Susan Gordon – Co-Author of Compassionate Equestrian

Podcast Show Notes

Equine Business Builder, Laura Kelland-May, horse business, horse podcast
Susan Gordon – Co-Author of Compassionate Equestrian

Could you tell us a bit about what you do?  

I refer to myself as a “retired” trainer, although I am not officially retired from anything! I am heavily involved in everything I love to do, which includes continuing to ride for one client at a private home, pursue photography and art, and run. I race competitively and am currently preparing for two upcoming track meets. As well, I have a show of photography and paintings going up next week for the month of August at our local library.

How did you get started with your product/book/ riding?  

The book came about after several decades in the equine industry. My riding obsession began as a junior with a grade mare in the little town of Williams Lake, B.C., famous for its Stampede. Prior to acquiring my own horse, I was dragging my Mom to the pony rides in Vancouver’s Stanley Park as a youngster. That’s where I really got hooked on horses. I loved to study horse training and got my hands on as many books as I could, as well as reading magazines. “Horse & Rider” was my go-to mag in the early days. I was 14 years old and boarding my Appaloosa filly at a mixed-use, primarily Quarter-horse show barn in Calgary when I was introduced to jumping. I eventually sold my Western tack and switched over to English. In 1977 and 1978, Spruce Meadows started coming to our barn’s schooling shows. I approached Mrs. Southern and was fortunate enough to have her allow me to move my newly-acquired Appaloosa colt to the now-famous facility. I turned professional in 1983, after moving back to B.C. I was running an eventing barn with my ex-husband, whom I had met at Spruce Meadows. Soon afterward, I was hired by the late Michael Patrick to ride for him at Pine Meadows in Aldergrove. The Compassionate Equestrian is the cumulative result of all those experiences, and my personal journey through the joys and disappointments of riding and training as a professional. It is also a statement regarding some of the changes of heart and awareness I would like to see take place in riders that I believe would have a very positive effect on many riders of all ages, and hopefully the industry as a whole.

What do you think is the number one thing holding back people from doing what they want to do? 

Listening to other people, who—for some reason that usually stems from their own experiences and limitations—tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t be doing something. Yes, you must be realistic, but if you operate based solely on the opinions of others, especially if they have made you feel as though you’re doing something wrong when you know you aren’t, or are simply working toward becoming better, then a good practice of self-compassion is highly recommended. Remove the toxic people from your life.

Confidence is so important, and that confidence is conveyed through your product or skill. People appreciate authenticity more so than ever these days too. There is so much “noise” in the average person’s world, it is hard to find the appropriate balance between promoting oneself and skills/products, yet not becoming one of those annoying spammers whose posts and e-mails get deleted before being read.

There are popular clinicians and authors who travel consistently and I think it becomes a very wearying thing for them to carry on with at some point. The costs and cumbersome details of travel, especially internationally, have become prohibitive, and justifying costs against profits can be a challenge. I’ve chosen to promote The Compassionate Equestrian primarily through social networking rather than personal travel. It has been interesting to keep a close eye on trends via the multitude of online groups, individuals, and businesses related to the equine industry, all over the world. The book is meant to have a global reach, and technology allows us to have that reach very quickly.

How did you come up with your idea for your book?  

I had given up on teaching and training after 2 major issues arose while I was in Arizona. One, being climate change, and the other, the economic crash of 2008. Between the ever-increasing strength of the wind and dust storms and unusually high heat (even for Arizona), and the fact that some clients could no longer afford lessons, I eventually gave up. I went to film school in Vancouver with the intention to make a documentary about the plight of off-track thoroughbreds. My instructor encouraged me to look into the “dark side” of racing and the ultimate horrific demise of many ex-racehorses. The process led me to a woman who was very well versed in the industry and gave me a lot of insight into the backstories behind the slaughter issue. I was mortified, and realized I would need a huge legal team to go ahead with the documentary. So I shelved it. Then I made an exploratory trip to Salt Spring Island, just of the coast west of Vancouver, and ended up staying in a house that was owned by a client in the U.S. It was for sale, so it was a fortuitous set of circumstances that allowed me to stay there for the past 3 years, writing The Compassionate Equestrian. The idea flowed out of my desire to make the film, but quickly turned to thoughts of a book after I met Dr. Schoen on the island. We had very similar feelings about the state of horses, showing, and training from our personal perspectives and backgrounds, so our dialogues just worked out in a manner that was conducive to what became a rather lengthy tome.

