Unconventional Mentors!

I was inspired to write this blog post , honestly years ago but wasn’t sure where to place it.  I was thinking back on my life and the gratitude I have for the great mentors I had in my life.

If you have read my initial story of how I got where I am today in business, you know that horses are a huge part of my life.  So when I was remembering where my greatest life lessons were and who they came from, I must say it wasn’t people, it was my horses.

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I encourage you to think back on your journey and maybe you’ll find your greatest mentors were also a bit more “Unconventional.”

Let me start with Big Foot or as we called him, “Big Wig.”  He was the first horse that I ever leased.  He was a beautiful Grade horse (mixed breed-unregistered) gelding in his late 20’s.  He had been one of the main lesson horses used at the riding stable.

In his old age he was sure footed and safe for beginner riders.  He was gentle, kind, and forgiving.  Which was a great fit for heavy-handed new riders.  He had one vice, he was a scaredy cat.  So riding in an indoor arena with a cover all wasn’t always a “Joy ride.”  Why? The snow in the winter would slide off the tarp roof and sound like a race car zipping by over head.  This happened quite often considering we live in upstate New York.  Big Foot always spooked when this happened.

I worked with him tirelessly, everyday I was in the barn with him grooming, and riding….. giving him too many treats.

As a young girl in middle school, growing up was tough.  If you are a mother of a middle school aged daughter/son, know that bullying is a very real issue and horrendous at that age!  My middle school days were extremely unpleasant, so my barn time was my therapy.  The horses loved me just the way I was.  They didn’t care about my appearance, or my past, they were just happy I was there grooming and spending time with them.  Big Foot was my best friend.

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One day at the barn my Big Foot was hurt, he could not return to his feet.  Something was very wrong.  We spent the next few days nursing him and taking care of him like a newborn baby.  I remember because he could not stand he would urinate on himself.  I spent hours with him in the freezing cold arena drying his urine covered legs with a human hair dryer.  This took hours.  To relieve his discomfort from one side, we would have to turn him with big ropes. Even through all of this he was still a kind gentleman.

After many vet calls, it turned out Big Foot was paralyzed in his hind quarters.  This meant he could no longer walk.  Big Foot passed away, shortly after that, I remember being devastated.

What Big Foot taught me: I was acceptable just the way I was, and I would be okay, even without Big Foot around anymore.  I could “Ride on” without him.  I had great things to offer the world regardless of others opinions.  Thank you Big Foot.

Translate to Business: There will always be people that doubt you, and obstacles yo overcome.  We must remain focused on our mission, and our talents.  We must remember what it is, we CAN offer the world through our business. Not the opinions of others.

After preparing the entire winter for the upcoming show season with Big Foot, and losing him, I was without a show horse.  That was until, my first riding instructor, called my mother late one night.  I remember it was a white out snow storm that night.  However, my mother and my riding instructor said it was an “Emergency” and I had to come QUICK!

She had purchased two mares, one she thought was perfect for me for the upcoming show season.  She definitely needed some work, and tlc, but Miss “Opie” had more than a little potential.  Opie was a double registered Pinto/Paint mare. Her registered name was “Scrimshaw Stormy Doll,” we called her “Opie,” because I gave her a barn name, Penelope.  She was an absolute doll.  Kind as can be, and never stepped out of line.  She was gentle in nature, with HUGE brown eyes, I remember she had the longest eyelashes.

I immediately fell in love with her.  I’ll never forget her Big Roman nose (which is an undesirable trait in the horse world) however she was beautiful to me.  What I loved about Opie was her heart.  She may not have had the perfect confirmation (anatomy and physiology) but what she did have was determination, resiliency, and a love for me that was unwavering.

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We worked and worked together, both learning new things we had never done to prepare for the new show season.  When I got her she was about 13, I was also about 12/13, like sisters.  I needed her and she needed me.  I spent everyday with her sometimes from morning until night.

B4AE513F-1997-4D78-BB80-09B5B00D39E9That show season, we won just about everywhere we went both English and Western.  We collected so many Championship awards we lost track!  That year we were the County Western Champions, we won the Sportsmanship Award at the County Fair, and qualified for the State Level Competition that summer.  We traveled back and forth to rodeos and made beautiful memories together.

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389C5476-2AA3-4370-B04E-706C705B6824.jpegWhat Opie taught me: There was light at the end of the tunnel.  Something beautiful always comes out of sadness.  The wins we shared together gave me confidence that I had lost through the bullying.  Her trust in me, made me worthy of something.  My trust in her made her worthy of something.  Opie taught me to trust again.  Thank you Opie.  

