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On the Job with Carol Rathel

Carol Rathel enjoys teaching children how to care for horses and offers riding lessons after school and during her annual summer camp.

Carol Rathel enjoys teaching children how to care for horses and offers riding lessons after school and during her annual summer camp.

Carol Rathel has devoted her life to children and horses. She is the owner of Stonehaven Stables in Leesburg. Her barn offers riding lessons, summer camp and boarding. Rathel recently completed a question-and-answer session with reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I had to take care of the horse I got when I was 13. My first paying job was working for an orthodontist. I was about 19 then.

Q. What did you spend money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. I gave part of it to my parents and maybe bought some clothes with the rest. I don’t remember.

Q. The people working with you are volunteers, not employees. How do you keep them motivated?

A. We’re all one big happy family. We just give to each other, and I’m happy for whatever they do. Just praise God they’re out here helping.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I’ve always loved horses and done well with kids. I started out teaching two little 6 year olds when I was 17. I just got more and more by word of mouth. When I was in my 20s, I decided that was what I wanted to do and what I knew best. It grew into a business I love. We’ve been in the same location now for 34 years.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. When I was a teenager, there was a group of us that rode together and the mounted patrol at the Hasan Temple helped us all with our horses and taught us something about riding. We’re passing it on now. Most of our group still has horses.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. To be more careful with money and what I spend it on, and try to save more.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cellphones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. Automated phone systems. I want to talk with a person, not a machine. It’s frustrating. You can wait 30 minutes and you still don’t have a person.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. I don’t use gadgets. We use tools. I have shovels and manure forks and feed scoops and buckets and brushes. This is kind of an ag-related business. You have to take care of the horses, and that’s what you use to take care of them.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. With family, it’s Thanksgiving. That’s when we all get together. Out here at the barn with the kids, we have an annual fall camp out and also a Christmas party with a covered dish.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book was “The Eighty Dollar Champion.” Plus, I read the Bible, my daily devotional and some horse magazines.

Q. You’re up and going by ...? And what is your morning routine?

A. I’m up and going by 6:30. I get breakfast, feed the cats, go feed the horses. First I do my daily devotional and prayer. In the summertime the campers start arriving before 8 o’clock. My hours are 9 (a.m.) until 2 (p.m.), but some of the kids have to be dropped off early. Then in the winter they come after school to take riding lessons. It’s seasonal.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?

A. I’d like to meet the writers of the Constitution and learn more about why they wrote it the way they did. Also George Washington. He’s my great-great-great-great uncle.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I love to play volleyball. I love photography. I go to church. I love to swim. I like to cook. I’m a life member of the Dougherty County Saddle Club and I’m a member of DAR.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I think trusting everyone too much. You think everyone is as honest as you are, and they’re not.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Putting the children and horses together and teaching children to care for the horses. Teaching them to ride is important, of course, but taking care of them is the most important thing.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. The summer heat — outside — but it doesn’t matter, we love it.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was ...?

A. I think stable management taught me the most about running a barn and taking care of animals. I took the class at Stephens College in Missouri.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. When I was younger, I always want to be a photographer for National Geographic or study archeology. But I was told I was girl and couldn’t study. Things have changed.

Q. Finish this thought: On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …

A. I don’t plan to retire. I really love what I do, and I can’t see myself not being out here with the kids and the horses. In this economy, I really couldn’t afford to retire anyway.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Being honest with everybody and treating everybody fairly.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most-played on your iPod?

A. I don’t have an iPod, but I like semi-classical and the big band and rock and roll — older music.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. I went with my son to Louisville, Ky. We went to the big national horse show for saddlebreds and to the museums, and the zoo up there is fabulous. I don’t get a chance to vacation very much, but we had friends up there.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The changes are really big. A lot of stables and trainers have gone out of business. A lot of horses are being abandoned and starved. There’s a big decline in participation in horse shows with some shows being canceled. My summer camp has been way down. I have about a third of the participants I normally have — which that’s my money for the year.