Ps & Qs Education

Life lessons from horse riding

Horse riding can offer insights into teamwork and team building.

Horse riding can offer insights into teamwork and team building. | Photo Credit: Freepik

Sports have always been considered reliable sources of wisdom when it comes to learning about life’s truths; more importantly, dealing with those truths. Though I’ve always admired certain sports, I never really committed myself to playing one, let alone master it. However, this year, all that changed quite unexpectedly. For the last few months, I’ve been tentatively but eagerly practising a fascinating sport – horse riding. While I’m still very much a novice rider, there are a few life lessons I continue to learn.

Any sport is an exercise in developing focus, determination, strength and self-confidence. My tutors at the riding school continuously remind me to never let go of the reins no matter what. And that I’m the one in control, directing the horse, no matter how strong or large the animal. (More importantly, I’m the one who decides whether I fall or break my neck). So, while the sights from atop a thoroughbred are exhilarating, my sincere attempt is to stay focused, eyes forward, hands on the reins. This focus helps me stay grounded in those minutes, completely immersed in the experience of learning a new skill, mindful of the present.

Isn’t that the case when you’re learning any new skill, you may ask. Perhaps, yes; but in my case, I can confirm without any doubt that the focus I have learnt to foster during these horse riding classes has helped me the most. It drives home the point that cutting out distractions and uni-tasking are the way to go if one wants to do something well. This focus also helps to direct myself, reminding me constantly that I can fuel my ambitions, goals and also chart the course towards that. The reins are in my control. Always.

Challenging but rewarding

So, horse riding helps me build my sense of focus, navigation and direction. What makes this learning process even more special is the fact that it is never easy as driving a car. We don’t have the advantage of working with a motorised or automated system. We don’t develop our senses and knowledge by pressing a few buttons. We are dealing with another living creature, a creature that is highly sensitive, instinctive and complex as any other human. Knowing how to sense its temperament, disposition, running style makes it all the more challenging and rewarding.

My instructors make me ride a different horse each time for this precise reason. “Every horse is different, and you must master them all,” they say. While one horse is extremely shy and needs a lot of encouragement and appreciation, another is playful and raring to go. Yet another is very moody and always looking for ways to resist my commands. It’s pretty much like working in a team in an organisation. Each of us is complex and unique and we have no choice but to understand and recognise this truth. So while we may secretly prefer working with one individual because she’s a people person or easy to work with, we must be savvy and flexible enough to vary our working styles based on the personality of our colleagues. Therefore, horse riding has helped me gain insights into teamwork and team building as well.

Key attributes

It is said that spending time with horses builds our empathy because we learn to become observant of its moods and emotions, and respond accordingly. Revered, loved as a friend and a partner to the human race for millions of years, a horse needs to be looked in the eye and appreciated when we communicate with it. All these elements are key when working in a team.

Overcoming fears and building boldness, resilience and confidence are key when it comes to succeeding in the world, not just in the workplace. Perhaps this is the greatest lesson I have learnt when it comes to horse riding. Learning to take to the saddle in my mid-40s, making mistakes in front of strangers, even allowing myself to make a fool of myself sometimes, have helped me not only become more confident, but also not take life all too seriously.

So, tomorrow, while I begin my day with the horses, I look forward to learning more from these gracious animals. Just as I look forward to practising these lessons as the day moves on.

The author is a writer and literary journalist. She also heads Corporate Communications at UST. Views expressed are personal. @anupamaraju

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 3:48:09 pm |