Three weeks ago I shared an image on my Instagram account which was automatically posted to Facebook.
It was an inspirational poster that I created on the background of a horse's glossy shoulder. The text, which was almost but not quite a poem and almost but not quite a prayer, reads as follows:
The Horse is not here
to reward your ego
to compete with you
to punish you
to control you
The Horse responds to
who you are
how you feel
what you think
what you do
The Horse is here
to enable you to learn
how to be a better You
- and that is a blessing.
The message that went with it read simply, "Sometimes people think because they "own" a horse, the horse is supposed to be an ornament or an ego booster. When things don't go the way they want, they see the horse as doing it on purpose. Not so. The horse is a gift, a blessing, one of the best pathways to personal development I know for those who recognise it as their super power. This little poster expresses some of my thoughts on the issue." ⠀
So, no big deal, I thought. Another day, another original meme, right? Wrong!!
To put things in perspective, on a good day, the organic reach for most of my social media posts is between a few and a few hundred people, with a couple of shares and a bit of engagement if I'm lucky. Not this post! "The Horse is not here" quickly shot to reach of over 10,000. Then it kept climbing, in leaps and bounds: 40,000, 80,000, 100,000. I was so amazed I kept taking screen shots of its progress.
At time of writing this article, the post's reach is 122,757 with over 1600 shares. Furthermore, that is 100% organic reach.
Okay, every now and then, a situation crops up that cries out for resolution - and fast. The problem, or rather the challenge, is that these situations usually relate to things which are awkward to deal with. As a result, we then to adopt a wait and hope strategy where we wait and hope that the issue will just go away.
So how is that working for you?
Are you waiting and hoping that your horse will stop biting, stop fidgeting while you mount, stop being difficult to load? Maybe he will grow out of it? That's a bit like waiting and hoping that a co-worker will wake up to the fact that they have bad body odour, or that your kids will spontaneously stop leaving their clothes and toys on the floor. It's not going to happen any time soon without a word, action or intervention on your part. What will happen, though, is that you get more and more frustrated and maybe angry, to the point where one day you might explode into a disproportionate reaction. We don't want that.
So what's the answer? Well, the first step in solving a problem lies in acknowledging that there is a problem (please understand that I am using the word "problem" in a loose, generic sense. Feel free to mentally substitute another word like "issue" or "situation" or "challenge" or whatever if you prefer). Once we have our problem defined, we need to act on it and fast. Believe me, having the conversation or initiating the response will not get any easier with the passage of time. The opposite is true: the longer you leave it, the more difficult and uncomfortable it will be for all concerned.
Imagine that you notice your new employee's B.O. on day one and every day after that but say nothing until weeks have gone by. Do you think they will thank you for not making them aware that they were offending you and who knows who else for all that time? No. Do you think that your attitude to and therefore your relationship with them won't be influenced because they aren't nice to be near? No. Do you think other colleagues won't also be affected and resentful? No.
Now during my long career as an executive, I have had to have many tough, delicate and downright embarrassing personal conversations with colleagues on everything from bad breath to smelly feet, not to mention a fascinating range of behavioural quirks. While neither of us enjoyed these little chats at the time, they always ended with the person involved thanking me for telling them and taking steps to remedy the situation. It may take guts, but it's worth it.
It's the same with your horse, whether you have a foal, a colt, a filly, a mare, a gelding or a stallion. I know, because I've had them all!
Firstly, the longer you delay taking action, the more potentially difficult the conversation will be. Secondly, if your horse is exhibiting some behaviour that irks or hurts you, letting it continue is counter-productive and can get dangerous. It will also erode your relationship and weaken the bond between you. Not to mention reducing the value of your horse in the eyes of others. Thirdly, "bottling up" our frustrations never ends well, whether we're dealing (or failing to deal) with horses or humans or other things in our lives. One day the cork will pop under pressure and we are horrified to find ourselves saying and doing things that would never have been the case if we had acted sooner.
Remember all those old sayings about nipping things in the bud and a stitch in time saves nine? They're true. Another classic is that prevention is better than cure and in this case, we're talking about preventing budding habits from getting established. Take nipping, for instance, which probably began as lipping and licking and can escalate into biting.
No matter what you need to address, I want to offer you a few tips to make it easier on all concerned.
If you stick to those seven things, problem solving with your horse won't be a difficult as you may have thought.
Thank you for reading to the end. If you enjoyed this post and found it of value, why not like it, share it and recommend it to your friends? And please contact me if there are questions I can help you with.
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!
Joanne Verikios - International Award-Winning Author
Joanne is an Australian writer, speaker and blogger. She has helped people from all walks of life to develop a champion mindset, communicate better with their horses and reach their full potential. Through first-hand experience, Joanne understands the challenges experienced by equestrians. She also draws on her extensive experience in leadership roles to assist with personal development and spiritual growth.