Last updated: January 25. 2014 9:14AM - 447 Views
Melissa Hopkins

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LAURINBURG — Meaghan Nedow, a Therapeutic Horsemanship Management Business Major at St. Andrews University, spent the summer of 2013 doing an internship with H&H Stables in Empire, Mich., a trail riding, boarder and equestrian training facility.

It was a comfortable fit, as it was the same place she had worked since she was 17 years old.

“I had just moved to the area and I saw an ad in the newspaper looking for guides,” Nedow said. “I was only 17 at the time but I called to apply. I pestered him and pestered him until he let me come out to ride.”

That ride started a working relationship that saw Nedow working each summer, moving up to manager after two years. In year three, the owner shared that he was looking toward retirement and hoped to work out a deal to allow her to take over.

Until that happens in May, Nedow will be preparing herself mentally for the task — but that process truly started while working as an intern.

“During my internship I was involved much more with the aspects of hiring and firing staff, scheduling rides and workers, ordering feed, answering the phone and many other general horse care activities,” she said. “I also was involved a lot more with the training of our own trail horses.

“I think that every task that I undertook taught me more about the business that I didn’t know beforehand and definitely opened my eyes to many different aspects of the business,” Nedow continued. “It can be hard with so much stuff going on to manage every single thing between the people and the horses. It takes a lot of organization and communication to allow the business to function smoothly.”

This new perspective, as an owner in training, also meant being more at the front of the business in making decisions.

“One of my proudest and also saddest moments while on the job had to do with the unpredictability of horses,” she said. “We had two horses colic over the course of two days. I had both horses show me signs of colic so I pulled them out of the rides and checked their vital signs. I had never had actual experience with that at all until that point. I did, thankfully, learn a lot about horse sicknesses in one of my classes at St. Andrews so I was able to apply that to the situation.”

Unfortunately, despite Nedow’s quick action and the work of the staff, one of the horses had to be put down.

“I was also involved in the choice to do so, which, again, I had never had to face. I had never actually seen a horse be put down or had to deal with the death of a horse that I really cared for. It was very heartbreaking.”

Not all the leadership decisions were as heart wrenching. Nedow also took the lead on the marketing for the business. She served as the liaison for the website developer, taking and sending pictures in a timely manner. She also did more on the training side, taking it upon herself to work with one of the boarder horses.

“I started riding Blue at least once every day,” she said. “I started to see improvement after just the first week of riding. After a few weeks he had calmed down so much that I decided that I could put other guides on him. He ended up becoming a real asset to the rides and was a great guide horse.”

Nedow also became much more aware of the need to delegate and trust the people around you.

“I have a tendency to want to do it myself because I know exactly what I want done and how I want it done and don’t always know if other people will be able to do it that way,” she said. “Having to do group work at St. Andrews helped me to learn to trust my people and check in. We all need to have a game plan to focus our thoughts.”

As she takes over the business, one big piece of the game plan is to start up a therapeutic horsemanship program. Nedow has already started on a business plan with a goal of having the therapeutic horsemanship aspect of the business up and running within five years. Her initial plan includes focusing on those with physical disabilities within the program. She is also going to begin building a volunteer and staff base to support the program while trying to decide if she will go the non-profit or for-profit route.

With all of this waiting for her after graduation, Nedow is appreciative for the groundwork that was laid throughout her education and particularly during this internship experience.

“(The owner) really let me take the lead on everything and would offer insights and advise based on what he saw and constant feedback about what was going good and what needed to be fixed,” she said. “I think I learned a lot more this way that I would have if he would have just told me what to do and how to do it. I got to really develop my own way of doing things and my own style of management and what worked for me as well as how everyone else responded to it.”

Nedow was forced by the internship requirements to do a greater amount of reflection on a regular basis than she would have if it was just another some of work. It proved far more valuable than she initially thought.

“All of the events and issues that happened really helped me realize that if I can make it through all of that, then I can handle a lot more than I thought,” she said. “I never really did much self reflection in previous years of working there, but when I look back on what I faced in just this past summer and how much I have grown and learned, I am amazed.”

Melissa Hopkins is director of Communications for St. Andrews University.

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