Local Producers look outside the square #4

August 28, 2010

Equine experience leads to business diversification
The trend towards non-invasive, natural remedies has been growing over the last few decades.  Bill Skinner is tapping into that market while continuing to indulge his love of horses and run his cattle enterprise.

Bill Skinner
In previous articles in this series, people have utilised existing infrastructure to build new businesses.  Bill, in contrast, has used his horsemanship skills as a base upon which to build a business revolving around horse health.

Bill is an acupuncturist and horse manipulator, having completed massage, acupuncture and chiropractic courses over the last three years.

He went to Colorado in March last year to complete the practical component of the Chiropractic course. Bill was impressed to find that the instructor is the same man who treats horses owned by well-known horse handler, Pat Pirelli.

Bill has long had an interest in pain management and chiropractic methods after a back operation 15 years ago saw him unable to walk for five months.
Coming from a long line of horsemen, Bill said that he is very excited about the role of acupuncture and massage in the treatment of horses. “Acupuncture is far more than treating ailments,”

Bill said. “You can terminate a pregnancy, fix umbilical hernias without having to resort to surgery and you can lengthen muscles.” According to Bill, acupuncture can help “fill in” a hollow rump on a horse or cow and improve a “U” shaped neck on a horse to quite a noticeable extent. His acupuncture and massage skills have also meant a significant decrease in his own veterinary bills, which have gone from nearly $6000 to $200.

Through his studies, Bill has found that he can “read” his horses better, which is a huge bonus, as apart from his other jobs, he also breeds, breaks and sells stockhorses. “As far back as we go, we’ve always been horsemen,” Bill said.

Just as farmers always have done, Bill is looking forward to passing on his skills to his children, including the huge area of alternative therapies. Already, Bill’s son, Jimmy has become adept at inserting an acupuncture needle.

Another aspect of his acupuncture skills is an involvement in teaching others. The International College of Equine Therapy is holding a two day workshop at Bill’s property in early September to which nine people are coming.  The acupuncture workshop will start with cattle, move on to horses and people and lastly, dogs as they have the thinnest skin of all.

Jimmy and Eliza, Bill and Ellie’s children are Bill’s first priority when looking for off-farm income. “I do what I can, without having to go too far from home, so that I can be there for the children,” Bill said. “Ellie, who is a bookkeeper, has a number of jobs including the position of Community College Coordinator in Bingara, so I support her by being here when she is not.” Bill’s off-farm interests and skills are certainly diversified. He is also known for his leather dressing products and his furniture polish under the brand of Wil’s Wood and Leather.

Adding to his range of products is the recent acquisition of his father’s saddle dressing business, “Dick Skinner’s Saddle Grease.” Demonstrating just how multi-talented Bill is, is the story Bill told the Advocate about a conversation at a recent polocrosse game at “the Gully”. Someone indicated towards Bill’s son, Jimmy who was riding, asking “Is that yours?” Bill replied, “That’s my son, I made the saddle and I bred the horse. Which one are you talking about?”

Bill is looking to build further on his list of qualifications by studying Homeopathy in the near future. “I have a finger in every pie and I’ve run out of fingers,” he said.

Bill also commented that he met a man called Buddy Johnson in America who had a sign on the back of a well used door, saying “Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.” Buddy has two ranches in Colorado, is Chief of Police and his wife is a teacher. “That just about sums it up,” Bill said.

Other articles in the series: