Knowing your value, understanding your counterpart’s needs, and building trust are foundational negotiation principles. So, what in the heck do horses have to do with it? Join Christine McKay on today’s episode as she explores the answer with Hannah Zapletal, Owner of WildeWood Farm in suburban Atlanta, GA. Hannah provides valuable insights on understanding the value we deliver to clients, reading people, and building a trust-based business. Join Christine and Hannah for this back-to-basics conversation about how lessons learned in the horse paddock and on the ranch can inform your negotiations.  

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Negotiation Is Going To The Horses with Hannah Zapletal

Welcome back to another amazing episode, where we help you, the small business owner, level-up your negotiations. We teach you how to level your playing fields, get more of what you want and all of that awesome stuff. I have a different kind of a guest for you. I’m always looking for ways to help you understand the negotiation in a different way. I thought I’d go back a little bit to my roots. I invited Hannah Zapletal. She hearkened back to my youth in what she does. Not because she was raised in Haiti by missionary parents that, I have no point of reference. She worked mostly in agriculture and infrastructure construction.

As many of you guys know, I was born and raised on a very awesome ranch in North Central Montana. Hannah has an amazing 501(c)(3) called Empowering Struggling Youth, which is also a veteran outreach. She has a barn with horses and was teaching people how to ride and did some amazing things with all of the work that she’s been doing around horses. I’m excited to learn about the 501(c)(3). There’s a lot of times when we negotiate and things that we think are more simplistic and actually are not, or even if they are, there are some amazing lessons we can take and apply from those things into our bigger global professional universe. I thought it’d be great to have Hannah here to help us take a step back and keep things simple and real. We try to keep that way all the time, but on this show, I thought it’d be cool to have. Hannah, thank you for being here. I’m excited to have you.

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here also.

I always like to ask people first, to tell us a little bit more about how you got to where you’re at and tell us more about the farm.

I moved here to the United States. My family is from Canada, so we go around the world and back again. I was born in Haiti to missionary parents, but my parents were not traditional in the sense that my dad was not a pastor at that time. We worked with a lot of the local people on stuff like building roads, replanting trees because most of Haiti is a desert now because of bad farming practices, building bridges, capping water projects and then bringing them down. The one that was the nearest and dearest to my heart was an animal traction program.

Back 500 years ago, when the slaves revolted from France and took Haiti back to be their own country, even though they were from Africa, but they revolted and took the country back. They destroyed all the infrastructure that was there on the island. The irrigation stuff, the courier system, the wells, everything like that, it was all filled in and destroyed. One of the things that we did was to reintroduce the horse-and-buggy concepts. To us, that goes back to the Assyrians, the Persians, the Babylonians. It’s like 5,000-year-old stuff for us but when you do everything by hand to go from a hoe to a tractor is too big of a step. You have to have an interim.

Because the horses down there are very small and it’s a desert so they can’t have a lot of food, so you don’t want a great big work animal. We think of big draft horses. You see the Amish people using them. We were actually given a stallion indirectly from the King Ranch in Texas, a big Quarter Horse stallion. We used him for breeding to the local Haitian mares and then we were into the horse breeding industry. I came from a line of horse people since God made dirt. My parents and grandparents had horses and it goes all the way back. It was a natural segue for me. Since I spoke the language, it made it easier for me to be in the thick of it. If it has something to do with the horse, I was in the thick of it.

From the time I was 5, 6, 7 years old, I was halter-breaking little babies. My mom dubbed it maul and haul, because my sister Carmen and I could get these babies halter-broke so they could be led on a rope, but neither one of us was strong enough to do it by ourselves. One of us would be pulling in the front, and the other would be pushing from the back. We can get them to where you could lead them like little kids, “Come on, baby.” When I moved here to the States in ’93 to attend university, I didn’t have a horse. I didn’t have access to horses.

Value the people who are willing to help shave off your rough spots and get through the mire of life. Share on X

It was like cutting off my right arm. I even rode horses all the way through high school to get to school because you could either walk or you could ride. It was silly to walk when you can ride. Time went by, and I got married. That was an education all in of itself and we started the farm. WildeWood Farm was started in 1996. We actually incorporated in 2001. We did a DBA for quite a number of years. I was still in school. Very quickly, people start asking me, “Will you do riding lessons?” I’m like, “I can. I’m not trained to be a riding coach, but if it has hubs and a tail, I can ride it so I can teach you how to ride it.”

