“Redefine balance.” With Tyler Gallagher & Terra Schaad

I would ask people to look at their food, every single meal, and ask themselves, “Did this food come from the kindest farmers? Did this food come from animals that were handled in the kindest way while they were alive? Is this food the most nourishing choice for this one body that I have?” I […]

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I would ask people to look at their food, every single meal, and ask themselves, “Did this food come from the kindest farmers? Did this food come from animals that were handled in the kindest way while they were alive? Is this food the most nourishing choice for this one body that I have?” I believe this one practice could change the way we eat, the way we farm, the way our mind is connected to our bodies and would create more love, compassion, kindness, mindfulness and weight management for every human alive.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Terra Schaad, a zealous horse lover, the Executive Director and Founder of Hunkapi Programs, Inc. and Hunkapi Farms. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in pre-veterinary medicine from Texas A&M University. While there she competed at the national level for the University’s horse judging and equestrian teams. Terra is also a trained Somatic Experiencing Practitioner SEP. In somatic experience, she watches people’s body language and helps them notice what is happening in their own body. She studies everything from dilation of pupils to flushing of skin to changes in breathing pattern and blinking patterns. Following graduation, she trained reining horses professionally. It was during that time that she discovered her intuitive ability to build safe, trusting and sustainable relationships with horses. Terra also holds a Master of Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University, where she did research on equine-human relations and group dynamics. Terra combines her education, intuition and experience with horses to observe and interpret individual and group behavior and gives immediate, tangible feedback. She is committed in her purpose to give all beings the same opportunity with horses and to live life with a heart wide open.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

One of my earliest memories as a child was driving to my grandma’s house down the country roads and seeing a man riding a horse. I remember squishing my face against the car window, wanting to smell the horse or feel the horse. I knew that if I could have that experience, I would be happy and safe.

My mom was 20 years old when she had me. She was on her second husband by the time I was 3. I was the darkest-skinned child within 20 miles of my school in rural Illinois. I felt different, even within my own family. By today’s standards, I was an at-risk kid and the odds were stacked against me.

We moved to my great-grandma Mini’s farm when I was 10 and got our first pony, Smokey, with $150 dollars that my sister and mom had saved. My brother, sister and I slept with Smokey and our dog, Radar in the chicken coop. The chicken coop was our safe haven of freedom and peace from the fighting and chaos in our real house. With Smokey, I could breathe.

A few months after we got Smokey, we met the Becker family. Carl Becker’s farm was about 2 miles from our farm, as the crow flies, and he loved opening his heart and his farm to “broken, at-risk” neighbor kids, like me, and I went there every moment I could.

At the Beckers’ farm, we learned what it felt like to move from our homes that were filled with fear and impossibility to a place where we felt safe and loved. The Beckers and all of the kids who visited the farm turned into the family that none of us had. The experiences I had at the Beckers’ farm gave me the knowledge, skills, and sense of possibility necessary to send me into adulthood. Without them, I know I wouldn’t be here today. They saved my life. They planted a seed that inspired me to create a farm and therapeutic horse program with enormous impact and reach.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

When I started this journey of Hunkapi, we didn’t have a home for the program. We moved many times and in horrible conditions. On one particular and extraordinarily rainy week in Arizona, I went out to check on the horses and they were up to their knees in mud. They didn’t have appropriate cover and so I and a group of volunteers were slipping and falling in the mud to get them moved into a trailer so we could get them to a new home that was dry. As a new nonprofit, we didn’t have the funds to move to a better location but the circumstances required that I moved the horses because their health was so important to me. Despite the odds of failing financially, falling in the mud and desperation to get them out of there, I had to find a way to pay for a new facility.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Life was hard from the beginning for me. I am fortunate to have been born with a fierce fire to get out of the life I was born into rather than letting it make me a victim of it. Fortunately, that fire persisted long enough to help me create something beautiful.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

