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Meet Lili Kellogg of Equest in South Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lili Kellogg.

Lili, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Very early in my life, it became apparent that I had an innate passion for horses. According to my parents, the word “horse” was the second word out of my mouth (the first being NO). Never wavering, and with my family’s support, I rode, owned, trained and showed horses through high school and college, culminating with a career path that always was equine focused. My first job post-college was with the University of Minnesota-Waseca where I spent nine years on the faculty in their horse management department. I loved working with college students who were so enthusiastic to learn. Quite like sponges. And they taught me so much! What I loved most was the learning that came with the job; learning to coach intercollegiate show and judging teams, becoming very well versed on many aspects of the horse, and figuring out how to maximize a rider’s development.

While in Minnesota I married, and in 1984 my husband’s job brought us to the North Texas area where I ran my own farm to farm lesson and show coaching program. Fast forwarding several years, I found myself a single parent as a result of a divorce, and in a job with no benefits and that depended on the weather. As so frequently happens in our lives, when we least expect it, divine intervention occurred. Somewhat against my desires and goals, I ended being hired by Equest as their Program Director. That was 30 years ago and one of the biggest blessing of my life.

After 20 years, I took a break from Equest and worked as the Director for ManeGait in McKinney and then as Executive Director for SIRE in Houston. In 2015, I was hired back by Equest and became the CEO in October of 2015.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has always been a blessing, but not always easy. Being a single parent while working a job that is demanding and has long hours is tough. Fortunately, for 19 years I lived on the Equest property, so my daughter had a great environment to grow up in and a huge extended “family”.

Leaving Equest after 20 years was also difficult, but it ended up being of huge benefit. To work for different non-profit organizations and learn from each organization is invaluable. When I came back to Equest, I had a refreshed outlook and much more administrative and leadership experience.

An on-going challenge that sometimes keeps me awake at night is, like what most small non-profits face, raising enough funds to operate effectively and efficiently and to be able to help as many people as possible.

Equest – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Equest in a 501 C-3 organization that, since 1981, has provided equine-assisted therapies and programs as a successful intervention for children and adults with physical, cognitive, sensory, emotional and learning disabilities. In 2012, Equest began serving U.S. Veterans and their family members with therapeutic horsemanship programs and mental health counseling. The veterans program is our fastest growing program and our data shows that our unique approach to improving mental health is having a positive impact on veterans and their families in our community. In 2015, Equest opened our new facility at the Texas Horse Park in South Dallas (a collaboration with the City of Dallas) and implemented an equine facilitated learning program that serves disadvantaged youth. By June 1 of 2017, Equest will consolidate all programs to the Texas Horse Park.

Currently Equest serves over 260 individuals each week, and an additional 3,000 in our community outreach programs. Diagnoses include over 100 primary and secondary disabilities and learning disorders, and our clients range from 18 months to seniors in their 80’s and all with issues, but also all very special individuals. The horses are incredible at helping clients overcome obstacles and meet goals that often have been considered unachievable. We see first steps, first words, more confidence and less medication dependency because of Equest’s four legged therapists. Additionally, we have about 300 regular volunteers that help us execute our sessions.

Our competition program has put us on the map as well. Team Equest riders have competed in 10 different states and six different countries. Three of our riders have gone on to represent the United States in the Paralympics and four at the International Special Olympics. Our International reputation is also fueled by our Therapeutic Instructor Training Course, of which to date, has graduated 300 instructors who have hailed from 28 different countries.

I am most proud that we have truly, truly made a difference in hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success has many faces, but overall I define success as:

• Finding your given talent/passion and taking the ball and running with it by using your passion to improve the lives of others.
• Setting goals and achieving them, and
• Having the feeling of great fulfillment.

Some of the markers that I am looking for:

Vastly more positive thoughts and actions than negative on any given day
Turning lemons into lemonade
Striving to be better and not satisfied with complacency
Embracing change
Humor for sure!
Flexibility a must
Restraint in challenging situations.
Winning the respect of others
Having other’s back
Great enthusiasm

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