Ask any horse lover about their relationship with horses and they are likely to tell you that it is a form of addiction. For some it is the adrenaline fuelled experience of galloping across a field, for others it is the feeling of partnership with an incredible animal. In addition to the riding there is also the outdoor lifestyle which goes hand in hand with the world of horses.
I have always felt a huge pull towards nature and as a twelve year old girl I worked at the local stables at the weekend in exchange for lessons. Although my attention was temporarily diverted during my teenage years the sight or sound of a horse still called to me like a bee to honey. At the age of thirty I finally bought an ex race horse and spent seven happy years riding around the Peak District National Park.
So what does this have to do with the world of work?
The horse is a prey animal and due to this they are highly sensitive. Their eyes are on the side of the head limiting their sight in front and behind. This means that when we approach a horse we must be calm and reassuring at all times. The horse looks to us for guidance and we must base our relationship on trust.
The famous show jumper Nick Skelton who came back from a serious injury to win individual gold at the Rio Olympics has maintained his position at the top of his sport over four decades. His top show jumping tip is “never take your eye of the fence” which in business terms translates perfectly to staying focused on your goals. When riding a horse to a fence we must be fully committed. If we have any hesitation physical or emotional the horse will sense our hesitation and will probably refuse the fence. For me as a sales person this is a great lesson in how to win a deal as my commitment and positivity can have an impact on my ability to win.
The Spanish riding school of Vienna take seven years to train a young horse. The trainers work with the horse for several hours every day repeating each movement until it is perfected. It is worth remembering that when we see a professional delivering a piece of work it is the many hours of practice behind the scene which produces the final polished performance. I am reminded of the phrase fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
On the theme of partnership there is a team of people who are required to keep a horse in top condition. The rider, groom, vet, farrier, saddle maker and physio are just some of the professionals who are required to support both horse and rider. In business we encounter many opportunities to forge partnerships but how often do we maximise these interactions? We all know that referral business is a great way to win more business, but are we making the most of these opportunities?
From the few examples above we can see the core values of trust, patience, preparation, team work and partnership can be applied equally to the equestrian and business worlds. I feel that my experience with horses has helped me to learn about myself and in turn has a positive impact on every area of my life including the world of work. So today I intend to kick on, keep my eye on the fence and never look a gift horse in the mouth!