Have you ever considered your horse as your employee? Perhaps this seems degrading to the horse, but your horse does perform a specific job for you and therefore it makes sense to get his/her feedback on how the job is going for him/her. Even if you are a recreational rider, your horse is performing a job for you.
Let's look at this from the corporate perspective then apply it to the horse world. You are the boss of a small company or a manager of a division of a large company. You have a job opening. You write up the job description and post to the community. You receive applications and resumes. You interview the candidates. You hire the best candidate for the job. Six months later it's time for the employee's performance review. The employee is evaluated on certain criteria on a scale from one to five. The employee learns what s/he is doing well and areas for improvement. Now if you're a good employer then you also care about how satisfied your employee is in his/her job. You provide employee satisfaction surveys to find out what you're doing right and your areas of improvement. This allows for a great two way communication system to ensure both employer and employee are happy. Happy and content employees make for good productivity, which makes for good profit margins. It all comes down in the end to the almighty dollar and reducing your risk and liability. With an unhappy employee, the employer is at greater risk and liable.
So how does all this apply to the horse world? Very simple actually. You are the employer and your horse is the employee. We've all heard the stories of horses being asked to perform jobs they are not well suited for, as well as horses having second and third careers. Examples are a horse that is built for working cattle being asked to perform the job of an eventer/cross country horse, and a retired race horse having a second career as a hunter/jumper and a third career as a school horse. What happens to the horse that is asked to perform a job s/he is not suited for, whether the reason is physical or mental? The horse becomes unhappy, and in worst cases will start to break down physically and/or mentally. We have all experienced a horse that is unhappy and/or in pain either directly or indirectly. The horse will start to bite, kick, strike, buck or rear. Horses do not want to be this way, but often times the only way to get their point across and grab our attention is to act out in sometimes violent manners. As the employer, this puts you and/or your clients at risk for being injured perhaps even seriously injured. If you operate a boarding facility, a training barn, or a dude ranch this puts you at risk exponentially by the number of clients coming through your facility.
What can we do to reduce our risk and liability? Simple. Ask the horse how s/he feels about her/his job with an employee satisfaction survey. In the case of the horse we are going to combine both the employee performance and satisfaction survey. Determine what your key performance indicators (goals) are for the horse in his/her job. Then develop a set of questions, start out with at least five and no more than ten questions, where the horse can be rated on a scale from one to five. Work with your horse to complete the survey.
Coming up in Part 2: a sample horse survey and how to complete the survey.