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Things I Learned Owning My Own Business

Three years ago I made the incredibly rash decision to quit my high paying, pretty easy job and start my own practice for a 40% pay cut, more stress and longer hours. That was smart. In my defense, not only do I come from a long line of people unable to work well with/for others, but my old boss was stealing from me and making my life emotionally and mentally hell. It was quit or have a stroke at age 32.

The going was really rough for a long time and even now that things have settled a bit and my schedule is staying fuller, there is always, always something to worry about. I’ve learned a ton though in the process and thought I would share some insights.

  • If you want to work for yourself to work less hours, you’ll be bitterly disappointed, at least in the early years. When you are your own boss there is no such thing as paid vacation or sick days. You either work and make money or you stay home and go broke. At my old job I took two weeks vacation and one week for continuing education every year.  In the three years I’ve been open I managed to take 3 long weekends and 4 full days off in a row total and that was for a work conference. If I’m not there, I’m not making money. So I work.
  • Sick days don’t exist. To expand on the above, nobody is paying you to curl up on the couch and feel sorry for yourself. You go to work. I’ve taken one sick day in three years and that was when I was vomiting non stop.
  • There will always be more work to do. At the end of the day your pile of stuff to do will be ever present. This really got to me early on. I needed to be done with everything, everyday. It isn’t possible. You have into learn to be ok with putting things off until tomorrow then bumping it again when a new top priority item comes up.
  • You have to learn to leave work at work. As with the above, it is really easy to never stop working. With so much to always do, it can be hard to turn it off. You have to force yourself to clock out or you will burn out.
  • You have to learn to sell yourself. I know, you are amazing at what you do. But here’s the thing. Nobody else knows that. Not yet. Get prepared to sell yourself and your skills all day every day. Eventually your work will speak for itself, but in the beginning you are a nobody. One of the best pieces of advise I go twas to not hang the shingle and expect the phone to ring. I spent every Friday for months taking bagels around to referral sources and introducing myself. It was hard to do, but it got me business.
  • Stay true to yourself.  Chasing easy money is very tempting when you are broke, but trust me, you will regret it later. Stick to your own morals and beliefs. People will trust you better when they know where you stand, so don’t be afraid to take that stance. It may turn some people away in the beginning, but the long term will pay off.
  • Always be kind. But stay firm. In business, it never pays to be mean. People talk and they are far more likely to complain or bad mouth you than praise, so be careful. You are more than allowed to fire someone from your business, but do it nicely and make sure it is worth it to not only lose that person, but also their entire social circle. Likewise, the customer is not always right, sometimes they are just trying to rip you off. Stay positive, don’t get dragged into a fight, but also stay firm and don’t get taken advantage of.
  • Be prepared to go broke, make some money and go broke again. Starting your own business is a risk and hopefully it plays out well for you. In the beginning though, you will go broke. It will seem like the worst idea on the planet and you will question your sanity. Stick with it, make changes as needed and hang tight. If you put your all into it, have something decent to offer and work hard it will pay off in the long run.
  • You have to have long term goals. In the beginning, just staying around long enough to pay your bills seems a hard enough task, however, if you don’t make long term plans you will burn out quickly. Its very stressful to always worry about paying the bills and getting more clients, so take time to envision what 3 years will look like, 5 years, 10 years.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy it. Its hard work. You work nearly non stop and even when you are at home you are thinking about work. I get it. But you started this business for a reason, so enjoy the ride. Celebrate little victories along the way.
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Almost There: Gear Check

For some reason I think that if I spread out the purchases over several weeks it won’t seem so bad. Doesn’t make a lot of sense since all the money comes from the same source, but anything that helps this inherently cheap person spend money without having a stroke is good. 

The list of things I needed to get was pretty extensive. I tried to do the internet used tack route, but I got burnt and wasted money and have been a bit hesitant to try again. Instead I’ve been trying to go cheap but new with the idea to upgrade in the future. 

So far I’ve got:

Synthetic tall field boots: I actually really love these. They fit me really well and after two rides and two days wearing them around the house they no longer hurt anywhere. I do find it a bit harder to sink my heel down in them as they are still a bit stiff but I’m getting used to it. $68

Black with white padding cob sized, unknown brand bridle with reins. I had to creat a new hole in the cheek piece but otherwise it fits Gem well. I’d love to replace the reins and brow band at some point. $40

Dark brown stirrup leathers. I grabbed these last minute at the tack store and didn’t look at the price tag. If I had, I wouldn’t have bought them. I’m glad I did though. The are wonderful: soft, flexible and padded. They will be pulling double duty on both saddles for now. $70.

White all purpose pad with black trim. This was a difficult purchase for me. White pads are boring and I didn’t have a lot of selection in person and didn’t want to get anything online that I was not familiar with. I ended up just getting the cheapest one I could that had some nice padding and trim. $54


Noble Outfitters black gloves. Personally I hate riding in gloves unless it is extremely cold out. I tried on some Roekels which were lovely but too pricey. These gloves are just ok. They fit my hand well but I wish they came over my wrists a bit lower and I’m just meh about them. The price was right though and since I plan to only wear them during a show and only have one show on my summer schedule, they will suffice. $22.


