USA Alumni Conference 2017: Sessions 3 & 4

Session 3 was interestingly titled Energizer Session. With no one, including Clodagh and Joe knowing what Kate Hardy had planned for us, I think that they were pleasantly surprised. I’m sure the people of Lexington were unsure what conference was in town when they saw a large number of Flying Start alumni, trainees and even Clodagh, Joe and Jocelyn taking to the streets of Lexington for the Kate’s scavenging hunt. I’m sure that this will prove to be one of the highlights of the day and luckily the weather proved perfect and she didn’t have to revert to ‘plan B’.

Session 4 (Creating a Culture of Innovation) got under way after 2pm and this time Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer at Alltech, took to the floor. He outlined some of the perceptions from outside the industry which were of and traditional one that is slow to change. He identified that with a principal funding source of betting from individuals who are not necessarily in the industry we need to be aware of the perceptions that the industry has in the public’s mind including the difficult issue of ‘drugs’. But this raises the bigger question as Aidan did, “are you producing the best horses or are you in the entertainment industry?”. This is one that certainly require more thought from all of us.

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He posed us another question when asking “do you still want to work on a horse farm?” and Jenny Barnett gave a very honest answer when acknowledging that the expected answer nowadays may very well be a ‘no’, explaining that it is difficult as a business in the industry to do everything to retain people. She added that it may not be possible to create the career paths that employees are looking for. There is no easy answer to this question and it is in line with the points that Kate Grimwade made in one of the earlier sessions and something that alumni associations need to be constantly discussing.

“If we don’t adapt, we die”, these were the words that Aiden spoke when encouraging us to think and innovate in our activities. He introduced a number of new ideas that are coming to the market and while some might not appeal to all of us, they do highlight that there are breaks away from tradition and these are progressions in technology, some of which we may be adapted to integrate into our programs. This topic was revisited when opened to the floor when delegate Dean Roethemeier questioned if some of the technology was too advanced for the demands of its users, and this migrated to Aiden suggesting that we interact with the technology companies to help them to tailor these products to meet our requirements.

Aiden continued by talking about the process involved in business development. He turned the typical method around, encouraging us to start with identifying where we are now and finishing with the path that we need to be on to get where we want to go, knowing exactly where you want to go in-between.

He provided a method of problem solving when telling us that the key is to slow our brain speed down and this can be achieved by doing relaxing tasks even as simple as mowing the lawn.

Once again Gerry Duffy was prominent in questioning our speaker and he debated that some of task in equine industry don’t lend themselves to automation to which Tom Morley responded by reminding us the importance of tread mills in training now, reducing the pressure on having as many work riders.

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