What do you think is the number 1 reason people succeed when others don’t?  

Focus and willpower. I always told my students that if you want to do well at something, you have to do it a lot. It also helps to have an inspiring and very experienced mentor, which was most certainly the case in the form of my first riding instructor, the late Senior Judge and TD, Margaret Ellard of Calgary. My determination and perseverance with the horses, in spite of not being wealthy, is what got me through every situation I faced during my career. I knew I had been taught well, which got me through down times and criticism from others.

What was one of the major “roadblocks” you experienced when you set out on your journey?

As a trainer, I had only my reputation to work with, and the fact that I was riding for one of the continent’s top equitation stars. My own horses had to be sold due to limited expenses, including a fantastic young Hanoverian that would have been good enough to take to Grand Prix. I knew I was still learning, but appreciated every opportunity to ride Michael’s horses. They had a feel unlike any others I had ridden, and it was due to his talent that instilled an extraordinary jump even in a horse that may not have jumped so well under a different rider.

As for the book, there wasn’t much of a roadblock to the process. The words seemed to emerge without constraint and before I knew it, I had a much larger manuscript than anticipated. Coordinating times to get together for discussions with my busy veterinarian coauthor was probably the biggest challenge due to his active practice in New York and Connecticut. We made all the deadlines however, as once again, that focus and perseverance I was taught early in my career as a rider paid off!

What was the big “a-ha” moment when you knew you overcame one of the major roadblocks?  

I knew my own talent as a rider was confirmed when I won two gold medals in show jumping in the B.C. Summer Games in 1983 on a little b-track Thoroughbred mare who had failed in her second career as a cutting horse. She sold right after the Games, and then Michael approached me to ride at his barn. It was an opportunity I leapt at. Not having a top show jumper of my own did not seem to matter at the time, as I had done enough with a horse that was literally handed to me as a project only a year prior. She was so difficult nobody else enjoyed riding her, so it was a huge breakthrough for me to overcome the feeling that I needed a more extensive background with my own horses before being accepted into a top A-Circuit show barn as a professional.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 – Where Susan Gordon gives some equitation tips.


Interview with Joyce Chartier from ChoyceLLC and Choyce Party Ponies

Our guest is is Joyce Chartier from Choyce LLC and Choyce Party Ponies. How are you doing today Joyce?
Where are you located first of all?
I have two different locations both in Florida, one on the East Coast, the Treasure Coast area specifically Palm City, Florida. and then I have my West Coast of Florida division, which is based in San Antonio Florida.

Excellent.. so you run both businesses from where  you are located. right now?
I run them both from San Antonio.

Do you have a webpage/website that people can find you.

I have two webpages one is Choyce Ponies and I spell it funny because my name is Joyce and my ponies are Choice. It’s C – H – O -Y as in  yellow, C – E ponies PON IES .com and my second website  is ChoyceLLC .com. and, they can find you there to find out some more in-depth stuff about your businesses.

Tell us a little bit about what you do and what your businesses are.

My one business is my main business I started twenty years ago and that was my pony party business and that is my East Coast business. I don’t do pony parties on the West Coast and that is one reason why I have 2 different websites. One website is more my East Coast website and then the ChoyceLLC website is my West Coast website– one is primarily doing trail rides because that’s more what I enjoy and what I specialize in and it’s how I reshaped my business when I moved to the West Coast. I then went three years ago.

What are some of the big trail rides you do on the West Coast.

Usually my big ride in the Osceola wagon train and trail  ride, which is in the central part of Florida and Osceola County and that one I try to do every year. This for the first time I did the Cracker Trail Ride  that I haven’t done for probably ten years. I was thrilled to be able to do that and then the big ride  that I did this year was the great Florida cattle  drive sixteen. I did the  cattle drive in two thousand six and then I had the opportunity to do it again in two thousand and sixteen. I was an outfitter for the ride. I had a total of sixteen horses at that ride.

