Lessons Learned Along the Way – Part 6
Making the vet list.
When we finished teasing, Melvin would read off the vet list for the morning. He noticed I was checking off from my list rather than writing down his. After a while, he asked to see my list rather than read off his. Soon, I was given complete responsibility of not only making the vet list but being in charge while rounds were made. Dr. Bill McGee was the attending veterinarian at both Clovelly and Calumet, and so I had the opportunity and great pleasure of working with and learning from him for six years. I was always asking questions. So much so that when I went to work at Calumet, his advice to me was: “Act like you know something and quit asking so damned many questions.” But I didn’t quit asking, and he didn’t quit answering. Dr. McGee taught me to trust nature. So many times he would crouch in the corner of the stall for 15 or 20 minutes and then say, “Let’s just keep an eye on her.” He explained to me that parturition was not a matter of “opening up a sack and dumping the foal out” and explained in detail all the things that had to happen in sequence for a successful birth. I realized the miracle of foaling is not that things go wrong so rarely, but that it ever works at all. Once, I woke up Dr. McGee in the middle of the night and told him: “This mare is foaling, the foal is upside down, and I can’t turn it. I’ve gotten her up five times, and the foal still won’t turn.” His response was: “Get her up a sixth time.” The foal turned. Both professionally and personally, Bill McGee did more for me than I can ever say.
Learning the business side of the horse business.
From Calumet, I went to work for Robert Clay at Three Chimneys. Robert told me in our initial interview that he had begun with 100 acres and a dream of developing the farm into a world-class commercial operation. I knew within five minutes this was the man I wanted to work for. He also turned out to be a great teacher. Robert taught me how to run a business. He sent me to a one week management seminar at the Harvard Business School. He involved me in strategic thinking from the beginning, formally meeting to set goals and map out a plan to achieve those goals. He taught me about branding and marketing, which I had never before considered. He taught me about financial oversight and how to develop and manage budgets. Most importantly, he challenged me constantly to learn and to grow and to take on new roles and new responsibilities. You cannot ask for a better teacher than that. Some people may be self-taught, but not me. From the beginning I’ve been fortunate to have had some of the best teachers possible. I credit them with any success I may have achieved and hope to thank them and credit them by passing these lessons on.