One thing I know from getting it wrong and then getting it right, is that you will find it easier to achieve and sustain success with horses if you have balance. Not just the kind of balance that helps you to stay on your horse, but the sort of balance that keeps you from having a breakdown or a breakup on the way to success. You’ve heard of work-life balance. It is also important to have horse-life balance.
There are times, of course, when the best way to win is not to keep score, because if you are preparing for something big, balance will take second place for a while. In her book, How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership, Marilyn Carlson Nelson makes the following observations: “The fact is that being a leader in any field requires discipline, effort, and, yes, sacrifice. It can be all consuming. And during that time, life may not have much balance… Personally, I liken being a CEO to being an Olympic athlete. It’s an exhaustingly gruelling yet richly rewarding time when you’re at the top of your game. And I ask you, when was the last time you heard an Olympic athlete complain about work/life balance?”
However, on the way to peaking for the Olympics, balance will keep the wheels on your mind, your body, your relationships, your job and other important elements of your life.
First of all, I need to acknowledge the person who introduced this concept to me. Her name is Susanne Rix, a behavioural scientist and author of “Superworking: How to Achieve Peak Performance Without Stress”. I will be forever grateful for having participated in one of Susanne’s Superworking® courses in the early 90s.
It’s been a while, though, so what follows is based on my recollection.
In brief, having balance in our lives allows us to function better and longer, with less stress, less downtime through illness or burnout, and greater innovation.
Balance can be illustrated by a simple pie chart. When I first drew my pie at the Superworking® course, showing the way I usually spent my time back then, it contained only four segments, the biggest of which was for work. The other three slices, probably in descending order of size, were for health & exercise, relationship and family. Not good.
A better pie makes room for many more things – around eight segments, in fact. Obviously, not all segments are of equal size all the time, but all need to have a definite and continuous presence in your life for maximum effect. Here is how the segments of my old, sad, unbalanced pie looked, side by side with the balanced pie I recommend and try to achieve today:
The balanced pie needs to comprise the following elements (some of which may overlap) in order to keep us physically, mentally, emotionally and financially fit. The numbers do not denote ranking, as all are necessary for peak performance.
You will note that the above list promotes the functioning of both sides of the brain – this is a key to getting the most productivity with the least effort.
What’s that? You don’t have time to fit it all in? That’s what I thought too, until I tried it. I found that it wasn’t so difficult and the more I consciously sought balance, the easier EVERYTHING became. There’s a kind of domino effect that comes from the wellbeing it brings.
I hope that all that makes sense. Have you experienced anything similar? Post a comment to join in the conversation.
Happy pie balancing!
Here’s an exchange with a reader about a common hock condition that may be of general interest.
ZQ: Hey Joanne, I was just after some advice. Orlando has come up with two soft lumps on his hock. And we've had X-Rays and they came up clean, so the Vets told us just to put him on bute for a week and it should go down and 2ish weeks rest in the paddock, but it's hasn't gone down at all. He's not lame or anything and it's got the vets stumped so I was wondering if you had seen anything like it before? I'll attach a photo! Thank you x
Images kindly supplied by Zoe Quintieri
JV: Hi Zoe. To me it looks like a bog spavin, often caused by a combination of conformation (e.g. straightish hocks) and sudden exertion (e.g. jumping, polo turns etc.), which places strain on the joint capsule of the hock. The bad news is that the swelling may stay there as a blemish. The good news is that if there is no heat, pain or lameness, it should have little or no effect on Orlando's usefulness. You could try rubbing castor oil into it once a day for a couple of days. Castor oil is a mild blister, so, according to Richard Chapman BVSc in his book "Do I Call the Vet?" the horse will resent this after about 3 days. Stop immediately and repeat after two weeks. If no improvement, stop doing it altogether but if it appears to work, keep repeating the process. Worth a try. How old is Orlando?
ZQ: Okay thank you so much!! He turned 6 in September so he still a baby, but it came up as he was on a spell for a month so could he have done it in the paddock? Or does it come up after they have stopped working?
JV: Not sure about why or when or how long it would take. He could have done it charging about in the paddock. Anyway, he should be fine - just keep an eye on it. You asked a good question with great photos - would it be OK if I worked them into a blog post, as it might help other people?
ZQ: Okay! Thank you so much, I rang the vet today as he wanted to know if the swelling went down, so when he rings back I'll see what he says but from what you have said it does sound like it is a bog spavin! And yes you most certainly can! We asked so many people about his leg and no one knew what it was so it would be good to help other people!
JV: Thank you!
From a very early age I have been able to tune in to what horses and ponies were thinking and what they were likely to do next.