It’s morphed from there and people were asking me to train horses and I was given a mare in ’96 that nothing I knew how to do could fix her. You’d go in the pasture and she’d be on her hind legs, kicking, biting, and striking at you. It was dangerous. It cut me in a little over my head. I worked with her and worked with her and I couldn’t get to square one. A friend of mine gave me a book called The Man Who Listens to Horses by a man called Monty Roberts, who was in California. He’s in Solvang at Santa Ynez Valley.

The Olympics came to Atlanta in ’96. The year after the Olympics were here, Monty himself came to the Olympic Park to do a symposium to show how he did what he did. I went. I’d never heard of this man before other than what I had read in the book. It turned my horse around to the point of one of my lesson kids accidentally went out and caught her, brought her into the barn and was brushing her. The mare is standing there and they’re like, “I finally have a job.” I’m thinking, “Let’s get this horseback to the pasture,” because she was such a whirlwind, so uncertain and unpredictable.

I went through his training program back in those days. It was pretty informal. I spent a decent amount of time in California over to 1999, 2000 2001 and got my certification. I’m one of the oldest standing instructors of his concepts. There’s 1 of 64 of us worldwide. The whole idea is that you can train animals, which in turn interprets to people when you can meet them at their level and you speak their language. In traditional horse training, you tie them up, throw them down and force them to be compliant. You see that yourself, even in companies, if they’re forced to be compliant, there’s a lot of friction there. You either have your underlings who obey blindly, but the chances are good that your highly productive workers do not want to be forced. They want to be invited. They want to be a part of the team. We’ve taken that whole idea and run it through even our plain old lessons, per se, like riding lessons of how can you work with the horse, not that you’re going to make the horse.

You’ve said a couple of things that I want to hit on. This is coming back to basics. I want to go back a little bit to one of the things that you said when you were talking about Haiti because your comment was poignant. You said the going from working with a hoe to working with a tractor was too big of a leap, it is too far for them to go, and there had to be an interim step. Certainly, in my experience in negotiating, we do that all the time, especially for people. I’m going to pick on me or people like me. I have been fortunate though, I’ve come from complete poverty and living in the back of my car and being on welfare for almost a decade.

I also worked my ass off, and I earned my MBA from Harvard University. Having gone to Harvard, people have assumptions about us. One of the assumptions is that, “We’re too smart for our own good. We try to shove ideas down people’s throats and we’re super academic.” This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to have you here, because for you to say it’s too far of a leap is a very different thing than what most people with a Harvard MBA are going to say. They going to say, “Use the damn tractor.” I think that we forget and when we work in corporations, I know a lot of our readers are in companies working from their home offices now, in most cases, but some of them may be working in their offices. We still get so used to how we see things done.

We think that the advancements of technology and all of that are this great Hennessy of things. In reality, there’s a lot of people who cannot make that leap. It goes to understanding who it is that you are negotiating with, who it is that you are working with. If they are not capable of making that leap, then you have to figure out how to create that bridge for them. You have to define what that bridge is going to be. I thought that was such an important point that I did not want to let it go without responding to it because I think it’s hugely important.

The way you figure that out is by asking effective questions to figure out what is their starting point. If you happen to be in negotiation now and you’re seeing a difference in where you are at versus where your counterpart is, take a moment. Take a step back and figure out if you need to have an interim step to get you from where you are at and create that bridge with your counterpart. I wanted to come back to that real quick. I’m so fascinated by this horse training component and the other thing you talk about is that it’s in the same vein.

IVZ 22 | Learning With Horses
Learning With Horses: Humans a pretty much like horses – if they are forced to become compliant or obey blindly, never expect them to become highly productive.


It’s along with the same line is communicating with your counterpart in a way that you understand them. In this case, the counterpart happens to be a horse. Now, for those of you who don’t know horses, they are like the most human creatures. I swear. I have a girlfriend who used to be a trainer as well. She talks about how she goes to sleep in the barn, which I bet you have done many times because they connect on a human level. They’re amazing creatures. Tell us more about that. For you, how do you make that transaction? How has knowing this about horses influenced your ability to negotiate with people?

