5 years together. Always with the message of “look at this one” or “this one isn’t too much.” And by too much, we mean $1,100,000 for 200 acres. The monopoly money of our dreams.
The farms that we send are not ornate. In fact, they are usually run down and in need of some elbow grease. We look for good land, solid structures, and a smaller house. The usual one is overgrown with weeds, with some fencing down. The shutters falling off of the home, the stall doors no longer on the hinges. Because we know two things – that this is the only way we will ever afford one, and that between his extreme intelligence of mechanics and maintenance, and my strong desire to work my ass off for this, we will get it done.
But two things stop us: Money. And fear.
I was at a KENA (Kentucky Equine Networking Association) meeting a few weeks ago, when I heard a man speak of what makes a small business successful. He said that the two most imperative things that a small business needs to survive are a) to have a business plan, and b) enough capital to survive two years.
While hearing him talk, I fidgeted in my seat; literally feeling a fire be lit under my ass, and I raised my hand. I told him that my partner and I had a hell of a business plan, but that we were lacking the capital. I asked him how he advised that we raise it. How we expected to survive two years building a farm in an industry that runs on millions, not hundreds. He laughed and asked me what my business plan was, and what made me unique.
So I had to answer, and think of what in fact did make us unique?
Luke is a genius. The person that so many of our fellow farm managers and friends call to repair a tractor, or evaluate a field. He has foaled thousands of mares, able to reposition the most extreme dystocia. I watch in awe as he survey’s a farm, knowing what needs to be done to this field or that. Knowing how to rotate the horses, bale hay, and still have the paddocks looking pristine. He is the numbers man. The one that knows how to scrimp on this, and spend on that. Making the pennies stretch out, and using elbow grease in replacement of the money. And on top of that all, he has the softest hands I’ve seen on the end of a shank; able to show the most difficult of horses.
And I am the yin to his yang. Where he understands mechanics, I understand science. I want nothing more than to spend my days in the barn with the yearlings, tweaking their nutrition and exercise plan this way or that. Getting their coats to look just right. The repositioning of fat to muscle.
And on top of my love of yearlings, and the sales, I am getting my doctorate in equine reproduction. The last four years of my life have been spent studying infertility in mares. What I call persistent endometritis, but the general farm manager calls “the dirty ones” or “the pain in my ass.” I have the knowledge, the education, and now the hands-on experience of getting these mares healthy and fertile again. Something not many can claim.
And what sets us apart, even beyond this? We understand the industry as a whole. We are capable of getting mares pregnant, keeping them pregnant, foaling viable foals, raising successful sales yearlings as well as racehorses, and then when the time comes, we are successful at retraining them for second careers and long, happy lives. It is a cyclical thing in our minds.
But the cycle costs so much just to get jump started. And for years now, we have been doing it under the umbrella of others money, others gamble.
We complement each other so well. He sees the broad picture, I see the details. He can repair a tractor, while I would rather bandage a leg. He loves the mares and foals, while I enjoy the yearlings and the stallions. And yet both of us are driven. Both of us understand the 90+ hour weeks. Both of us are used to the long days and longer nights – although he does look better than me after an all-nighter!
But we both have also witnessed friends and fellow horsemen fail. We tell each other that we almost know too much. We know how much a tractor, a spreader, and a batwing cost. We know how hard it is to get clients into your stalls, and then to actually get the clients that pay. We know how difficult it is on relationships, families, and children when the parents devote their lives to a farm and not to a home. But we want it. We want it so badly.
Unfortunately, for now, it is just a figment of our imagination. An idea that we pray will become a reality. Pennies are being saved, connections are being made, and yet it still feels so far away. So maybe, just maybe, we will have to begin to gamble. We agreed to go buy lottery tickets to that Jackpot last night, beginning our gambling ways. But we know that this will be something that requires a much larger jump, a much larger bet.
But what is the hardest thing to gamble on? The money in your bank? The roof over your head? Or maybe, just maybe, it is yourself.