Translate to Business: Mentor and spend the time with those with heart, passion, resiliency, and determination, they may not look the part, they may not have all the skill, but they have the will to try.  Skill and will are completely different.  You can have will with NO skill, but you cannot have skill with no will.  These are your top performers, the coach-able ones.  The ones that stay centered on their why.

Like every novice rider, we eventually must advance to a more intermediate level horse to continue learning and growing.  I actually saw this horse before any other horse at the stable, his name was, Quincy.  I remember watching the most advanced rider at the stable at the time, riding him one afternoon outside.  The rider was doing this up and down motion, which I later learned was English posting.  Quincy, at the time, had a reputation to be a little short tempered, and silly.

I remember feeling quite accomplished to have been chosen to take on, Quincy.  Who at the time was the most advanced horse at the stable.  He was 16.1 hands high and absolutely stunning.  He had a fun personality, I remember he used to nibble on my hair when I picked his hooves.  When he had a tiny ache somewhat like a “Human splinter to a horse” he would act like he had been brutally hurt intentionally, and mope around in a miserable state.  He would cough like he was in agonizing pain to get out of work………. we felt.  Such a character!

Quincy, was a young Champion at the age of 2 in the big state of Texas.  His registered name was “Conclusive Quinarious” he was just as complex as his name. He showed all over the state of New York with previous owners and had quite the reputation for being superb! Much like Opie and I.

Well needless to say, Quincy, and I never claimed any wins, as we generally ended up in a tiff in the middle of the show ring.  However, Mr. Quincy taught this girl, how to ride.  He always performed beautifully at home, we were a stunning team AT HOME, he saved his tricks for the show ring.

What Quincy taught me: “Stay in the Saddle” Stay humble, learn and grow, the wins don’t define you.  The growth is the win. 

Also, titles can be hard to live up to.  This is why we measure the growth not the number of titles and/or trophies.

Translate to Business: In business it is important to always track your growth, and your teams growth.  Be sure to recognize yourself and your team!  You may not be the number one top seller in the country, but your average order per Representative may be $1 higher than last week!  Take the hard work as growth, and look for the small wins to offer recognition.  Remain humble……always.  Seek great mentors that have, “Been there.”  

Don’t feel pressure to win the title year after year, look where you were and where you’ve come.  Measure the growth, that is the win.

Fast forward a few horses later, I bought my first horse the summer I turned 14.  I worked all summer at a local Recreation Program, as a Counselor.  I earned $1500 for the entire summer!  That is exactly how much, “Champion” cost.  I gave him the full name, “Champion of my Texas Heart.”  He was a 6 year old Sorrel (Red coat) Quarter Horse gelding.  I gave the previous owner each of my paychecks until he was paid in full.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw my name on his paperwork!  I was not only in love with him, I was very proud of myself.  I learned to have a strong work ethic through my horses, and there are rewards for that.

Champion, reminded me so much of, Big Foot, large, strong, and gentle natured.  Like Ferdinand the Bull, he was a gentle giant.  He too was afraid of his own shadow.

I rode him everywhere, on trails, in shows, etc.  One of my absolute favorite places to be was in the show ring, however, this was not “Champion’s” favorite place to be by any stretch.  The pressure made him nervous.

There were times I pushed him too hard trying to “Train” him to be something he was never physically capable of being.  I set him up for failure with unattainable goals.

I later found out he had stifle issues, so instead of pushing him, I decided to enjoy nature, with my peaceful trail horse.  Champion, had the mind to show, but was physically incapable.

I still have Champion to this day, and have named my second son, Elijah Champion, after him.  Turns out, Elijah, is just as sweet natured as him!  Champions, forever home will be with my family, and I.

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What Champion taught me: Enjoy the simple things in life, instead of a show, enjoy nature and take trail ride.  I loved the calmness of trail riding, and listening to the sounds of nature and my horse breathing.  I loved the sound of  hooves brushing the leaves as we walked through the woods. 

He was much happier enjoying the trails and nature with me,  he was in his element.  My role with, Champion, was to be his calm support, and care giver, not his intense show trainer. Constantly reminding him he didn’t measure up.  It wasn’t something that could be trained, he physically couldn’t do it.  What he gave me was something I didn’t realize I needed, peace. 

Translate to Business:  Seek and find the strength in yourself and your team first.  Instead of leading with what YOU want to be your strength, and your teams strength.  If you can find that first, there will be no feeling of failure, or idea that someone doesn’t ,”Measure up.”  When people are in the right place they thrive whether or not they come with the skill.  The skill can be learned, all they need is the will to try.  As a leader/coach it is crucial to assist people in self discovery.  They must identify their own strengths.  