So Outfitter for that ride you provide  horses tack, equipment, yes. And you get to the trail and then meet up with the people prior to it. they get that require that you know it. in fact, when I did the package it was with the inclusion of one ride so that they can get to know my horses and get to know me and now I did not guarantee them that that was the horse they would get  but at least they had an idea what my horses were like. I got a chance to assess their  riding abilities, and then I could kind of get an idea of where I needed to place some in which horse they needed to be on.

You must have spent a long time combing the countryside for quality horses that can be used and ridden by people. Ya, that and then I have my old steady standbys that one of them is my “Luke” horse, and  took someone out on the ride this year that prior to me meeting him. he had been on a horse twice in his life.

It’s more than just going out to a trail ride I mean these are significant overnight rides right? Ya, ya. This was a week long camping moving our campsite every day, loading up all of our equipment into a trailer. I got called in at the last minute to be the trail boss, the circle boss for the blue group which was on the West Coast of Florida. We had some people that had to be called out due to illness, and I was the third person. I said I would do it.

So I had eighty one people in my group. Including my group of fifteen riders so that may the logistics a lot more difficult at that point. So with eighty one people you were organized logistics for the horses with people all the equipment.  You know, because I was the person that put out the fires and I was liaison between the head honchos and people, and so I was trying to help them out.

I was required to have two trucks and trailers one to move all of the feed that hay in the grain for the horses, and then the other one was to remove all of the equipment and people had brought with them to camp all of their tents, their clothes all that kinda stuff.

So not just riding but all the logistics and coordination of it as well.

Yes, absolutely.

That sounds like a very large undertaking.  I did the ride in two thousand six I did the ride and you know I’ve been going to meetings, but I certainly had no idea about what all of the logistics were really until probably the second day of when I’d actually accepted that I was going to do it. It was quite an quite an experience. It was totally fabulous. I had a great bunch of people who supported me in this, the mistakes I made where the mistakes that were made and we got it all sorted out in the end. And are you going to do it this year?

We are hoping for another opportunity in twenty twenty one when we will celebrate five hundred years of Ponce de Leon bringing horses and cattle and pigs and goats to the state of Florida.

That is interesting. Let’s talk a bit about you. How did you get started with your riding.

I started when I was little. I started riding with a friend of mine.

I started out on a rocking horse and I rode as a kid on a dairy. We use hay string bridles, because none of the Cowboys that were there would let us use any of their proper equipment. And then I didn’t ride again until I was seventeen years old. Again it is at a dairy.

I was riding a three -year-old buckskin Appaloosa that would be going along for two or three or four hours and then all of a sudden get a wild hair and buck  me off and then I’d be walking. Then went and took lessons and learned how to ride and then I started training horses and then I started teaching riders.

So you started riding in Florida? Yes.

And I am going to take a stab here and say Western type riding.

Oh well, mostly bareback because, like I say they wouldn’t let us use any of their equipment. We would literally take hay sting and make bridles out of it and put it on the horses and ride the horses with hay string bridles.

When you got these hay string bridles and you just got on the horses so you talking cowboys, they must have been real ranches you were riding at.

They were dairys actually just the wildest thing. That is another topic for another podcast.

How did you come up with your idea for ChoyceLLC and ChoycePartyPonies?

Twenty years ago I was involved in 4-H and I was learning how to teach and I was also involved with the horsemanship safety Association, which Betty Bennett Talbot was the originator and the director of that. And I learned how to teach from her in her clinics.

At the time I was also involved in 4-H and we were doing pony rides in the park in Okeechobee every year is a fundraiser for the 4-H and out of that find them and call them up and ask them to give parties.  They would be like we don’t want to do parties at people’s houses. The person at the time running the 4-H club was like someone called me to bring ponies to a party and I don’t do that.  But maybe you  might want to. At that time I had one pony and I had my daughter, who was then four years old. I took her and her pony, Buttercup, and I walked around in circles with Buttercup doing pony rides for two hours and then at the end Tiffany did a riding demonstration of her running a barrel pattern.  They gave me a hundred dollars and I was like, WOW, somebody paid me to do this!

You get paid for something you like to do!

