Working with horses can be dangerous – you can get kicked, bucked off, stepped on, crushed against the wall, all sorts of mean and nasty things. And I suppose it’s inevitable that you’re gonna end up in a bad situation at some point.
I am by no means an expert with horses, though I got an interesting complement from Doc – he commented “You may become a horseman yet.” He’s got four classifications of horse people: Owners, who own horses but usually leave the maintenance of horses up to someone who’s paid to do it. Riders, who, well, mainly just ride the horses. Horsemen, who basically end up having to know how to ride, feed, care for, etc horses, to the point of knowing how individual horses and the herd as a whole think. And finally, Cowboys, the true type of Cowboy, who knows well… just damned near everything about horses. Doc considers himself a Horseman (and I have no debate with his personal label for himself – he knows his shit.)
I feed the horses from time to time, and probably annoy the shit outta Doc with questions. Basically, the more I know about ’em, the more questions I have. So I learn a little bit here and there – how to assess their health a bit, how to deal with a freaked out horse, how to make them mind, etc. By no means an expert, but if Doc is outta town or there’s a situation where he can’t deal with ’em for a couple days, no biggie – I can step in.
I’ve actually spent enough time out there I switched from my usual fedora to a straw cowboy hat from Walmart. Which umm… well, actually, looks really good on me, IMO (and the opinion of other people too, from the comments I’ve gotten, except possibly one person who referred to me as Ted Nugget at a party the other day :-). So I wear it everywhere now. The reason for the change was something that kept the sun off of my face and balding head, but had enough ventilation to keep me from sweating to death. As an added bonus it acts as a sweat band and draws the sweat away great. And, I’m not lying here, if it’s hot and humid enough and I’m working hard enough, it will draw sweat all the way out to the edge of the brim, and my hat starts “raining” – very weird looking. (This hat thing isn’t a random digression, it factors into the story. Really 🙂
After you’ve been out there long enough, you can feel when something is wrong with the horses. Stick around even longer, and you can start telling what’s wrong – they have different strange behaviors for different strange things going on. That night, I was feeding the “boys” – 4 horses (out of a grand total I believe of 29 that Doc now owns, though two of them are on loan at the moment) that are in the south most paddocks. Something was defintiely wrong – they were “talking” to me a lot, and would NOT leave me the fuck alone – anywhere I went, I had at least two horses within 5 feet of me. I could hear coyotes in the background talking back and forth (either their pack was split in two areas, or there were two different packs), and just figured that musta had the boys freaked out. I finished up feeding them, and walked back to the north paddocks (which is a half mile walk at midnight, made just slightly unnerving by the horses acting odd and listening to coyotes 🙂
I get to the stables, and there’s horses in the stables (5 youngn’s, and four adults, two youngns short of what it should be), and some in the new steel corrals. But a quick head count says it’s a bit shy of a full herd, and I can hear a horse yelling in the background, and Doc’s not around. Oh shit – must be a horse down or something. I call Doc and find out one of the mares has losts it’s baby (which, hehehehe, is in the stables. Duh.), and has managed to get all freaked out and can’t find it’s way outta one of the back pastures. And where there’s one horse, there’s multiple horses normally, so the rest of the herd is down there.
Cool. The horses are still on edge, but all is well. So I spend my time filling water troughs and talking to the young ones in the stables. Unfortunately, it had been raining off and on for a few days, so the area in front of the stables is a fucking MUD PIT. (I also own mud boots just for that. Even though my canvas shoes are only $7 at Walmart, no need to ruin ’em.)
Now, when I say young ones, they aren’t very old, but already way around 500 lbs a piece (jesus horses grow FAST). Fortunately, they’re already pretty damned tame. Hell, they’re tame enough to be pests – you’ll have a small heard of small horses (there’s 9 of ’em now) following you anywhere you go, wanting pets.
The horses in the steel pens start making a big racket, and I walk to the gate in the stables, and look out to see what’s going on. On the dark side of the barn, three horses come running past at full speed.
And all hell breaks loose in a split second. To the right of me, 500 lbs of horse attempts to jump the gate (and fails to completely clear it), and another 500 lbs of horse rams the gate at full speed. I didn’t fucking heasitate – behind me somewhere were 3 more tame but UNTRAINED young ones, and four full sized adults. That’s 28 hooves to get stepped on by, and roughly 8,000 lbs of combined horse flesh that just freaked the fuck out by my estimation.
I threw myself against the nearest wall – good call too. My hat didn’t move when I set a new record for high-speed long jump. At least, it didn’t move until the next young horse went through the exact spot I was in (which threw the hat in the mud about six foot away) and the one after that took the same course and stomped the hat DEEP into the mud.
I flattened against the wall, and looked to see the oncoming adults and the last youngn.
Except the youngn’ was in the middle of the stable with a “what the fuck was that?” look, an the adults were perfectly calm. Whew. Total time for the entire stampede was about 3 or 4 seconds I’m guessing. That could have been MUCH worse.
