Szymanski: Common purpose reveals essential elements of teamwork — and why teamwork is essential

Veterinarian Allison Dotzel introduces Chincoteague Pony, Finn, at the World Horse Expo.
Veterinarian Allison Dotzel introduces Chincoteague Pony, Finn, at the World Horse Expo. (Courtesy photo)

This week I have been at the World Horse Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My daughter and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon. We came to join other Chincoteague Pony owners in setting up a Chincoteague Pony Breed display and to promote the Feather Fund, bringing together Chincoteague Ponies of all ages to show the world what this amazing breed is all about.

I am always inspired by these ponies, but this week, I have been equally inspired by the people who came together to make it possible. We don’t talk enough about teamwork, and how pulling together for a common cause often makes wonderful things happen.


This event started with Tipson Myers of Stoney Creek Chincoteagues in Hughesville, Pennsylvania. She had the idea for the booth to promote both the breed, and the Feather Fund — a charity that helps deserving children purchase Chincoteague Pony foals in memory of cancer survivor, Carollynn Suplee, who, for the eight years she survived cancer, purchased foals for children annually as a way of giving back for another year of life.

A chat group was set up with messages flying between boarders at her barn, friends of the ponies and pony owners from all over, including one who lives in Bermuda. It wasn’t long until a large group of pony owners had signed their Chincoteague Ponies up to be there, including equine veterinarian, Allison Dotzel, who owns her own Chincoteague Pony, Jennifer and Taylor Hagquist from Endicott, New York with their ponies, teen John Price of Pennsylvania, who brought his Feather Fund yearling, Riptide’s Bandit, and my daughter, Shannon Meyers and her 24-year-old Chincoteague Pony. There were others, too, including Swizzle, my favorite foal from 2018.


I quickly realized what a cohesive team we had, all from different backgrounds, but all loving the same thing. Through messaging, people signed up to bring all sorts of foods. Others listed what they could contribute to the booth display, and still others planned the breed show for inside the ring, with yearlings, two and three year old ponies, driving ponies, riding ponies and trick ponies.

We all came together on Wednesday, arriving at staggered times and finding our way to the stalls inside the big Harrisburg Farm Show complex. The Chincoteague Ponies were assigned stalls along one single row. As soon as we arrived, others came to share directions, help us carry in bales of straw, muck buckets, tack boxes and more. As the day wore on, tasks were mutually attacked and conquered. There was honest communication and mutual respect. Having a diversity of capabilities came in handy, with everyone tackling the tasks they were best at. When several yearlings acted up in the practice ring, Tipson, who is a trainer, stepped in to help. When one yearling’s pastern appeared swollen, veterinarian, Allison was there to help. And the teamwork on the booth display blew me away.

When someone realized the curtains that were to line the booth display had been forgotten, one group from the team headed to the store, purchasing curtain rods, plastic tablecloths, wire and double-stick tape. Soon, those items were hung as professionally as custom-made curtains, lining the inside of the booth. Boxes full of items brought by an assortment of people on the team were sorted out and arranged. Pictures and banners were hung, and somehow, the display blossomed into a welcoming booth chock full of information.

A little research showed me that there are eight elements necessary for a team collaboration to be successful:

  • A common mission, one in which all team members share the team’s overall goal and direction.
  • A variety of skills.
  • Effective communication.
  • An open mind.
  • Reliability.
  • Complementary strengths.
  • Wholeness as a team.
  • The ability to go with the flow.

Our team had all of these.

Tipson decided it would be fun to plan prizes to draw visitors into our booth. She came up with some Chinoteague Pony questions with rewards to the first to answer each breed question. How much fun would this be I thought, as I helped in setting up the booth. I knew a number of people who were planning to attend — people who know this breed! I decided to donate a few of my books for prizes. As I dug out my books, Allison pulled out a few books of her own.

“Can you sign my books?” she asked. I looked over and was surprised to see the books she was holding.

“Where did you get these?” I responded, because she had books that I had written over a decade prior, books that had long been out of print.

“I read these when I was 12 years old,” she said with a laugh.

My mouth dropped open and I fought back tears. I was so touched. I had no idea that Allison — who had been a Chincoteague Pony friend for years — read my books as a child. Had I played some small role in her falling in love with these magical ponies? I wondered.

As I signed the books, I realized what a great bunch of friends I had found over the years. We were all strangers who came together online and on the islands because of the pony passion we share. I choked up, realizing what a dear friend Allison was, and I realized something else. Every time we come together for something good, it seems there is some sort of reward. It is sign that things are as they should be.

Teamwork. We need more of it. It is the best way to get things done.

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