Breeches. Ah. Nearly as bad as girth shopping and twice as bad as jeans. Trouble is that I am in between sizes and that just makes the fit hard. I finally got a pair of Irideon Hampton tights with knee patches and a sock bottom and they fit pretty well. They are a bit looser than my Irideon Synergy and Issential tights (all three are size medium) but generally fit very well and are comfortable. $79


So far my outlay is $333. I don’t think that is terrible given everything I have purchased. I could have gone a bit cheaper on the leathers and pad but I adore the leathers and think Gem will appreciate a bit of padding between the saddle and her back. 

What’s left?

  1. Jump girth. Heaven help me if the 46″ doesn’t fit. The tack store was out of that size so I need to go online and order one. Soon. 
  2. A white polo shirt. I’m trying my best to avoid buying a real show shirt because a) they are entirely too expensive and b) I refuse to buy anything that is see through and every white show shirt I have come across has been completely see through.  Not happening.

Not too shabby and hopefully I can snag these two items this week. Then I should be all set!

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Rain

2016 ended with the region being 10 inches in the negative in precipitation. The local lakes looked like tiny puddles surrounded by acres of sand and red clay. Wildfires broke out as the seemingly endless days of clear blue skies and sun stretched on into the forecast.

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The water should go to the tree line. This isn’t even as bad as it got. 

The winter came and and it was mild. Mostly warm and dry. We got one day of slushy ice and that was winter. Not the norm and it only added to the deficit.

2017 however is trying to make amends for the errors of the recent past. Not only has it been raining, it has been storming. Soft ball sized hail, tree splintering lightning and deluges have been an almost weekly occurrence. Just last weekend we got 4″ of rain in 24 hours.

The region is positive 5 inches for 2017 which is pretty astounding since we only started getting rain in March. January and February were as dry as the last year. That means that overall we are now only 5″ shy of where we really should be. Still a desperately large volume but we seem to be heading in the right direction.

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This was the extent of our winter and it lasted until 12 pm

Unfortunately SC is just not that…umm…tough when it comes to the weather. I mean, when it is nice, sunny and warm 300 days of the year, what’s the point in suffering during those rare days when it rains, snows or is cold? I get it. Sort of.

An example: it was calling for severe thunderstorms. Maybe some hail. Schools let out at lunch. For rain. Really?

This has made riding lately difficult. Indoor arenas are unheard of and covered arenas are few and far between. My scheduled lesson for Sunday got canceled due to the rain. The arena was still under water come Tuesday when I could get there with Gem, so it got backed off to Sunday of this week. Weather looks like even more rain tomorrow then a break and rain Sunday. I’m not sure if any rain cancels lessons or if it was just the absolute downpour we had in store and got that did it, so we will see.

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Wyatt chose my cake. I don’t think I’ve seen gummy worms on a birthday cake before

I also can’t ride at home right now. The hay field is mush and not only would it destroy the hay, but it wouldn’t be particularly safe footing either.

It may be time to hit the trails again if I can find some that aren’t under water. It’s bad timing with so much to work on and not that much time, but there isn’t anything I can do about it so I’m trying not to fret.

In the meantime I’ve been spending money as if I had it and am now anxiously awaiting my packages to arrive.  The sun needs to return to the south or I may just go broke.

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Einstein loves having extra room to run
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Rest Easy Scrabble. I Miss You.

One more day
One more time
One more sunset baby I’d be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still
For one more day with you
– Diamond Rio

Scrabble joined our family as a scraggly, sickly 6 month old barn kitten in September of 2004. We were stopping by a friend’s house a few weeks before our wedding which is why I remember it so clearly. He wandered out of her barn and right over to me purring loudly and meowing a hello. I snatched him into my arms and looked over at Dusty, then my fiancee, and told him that we were getting a cat. He could take him to the clinic and treat him then bring him to his house which would soon be our house. Dusty wasn’t too enthusiastic, but he really couldn’t say no three weeks before we were married and so Scrabble came to live with us. We named him Scrabble because we were playing the game a lot at the time.

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We used to have a ping pong table. It was next to impossible to play with Scrabble. He made it interesting and more fun!

Scrabbie was a wonderful cat. Friendly to the point of being dog like, he always met me at the front door when I got home. For the last 13 years, he has been the first face I’ve seen when returning home. Whether I was just gone to the mail box or away for a month, he was equally happy to see me again.

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He followed me everywhere. I can’t recall the last time I looked down and didn’t see him. Or didn’t have him curled up in my lap within 30 seconds of sitting down. He even entered the shower with me and stood patiently just outside the water stream getting sprayed until I was done. When I would be outside he would always been in the window looking out at me. If I went to the front, he would too.

Scrabble was friendly to everyone. He was never mean to any house guest, be it a person or animal and welcomed Echo, Bones and Einstein into our home with warmth. He loved everyone. He was the only cat to allow Wyatt to touch him and never held a grudge. He didn’t knock things over, pee outside the box or destroy the furniture. He was just a great guy to live with and was so easy going.