Young horses haven’t yet learned what is and isn’t an emergency, and haven’t yet learned one of the commandments of being in a herd owned by humans – “Thou Shall Not Fucking Run Over The Humans.” Adult horses will step on you by accident if they don’t know you’re there (I always make sure horses know where I am – if I’m walking behind one, I put my hand on their rump as I’m approaching), and sometimes step on your foot kinda soft and slowly lean on it to be cantankerous. But in general, they don’t attempt to step on you, and actively avoid it (and if they do, you make sure they know it’s wrong 🙂
Up until that point, the worst that I figured that could happen at the farm is getting kicked (which is no small thing – kicked in the wrong spot, it can outright kill you. Kicked in the right spot, you’re gonna hurt for quite a while :-). The idea of actually being trampled by horses? Never crossed my mind before. And problem is, given how fast the problem developed (from everything is edgy to destroying the gate in about a second), there’s not much you can do to prepare for the worst possible scenario. Except train the horses 🙂
So I figure I’m gonna start learning how to train. What the hell – what’s the worst that could happen? 😉
My biggest struggle these days is with finding more contracts. I’ve got very little problem selling something when someone is at least mildly interested in what I’ve got to offer (services – web development, etc.). But cold calls? No good at it.
I’ve tried to find a sales person with little result, but, in the back of my head I’m still not convinced that a sales person is going to be that much of a benefit. The problem remains this: when I was at Creek, I couldn’t STAND someone calling to sell me something, and I still cant. The fastest way to garantee that I don’t use someone’s product or services is a cold call. On top of that, there’s no call lists to deal with, businesses with “No Solicitors” signs, etc.
You’ve almost got to have an existing relationship with people to sell ’em on something, or some sort of intermediate connection, OR they hunt you down to ask about buying your product or services. Just about any other situation is… annoying.
I’ve got projects in the works that are great exposure projects. Black Raven Comics is a comic book publisher, and we’ve got a small one line ad at the bottom of every page “Developed and Hosted By Midnight Ryder Technologies” with a link back to our site, plus a free advertisement in everything they publish for the next year (which cost me handing them a 5% discount on the project 🙂 The City of Kiowa website is going to be a good one when it’s finished, again it’s got a ad for us on it, and we’re using the site as an opener for selling websites in that area to businesses, plus it gets us into doing government sites. The highest profile site will be one that will have it’s public launch in September, and full services launch in October – Fountain Street Productions (note – that’s a link to the “private” soft launch. Don’t pass the URL around, it will change in the future, plus it’s still not fully ready yet, the customer is now playing with it to learn parts. But I include the link to show off my “pride and joy” 😉 It’s a social site for independent bands – and it’s got some serious horsepower behind the promotional stuff in two states already. Cool. And it’s the most complex site I’ve done to date – eCommerce, CMS, user blogs, user music uploads, user editable galleries, and a buttload of other things. It’s MySpace for independent bands. No, not Cool. Fucking Coooooool.
So in the long term, exposure and word of mouth is going to get us a long ways. And I’ve already got some stuff lined up, but it’s all “down the road” type stuff where they want to do it, but don’t have the money yet. Plus Lance has a few things he’s done the sales on too.
As I was leaving a buddy / customer’s house the other day, I asked if I could give him some business cards to hand out since we were chatting about websites and how everyone needed one these days.
On the drive home, and evil grin and laugh came out. I knew what I needed to do. I know guys who deal with literally thousands of customers in a year. Don’t hire a salesman.
Hire a salesFORCE.
Basically, give ’em something to hand out, and coach ’em just a bit on what to say to pique the interest of the potential customer. Originally I was gonna do flyers, but that’s too bit. Instead I went with linen business cards (self printable) that are two sided – needed to be small enough to fit into a pocket, otherwise they’d always have to go to their truck to get a flyer, or forget ’em at home, etc. Easy, self contained, and delivers a quick message. Perfect. All of ’em are fairly charismatic people (all but one are self-employed, so it’s a requirement for ’em), and good talkers. In exchange, they get a 5% kickback on any generated lead, that way they are a motivated salesforce.
Three of four are already signed on. I’ll talk to the forth one tomorrow.
On top of that, I went and visited Robert. R&S now has 3 stores, two more on the way, and potentially a contract with Ft. Riley to provide BBQ on base (he’s been doing catering for them – his next gig up there is a catering job for 4,000 people, and his previous one was for a concert they held up there. So he’s probably gonna get it sometime soon.) I finally sold him a starter website for R&S (with 50% downpayment – I’ve got the check in my hands before I started ;-). But of course, that’s not enough for me – I got him convinced to let me put business cards and fliers in all of the stores. While the downtown R&S only does good daytime business, the new Haysville store is doing really well. So anything like that is gonna do a lot to increase our exposure.
I can’t say that this is going to sell a million dollars worth of business or anything, but finding a passive way to advertise our services (using the R&S BBQ placement), and a way that uses existing business relationships to build more business for us is sure to generate at least a few more contracts. And the more exposure we get, the more contracts I can sell 🙂
(And, btw – anyone who thinks they’ve got connections to get more work, I’ll happily extend that 5% kickback offer to you too. That includes outta town – web design and programming I can do from anywhere in the world 😉
OK, g’night all 🙂