Side Hustle and Horses

Earn good money doing what you love.

Cash for horses.

Horse people always have bills to pay. And though that’s true for everyone else too, horses are a passion that frequently drives us to spend a few bucks more than your average coin collector even though the latter is actually buying cash. 

Most of us don’t mind the extra expense, even when it makes us cringe. As one client told us: ”They are part of my life and my passion. I can’t put a price on that.”

That said, most of us don’t enjoy bottomless checkbooks and cash reserves. And horses with the predictable vet bills, etc., sometimes put more pressure on us than we wish.

I used to work sign up for overtime shifts to cover the extras, but they stopped
letting me do that when I retired. Thanks to my former employer’s inconvenient policy, I have to look elsewhere these days.

After a particularly tough period, in which all 3 of my aging ponies had a few costly problems crop up, I started looking for supplemental income. This is what I found:

  1. I could drive a taxi using my own car! Or not. My own car is a heavy duty diesel pickup that attaches neatly to my horse trailer. It’s not practical as an Uber machine for a variety of reasons horse people understand well.
  2. I could catch some shifts at a local restaurant. Ummmm…did that long ago. Totally great way to make a few bucks, and get paid cash tips, but also not for me. It might work for you, though and I encourage this approach if you’re cool with carrying carefully balanced food trays and memorizing menus. I recognize my limitations.
  3. Home Depot!!! Lots of people turn to Home Depot and other big box retailers for extra money and it’s a great gig. They are usually hiring and offer part time options. It still didn’t land in my alley though. I’m spoiled. Since retiring I have controlled my schedule and I like it. Working for a big box store means a fixed schedule more often than not, and I have a long history of shift work under my belt. I want something different.
  4. Dog walking/pet sitting is also a great gig. The success of  WAG and other online, on demand services has proven people love their pets enough to make sure they are taken care of outside of the traditional kennel environment. Dog walkers and pet sitters make good money and get to do work with dogs! If you love dogs, that’s a great way to work on a flexible schedule for good money.
  5. What works for me. I’m horse people. From my earliest memories, the barn is the happiest place on earth. In the presence of horses, I take in the scents, the sounds and the ongoing activities in utter contentment. I found out people who love their horses are just like people who love their dogs, but horse care requires skilled horse people. My cofounder and We built Barn Hero to fill this niche and we offer online, on demand services to horse people. We offer trusted farm sitting, grooming, exercise and more. And because the demand is too great for the two of us, we have built a platform so other horse people, who could use some extra money can join us. 

If you are horse people with horse care skills and experience, who would rather hang out with horses than drive a taxi, serve food, play with tools or walk dogs, check out Barn Hero

My job can’t be automated. Can yours?

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt (The Cowboy President)

According to a report from the Brookings Institute, 25% of jobs are at high risk of automation. Among jobs that don’t require a bachelors degree, more than half are at risk.

The study added that it’s the “boring and repetitive” jobs that are going away.

Sadly, many people without college are the ones who do these low and middle wage jobs, and they still need to eat and feed their kids. When we talk about our “great economic recovery” they are often the ones who have fallen further behind instead of enjoying our much touted gains in the Dow and Nasdaq.

The next time we enter a recession, the process of automation is predicted to speed up as companies look for ways to slash costs. 

As gloomy as all of that sounds, it’s not news in many areas of the country where jobs have already been lost by the millions to automation over the last 20 years.

But what to do? The standard answer seems to be learn to code or get into technical school to learn a skill that’s predicted to be around for awhile. And that’s great advice, but it’s not for everybody and there are jobs going unfilled that can’t be done by machines.

Ever wonder what it’s like to work outside?

For example, machines cannot successfully put a saddle on my horse. They cannot discern the subtle clues that he may be getting sick, even though there is tech that can track his vital signs. Robots cannot put him in his stall in a sudden storm or clean his stall while he is in it. He will have none of that kind of new fangled and to his thinking, terrifying technology. He is as suspicious of robots as Dr. Smith in Lost in Space. 

There are somewhere between 7 and 10 million personalities just like his in the US alone, but he needs care that I am not always available to give him. I have other responsibilities that need my time and attention too. Yet his care matters to me more than I can describe with words. Yes, I pay for help. Very few owners have the skill or the time to do everything themselves.

And we aren’t just talking about horses. All livestock need human care to thrive in captivity. And for people who would rather be outside, then strapped to a desk writing code, or inside cleaning houses there’s an opportunity, especially outside the cities. And there’s free training available for folks who can find a few hours a week to volunteer.

Look for places in your area that rescue horses and other livestock or offer equine therapy. These non-profits need volunteers and are willing to train people in exchange for help. Sometimes those volunteer jobs can become paying jobs. But once you learn the skills, join us at Barn Hero (barnhero.com) and we’ll help you find paying gigs. 

There will always be farms needing help and there will always be a need for the human touch in horse care. Additionally, there are plenty of people out there who will always be willing to pay for the help we need to care for our animals. 

Maybe this isn’t the kind of work that interests you, but if your job is potentially at risk, now is a great time to reconsider your options. Once things change you could be forced to do what you must rather than choosing what you love.

Whenever possible, choose what you love.

A new decade: Can we treat each other the way great horse people treat horses?

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”   -Socrates-

Everything I’ve learned in life can be explained through the lens of horsemanship. I realize that may sound crazy to those who’ve walked a different path, but it’s accurate and probably one of the reasons equine connected therapy is so effective for humans.