I don’t believe in the word, “Weakness,” I prefer the phrase, “Area of opportunity.”  This assumes they have the will, and humility to grow and accept coaching.  This is an opportunity to grow, NOT a weakness.

Now that I had my peaceful trail horse, I still longed to be in the show ring.  I then found, Sage.  Sage, was a registered, Quarter Horse mare, she was 5 years old.  A great age to show and grow with!  Sage, was by far the most beautifully put together horse I had ever seen.  She was a halter judges ideal horse.  A halter judge scores a horse and places them, based on their, “Confirmation,” anatomy and physiology, or figure so to speak.  She was absolutely gorgeous, even her coat glistened naturally.

However, no one EVER rode her.  She was a different stable owners project.  No one wanted to work with her, which of course only made me more interested.  In my mind she was just misunderstood.  I of course fell in love with her.

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I had to have her.  I worked with her day after day in the round pen.  I only rode her in a halter because she hadn’t had a bit yet.  I must have been crazy at that point considering she had cornered me and come after me multiple times, as she had so many others.  She would turn toward me, stand on her hind legs and strike her front quarters at me.

I was determined not to give up on her.  The problem was, she had scared many others that had tried working with her, and she knew it.  She took these scares as wins and got more aggressive each time.  Until one day she really almost hurt me, the stable owner thank, God, stepped in front of me.  I was so driven by the fear of not letting her down, or failing that I put myself in harms way.

Shortly after that I took her to one of the states top trainers, thinking she could help me.  This trainer even held a world title.  I remember the first day was atrocious.  Just like I knew she would, she went after her as well.  Only this time the trainer was prepared for that, Sage’s threats did not work with her.  By the end of the time with that trainer, I was riding her all over the place.

Truthfully, she was very trustworthy under saddle, it was standing next to her that was treacherous.  She to this day had the smoothest gate of any horse I ever rode, this was due to her impeccable confirmation.  I remember thinking, “If we could just get past this behavior problem, we would be unstoppable.”

She rode like a dream, we had no behavior problems for months.  Until one day, she started again, only worse.  She started refusing the bit, which was only ever a snaffle bit (one of the mildest and most forgiving bits made).  She was again very unpredictable, and aggressive.

One day my instructor said to me, “Carly, I don’t think this mare is for you.”  I couldn’t even believe what she was saying.  I never intended to give up on her.  In my heart I knew she was right.  Needless to say, my perfect Sage, was the first and only horse I ever sold.  Although, I loved her I had to let her go.  Someone was a better fit for her somewhere, it just wasn’t me.

What Sage taught me: Sometimes what we expect to happen isn’t what is meant to be.  A square will never fit in a circle space.  What glimmers isn’t always gold, even if she was golden to me. 

A decision based on emotion can lead us to places we should never be.  Am I saying I should have never been with Sage, ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Sage taught me this great lesson, that I have taken it with me all my life.  I have trusted, and believed in people that I thought had good intention, and almost sank myself trying to save them. 

Sometimes letting go is all we can do, but that doesn’t mean we have failed.  It means we have grown.   It takes a seasoned professional to say, this isn’t a good fit.  Now I can make these decisions before going through this long  process.  We cannot save everyone and everything.  Thank you my beautiful, Sage.

Translate to Business: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!  In business we must make sound, well thought out decisions based on fact, but also a little faith.  The problem is at times we blur the, “Faith,” part.  What I mean is, what we see as potential in people, or what we want for them, isn’t what they want for themselves.  You can’t sink the entire ship (team) to save one person.  Let them show their work and moral ethic, interview them, know their goals and intentions, know their dreams! Let them build credibility with you first.  Get their commitment to growth.  They have to want it more than you want it for them. Then start building and growing!

Lastly, I will share my story about my beautiful, and official show horse, who did make it to the show ring!  My Lucey, Lou!  I found her at a very well known, horse dealer, in the Quarter Horse industry.  She came from a pristine blood line (family name), her family had an impeccable show record.  Both her mother and father held multiple World titles, and so did all her brothers and sisters.  She was a 2 year old, and her registered name was, “Gimme a Big Gold Star.”  I named her, Lucey.