Every horse has its own lesson to teach, like every person has their lesson to teach. Some people are there to shave off our rough spots. Usually, we don’t like them very much because they’re there to be the litmus of your life. There are other people that stand by you no matter what and help you get through the mire of life. There are other people that are your cheerleaders that it doesn’t matter where you are, they’re there for you. Horses are very similar and horses are very sophisticated empaths. They don’t care who you are. They only care about now.

They don’t care what you did last week. They don’t care what you’re going to do in the future. They want to know who you are right now. For example, I had an old horse called Red and he was an absolute troll of a horse. He was honorary like the grumpy old man that you see in the movies sometimes that was him. There was a little girl that was a beautiful child. Her spirit was beautiful, but she was locked in this gangly, uncoordinated, too smart for her good case. Kids at school picked on her all the time because she was like the ugly duckling.

She was waiting to blossom. She adored this old horse and he tormented her, for lack of a better way of doing it. He would meet her where she needed to be that day. There would be days that I would tell her, “Go ahead and get off your horse and hug your horse.” She would get off. She would wrap her arms around her horse and sob into his neck of how mean the kids had been to her or whatever had happened at school or she’d come in absolutely live it at what had happened at school that day. Depending on where she was would depend on what Red would do.

Now, keep in mind that he wasn’t a soft, squishy horse. He was always up to something and if he was in a mad mood, then he would try, for example, to throw her shirt. Pull her shirt out of her pants and untuck her shirt. He wasn’t in, but he would be like, “Snap out of it, kid.” If she was in a real, “Dad, sorry,” kind of mood, he would give her a hug for about 30 seconds and then he’s like, “We’ve had enough of that. Let’s go.” He would walk off and leave her like, “Come on, you’ve had enough cuddling. You’re good.”

By the time she would leave, now granted, this was in the hub of a riding lesson. I wasn’t supposed to be doing mental health counseling or anything like that, but she would go home with what she needed. She would go home quiet, gentle and happy. I always thought for her mom, I’m like, “That should be worth the riding lesson.” The price of the lesson, in the sense that you brought this kid that was so upset and whichever way, and you went home with a happy child. They meet you at where you need to be. With people, that’s what a lot of us miss is we don’t take the time to get to know the other person.

I was on somebody’s show one day. She actually runs a multi-level marketing company. She had said to me, “I’m not sure how negotiation works for my people, but we’re going to do this and see how it goes.” I did my thing and then she comes back on the show at the end and she’s like, “Christine, the number one thing I learned was I have to think about my counterpart.” Now, in my head. I’m like, “That what?” I am an empath. For me, it’s so natural to think about my counterpart and the best and easiest because it’s through the path of least resistance way of getting more of what I want is to understand what my counterpart wants and needs.

It was such an eye-opening concept for her that she had never thought about it. When we talked before, we started the show, not only do you do this with kids and not only do the horses do this, but the very fact that you have the ranch does that. You told me about this pilot who came out with his kid dressed to the nines. He was all dressed up in white tennis shoes, if anyone knows on a ranch, no white tennis shoes.

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One wrong step and you’re going to regret that. He came out and he was not very excited about being there, but tell us what happened because this goes to the importance of connecting with your counterparts, where they’re at on a human and emotional level. Chris Voss talks in his book, Never Split the Difference about practical empathy. He talks about the importance of understanding that, “Negotiation is absolutely an emotional activity.” The moment that you want something from somebody else, you are emotionally engaged in the outcome. Tell us about this pilot who came out one day. I love this story. It’s such a great example of meeting somebody where they’re at.

This little boy has only been riding for about three weeks and his mom has been bringing him. This time his dad brought him. Keep in mind that he came to see his son do something his son enjoys, but that was his lens. He was going to watch the kid ride. He would play on his phone and try to wait for the hour to pass, take his kid home. That was what he came in with. What he did not expect, though, was how engaged he would become with the horse and with the farm. I didn’t know that. I’d never met the man before that day. I knew the kid, but I had not met his dad.

We went out to the pasture and we brought in a horse called Jack, and Jack is a very patient, quiet, gentle, obedient soul. He was covered from head to toe in the mud because it had rained the night before. This gray horse is plastered in mud. I’ve always for getting parents to be involved with what the kid likes. I was teasing him. I said, “With the horse this dirty, you need to come to help me brush this horse.” He’s like, “I’ve never brushed a horse before.” I said, “Don’t let that stop you.” I handed him a brush and I handed the kid a brush and I have a brush. We’re working on Jack.