As an entrepreneur, there are always challenges. There are swells of brilliance, accomplishment, and ease but within the same day, the wave can break, crashing on top and pummeling me into the sand. The grit and resilience it took to get here carries me through. I’ve learned to hold my breath and know that if I roll with the wave and not fight, I will eventually pop out on top and have air again. I think that is what separates sustainable entrepreneurs and nonprofit founders from others who choose a different, more traditional career path.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We took an employee and client camping trip with the horses when we first started out. I was young, loved horses and wanted to go have some fun, so one night, one of my instructors and I took off on horseback through the forest to look at the stars after everyone had fallen asleep. We were lying on the horses’ backs in a meadow looking at the stars and all of a sudden we see a herd of flashlights coming through the forest towards us. It was all of the kids, family members and other staff looking for us. They yelled at us saying they were so afraid because there were horses missing and we were being irresponsible. We listened to them, but were rolling our eyes in the dark and laughed until we cried as we rode the horses back into camp. I would do it all over again because 18 years later, I still remember that story. Through that experience, I learned that it’s important to keep your childlike, adventurous wild side. It is also important for you to communicate with your peers and employees that are not quite as adventurous so they don’t have to worry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We don’t stay in the box. Our staff spread the same welcome and love that Carl Becker gave to me. People say they feel the love on our farm, which is what, makes us stand out. The horses and our farm welcome people from all walks of life; it’s what I love so much. A couple of years ago, we hosted the NCAA commissioner’s wife and her special guests. On the same morning, we had her guests and a group of students from a blind school in one arena doing team building and therapeutic riding. In another arena, we had clients for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy working through an addiction recovery program. The farm was also filled with community members who were volunteering to take care of the horses and the farm. I remember drawing out the schematics for the flow of traffic that day on the farm in full wonder in seeing how the horses don’t discriminate against anyone and are a common bond and love for people of all ages and walks of life.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

· Adapt to change or you will become extinct.

· Know your values and don’t waiver.

· Make sure you are not the smartest person in the room.

· Receive help. People want to help and it is beneficial to receive it.

· Make a list of other things you want to do besides your business and do them.

· Meditate, run, do yoga and stay present.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Debbie Crews, my first boss and mentor. After working at the program when we were at Arizona State University for a few months, I went to her and told her about some problems I was having with a co-worker and my desire to want to take the lead of the whole program. I was so afraid and thought she would fire me or be mad at me for being so forward. I had never been encouraged to use my voice as a kid and the fear I felt was almost overwhelming, but I knew I couldn’t work the way I had been any longer. As I expressed to her what I was feeling, she looked at me and said, “I have been observing the same thing and I am so happy you feel this way. I want you to take the whole program.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I had never had a woman tell me that I could do anything I wanted and that anything was possible. From that point forward she fully released the reins to me and the program began to grow and grow and grow. She empowered me to believe in myself and my dream and knew trying to manage me would get in the way of what was possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope my success has given way for other young women to dream and create their own vision. I hope my success has given a space for people to feel safe and to know that they can create a new life where they always feel safe. My favorite day of the year is Christmas at the Farm, where children who are homeless visit our program and spend time with the horses for holiday. It started with my brother and me 15 years ago, when we stood outside of a homeless shelter with three horses on Christmas morning. That tradition has grown to 70 homeless children and 150 volunteers at the farm every year. Its magic and goodness every single Christmas.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Redefine balance. I haven’t worked an 8-to-5 schedule once in 20 years. Sometimes I work really hard and other days I work less hard. Some days I work out three hours and other days 30 minutes. Some weeks I have lots of social time with my friends and other times I don’t see them for weeks. Balance looks different as a leader and you can’t beat yourself up for being inconsistent by other people’s standards.

2) The same lessons will keep coming up until you have learned them. I constantly see the evolution of the same lessons with hiring practices, being overworked, etc. I have learned that the only common denominator is me and that if I want a different outcome, I have to make different decisions or set the bar higher to change the outcome of this company.

3) Ask for help. Being an independent kid got me so far, but the growth of the program and evolution really happened when I realized I could ask for help and that my fierce independence was getting in the way of progress. I think it’s critical for strong, independent women to learn this lesson.

4) Be ok with not everyone liking you. When we started, I hired friends, family and neighbors to help get the company off the ground. That lasted for a long while, but then it didn’t. To grow the company, I had to let go of people and relationships that were holding the vision back. That was so difficult because I love people and I care what they think of me. I’m a people pleaser and that doesn’t work while being an entrepreneur. I’ve had to accept that many people are not going to like the decisions I make and it will be OK.

5) Practice making decisions. I like to make decisions that work for everyone. I realize that makes me a good friend but not always the best leader. After a lot of work on myself, I now am mindful of when I use the phrases “I don’t know” or “Maybe,” which are clear indicators that I am stalling on a decision because I am afraid I am going to offend someone. I then say to myself, “Practice making a decision, Terra.” Despite the anxiety I feel, I know on a deeper level that it will all be OK.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amounts of good to the most amounts of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask people to look at their food, every single meal, and ask themselves, “Did this food come from the kindest farmers? Did this food come from animals that were handled in the kindest way while they were alive? Is this food the most nourishing choice for this one body that I have?” I believe this one practice could change the way we eat, the way we farm, the way our mind is connected to our bodies and would create more love, compassion, kindness, mindfulness and weight management for every human alive.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@TerraSchaad and @hunkapiprograms on Facebook and Instagram.

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