Above all else he was my cat. He tolerated Dusty because Scrabble liked everyone, but he always watched over me, sat with me, loved me. And I loved him back. He was the best cat I will likely ever have.

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Always watching me. I was never out of his sight if he could help it

Dusty diagnosed him with kidney failure 2 1/2 years ago and gave him 6 months to live. He fought and fought and clung to live until he just couldn’t any more. One benefit of having a vet husband is that he can put him to rest at home without a scary car ride being the last thing he remembered. I held him close and hugged him as he slipped away.

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He adored the cat tree and would sit up high watching everyone

I love you Scrabble. My heart is broken and my world a little less friendly without your bright face and big, round orange eyes keeping close tabs on me and making sure I am ok. I keep looking for you under my feet, around the corner and waiting for you to jump in my lao when I sit down. I miss you, but I am so glad I got to have youth me for nearly 13 years and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Rest easy, my big man. Say hello to Bones and Hero for me and I’ll see you again someday.

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Farm Sitting Heartbreak

All my animals are alive and as well as they were before I left which is fantastic. Unfortunately that isn’t the end of the story. 

When M came over to meet everyone I mentioned that while the entire property is fenced that there are two side that are barbed wire. Einstein has run under it, cutting his head badly in the process, and has been found on the busy road much to our annoyance. He hasn’t done it in over a month but the fact is that he could. I told her that his harness and leash would be on the kitchen table in case she felt safer putting him on it. He has a great recall which is part of the problem. If you call him over when he crosses the street he will come immediately – right through traffic. It’s the leaving when not being paid attention to that is the problem. 

As we were finishing up her mother called in a panic. Her dog had run away and was no where to be found. We hastily said goodbye so she could go help. Apparently it wasn’t uncommon as she didn’t seem overly surprised that her dog had gotten away. 

I received a text on day one asking if she could bring her dog over to play. Einstein loves to play and would be missing his day care day, so I agreed. Later that day she texted that her dog had ducked under the barbed wire and nearly got hit by a car on the road. She was losing her off leash privileges. Thankfully Einstein didn’t follow. 

All was then quiet except for some pictures she sent me and a text asking if she could have friends over for a fire in the back yard fire pit. 

That is until the last day. 

When we got off the plane in Texas and I turned my phone off airplane mode I got blasted with texts. Her dog had been off leash again and ran out in the road and was hit by a car. She was leaving the house immediately and had not fed or cleaned anything up.

I texted her that I understood and hoped it was only minor. 

By the time we got on the next flight and home she had returned to strip the bed and finish things up and her dog was being stabilized and prepared for surgery. 

Sadly, her dog passed away on Tuesday. 

It breaks my heart. She loved that dog. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and all that but it doesn’t change the ending and only makes the loss that much worse for her. She was her best friend and now she is gone. 

For my part I feel partly responsible although I know it wasn’t my fault. I should have said no when she asked to bring her over. In the future, I’ll make it a rule that no personal animals are allowed on my property when I’m away. I know. It should have been that way any way. 

Hug your fur babies close. Make responsible choices at all times. Safety before all else. They are with us for such a short time and their entire lives are lessons to be learned. M is heartbroken and it will take a long time for her to heal. Hugs to her and rest easy puppy. 

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Farm Sitting Nerves

The biggest issue with having the horses home is what to do when we are away. In the last four years I have traveled all of zero times and even if I had been traveling, it would have been a non issue with the horses boarded. I suddenly found myself with travel plans and a problem on my hands.

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The dogwood tree in the backyard is in bloom. I adore spring 🙂

Farm sitting for us isn’t really a big deal. There are no stalls to clean, no horses to catch and bring in or put back out. Just fill the feed pans and toss hay twice a day plus keep an eye on the water trough.

The bigger issue is the dogs, three cats one of which is in kidney failure and is special needs, fish and guinea pig. Its a zoo, I tell you.

When I made plans to go to this work conference (not a true vacation, I seem to be unable to take one of those), I immediately became concerned on what to do with our horde. Finding someone to house sit isn’t so easy. Thankfully I came into contact with the exact right person: a young college student who has a part time job working at a local barn. She can drive, is mature, doesn’t drink or smoke and wants a week out of her parent’s house. Perfection.

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The trees bordering the property are also starting to fill out with leaves. It feels like a totally private little world out back. 

I had her come over on Saturday to take the tour. She was really nice and seemed to take everyone in their stride. I had already typed out a semi anal retentive list of instructions and plan to create a more general “how to work the house” type list as well. I’m generally not very concerned about our pets when we leave, but this time I find myself being very, very nervous. Mostly because my wonder cat, Scrabble, is really, really sick and I am worried something will happen when we are both out of town.

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My darling Scrabble. Being spoiled by having an extra chair to see better out the window and over the shrubs. 

We debated all week about saying goodbye to him before Dusty left town on Saturday, but it didn’t sit well with me. It wasn’t time. Scrabble will tell us when it is time and just because we were leaving doesn’t mean it was his time as well. So, I am going to hope for the best while we are gone and plan to see my main guy greeting me at the door upon my return.

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Before he got sick. So handsome.