He sat there and while I was doing that, somebody else came and I went and helped catch another horse. I came back and he was brushing Jack and brushing Jack and didn’t say anything. He brushed the horse. We got the horse saddled. We went down to the arena and ride. Once we got down there, most parents stay on the outside of the arena. The fence that goes around to keep the horses in and keep the parents out partially because they don’t know what to do and they walk in the middle of the road. The horse as to try to navigate where the kids can’t steer yet.

Instead, this dad glued himself to me, which was fine. I got the kid on the horse. We were walking around the dad’s walking with me, and he said, “Hannah, I didn’t know that I needed a farm. I’m a pilot. I flew from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica, Costa Rica to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale back to Atlanta in one day.” He goes, “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure when you’re the pilot because you’re responsible for all these people. There are deadlines. There are times and you have to work with all these different people. I didn’t realize how stressed I was until I stepped onto this farm. The worry and everything else brought me right back down to earth. I can feel it peeling off of me.”

This is a man that I don’t know. It’s not like we’ve had this long relationship. I was teasing him. I said, “We always say volunteers at the farm because the farm has one employee me and whoever else I can draft to come to help us. How strong do you feel?” I’m always looking for people. I want people to plugin. When people plugin, it becomes theirs. Whereas this, not a service that I provide. It’s our farm. It’s not my farm. I said, “How strong do you feel? I had that big, heavy bucket of molasses stuff for the cows, but I can’t lift it by myself.” It’s really heavy. He said, “I’d be delighted to help you lift that thing.”

Steve, one of the veterans who is actually living at our farm now, came down with the Kubota. I was finished with the lesson and the three of us lifted this heavy trough up onto the Kubota. I sent the pilot and the other man around to the back to where the cows are and they unloaded it. Cows or animals are always so excited when there’s food coming. For me, it was a normal thing that had to be done. Now, I do get great enjoyment over the animal’s happiness, but I get even a bigger kick out of watching the people come alive. He was like, “I never fed cows before. That was amazing.”

For our audience, the thing that’s important to understand is that this thing is a chore for Hannah that is going to have to get done. Somebody’s going to have to do it. You do it every day, probably twice a day. For this guy, this was transformative. This is something he’d never, ever done. This is an experience that he will never, ever forget. We forget when we are negotiating in our lives and in our careers for our companies or whatever that something that’s very mundane for us, it can be transformative.

IVZ 22 | Learning With Horses
The Man Who Listens to Horses: The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer

It’s one of the reasons why we talk a lot about the importance of being clear on what it is that you want, not on what you want, but also then anticipating what your counterpart wants and needs. It is that process of anticipation that you can understand what something that’s mundane to you, but that’s potentially transformative or at minimum important to your counterpart because that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make. It is important because you had to feed the cows, but it wasn’t important for you to be the one to feed the cows. It became important for him and knowing that and passing that off to him created tremendous joy for him.

He left with an entirely different feel than when he came in because when he came in, he was very closed, friendly, but professionally friendly. He wasn’t rude or anything like that, but very professional or whatever. When he left, he was floating off the ground, delighted. It was under the guise of a riding lesson. In reality, he shouldn’t have gotten anything out of it because he wasn’t the one riding. His kid was riding. He came for his son, but the added benefit that he got was he also needed something for himself. It’s a way to reflect it back to make it benefit the entire family because then you go home with a happy dad and that always makes for a happier day.

That’s something that we talked about, too. When you think about pricing and how you do what you do with the business or the farm, the revenue generation component of the farm, people come out, and they want to take their kids riding. Some people are like, “It’s an hour-long riding lesson,” but there are all sorts of other things that come with that. It’s not riding. It’s you learning responsibility and how to take care of a horse because you don’t get to ride a horse that you haven’t brushed down and you don’t get to get off the horse without brushing them down again. You got to take care of the horse. If you’re going to ask them to work for you, then you need to do something good for them. It’s also beneficial. You’ve got other things. You were telling me about a family of 4 or 5 kids who, one of them rides, but the other ones don’t. You’ve got whatever it costs for the lesson, but then that’s only a part of the value that somebody gets by coming to the farm and working with you. Tell us more about that.

We have all kinds of people that come to the farm and what I love about it, it’s like the United Nations. We have every person that you can think of that comes to the farm. They all come for a background reason, whether they come to watch a ride. This one particular family that you’re talking about has five kids and the oldest girl rides and the other four play around per se. What they’ve done, though, we have a big place set down by the arena. That way, the little people have a place to go play. We also have a whole herd of goats, including twelve brand new babies that go around the arena.

