Trickle-Down Economics and the Horse Business

Unless you’ve had your head deep in a hole for the past few months (it just feels like years), you heard one of the presidential candidates and his party yammer on about how giving more money to the super-rich somehow enriches us all. It’s that “trickle-down” theory of economics that we’ve been hearing about since the 1980s without any indication that anyone actually benefits other than, you guessed it, the super rich.

What trickle-down theory says, basically, is that we should give a lot of something to a small group of people and eventually everyone will benefit. Of course that will work (not).

Right, then. Perhaps those of us in the horse business should give it a try. After all, we are talking about a theory espoused by a man ingenious enough, even while on vacation, to have found more room for luggage in the family station wagon by making the beloved pet dog ride on the roof.

So, I thought that given the high price of decent horse hay, maybe some of you who own or manage multiple horses might try a trickle-down feeding program. Give one horse in your barn all the hay and grain he can eat. Go on, let him turn into a big, bloated hippo. Then turn him out with your other horses so his wealth of blubber can trickle into them. Should cut your feed bills right down, don’t you think?

I think maybe I’ll try a trickle-down approach to riding instruction. I’ll pick one of my favorite students and give her a long, intensive lesson every single day. Then I’ll tell my other clients to go ride around in the arena with her for a while until her knowledge trickles right into them. While they’re doing that, I’ll just collect my fees and go home for a nice nap.

I know. I’m being facetious. Sort of. Honestly, trickle-down economics never made much more sense to me than, say, a trickle-down diet. No, I’m not a complete idiot; I do get the part about people at the top of the food chain creating companies that hire people and do business with other companies that also hire people. “Job creators,” we call them now.

But we also know that the super-rich stash loads of money in offshore bank accounts to stymie the IRS and gamble in the stock markets, fueling the creation of all kinds of shady “investment products” that promise big returns but inevitably implode like the pseudo-Ponzi schemes they are. And they have really clever accountants who can transform an FEI-level dressage horse into a big tax write-off.

Point being, I don’t think the super-rich do a very good job of sharing their wealth with the rest of us. (Apart from a few true philanthropists. But let’s be honest, those are few and far between.) I look around my little slice of the planet and see that since the trickle-down ‘80s the rich have gotten massively richer while the rest of us hang on by our fingernails.

I, for one, don’t recall a single instance in my life when I stopped and said, “Yowza! I just felt something trickle into my pocket!” (Okay, it happened once. But I was holding a puppy at the time, so the stuff that trickled wasn’t exactly spendable, if ya know what I mean.)

Unfortunately for all of us, one thing actually has trickled down from the world of mega-corporations and their fat-cat executives. “What?” you ask. No, it’s not money. I guess you could call it a business model, the fundamentals of which seem to involve throwing loyalty, courtesy, empathy, morals and ethics right out the window. In case you’re interested, I think I’ve seen enough to have a vague idea how you could go about implementing this type of management at, say, a small company offering horse-related products or services.

Basically, when running a modern company of any size, you have two groups who must be dealt with decisively. First are the employees who do the actual day-to-day work of running the business. They’re so annoying, complaining all the time when the tools they need wear out or break or get borrowed and not returned. And what about that manager, putting on airs pretending to work so hard while all the time he’s just making up a bunch of complaints the clients supposedly have passed along about the quality of the service or products. Not to mention your sub-contractors, always worried that they’ll look bad when you renege on your agreements with them.

The second problem group you’ll face, of course, is the customers or clients. They’re always whining about not getting the service or product they paid for, acting as if you owe them something in exchange for their dollars. And it’s even worse when you try, quite reasonably, to decrease the service or the size of the product while just increasing the price a tiny little bit. I mean, as a small business owner you have needs, right? You’ve got to dress well, drive a nice car and live in a house befitting your status? And you only hired employees so you can take a vacation once in a while, no more than three or four times a year. Why would anyone object to paying for that?

But still they complain. Never mind. When you just can’t take it anymore, simply get rid of all these awful people. Trade them in for shiny new clients and employees. It’s easy, really. Just tell a few really blatant lies to the stupid saps who think of themselves as your loyal customers. Go on, make them really mad. Then blame the employees and the sub-contractors. If anyone objects – and especially if any employees side with the customers – make a few thinly veiled threats of retribution (never in writing, of course).

You’re the business owner; you don’t have to put up with disgruntled employees or customers. They’re such a downer. You’re doing the best you can, after all. Remind your employees often that, in this economy, they’re lucky to be working at all. And remember it’s important that your clients understand you’re doing them a huge favor by actually producing the product or performing the service you’re charging them for. So never miss a chance to regale them with tales of how hard you work on their behalf and all the sacrifices you make to ensure they get exactly what they deserve for their loyal patronage and substantial financial outlay.