By example, my own horse is easily described as “spooky.” It’s not because he dabbles in the occult although he does seem to see things others don’t. Both visible and  invisible stimuli activate his flight mechanism frequently and with little warning. It’s totally possible there are ghosts involved. With Chance it’s always wise to be present and sit deep.

Chance is opposed to change. Any change. Moving a table from inside the arena to outside gives him the jitters. Putting jumps in a place they’ve never been makes him think wolves are near. Taking a trip in the horse trailer to another location, even if he has been there before, gives him the vapors. He will voice his objections and offer elaborate and energetic displays of interpretive dance to emphasize his concerns. He lives his life in condition orange, with a hair trigger to red for those of you who follow tactical nomenclature.

Of course his example is extreme. He is a prey animal who leans towards flight over fight whenever possible. But are we humans really that different?

Rocco and Daysha discussing fashion.

We also dislike change. The idea of things being other than expected gives us nervous tics. We resist innovation more than we embrace it. And it’s a primal response because familiarity feels safer than the new and unknown. 

We sometimes strike out at one another in response to the fear we feel when things change. Social media maximizes on our base response to change leaving us all aflutter over the latest outrage or dire prediction.

I firmly believe, after much practice, that if I dislike an invention or new approach to an old problem, y’all should invest in that thing because it’s going to be a huge success and I will be totally dependent on it in under 5 years. Just because we don’t like change, doesn’t mean we are being rational about it’s potential to improve our lives or offer us valuable lessons.

Horses teach horse people to be more rational than normal. Experienced horse people know that when the horse is afraid and getting ready to spook, the safest most effective response is a quiet spirit, reassuring words and patient understanding of their fear. We are kind as we show them the new thing isn’t a threat to them. The horse learns to accept new things because we use persuasion rather than force. 

With horses, we are careful to find our common ground and use that understanding to build our partnership and live in companionship with one another. We depend on one another. The horse trades for feed, shelter and veterinary care, we trade for companionship, strength to perform work we can’t and emotional support that’s hard to convey to the non-horse person.

As we enter a new decade, I have a dream that humans can learn to treat each other the way great horse people treat horses. With patience and understanding of our differences, and appreciation for our shared humanity and common ground. I hope we can evolve to become better partners in our future goals and dreams. 

Happy New Year

Horse Crazy

It’s Christmas Eve, Eve. I’m half of America away from my beloved dragon. And I had a terrible dream that included him. 

So I did the most rational thing ever. I texted the crew at the barn and requested a pic of him this morning to assure me he is well and all is right with the world in spite of my irrational fears. The pic showed him sharing talking time with his good friends at the pasture corner they share. 

I am normally a very logical person. I am practical and measured in most areas of my life. But my achilles heel is that horse. 

It’s a very horse people thing. We are like a cult of control freaks. We all believe our secret recipe for nutrition is the only thing keeping our horses from death’s door, for example. Until it isn’t. Then we ask everyone we know what they do and get 487 different answers, all delivered with serious confidence and lots of anecdotal proof. And depending on what we learn, we make endless tiny adjustments to the recipe..forever.

We all have our own beliefs about every aspect of our horse’s care and can discuss those ideas endlessly with each other. We are ravenous for more information and new science to keep our horses at the peak of health and soundness. 

And when I get outside this neurotic circle I get nervous. What if he isn’t taking every breath in perfect comfort and happiness? What if he runs out of his medication or cookies? What if the weather extremes are stressing him? What if he’s too warm in his blanket? Or not warm enough without it?

Mind you, I have none of these concerns about my husband, who is also at home without me. I trust him to take care of himself and the dogs. I miss them all, but don’t worry.

But the horses are different. In spite of the fact that I know darn good and well that they are pretty resilient in the elements and that any troubling changes in their behavior would be reported immediately by the people I trust with their care in my absence, I still reserve the anxiety prone area of my brain for them. 

I have no solutions to share. There is no cure for horse crazy.

And that’s okay. Happy Holiday Eve, eve.

5 ways to be a barn hero.

One afternoon, I called my husband from work in a panic. I told him: “The farrier called. He said Rocco just kicked him across the driveway 3 times! And I can’t leave to find out what’s wrong!”

He was pretty new to horses still and didn’t understand my concern. The thing is, Rocco had never been a problem for the farrier before, which meant something was causing him pain. He had enough pain to go on the fight during a routine procedure. Don’t even get me started about my irritation over the farrier pushing him to kick 3 times before calling me. That’s a rant for another post.

David told me not to worry. He could be there to meet the vet. I called him my hero and he responded, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”

A barn hero is a different kind of cape wearing, life saving friend than the usual variety of first responder. Our jobs and other obligations don’t always understand that what happens to our horses, happens to our hearts. But we do. And throughout a lifetime with horses, my barn heros have lived among my dearest friends and confidantes.

Here are a few ways to define a barn hero in my book. I’m sure there are more, but let’s start with these:

  1. Your neighbor who is always willing to throw feed and top off waters when you have to work late or take a kid to the ER.
  2. That perfect ranch hand who seems to know your horse isn’t acting right about a month before he stops eating and bites at his sides.
  3. Your fellow boarder with the trailer who always, always, always hitches up to get you to the vet in an emergency.
  4. The farm sitter who shows up with no notice because you have a family emergency out of town.
  5. The show groom who sees your number still hanging on the stall and runs it to the warm up arena before you’re even aware you don’t have it.

Some of these seem more critical than others, but the truth is, every one of the above is an important part of the village we need to help us exercise our horse obsession while managing the rest of our lives.

Let’s hear it for the barn heros!