The kids that are there playing can either play in the garden, which is off the other side of the arena, they can play on the playground, they can play with the baby goats, or they can run up and down the hill, because it’s 800 steps from the barn to the arena. There’s lots of room to play. One of the little boys has a hearing issue, but he has attached himself to me as soon as I crank the machine, like the Kubota, to go down the hill because it seems like I have to go back and forth quite a bit. He can hardly talk because he doesn’t hear well, but he’s like, “Get on.” I’m like, “Come on.”

For him, the highlight of the day is to ride the machine down the hill and as soon as he hears it, crank back up, whatever he’s doing, he’s back on that machine again. Even though they’re getting the value of what they’re getting as their lesson, but with the other four get, they had a wonderful afternoon at the farm, and the parents have gotten very involved because they start off with, “We’re here for the kid’s lesson.” I said, “Great, for the first five minutes.”

One of the things that I talk a lot about is this concept of getting clear on what it is that you want. We talk a lot about value and in business, there are so many podcasts now. Many people out there are speaking about, “Know your value,” and all that. You actually do know your value. It’s impressive. You talk about your value, not being the price of, somebody comes, and they’re buying a lesson from you, but that is not the value you create. That’s the teeny tiny part. You’ve got picnic tables so families can bring picnics. You’ve got the goats, tractor, parents feeding cows and all these other things that contribute to value. Was that one thing that you realized when you first started doing this or was that something that you started to realize as you started working with more of your clients?

It’s the joys of being a business owner at the end of the day, you have to pay your bills because nobody comes along and says, “Han, don’t worry about the feed bill this month. I’ll handle it.” We have to put a value on the services. For example, like riding lessons, birthday parties, camps that we offer, stuff like that, and people will say, “Down the road is cheaper.” I said, “They probably are.” I don’t say why we’re more? I said, “I can’t compete with that price,” for instance, “Because we have all the other things that go along with it. Like, for example, they don’t have a couch, a play set, goats to feed and all these other things.”

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The price point, even though it’s a very fair price point, is like the middle of the road. We’re not the highest, but we’re not the lowest. We’re in the middle. As time has gone on, we change prices as we need to. What I found fast was that people are desperate for a place to be themselves. They don’t put on airs. It doesn’t matter if they come in in a Tesla or if they come in in a Honda. I’ll ask all of them to work. They like it because they’re treated as a person. I don’t care that you came in with high fancy stuff. “Do you want to come to brush your horse? Do you want to come to feed cows?” Some of them don’t.

They hide in their car and they don’t ever get out. I’m thinking, “You’re missing out because the fun parts out here,” but that’s their own choice. I leave it organic for them if they want. I always encourage them to be a part of it, but if they choose not to, then I bid my time. At some point in time, they’re going to get out of the car and when they get out of the car, then I can invite them to do whatever. “Can you help me hold the gate while we bring the machine trooper?” Very quickly, most of them are like, “I didn’t know that I needed this.” I asked family because I want the family to be together, a place that they can plug in together, that they can be themselves, they can be outside together and not mom go do something in one room. Dad’s doing the other, and who knows where the kids are.

Like I said when we started the episode, this is all about coming back to basics. This concept of knowing what your value is because this matters. Being clear in what it is that you want, what it is that you offer your customers, your clients and then making sure that you spend time understanding where your counterpart is. Figuring out, what do you have to do to bridge where you’re at to where they’re at? What connection points do you need to make?

Let’s talk a little bit about the business of being and having a ranch and a farm because it is not an inexpensive business. Raising horses is an expensive proposition and even though you may be the sole official employee, you’ve been pretty amazing to be able to make the farm work. Everybody from where you get your feed to your vet and the whole nine yards now. A lot of the people who are reading may have never even set foot on a farm. Tell us a little bit about the business side of the farm and what are some of the things that go into it?

The small businesses across the globe would agree with me is that you have to wear all the hats or at least I wear all the hats. I’m the head instructor, but I’m also the head of the marketing department. When all these people call me, even during this, we’ve had 4 or 5 calls come in that I’m like, “I’ll call you back.” People are constantly calling. I tried to take Sundays off, whatever that means. I still answered 8 or 9 calls because people don’t know that it’s my day off. It’s their day off too, so they’re free to call me. I try to pick up the phone because one of the biggest complaints that I have against other small business owners is they don’t pick up the phone or you leave a message and five days later, maybe they’ll call you back.

