Last night, I was invited to speak to a group of young women from the equine programs of Lake Erie College, which is an institution that is near and dear to my heart.
Having existed just a stones throw from my hometown of Meadville, PA, we horse showed there often. Many of my friends attended, and many memories were made there.
So when I was asked to share my broad experiences about the equine industry, I willingly accepted the offer.
We started with an overview of my CV. I explained my background and my education, and I expounded on my entry into the land of thoroughbreds. I impressed upon them to gain as much experience doing as diverse of things as possible, because every experience would have an impact on their lives.
I told them to take that marketing class, and make sure to pay attention in their business lectures. To be cognizant of what they post on social media, and to realize that at all moments, someone is watching them. I explained to them that they did not just represent themselves, but their advisor and their entire college.
And at the end of the talk, I was surrounded. By twenty 18 year olds who could care less about that marketing and communications minor, or that class on public speaking.
What did they care about?
They were all dumbfounded that I was successfully able to retrain and sell a number of off track thoroughbreds, and wanted to know what my recipe was for success.
And I laughed at them, shrugged my shoulders, and said I was lucky.
I was lucky to have found myself unemployed in 2008 after graduating from college with a 3.4 in biology. I was lucky that this pushed me to desperation and eventually a job mucking stalls on a thoroughbred breeding farm. A job mucking stalls that eventually turned into a management position. And a position that allowed me to meet so many influential people in this industry who recognized me as a good hand and now offer me their retired stock.
I am lucky that in that position managing farms, I was forced to access conformation. I was forced to learn pedigrees. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by phenomenal eyes on biomechanics of horses, and blessed to have them teach me about which flaws they could live with, and which would lead to soundness issues. I was thrown into the sales where I was asked to appraise those flaws and assess movement, which a ton more money on the line.
I am lucky that I nearly failed organic chemistry, and that my advisor and father recommended that I up my GPA by taking classes in the arts. Creative writing, public speaking, and communications. Classes that I took to fluff up those grades, but that I now use daily as I write my ads for these horses, understanding just how to present something. Which photos to use and what draws an eye in. How to write a catchy ad and communicate to buyers.
I am lucky that my childhood horse decided that he didn’t want to be an event horse. And that in desperation and frustration I moved to Wyoming to take a break. I am lucky that during that break, I learned how to let a horse be a horse and how to force a rider to not impede this process. I was lucky enough to learn bravery outside of the confines of an arena and on the backs of 200 horses of mixed breeds, level of training, and bravery.
I am lucky that I didn’t get into veterinary school and eventually went back to get my doctorate. I am lucky that that career as a scientist opened up my schedule, while still paying me enough to gamble on these horses. I am lucky in that I have a career to pay the bills and I don’t have to be at constant risk of one of these horses running through a fence and bankrupting me.
And finally, I’m lucky to be lucky. Because I have been within the four walls of this industry long enough to know how much luck plays a role. And I also have personally witnessed when luck runs out. I still own a horse 3 years later who was supposed to bring me $30,000. A horse who has his shoes pulled and who’s only job is to babysit the new projects. A horse who checked every box and ticked every requirement. And yet who’s brain never held up and whose body never vetted.
I know what it’s like to find the most special horse and have them run through a fence. Or to find the diamond in the rough only to have them get into a trailering accident. I’ve witnessed horses hit a fence and never be the same, and I’ve watched horses lose their confidence over something as simple as a bad step.
But you can increase your luck to risk ratio by investing the time, patience, education, and ability into the next project. By working a season for a farm, and learning about conformation assessment. By taking that marketing class and educating yourself on advertisement. By investing in those riding lessons, and learning from the best on how to be your most confident self. By getting out of the arena and finding comfort in various experiences. And by meeting those connections on the racetrack, offering a firm handshake, and then holding yourself to your word.
All of these things seem so opposite to one another and yet I find them to be so crucial to my success. It isn’t simply finding the nice horses. It isn’t simple training the nice horses. It isn’t simply marketing the nice horses. And it isn’t simply luck.
It is all of those things rolled into one with some unicorn glitter thrown into the mix.
And at the end of the day, does any of it truly matter? Because beyond luck, and jealousy, and education, and failure, is the most important thing. And that is providing these horses with a second chance. Because while my resume may have depth and breadth, it is the horses resume that is developed underneath me which sets them up for future success, future fun, and future safety.
And that is exactly what the end game is for me. And why I’ll keep doing it as long as I stay lucky.
Is the horse in the last photo, Mak?
Nope! That’s meatball!
So well put, education, and the willingness to learn will help all those newbies find some luck 🙂
Now I’m sorry I was on vacation & didn’t know you were in town!! I would have begged a spot among those 20 year olds to hear your talk.
As an alum of LEC, thank you for taking the time to talk to these young people. I think they need to hear that achieving success is more that just getting that degree. They need to know that mucking stalls (or whatever chore)can lead to bigger and better things. So, thank you. Thank you for your time with these young people