In an ideal world, the vet will always show up right when you need her, the shoer will get to your horses on time, and the feed dealer will show up before you run out of hay.
While this may sound like a fantasy scenario, you can actually achieve something close to it if your vendors consider you a preferred client. Preferred clients get priority because they make a vendor’s life a whole lot easier.
“It’s very important to have a good relationship with your vendors,” says Lisa Eggerling, manager of The Tumbling “T” Horse Facility, a boarding stable in Seward, Nebraska. “The horse business has a lot of variables, and you need vendors who can accommodate these variables. If you run out of feed on a weekend, have a foal delivered in the middle of the night, or your horse throws a shoe the night before you leave for a big show, you have to have a good enough relationship with your vendors to be able to call on them any time.”
While being a preferred client to a vendor is the best situation to be in, achieving that status requires some effort.
“We keep our vendors happy first off by being kind and considerate,” says Eggerling. “I feel if you call them up and demand service or are constantly demanding service, you will soon be the last person they return calls to or set appointments with. We have to keep in mind that we are not their only clients.”
Rick Fleming, a farrier in Lake Forest, California, finds that his preferred clients are those who show him the most consideration.
“Consideration for me is probably the most common trait of an ideal client,” he says. “Ideal clients make sure the farrier has a decent work area. They’ll be there to hold difficult horses and most importantly, they trust my judgment as an equine professional.”
Paying promptly is another trait of the ideal client, according to Fleming. “My preferred clients are ones whose have a check waiting for me when the work is done,” he says. “Many times, the farrier is paid last. With horses, there comes a long list of bills to be paid, and people often think it’s okay to put off the farrier’s payment.”
For Nancy Hall, a feed distributor in Beaumont, California, the best clients are the ones who respect her knowledge and are willing to do whatever it takes to properly care for their horses.
“My preferred clients are those who inquire about my products and hear what I have to offer,” she says. “They ask questions with sincere interest to do what is best for their horse. They do not have the attitude that they know everything, and they order product in a timely fashion, not always at the last minute. They are also consistent and loyal.”
Veterinarians are among the most important vendors to equine professionals, and are the ones in highest demand. According to Jayme Harvey-Micay, DVM, a veterinarian with Orange County Equine Veterinary Services in Lake Forest, California, top clients understand the demanding nature of the veterinarian’s job.
“The best clients are those who are flexible with emergencies and appointment times,” she says. “They understand if we have a colic and have to move an appointment. They are also willing to explain the costs of veterinary care to novice clients so those people aren’t surprised when they get their bill.”
Harvey-Micay also appreciates clients who acknowledge her expertise as a veterinarian. “It’s good when a client is educated, but he or she needs to be open-minded, too,” she says. “The worst thing is when someone wants to hear a certain diagnosis or treatment and then argues with you when you say something different from what they expected.”
Prompt payment is also a trait of preferred clients for Harvey-Micay. “It’s really helpful for a veterinarian when people pay on time,” she says. “Sometimes smaller trainers don’t have a lot of money so it’s hard for them to pay for their own horses, but it makes life a lot easier if they can.”
A well-trained horse goes a long way when it comes to pleasing a busy veterinarian, according to Harvey-Micay. “I have done prepurchases where the horse didn’t know how to lunge,” she says. “It’s really helpful if the horse is trained. It makes the animal easier for the vet to examine. Ground manners are also important.”
It can take some work to become a preferred client to vendors, but the benefits are well worth the effort for both parties.
“Our vendors know that if they provide us with great service, our clients will be happy. And the more clients we have, this is that much more business for them,” says Eggerling. “They are also great references for us—we have had several clients come to us because of our vendors.”