It’s like, “No, I’m looking for something right now.” I tried valiantly to pick up the phone. That also means that because I’m picking up the phone on my day off, I’ve spent an hour on the phone with all the answering whatever questions that people are asking about. For instance, before we even got started, our accountant had sent me this whole list of questions of, “What was this and what was that?” Sometimes, my favorite ones are the ones of, “A few years ago, you did something for a check for $43.49. What was it for?” “I don’t remember what happened yesterday, much less a few years ago.” There are all these different components or if we’re wanting to update the website, then either I have to update the website or I have to notify the website master of what clearly what I want them to change.

I try to send them the 2021 camp dates and she got it all wrong. She had September and October and I’m like, “Kids are in school. We don’t have camp dates on those dates.” “I didn’t understand. Let me resend them to you again.” My signal to her was not clear. My problem, it wasn’t her problem, but you still have to be constantly aware of that. That’s not even on the farm per se, that’s pertaining around the farm and then keeping up with all the licensing and the insurance questions, “Is that machinery ready? When does it need routine oil changes,” or whatever. The horses need different things. The people that call that buy baby goats, “Which ones do you want? I’ll send pictures of them to you.”

Technically, none of that has to do with a riding lesson with everything else. There’s a lot of hats that have to go into it. You have to be able to flip gears quickly and be able to answer people and still be real and interested in the people. I love talking to people. I really do. My husband complains because, by the time I get home at night, I’m done. I’ve given everything all day long and he’s like, “Talk to me,” and I’m flat line. I need to make dinner, put the kids to bed and I’m done. How do you add being a wife and a mother on top of that because I have three small children and a husband? What we found out is in order for he and I, to be better, I have to get him first thing in the morning because in the morning, I haven’t even started yet. It’s to figure out what works the best for us and then also what works best for the people. That takes a lot of juggling back and forth.

Learning With Horses: Small business owners mostly struggle to survive by wearing all or too many hats.


It keeps coming back to being clear. Understanding what it is that you need and want. As small business owners, part of what we need and want is related to our self-care. I try not to work on the weekends, especially on Sunday. Usually, what ends up happening is I read a book and then I’m like, “What has this to do with negotiation. That’s a good point. I can do that.” We were watching a TV show one time and I was like, “There are some good negotiation points in here. That’s a good way of showing this and that.” Being able to know what’s required of you, how you see your role in your family and in your non-working worlds that contributes to the work.

My daughters tell me that I work too much and I’m like, “I don’t feel like I work enough sometimes,” which is the classic issue for many small business owners. You also have a bigger team that helps you keep the farm running in terms of the relationships that you’ve built with your service suppliers because you’ve got somebody who’s doing mechanic work on the tractor, I’m sure. You’ve got somebody who comes to help you take care of the animals as a vet and all that. From those perspectives, “How has the work that you’ve done with your clients impacted how you negotiate in those situations?” There’s a lot of unpredictability in the supplier aspect of managing, working on a farm and ranch. That’s a little bit more about that.

The biggest thing I try to do with them is I try not to waste their time. I am very interested in them as a human, but I don’t call them for trivial things. Even our vet, for instance, if I call with an emergency, I do yesterday because I do most of the routine care myself. When they need me or when I need them, they know that I’m serious. I’m not, “My horse got a scrape on his leg. Can you come doctor him?” I’ll waste their time. They charge for it because they come out, but then they’re not like, “She’s calling me out again.”

The other thing that I do that has helped significantly because it boils down to plain old dollars and cents is, I pay their bills immediately. When the vet sends me a bill, she gets paid immediately. Every animal on the place, even if they’re not mine, they’re under my care. I still pay that bill immediately and then I collect money from everybody else because I don’t want that if I’m calling in the middle of the night with an emergency, which thankfully doesn’t happen very often. Let’s hypothetically say it, I don’t want that professional to be thinking, “It’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m quite tired. She still owes me $500 from the last bill. Maybe my cohort would take them instead.”

