When I bought my quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike Coffman in the spring of 2005, I realized the childhood dream of being a real horse owner. While I had a couple of work horses at the feed yard, their care was primarily provided by my cowboy and I only rode them sporadically.
To have my own horse in my own backyard fulfilled a very special and personal dream. Dandy was a coming four year old when I bought him from Mike. Lucky for me, God made him a big, gentle creature and we have spent the last seven years learning from each other.
Dandy taught me a lot about communication, feel and intent. He taught me to be a strong yet compassionate leader. He taught me that slow and steady is always true, and to never take anything for granted.
Most importantly, he taught me that “It’s not about the trailer”…
One day, a couple of months after I brought him home from Mike’s ranch, I wanted to load him on my horse trailer and take him down to our grass pasture to ride. I had trouble that day loading him on the trailer. I got frustrated with myself, I got frustrated with him, and it was not a good experience for either one of us.
In the months that followed, I learned that the more time and effort that I invested into our relationship—the clearer our communication became and the easier it was to get him to be my partner. You see, that day early on in our relationship, it wasn’t about the trailer—it was about the lack of trust and lack of good communication that made loading him challenging.
Today, it only takes the pointing of my finger and the lifting of the lead rope for Dandy to happily load into the trailer. In fact, I move him from pasture to pasture around my house with that same point of the finger. Sometimes it seems as though he reads my mind and offers what I desire almost before I ask for it. Conversely, I can also provide what he needs and desires at critical times in our partnership —that is the power of a relationship that is based on trust.
As a blogger and a beef farmer that believes in transparency, I am often asked by other cattlemen how we can reach out to our customers that live far away from the farm to explain ranching practices or products that are used to raise beef. There is no simple answer because I believe that it is not about the ranching practice or the animal health product any more than my problems loading my young horse were about the trailer.
It is, quite simply, about the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer. Is this relationship based on trust and truth? Or is it riddled with distrust and inaccuracies? In short, it is about whether you trust me to offer good care to my animals and use the resources on my farm in the best way. Equally important, it is also about whether I trust you and value your questions and concerns regarding the way that your beef is raised.
It is not about the antibiotic, the growth hormone, the beta agonist, or the feed yard…
It is rather about the quality of our relationship and our ability to have a respectful conversation about all of the things that are listed above.
- Can we empathize and have compassion for each other?
- Can we trust that each one of us can learn from each other and do our own special part to work for the betterment of our country?
I think that we will find that our lives are enriched by the knowledge that we can share with each other, just as my beloved quarter horse has enriched my life and taught me that the best communication skills are the ones that are based on love and respect…