Ya, I was exhausted and it was like yeah. So I went from that to go into the fleamarket in Stuart and I did the fleamarket in Stuart for 10 years. While I was doing that I was also developing the pony party business. When that ended with the fleamarket I just kept doing the Pony Parties and kept adding little things like bounce houses and petting zoos and bungee jumps.

So you kept growing and growing? Ya

Are there are people who are doing the same thing and how is yours different than the others out there?

Absolutely, there are others doing the same thing. You know. There are people who say, she is making money and she loves it, and she’s doing great job at it. And they think, oh we can do this.

I have competitors. One of my best friends was one of my best competitors for many years and so she sold her business and even tossed ponies pony parties back and forth all the time because we were very good friends. We would always discuss what we were doing with our pony party businesses and what was going on. It’s very rare that you can have a competitor who is in your same service area and get along with and we are still friends and we’ve been friends for seventeen years.

So how are you different from the others.

I bring ponies that have been doing this for many many years. We went to the Stuart Air Show with our ponies with the bombs and the jets. My ponies are very established. They’re very experienced. They’ve been doing this for numerous years.

They come glitterized. I bring unicorns. I can bring zebras. I can bring something odd as a unicorn or  a zoonicorn, which is only seen on the treasure Coast. They come in all varieties of pinks and purples and blues and striping and it’s a unicorn.

Do you have any pictures of the zoonicorn?

I do have pictures of the zoonicorn on my website. I think definitely, I have her on my facebook page.

What’s your facebook page Joyce?

Choyce Party Ponies and also ChoyceLLC on Facebook.

As far as the business goes, what do you think is the number one thing holding back people from doing what they want to do?  For example, you have a great business. Why do you think people are not going for it?

It depends on your mindset. I think that there are people and I see success all over every day. I see people doing this and making it work right. I see a lot, a lot people and do a horse business and make it work.

Consequently, I see other people who, this is a lot of work. It involves a lot hours when you have a horse business if you have any business, you eat, breathe and sleep it. When you put your horses before you do and you spend the bulk of your income on what you do, because I don’t make a lot of money.

This is a very small living for the amount of hours and the amount of time, and the amount of love that I put in to this. This is not really easy for people to understand. When I say things like my stock all has four legs, I don’t count 401(k). I don’t have a retirement I don’t have all those things that people traditionally look for, and that’s a little bit of a challenge.

So people have been afraid of being investment they have to make. And your reputation is important and I see a lot of people who come into the horse business and maybe they don’t have the best morals, and that makes a whole other bunch of  issues there.

So what  was one of the major roadblocks you experience when you send out businesses?

Insurance costs. My insurance this year for my pony parties was over three thousand dollars.

That’s for the ChoycePartyPonies?

That’s just the ponies. I was in business and have been doing this for probably eight or nine years and you know I was always wearing boots when I walked with the ponies. I got plantar fasciitis and that really put a hitch in my get-a-long. I had to really think on my feet to try to keep his business going, because basically I couldn’t walk anymore. So now I have had over the years, I’ve had people that have subcontracted to me that they also feel the passion that I do. and they also love what I do andhave helped me with my business over the years.

But you are still able to ride right?

I’m still able to ride. I still, I still could choose to teach. I just didn’t take that part of me when I moved over to the West Coast.  Where I had a barn, I had riding instruction. When I moved over to the West Coast. I was like all I want to do is trail ride.

You are subcontracting your Choyce Party Ponies. Yes.

Then a few years ago, when I shut down my barn in twenty thirteen. Then I made a decision across the state. So then it was like everybody who usually has a business like mine, they sell it or they shut it down. Then they move and they start over again. I made the decision to try to run that business remotely from across the state. It dictates having people that you can trust to do something like  that. Now I have moved across the state and that’s been an amazing thing.

When did you know you survived that major moment and overcame that major roadblock?

It wasn’t a big moment it was just a continuing and ongoing journey of, wow, I’m making this work. Wow! I still have money in the bank. Wow! I’m still able to feed the horses.  It’s just it. It’s little things. It’s not any one big moment that goes Wow, I’m making this work.

Thank you Joyce!

Please continue on to part 2 – the equitation questions!