I never want that hesitancy to come. When they do come, for even routine stuff, I want to be right, ready for them. I want to honor their time. Especially with veterinarian stuff because sometimes veterinarians can get really dicey fast because you have a 1,200 or 1,500-pound animal that may or may not want to be treated at that exact moment. Oftentimes I’ll say it to them is, “My priority is to keep them safe first, the professional. The second is to keep myself safe. The third is to keep the animals safe,” and that whatever spectators happen to be watching, because inevitably you get spectators.

That’s always my lens of, “My goal is to keep you safe,” which they appreciate because I’m not like, “Don’t hurt my horse.” No, if the horse is trying to kill you, let sedate it and keep it quiet. At the end of the day, they can’t afford to have out a broken leg because my horse is being disrespectful and ugly. There’s a safety level involved that they’re comfortable that I’m going to protect them as much as humanly possible. It happens, obviously. Our vet says that quite a bit because in my spare time, I work at a huge breeding farm down the road and the vet over there all the time, she says, “You know how to hold I feel safe when you’re in the stall with me.” I’m not like, “Good luck. There’s the horse that needs to be seen.”

I’m bringing it back to the corporate spin. Part of your job, let’s say you’re a software company and you’re selling to another organization and they’re buying your software and it’s fully integrated. You need to know that you’ve got the customers back. They need to know that if something goes wrong, that you’re going to be there to help fix it. They do that through a lot of different contractual elements, but it comes back down to the basics.

If you need something from somebody and there’s a level of risk associated with it, then contracts, whether they’re formal or informal or risk mitigation tools and what you’re doing by getting in the stall and being aware and that safety and working to keep the vet safe. You are essentially informally mitigating additional risk for the vet, which that’s part of what good relationships are all about. As I’ve said on the show before, from my perspective, negotiation is a conversation about a relationship and you cannot win a relationship. Knowing and observing, where can you mitigate risk, not on your behalf, but on your counterparts’ behalf off, that’s part of what drives your relationship forward.

Without relaying the feeling of trust, there will be no connection to be made. Share on X

Oftentimes, they’ll refer you for stuff too. For example, I’ve had several times the vet will call me and say, “Hannah, could you possibly meet me at so-and-so’s farm to help me do blah, blah, blah.” They know that if I’m there to help, it’ll go a lot smoother. Now she hasn’t asked very often, it’s usually in an extreme situation, but still, there’s a level of trust. You have to take the time to build that trust. It’s not like, “I’m the best horse handler there is. I can help you.” They’re going to be like, “No, you’re not,” but it takes a while to build trust.

Across the board, whether it’s companies, schools, children, whatever, it takes a while to build a level of trust. If you have a problem, you can rely on them. If you can’t rely on them, then you need to find somebody else that you can rely on and trust. That’s part of it that we miss a lot of times is that, “This is why we need it.” At the end of the day, we’re working with people. When I call in the middle of the night and say, “I need you as soon as possible,” there’s no hesitancy to leap up and come because it takes a while.

It does. A lot of people talk about people got to know, like and trust you before they’ll buy from you. I think that’s true for some people. I don’t think it’s true for all buyers. I don’t think all buyers need to have that KLT factor but in certain situations, you do where you know that you are relying on somebody for your physical safety. When you know you’re relying on whatever it is that they do is integral to your business and that without them being there like if one of your animals is pregnant and the birthing process goes wrong, you need that vet they’re now. You work to maintain that relationship in a way that reduces the risk for the vet so that when you do call, they show up there.

There’s no question that they would not do that. I love this whole conversation because, as I said, in the beginning, it’s about coming back to basics. The first thing we talked about is the importance of being clear on who you are and value. We talked about the ability to bridge where you’re at and where your counterpart is that because if you don’t understand where your counterpart is, and you’re trying to take them from a hoe to a Tesla, there’s a lot of steps that gets you in the middle of that.

If you’re trying to take them from walking down the street to their neighbor to using an iPhone, you’ve got some steps to go in there. What are the steps that you need to take? One question is, are you the person to take them through those steps so that you need to answer for yourself? Two, if you think you are the person to take them through those steps, what are the steps that get you there? There’s so much even in that, in terms of that’s a longer-term play. There’s a vision around that. There’s a relationship component that goes with that. If you try to take somebody from 0 to 120, without any progression in the middle, you’re going to lose them.

