We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff Derby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
I operate an equine business. I raise and train horses. I am fortunate to be able to work at the thing that is my passion, everyday. I am grateful for this opportunity. While it seems quite romantic to be able to ride horses for a job, I don’t believe that many folks outside of this business, the livestock industry, or even agriculture in general, are aware of the enormous amounts of labor, time and effort that go into it. It consists of a lot of very long hours, hard work and tough conditions, with very little (or no) time off. The animals’ needs come first, no matter the weather, the time of day, or the day of the year. Working in this industry is a lifestyle choice rather than a business decision. It has to be a labor of love, because the work itself is the biggest reward.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I work with horses on a daily basis. We raise, “train”, and occasionally sell some. So, day to day, I am taking care of and riding horses. But my business has really become about working with people – the owners and clients. My business is about teaching, coaching, and sharing knowledge. It’s about helping folks overcome their horse. related difficulties and working towards achieving their equine goals. Horses are still necessary in the ranching industry, and my background is in cowboying and making ranch horses. My career started with me basically producing a commodity- raising beef. I then began to specialize in making a specific tool for that industry – the stock horse. I raised the raw material (the horses) and then added value by making them into a usable tool. As I improved in my abilities to make a better horse, they gained more and more value, and I became interested in not just making tools, but but in crafting artistically pleasing versions of those tools. They soon became worth more as a finished product in themselves than they were as a tool for beef production. My market changed from making ranch horses for cowboys, to making equine partners for the recreational rider. Again, as I learned more and grew in my understanding of the horse, it became undeniably apparent that it isn’t the horse that needs the education and help in the relationship. They already know how to be a horse. It’s the human that must learn and educate themselves in how to be a horseman. So my work evolved further, to where my business is now primarily about working with and teaching people. Nowadays, for my clients, the horse is not just a tool used to get a job done. For them, the horse is a recreational hobby; a passion. It’s how they choose to spend their precious time and hard-earned money. For myself, and the folks I work with, working with the horse is about building a partnership. It’s not about quick fixes, gimmicks or tricks. It’s about developing a relationship built on trust and understanding. It’s about improving our ability to communicate. It’s about working on ourselves, to adjust our approach and ways of interacting with the horse, in order to help them feel safe, comfortable and willing to respond by giving us the physical performance that we desire. More and more I am realizing that the horse offers people some things that are not so common in today’s world. They offer us not the instant gratification of a society always seemingly in a hurry, but rather a chance to slow down and to appreciate something very honest, very real and very natural. Horses live in the moment, and they don’t care about much other than what is happening right around them, in any given situation, at any given time. When we are interacting with them, we are quite often the largest influence in that situation. They are extremely aware and perceptive creatures, and if we pay attention to them on a nuanced level, we find that they are excellent mirrors for us to see how we are existing at that specific time. They offer us immediate feedback as to how we handle opportunities to connect with another very honest, very straightforward living, feeling, thinking being, That has become very meaningful to me, now, in my life, and I find the same for the folks that I work with. That’s what the horse is about to me, now. All that, and it’s a lot of fun to ride around on the back of a big, strong, athletic animal.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would want to share the natural beauty of the area. I would take them to the Grand Canyon, hike into Havasupi, spend a few days around Sedona, and head down to the Superstitions. We would eat at the small coffee shops, local diners and hit the craft breweries.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to Bruce Sandifer. He is at times a business partner of mine, but also a bit of a mentor to me. By example, he has helped me more than I can explain; not only with understand the horse, but also with seeing how our work with them applies to life in general.