I must say, she has certainly lived up to that name.  For one, when you hear the name, “Gimme…” you think of a little 3 year old girl in pig tails demanding all that she desired.  That was, Lucey, she was cute, demanding, and ornery.  STILL IS.  “Lucey,” like, Lucille Ball, was also a character.  She always did funny, un lady like things!  For instance, below is an image of her scratching her rear end on a tree branch, bottom facing the road!  Oh Lucey!

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I remember there were 2 mares I was choosing between, Lucey a sorrel (red coat) and a beautiful bay (brown body with black legs) mare.  I was drawn to the bay mare she was stunning.  Lucey, on the other hand was pigeon toed, gangly, and had big donkey ears, that she hadn’t grown into yet.  She was a site for sure.

Keep in mind I had just gone through, Sage.  I was specifically looking for my show horse, with little to no behavior problems, YA RIGHT! So I decided to see how each one of the mares rode.  I started with the bay mare.  Saddling was a little rough she was very, “Light sided,” meaning she was irritable, so saddling or any touching made her skin twitch.  She did not like it.  In Western you have two split reins (they don’t connect in the middle).  When getting ready to mount you have to cross both reins over the withers (lowest part of the horses main by the pommel (front) of the saddle), the bay mare jumped when I did this.

I thought, nope NOT again.  I remembered previous spooky horses, and SAGE…. She was pretty, but I wanted a show horse, and considering all the unknowns that happen at shows, fairgrounds, etc… she wasn’t going to cut it.

I looked over at, Lucey, there she was pawing naughtily at the ground.  I thought, “Goodness, here we go again, another impatient mare.”  However, I saddled her up with not one single problem, and mounted her.  She rode like Sage, even with that pigeon toe,  had Opie’s, sound mind, and Quincy’s silly personality!  I FOUND MY SHOW HORSE!  Check out those big ears! 👇🏼

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Lucey, didn’t take much, she had a natural gate (stride), she was a born athlete, thanks to her mom and dad!  She accepted the show ring with literally no problem, nothing scared her.  She was a tough competitor, and just what I needed!  We had many, many wins!

The only time Lucey, gave me a real issue was when I, “Over trained her.”  My perfectionist nature irritated her! She would quickly remind me that she didn’t need all that coaching!  Almost as if she was saying, “You showed me that already, are you going to let me do this or what!  Let me be, I got this.”  I let her go, LITERALLY loosened the reins to the point they were practically dragging.  She kept her slow, collected, desirable Western pleasure show gate, and lowered her head just even with her withers.  When I let her show, SHE SHOWED!  I was merely her passenger.

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The only time, Lucey needed a heavier support was when she was tracking on her right lead.  She showed me she needed the support, so I gave it to her, just as she had me.  I supported her just enough to carry her through, and look effortless in the show ring.  She said, “That’s enough, Carly, that’s all I need, I can do the rest.”  That is just what she did.  We learned both our strengths and weaknesses, and won show after show together.

Oh and those, long skinny, gangly legs, grew strong and beautiful, and she grew into her big donkey ears as well!  She was a sassy, classy, confidant lady in the show ring!

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I spent every day with Lucey!  I still have her to this day.  She spends her time in the pasture with her man, “Champion.”  They are best friends, companions for life.  She keeps him young, and he checks her little attitude from time to time.  I suppose just like my husband and I.

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What Lucey taught me: The show ring is not the place to train, if it hasn’t been gotten by then, you will find out.  Train at home, show what you got.  Know when to stop training, and coaching, know when to set people free.  Give them the opportunity to take off without you.  Let your team fly. 

I had finally put all my experiences into play, when choosing her.  I wasn’t choosing a horse on emotion, or appearance.  I remembered what I wanted and chose a horse to fit the bill.  I left with the best horse I’d ever shown. 

Translate to Business: Coach and train your team, let them self discover.  Know when to step away and let them fly.  If they fall, you will know exactly where to pick them up, coach them and set them free again.  GET OUT OF THEIR WAY!  Other wise you are just coaching people to be dependent on you forever.  Which does not promote growth and independence, this is a disservice to them, and you.  In order to create independent leaders you have to know when to, step away.  

Live your life with intention, and a strong intuition.  My greatest mentors these days are my children!  More stories to come!

You can find inspiration anywhere in your everyday routine, you just have to open your eyes!

Think about your life, who have been your greatest mentors? 💕

 

 

2 thoughts on “Unconventional Mentors!

  1. Wonderful. A great reminder of the lessons my horse taught me. He had been used in harness – probably between shafts – and was very stiff when turning left and right – no chance of doing the barrels at anything faster than a walk as he just crashed into the fence. He had a sense of humour, a sense of honor, and he very definitely owned me!

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