You’re not going to have a good relationship with them and you’re not going to be able to maintain that relationship. We talked about the importance of trust, especially when you have a situation where you are relying on somebody. You need to set yourself up so that you are seen as trustworthy and vice versa. All of that is so important. Hannah, I love what you do. I swear to God, I am coming out to Atlanta. You have a gift for our audience, which I appreciate. Can you share that?

If you want to come for a riding lesson, I’m doing a buy one, get one because you never know what you might actually get in a riding lesson. It’s guaranteed that you’ll get to be on a horse. That’s given, but there are always some fringe benefits like maybe you’ll get to go out and feed the cows or maybe you’ll get to carry recycled Christmas trees that people drop off with the farm out to the goats because goats loved Christmas trees and different things like that. That’s one that we always do. Again, I encourage people to come to the farm.

It’s fun to come, even for the day, we do different things at different times of the year. For example, my mom is an avid writer, and I help her quite a bit. She and I are writing an Easter play. We did a Christmas play at Christmas time for a live nativity, but a play version. The actors act out the story. We’re getting ready to do the Easter play at the end of March. It’s a free family event and we always encourage people to either come to watch or if they want to have bold and brave, actually come and participate in it. That would be fun.

Learning With Horses: Connecting with your customers means learning how to shift gears quickly and show your genuine interest to them.


We bring the animals in. This is a whole production and it takes about an hour and a half to complete it. It’s very out of the ordinary for around here. You think about going down to the Fox Theater or some of these big, fancy things, but with all the COVID craziness that’s going on, a lot of that stuff is shut down. We were trying to think of what could we offer to families that would encourage them to come to the farm? The backside is, I would like them to come back again to the farm for a lesson or a birthday party or whatever, but that they would also come and do something as a family. That’s coming up at the end of March. Mom sent me the script and wants me to go through it and add to it and change it.

If you guys are in the Atlanta area or within any driving distance of Atlanta, you need to go see Hannah at WildeWood Farm and get the 2 for 1 and feed the goats. I was writing a gratitude journal, and one of the things was envisioning what I wanted for the future. I literally have, my husband laughed at a goat named Jane, and I’m going to learn how to goat cheese.

I have a goat called Jane. She’s a great big white goat. She had a set of triplets.

He was laughing. He’s like, “You named it? I was going to name her.” I was like, “Yeah. I named her. Her name is going to be Jane.” Now I know that she could eat our Christmas trees.

Yes. They love Christmas trees. They also love pumpkins after Thanksgiving and Halloween.

That’s good to know, too.

Recycle and reuse.

Thank you so much, Hannah. I appreciate you. I’ve loved this conversation. I loved our conversation before. To all our readers, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this conversation because this has been a very different discussion than anything we’ve had on the show before. I’ve loved that. I liked bringing you different ways of thinking about negotiation, because like I said, “Negotiation is a conversation about a relationship and you cannot win a relationship.” Please check us out at, We are getting ready to launch our new Venn Master’s Program, which we’ll be launching in March 2021. I’m excited about that. My first book is all for coming out in March 2021. Why not have the conversation about getting more? Thank you for being here with us. Thank you, Hannah, and have a great day. Happy negotiating, everybody.

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About Hannah Zapletal

IVZ 22 | Learning With HorsesHannah was raised in Haiti with missionary parents who worked primarily with agriculture and infrastructure construction (water projects, road/bridge building, school/church/hospital construction, and reforestation). Leaving Haiti in 1993 to attend Reinhardt University, she earned a B.S. in Biology. WildeWood Farm, Inc. was created in 1996 and incorporated in 2001.

WildeWood Farm, Inc. is a haven for families of all walks of life. Offerings include riding lessons, camps, workshops, birthday parties, horse shows, weddings, Ag tourism, and animal husbandry. Hannah also works with nearby middle and high schools in their Ag development and hosting students.

2018 launched an Empowering Struggling Youth program as well as a veteran’s outreach. These two programs are operated under 501©3 The Mane Event Equine Therapy, Inc. mantel in association with WildeWood.

Hannah is married and mother to three lively children that she homeschools. Hobbies include writing children’s stories and the currently working on the book “Miracles of WildeWood,” live theater enactments (currently preparing for our Easter presentation March 27-28), acting, reading, travelling, and playing the cello.

Friendly animals at the farm include 28 horses, 6 cows, 22 goats, 15 chickens, 17 ducks, 2 dogs, and 13 cats. The farm address is 5150 Oak Grove Circle, Cumming, GA 30028. or 770-843-2478.