USPC is proud of our Alumni. In this new series we will be highlighting some Alumni who have been successful after they have graduated from Pony Club. Do you know an Alumni who should be highlighted? Submit ideas to Mandy@ponyclub.org!
Lorelei Wilson Coplen is an A graduate of West Point Pony Club in the New York/Upper Connecticut Region. Her Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York is bolstered by Airborne (Parachute Jump) training, and Helicopter pilot training. She is a retired Army Colonel and Blackhawk helicopter pilot.
What drew you to your current profession?
My family’s background is in military service. Education was free at West Point for women. The service aspect of the job kept me in the military, I found it fun. I liked the fact that I got equal pay for equal work next to the men.
What skills learned in Pony Club helped you with your chosen field?
I am introverted, but Pony Club taught me to be comfortable speaking in front of strangers; to be able to speak as an expert when I am the expert. I learned to be organized and this served me well in my career in developing goals, logistics and plans. I was responsible for the people under me and knew the importance of safety checks in all aspects of my work. I learned to work on a team—sometimes as the leader and sometimes not. Pony Club and riding sports taught me that I could do anything a guy could do.
Is there a specific project or incident where this skill helped you at work?
As a Lieutenant Colonel, I was tasked with briefing the Secretary of the Army, at the Pentagon, for $1 million as “seed money” for a new program (the program became the Wounded Warrior program). This was a stressful situation with the program initiation riding in part on my performance in the briefing. I had a flashback to my D-1 testing when I had to stand-up and say, ”I am Lorelei Wilson and I am from Fiddler’s Green Pony Club…” I was granted funding and attribute the confidence I needed to my earliest Pony Club training!
When I arrived at West Point to begin my education, I was told to “get my room organized.” There, on the bed, was the “Room Arrangement Guide” which was even easier to use than the Rally Tack Room Required Equipment List, there was a diagram to follow! My first day at West Point (a stressful day of upperclass cadets’ “instructing” New Cadets) was conquered with Pony Club skills.
Team leadership: know your people, know when they need to get hydrated, take medications or get some sleep.
“Each one teach one.” Make sure in both the military and Pony Club that people behind you can take on your responsibilities. A person may not remember who taught him or her but will remember that someone took the time to do the teaching.
What other skills did you learn in Pony Club that are useful to you as an adult?
In retirement, I am looking for opportunities to mentor others to offer service to community, a skill set that I learned through Pony Club.
Can you share a fun memory of your Pony Club days?
While working as an assistant to a General, I was inducted into the Academy of Achievement. I asked for time off to go to the event (Annual Meeting in Atlanta) and was asked, “Where are you going?” The conversation went as follows:
Lorelei: “I am going to be honored by a not for profit organization that serves youth.”
General: “What organization?”
Lorelei: “United States Pony Clubs.”
General: “Really? Do you know Deb McKenzie (Willson)?”
After one year of working in the General’s office, I knew he had a love of horses, but did not know his daughter was a Pony Club alum and had Deb McKenzie Willson as a babysitter. (Deb is now an A Graduate, National Examiner, Board of Governors member.)
What would you like to tell active Pony Club members to encourage them to look at your chosen field? What can they do now to prepare for that field?
The military can fulfill everything you love about Pony Club! Teamwork, horses, outdoors, service, associating with people of character, adrenaline rushes! I highly recommends flying helicopters!
When approaching a small landing zone during one of my first air assault missions, I had to fit into formation in a very small space. The excitement was exactly like converging on a panel jump in the foxhunting field and being able to successfully complete that maneuver.
To prepare: Be physically fit and do well in school.
If you had one thing to choose not to miss experiencing in Pony Club, what would it be?
Don’t miss the opportunity to do local and regional rallies as a team. In my experience, rising through the ranks of certifications was the means to higher levels of competition at the rallies I wanted to attend, not an end to itself.
Are you still active with horses, if so, how does this affect your life?
I am still very active in Pony Club, starting as a DC at the age of 24, I have also held positions as JtDC, Club Instructor, coach, RIC, NE, HMJ, BoG as VP of Instruction, Secretary and chair of various Committees (currently as Chair of Governance Committee). I am a Sponsor in my local Club, and administer local level testings and volunteer in Maryland Region.
I own and operate a private boarding facility and give lessons and care for the horses. I still rides for fun. With my two daughters (both Life Pony Club members) in college, I have “an empty house and a full barn!”