not in the saddle, Craig works as a
consultant, specializing in Change
Management for government and the private
sector. Translated into English, this
basically means that he coaches people in
how to cope with organizational change,
anything from implementing a new computer
system to accepting new leadership.
Apparently, getting people to handle
change effectively is more difficult than
it sounds, because Craig's consulting
business is thriving.
on the pasture fence Saturday morning, he
pushed back his favorite worn cowboy hat.
"I have to tell you, everything we
humans need to know about change can be
learned just by watching a horse,"
he was referring to specifically was our
newest family member, a bay thoroughbred
gelding by the name of Victory Calibre.
He was probably, in a younger day, quite
a splendid sight, but through some
passive neglect at the hands of his
inexperienced owners, had been reduced to
a ribby, sallow-eyed candidate for the
good folks at Alpo.
I first saw him, his mane was ratted, his
coat dull, his unshod hooves splitting
and threatening to curl into snowshoes.
Although his owner kept insisting on his
virtues, Craig and I were hard-pressed to
see them. Still, my job was to work with
the horse and render an evaluation, since
the owner was considering selling him.
know that old phrase about a diamond in
the rough? Well, we put Calibre out in
the arena, and one look at his big, bold
stride, even with his feet in such dire
condition, told us there might be
something special there.
he's a wonderful horse," exclaimed
the owner, adding with a more cautionary
tone, "but you can't catch him, he
hates being brushed, he doesn't tie, and,
oh yeah, he really hates men."
and I exchanged one of those looks
possessed only by people who know each
other very, very well. At that point, we
decided that perhaps the best home for
this horse might be with us. We took him
home that day. One of the best sights
I've seen since we had to put Spook down
was that of Durango, galloping along the
fence line as we drove by with Calibre in
the trailer. It was like he knew that we
had found a special gift, just for him.
of the best ways to approach change is to
abandon all your pre-determined thoughts,
your prejudices, and your mental models
of how things are supposed to be,"
says Craig when coaching.
"Basically, you need to abandon your
old, worn-out assumptions."
decided to take this tenet and use it in
our own back yard, working with Calibre.
Discounting every piece of information we
had been told about this horse, we
decided to approach the next few weeks
without any mental constraints.
first few days we worked on his immediate
needs, those being his coat, his stomach,
and his feet. The vet arrived to
administer a full course of vaccines and
worming paste, and to assess his general
condition. Aside from being about 150
pounds underweight, we were assured he
would probably last at least a couple
weeks. On the heels of the vet came the
farrier, who trimmed, padded, and poked
until Calibre had on his first set of
shoes in four years.
Craig and I set to work with clippers,
shampoo, and some good old-fashioned
elbow grease. We smiled at each other
when, at the end of a three-hour grooming
session, we saw hints of quite a handsome
fellow. Each day we increased the
supplementary feed to Calibre's diet to
help him gain weight, and every day has
shown us a horse that is livelier, more
interested in his surroundings, and more
willing to please.
first day we rode him, we took him on a
trail ride. We threw him into Western
tack, which to our knowledge, he'd never
been ridden in. He performed flawlessly,
accepting the neck reining as if he were
born to it, and negotiating a rocky deer
trail as if it was all he'd ever done.
The second day we rode him, we pointed
him at a three-and-a-half-foot fence, and
he sailed over it effortlessly. The third
day, we put a skilled, but tiny
6-year-old girl on his back, and he went
through the paces with a clear
understanding that he was working as a
teacher and a nanny.
leaning against the pasture fence
Saturday morning, Craig and I reflected
on how this horse has changed. In a mere
two weeks, he has gone from being a
skinny backyard pet that was slowly
atrophying to a shiny, spirited animal
that seems not so very far from to the
winning racehorse he once was.
is remarkable in all this is not just the
changes Calibre has experienced, but also
the grace with which he has accepted it
can't think of one person who, faced with
a sudden move (new pasture), a job change
(being ridden), a change in leadership
(new owners), and new coworkers
(barn-mate Durango), wouldn't go into it
kicking and screaming, even if these
changes represented a significant
improvement in lifestyle. But Calibre has
greeted each day with an expression on
his face that seems to say, "Well,
boss, what adventure do you have planned
for me today?"
organizational transitions, the degree
and diversity of change experienced by
Calibre would be considered a
catastrophic level. "In an
organizational environment, this level of
change with this many obstacles would be
too much," Craig contends. "The
change effort would almost certainly
fail. But with Calibre, there was no
internal or external resistance, only
those not familiar with change management
terms, translated, this means that no one
was telling Calibre he couldn't do it.
There were only people telling him he
of us have to deal with change in our
lives at one time or another. In my case,
it came three years ago, when I started
to lose my eyesight. I wish I'd had
Calibre in my life then, so that I could
look to him for some clues as to how to
navigate through what I perceived as a
catastrophe, do so with grace and
any change process to succeed, you need
to have an awareness of the obstacles, a
desire and commitment to overcome them,
and the ability to suspend preconceived
notions. In his own way, Calibre
possesses all these qualities.
of Craig's favorite quotes is:
"Those who say it can't be done are
usually interrupted by those doing
it." Calibre's definitely is doing
by the way, about the warning we received
from Calibre's former owner about the
fact that this is a horse who hates men -
I'll have to remind Craig about that
every morning, as he's giving Calibre his
sunrise ear rub.
those preconceived notions, they'll get
you every time.