Pandemic survival tips

Righto fellow galloping housewife business owners, how are you feeling about the possibility of society grinding to a halt? Are you nervous? In denial? Looking forward to an excuse to spend all day, every day with your horses? There is no doubt that on a public health front these are uncertain times and if you’ve got any risk factors, or are unavoidably in contact with someone high risk on a daily basis, this galloping housewife is putting her nurse hat on and telling you to down tools right now, do the research, and do whatever the hell it takes to protect yourself or your loved one. For the rest of you she’s got some ideas as to how to get through.

First of all, if you’ve got children and have heard the rumour that the schools may be closing for anything up to 16 weeks and you’ve gotten all tragic and thought, that’s it, I’m done, my business is done, we’re going to be living in the car… seriously – what the hell? If there was ever a (good) reason to breed, it’s for times like these! What you are essentially getting from the government is slave labour. Four months of unpaid, tax free, work. You don’t even have to be nice to them and it’s illegal for them to quit. They can shit pick and groom, sweep and hand you nails, do the dishes and roll bandages. If you’ve got a geeky teenager, then put them to work updating your website, taking photos for social media, editing videos. Get them to stuff haynets and clean out troughs. The more mundane and tiresome the better. It serves a dual purpose. They do the crap jobs that you can’t stand and when it’s time for them to go back to school, they will be begging to get on the bus.

For the competition yards out there, now is the time to make some changes and to prepare your owners and staff and sponsors. While it would be wonderful to think that shows will go on and none of this will be necessary, in all likelihood they won’t, and you’ll be best served by being ahead of the eight ball and making early plans. Talk to the owners of your horses and tell them what you’ll be doing with their horses throughout the year to ensure that it is not wasted. The training you’ll be doing, and the progression you can make at home that means you’ll come out better than ever next year. If they’re good owners that are there for the long run, that want you to produce their horse for them for future glory or sale and are big picture people, they won’t mind a jot and will be impressed that you’ve put some thought into it. They'll possibly be secretly thankful that they don't have to put up all those ever increasing entry fees if money is going to be tight for them as well... If they’re the kind of owner that wants you to be out every week and are only satisfied if you’re winning and they’re getting their name in the H&H and their photos taken in front of every stately manor in the country, then, to be quite frank, you’re better off finding out now and ditching them anyway. You don’t need that kind of stress in your life in a normal season, let alone one that is as challenging as this.

The coaches can possibly plan on keeping working as normal for now, but do have some ideas in place for if we all end up on lockdown. Think about teaching lessons by video – any video chat option with the rider wearing earbuds will work - you might need a 3 way chat with one person as videographer, but it can be done. Consider doing your conferences & masterclasses as Zoom calls or Facebook lives. These are brilliant as you can have watchers asking questions in real time and the coach can come back later and answer every single one in their own time – plus the audience is unlimited by both geography and scale. You could record a series of ‘how to’ videos for your clients and posting them behind a paywall or on a membership site. Not only will it help those that are having to work at home on their own during this public health crisis, but you will have set yourself up with a passive income stream forever going forward.

Most retailers are selling online already, but if you’re not, now is the time to get amongst it. You can just start by creating a shop with your most popular line items to begin with and add a couple of things every day. There are lots of really easy ecommerce platforms you can use out there – even for the most technologically illiterate – and if you’re really struggling, find a teenager, either your own or a neighbour’s. Think about closing your ‘brick & mortar’ doors to the public altogether if possible; for your safety, for your clients’ safety and for your staff’s safety. The likes of feed shops and other places where the items are too bulky to ship could look at offering free local delivery. Your client base will be largely nearby anyway, and if you ‘batch’ the orders to certain postcodes, what you spend on fuel & time will be compensated by customer loyalty and less sick days in your own staff. 

The physios and bodyworkers and farriers and vets and all the other ‘in person’ service providers do have a slightly more complicated time of it. Do what you can to keep yourselves safe – maintain distances and wash your hands when you arrive on a yard and again when you leave. Don’t be accepting the cuppa for now – you’re going to have to dig out your thermos flask and take packed lunches. Keep a close eye on your own health and do not travel if you’re at all unwell. No one will thank you for it. As to what happens if there is a complete lock down – for a start, the galloping housewife hopes that you have income insurance – you’re the most at risk group no matter what, let alone when there’s a pandemic floating around. And if you’ve ever needed motivation to develop a ‘side hustle’ then look no further. It’s not about having a complete new skill set, it’s about figuring out ways to monetise what you already know. Write an ebook or create videos about your trade – aim it at the horse owner or athlete or less experienced practitioner.

 There is absolutely no denying that this is a most challenging period - completely unprecedented in our lifetime. No one will come through it completely unscathed so remember to be kind, particularly when you are feeling the most stressed. However, there is no need to be completely gloomy. With adversity also comes remarkable opportunity. As an industry we are going to have to adaptable and resourceful and look after each other. We need to look for alternatives to our traditional way of doing things, to be innovative as to how we deliver our products and services and transfer our skills. We are undergoing a global awakening as to just what is truly precious to us, what we value and what we really need. Consider it our ‘unplug for ten minutes and reboot’. What the galloping housewife can promise you is that those that adapt, that think outside the box and who are curious about the possibilities of a new world order, are going to be far, far better off than the ones that sit looking at their navels moaning about what they can’t do while waiting to get rescued.

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