Always be sure to be gushingly friendly toward and complementary of all your employees and customers whenever you meet in front of anyone not associated with your company. That makes a good impression and everyone who doesn’t really know you will like you. They’ll want to become your customers and employees and everyone will live happily ever after. Until the end. When there are no customers left. Or employees.

I’m not sure what you do next. But, maybe by the time it gets to that point another business model will have trickled down from the heights of wealth and power. Until there are no more clients or employees for them, either, and the world is run by three mega-rich white guys. Or a really fat horse.

9 thoughts on “Trickle-Down Economics and the Horse Business

  1. I always thought this newsletter was about horses, horse training and rider education. I’m confused about the political commentary and the purpose of it. I don’t expect the rich to give me anything; I don’t expect the goverment to give me anything. When I want something, I work for it and if I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it …. I wait until I can pay for it. I don’t expect a handout nor have I ever bought a house that if bad times hit we couldn’t afford the mortgage. I’m pretty sure that the majority of the small group of really rich people pay a lot more taxes (whether they hide some wealth or not) than I do. I think it’s time the majority of American citizens (and non) get over their envy of others and support themselves and their families. Having a horse is a great luxury … wealth isn’t just money in the bank. People who are able to own horses and/or run an equine business are in my view wealthy and shouldn’t be throwing stones at others.

    Regarding the family dog on top the car … times were different in that era. My family’s dog never saw the inside of the house, never was taken to a vet and he never ate commercial dog food only table scraps. And yet he was loved and lived a long, full life. At least the Romneys’ brought the dog back home with them … they didn’t dump him along the road or at the shelters like people do now.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Yes, I generally focus the newsletter on horse and rider education because that’s what I love and what makes my days rich. (Totally agree with your point that wealth is about much more than money and anyone who is lucky enough to have work he or she loves is indeed fortunate.)
      But the horse business is, after all, a business and is, as many of us found out to our detriment post-2008 crash, linked to the wider economy. I’ve gotten more interested in the consequences of political actions over the past few years as I have watched good, honest, hardworking people hit by levels of hardship they never could have predicted nor planned for when making what seemed at the time like sound financial decisions for their families and businesses. Hence my election-rhetoric-inspired blog post on a topic that had been rattling around in my head for weeks.
      Never fear, future newsletters will continue to focus on the nuts and bolts of riding and training. But you never know what else I might put in just for variety … or to see who’s actually reading!
      Hope all is well with you and yours. I hear it’s gotten a mite cold in your area … keep warm!

  2. I personally, loved your article – it was well thought out and well written. Yes, this is a ‘horse’ publication, however, I always enjoy reading everyone’s perspective on anything and never take it personal. There’s always something to be learned by reading and listening.

  3. Your description on this blog of the new business model fits to perfection several boarding barns that my family has experienced in the last 5 yrs! These experiences have certainly left their mark and at the time we were suffering constantly from confusion, anger and frustration since we never, repeat, never new what the next drama issue would be, who would be “employed” to do the basic barn jobs (just how hard is it to feed, clean and turn out????) or whether there was going to be a price hike or some issue created to get us to leave! Yes, to the new clothes, parties, kids’ activities, cars, RVs and vacations! After a while it would become apparent that some $$ were needed for one or all of these things because there was some new decree or “situation” at the barn that would allow for more dollars to be spent on themselves not on the business. The business was solely a way to provide “free” money without the work or investment of their time. The number of people that were shafted via lack of hay, water and general maintenance of the facilities, as well as others being duped into work in exchange for reduced board or other incentives that never happened, never ceased to amaze! Thank goodness we have both found places that do not have these issues now. The reduction in stress is amazing and felt physically! Your insights and creative way of writing was a pleasure to read. It was also therapy to finally have those behaviors described concisely. It was an “Ah Hah!” moment that gave an excellent view from the other side of the divide. Also, it is good to know that we were not going crazy or that it was just something in the water; that these people are for real! (This is in reference to being “gushingly friendly…..” to outsiders since to express to others your true beliefs on how crazy and selfish these “wonderful” people are led to the gossip mill grinding you to dust! The horse world can be very small.)

    • Hi Just J,
      Glad you liked the post and found it something of a reality check. No, you’re not going crazy because, sadly, the prevailing corporate business model really has reached the horse business. Sorry to hear you and your family have had such a challenging time finding an ethically operated boarding facility for your horses, but happy that you’ve found a place where you all can enjoy drama-free time with them. Hope that continues for you.

      • I agree and there are others who have commented on how self interest has pervaded society as a whole. Thanks for the reply!