The Toughest Leadership Decision

I have always believed that a leader is someone who can step up to the plate and make those tough decisions based on the needs of those who trust and follow him. That philosophy hit home in a very personal way as I stood in the vet clinic with my Arab horse, Rocky.

I bought Rocky twelve years ago. I paid what was for me, an exorbitant amount of money. I did not think twice about my decision. I had recently had some bad riding experiences that had shaken my confidence. I knew that in Rocky I would have a long-time partner that I could absolutely depend on.

In the years that we have been together Rocky has never let me down. He filled in for my many leadership gaps when I was first starting out as a horse person. He carried my son around countless jump courses at the shows and they always came home with ribbons. In his later years he took me safely down forest trails and he carried small children calmly and quietly around the arena in our therapeutic program. For twelve years he has been my trusted friend and working partner.

As we stood in the vet clinic listening to the diagnosis of cancer I knew that the vet’s words did not really matter. Rocky, who has never been very affectionate, put his head in my arms for the first time in all our years together. My husband and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes because we both knew what he was asking of us. He was depending on us for us to make the right decision for him.

Rocky is home now where he can spend his last few days out in his paddock with his herd. It breaks my heart every time I look out the window and see him but I know that he trusts me to do what is right. It is not about what I want which is more time, even if it is only a few more weeks or a month. It is about what Rocky needs, which is to go now before the quality of his life slips even more. Of all the decisions I have made in my life this is one of the hardest and the most painful but as Rocky’s herd leader I must stand for what I believe in and let him go.

I will miss you Rocky.

Laura Hunter

"Horses want to see the same qualities of character in their leaders that we want to see in ourselves. It's simple: Being the better horse can develop the balance to becoming a better person."
Chris Irwin

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