Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A horse trader's horse trader

My dad was the quintessential horse trader. I couldn't tell you the number of different horses we had on the farm. All I knew was that I should not grow too fond of any particular horse because it would probably be sold or traded tomorrow.

He was an expert at spotting potentially undervalued animals. We would be driving down the road and he would spot a skinny old nag in a pasture and the next thing you know we were pulling up in their driveway. If the horse wasn't lame or diseased dad would make them an offer and we would be loading the horse later that afternoon.

A few months on good hay, feed and a worming and the skinny old nag would be transformed into a good-looking horse. Dad would spend some time working and handling the horse to determine its skills and then would sell the animal for 3 or 4 times what he paid for it.

He had a real eye for the potential in animals. He knew what he could accomplish with good care and attention if he was patient.

For my dad it was a learned skill. It was the result of taking the same basic risk over and over again and, after a while, because of his experience - what seemed like a risky venture to some - was a complete no-brainer to him.

Did every choice work out? Nope. There were probably two or three horses in a 20-year period that did not develop the way he'd hoped. However, the satisfaction that he got from "turning one around" and giving it a productive life kept him going. And the money didn't hurt.

In December of 2000, in what would be our last drive together around northern Florida, dad and I pulled up to a pasture and he pointed to an old sorrel mare standing alone in the shade of a palmetto. Dad had been looking at this horse for a few weeks. He said that he thought he could turn her around and just might buy her in the spring.

Discount what appearances tell you. Always look with an eye for future potential. Provide care and attention with a liberal dose of patience.

It's a good way to "turn around" any number of things...

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