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Be a Mentor with Carla Wennberg

The other day, after receiving a text from a former student who wanted to reach out to me, I realized just how important it is to have mentors as a youth in the equine industry. Mentors can shape you and help you become the person you are and in our industry, being a mentor is what it means to be a Professional Horseman.

Back in the days of my youth career, the 70s, the men and woman who helped me were some of the best professionals in the industry. They were excellent horsemen who enjoyed helping a hungry, inexperienced youth and collectively, they gave me the courage and knowledge to be a strong competitor.

In recent days we have been filled with sadness over the passing of some of the greatest horseman of our industry. While we mourn our losses, we celebrate the legacies that they have left behind. Losing the John Hoyts and Benny Guitrons of our horse industry made us all realize how important they were to so many of us due to the knowledge and wisdom they shared as mentors to others in our profession.

We have an amazing industry of great horsemen and women who coach, teach, and share their knowledge. They are our mentors and I would specifically like to thank a few of mine.

I have to thank those who have shaped me as a horseman and a person. First, I have to thank my parents. Their support and “can do” attitude towards me encouraged me to “go for it!” Growing up in Massachusetts, we didn’t have horses, but once we moved to North Carolina, my parents began (and forever continued) their support of my equine interests by purchasing my first horse when I was seven. It was with their support that I was able to begin my journey into the industry where I have been successful for many years as a professional.

From 4H to AQHA, I found mentors, or they found me. They saw a 4H kid with hunger, determination, and a pretty average horse and supported my growth. I have to thank Dr. Jim Heird (pictured left), (the previous Extension Horse Specialist for North Carolina who now works for Texas A&M and is on the Executive Board for AQHA), who has been my mentor for many years. He is an excellent horseman, coach, and teacher and he gave me the “roadmap” to this industry at a young age. I appreciate all he did for me as a youth to help shape my life. He was always tough on me, but he helped me reach my goals. I have great respect for the life lessons he provided and even today, some 46 years later, I still ask for his advice. Part of wanting to become an AQHA judge was due to his influence.

Another one of my very special mentors is AQHA Professional Horsewoman and AQHA Judge, Lynn Palm (pictured right). When I bought my first registered quarter horse, Lynn encouraged and helped me (I was thirteen and needed help). Through the years, now 40 some, I continue to share my passion for horses with others because of Lynn. She was kind enough back in my 4H days to let me ride her mare, Mocha Chip, who was wonderfully trained and that experience helped to further my riding, showing, and training education. (Of course, Lynn’s horses could do tricks, so it was a bonus to bow with Mocha Chip after we had won.)

At a young age both Lynn Palm and Dr. Jim Heird took me under their wing and gave me the support and confidence to work at entering and succeeding in this business.

Personally, I have had a lifetime of great happiness in the AQHA industry. From a youth to a professional trainer to being a judge, now going on 30 years, I have embraced this industry and appreciated all my mentors.

For the young professionals out there now, please, be a mentor. Please reach out to those hungry individuals who need your guidance and help them to not only be successful in the arena but life as well. Being a guide in the horse industry doesn’t have to just mean sharing knowledge about riding and showing. Being a mentor involves teaching life lessons that last forever.

The text I received that sparked this discussion was a girl named Jessica Woosley (pictured left). I have been going to Kearney, Nebraska to give clinics at Mari Woolsey’s farm for many years. I met her daughter, Jessica, when she was about 9 or 10 years old. Jessica was one of those kids who would be on her horse before the lesson and afterward. She was destined to be great and I could tell because she was hungry to learn and never complained. She was special, I just knew.

Since meeting her as a youth, she graduated from NMSU in 2014 and rode for their NCEA team in Horsemanship. I am very proud of her for all she has accomplished and wanted to share a paper she wrote in the eighth grade. I believe it perfectly shows just how important mentors are and how professional horsemen and women can have an impact on a young rider’s life. Here is her paper:

                                                                               “I am” by Jessica Woolsey

I am a teenage girl who loves riding horses.

I wonder if I will ever make it to the AQHYA World show.

I hear the slow, steady hoof beats against the dry ground.

I see a great future ahead of me with a huge equine stable.

I want to be the top equine trainer in the world.

I am a teenage girl who loves riding horses.

I pretend I’m Carla Wennberg riding on the horizon.

I feel all the emotions inside me when I get into the ring to show.

I touch the silky mane of my horse when he is fantastic.

I worry about the tough competition I always have.

I cry when my horse goes dead lame or injures himself.

I am a teenage girl who loves riding horses.

I understand the rules and regulations of the AQHA rulebook.

I say never, never give up on yourself, keep trying.

I dream of becoming the top rider at the AQHA World Show.

I try to get my horse to drive up into the bridle.

I hope I will make the horsemanship team in college.

I am a teenage girl who loves riding horses.

This paper could have been mine in eighth grade. Remember, if you’re not a mentor, be one. You don’t know the impact you will have or its lasting effects and our industry needs to continue to educate the youth that will become the professionals of tomorrow.

Photos © Carla Wennberg, The American Quarter Horse Association, Lynn Palm