Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

A Horse of Course

Leslie’s Articles

“A horse is a horse of course, of course…
unless the horse is the famous Barbaro.”

“A horse is a horse of course, of course. And no-one can talk to a horse of course – that is of course unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.”
The star of the 60’s sit com was not just any horse. To the amazement of viewers, he was able to talk. Not content with being just a horse:
he surfed, played baseball, and wore a Beatle’s wig.

Fast forward forty years to 2006. Specifically, May 20th and another four legged television star. Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, did not finish the second race of the Triple Crown. Unlike Mister Ed, Barbaro doesn’t talk. Nevertheless, he has communicated and connected with the American public.

What you can learn about your business from this Kentucky Derby winner:

1. After Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby the hope was that he would win the Triple Crown. Now the hope is that he will live. Sometimes in life and in business we have to adapt our expectations.

2. A race horse is a fragile animal. 1200 pounds of weight pound down the track on four legs that are as fragile as toothpicks. People are often surprised at the fragile quality of a race horse. A reminder that none of us may be as strong as we think we are or as we appear: personally or professionally.
Are any of us more than one accident away from tragedy?

3. Barbaro survived the surgery, but doctors still gave him only 50/50 odds.
Sometimes we are not out of the woods when we think we are.
Real progress does not happen overnight.

4. There have been only 132 Kentucky Derby winners ever. Most people don’t understand racing and don’t really care except for maybe 3 Saturdays every Spring. However, hundreds lined the road to wave to the horse ambulance just hours after the tragedy. Thousands sent cards and carrots.
Everybody can recognize a winner in any field.

5. Barbaro rebounded well the day after surgery. But doctors cautioned.
that it was not necessarily good news. Barbaro is a young stallion and a challenge will be keeping him calm and still. That he feels well could impede
his progress in the long run.
Sometimes it’s difficult to correctly identify progress: in ourselves and our business.

6. Sometimes it really isn’t about money. People have asked me if the owners were keeping him alive for the stud fees. The owners of Barbaro would probably make more money from his insurance policy than they will from stud fees.
(FYI: In today’s world they use only artificial insemination. A good thing because due to the injury, Barbaro would not be able to breed the old fashioned way).

7. Barbaro had to be stopped. His jockey, Edgar Prado, reined in the strong colt, not an easy feat. (probably saving his life) Reining in a racehorse is like stopping the forward trajectory of a rocket. Barbaro would not have felt the pain or the break at the time due to adrenalin, his genetic predisposition to run, and the sight of the field pulling away in front of him. His jockey saved his life. Sometimes others can see when it is time to stop and when it is time to accelerate better than we can see ourselves. The professional team we surround ourselves with is crucial to our success.

8. The theme song to Mister Ed says a horse is a horse, of course of course.
Not true. Seabiscuit put the entire country on his back during the 1930’s and figuratively carried the American public out of the Depression. A Barbaro website has been created for well wishers to post their sentiments. Two posts include Leah, 75 years old and Ryan, 12 year old.
A horse is so much more than a horse, of course.

9. For most of us, our interest will wane while Barbaro is still recuperating.
Maybe this story will have a happy enough ending. A horse unlike a person is not designed for long periods of inactivity. The broken bones will heal in time. The challenge is for them to heal before infection and internal damage due irreparable harm.
Sometimes the real danger is in the things we can not see.

10. Picture the body of water in front of the The Las Vegas Bellagio. The streams of water jettison for a short time as they perform their version of water ballet.
And then the show is over until the next time. Some people and some horses are like that too. For a short time they shine more brightly and then their life or career is over. What steps can you take to maintain brilliance over the long run?