My childhood dream was to someday own a horse and it was a privilege to make that dream come true. I was a horse owner for thirty years and after hacking around for the first ten, I began pursuing the art of dressage. Here are a few of the many lessons I learned during those hundreds of hours in the saddle.
1. Just as with life, dressage is an exercise in continuous improvement. If you want to learn, enhance your skills, and enrich your existence, you have to focus on what you want and make a long-term commitment.
2. What feels “natural” isn’t always correct. For example, when leading a horse, if it rears up or jerks its head back, instead of following your instinct to pull, move toward the horse and then give the lead line a jerk. Use your brain to control the situation whenever you’re outweighed, outmuscled, or overwhelmed.
3. Ask for what you want in a way that it can be easily understood by the other party. This one needs no example.
4. Accept constructive feedback and adjust your behavior accordingly so you can be more effective. You may be tempted to condemn an unusual idea or get defensive when criticized, but instead, listen carefully, keep your mouth shut, and consider the merits of what’s being said.
5. We’re often inclined to take the easy way out, but in life as in riding, the most effective strategy is often the hardest one. Don’t cheat yourself. Suck it up and put forth whatever effort it takes so you can learn to do it right. Once you internalize the skill it’ll be yours for as long as you live.
6. We are all driven by our own agendas. Dressage is challenging and complex, and just as the rider needs to do what’s difficult, so does the horse, and sometimes the pair will be working at cross purposes. This also happens in personal and work relationships. Reread items 1 through 5 for inspiration on this one.
7. Instead of wishing for miracles, take the initiative; create your own. You can’t expect another person (or animal, or situation) to change for the better till you do.
Simple Action: While you might never find yourself on the back of a horse, every day you metaphorically ride out to meet your day. Which of these lessons I learned in the saddle most “speak” to you and how will you let them enrich your existence?