The best thing I have ever done for myself was to buy a horse. I’ve always wanted a horse and had one for a very short time as a child, but never really learned to ride.
In my mid 30’s, I had some extra time (and extra money) so I decided it was time to pursue my desire to learn how to ride. I found a local stable and signed up for riding lessons. This one decision led me into a whole new world.
Ten years later, I am still learning and reaching new goals. Learning to ride was a humbling experience for an adult novice.
I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Well, maybe not the time I fell off and broke some ribs, but that was the result of taking guidance from someone I shouldn’t have. (A whole different lesson learned.)
Relax, Renew and Saddle Up
Spending time with my Quarter Horse mare Love has become my go to when I am feeling crabby, overwhelmed, or need a mindful activity to relax and renew. She has also been one of my best teachers.
Love meets me where I am at with my learning.
When I first started riding her, she took care of me and tolerated my inexperience. As I got to be a better rider, she challenged me more and performed better. She lets me know if I am at my best.
Horses are so responsive to both the emotions and actions of people and can really keep one grounded in the present while at the same time providing a sense of freedom and possibility.
Here are some of the best business lessons I have learned from my horses.
You have to start somewhere (and it is never too late).
I was clueless when I started riding horse. I had to learn everything from basic horse care to start, turn and stop when riding. But you know what? I saddled up that first day and rode even if I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
It was intimidating to take that first lesson but I have learned so very much since then. Whatever you do in life and business, if you want it enough you just have to dive in and learn, even if you feel years behind. You’lll be glad you did.
It is better to fail trying than to never try.
As part of my riding, I started competing in reining. This is a horseback sport where you complete a pattern that includes sliding stops, spins, and running fast and slow. It’s not pretty the first time you show up in the ring if you are a new rider. I blew a lot of classes before I started being competitive.
And I am so grateful that I was willing to fail. Competing at reining is one of my most rewarding pastimes. There are a lot of things in business that are likely to produce some failure experiences when you first start out but the reward of succeeding far outweighs the failure.
You have to learn to trust yourself.
One of the hardest things for me was learning to trust myself. Riding a galloping horse takes balance and a relaxed body. And it’s hard to relax when you think you are going to hit the ground.
But the truth is, I was more likely to fall off my horse if I didn’t trust myself and relax. Once I learned to trust my riding, I was able to perform so much better. This is true in so many areas of business. You have to trust yourself to be able to do your best.
Little things matter in the pursuit of success.
As I started to know what I was doing, it became more and more noticeable that to get the best performance I had to pay attention to lots of little details. Tiny adjustments in position, the movement of my hands and pressure of my legs all changed what my horse did. And the better I get at the small details, the better our ride.
I have found this to be true in so many things I do. If you really want to succeed at your business, once you get the basics, it is time to attend to the small details. Attention to detail can move you from average to winner.
What you practice is how you show up.
If I am sloppy in the practice arena and not asking for great performance from my horse and myself, I will not be competitive in the show pen. At my last show, Love was not feeling great one day so the rest of the show I let her get away with minor errors when practicing. This came back to bite me in the competition and she did not listen to my cues.
I still have to relearn this lesson sometimes. The way I do things each day isn’t practice, it represents who I am and how I do things. If you don’t expect the best from yourself every day, you are not going to be your best where it counts either.
Spend time with those that know more than you.
I started out with one trainer, but graduated to a different one as my riding improved and I wanted to compete. I have learned so much from actually taking lessons and going to very competitive shows. I had read a lot of books and watched videos but this did little for me compared to working with a great trainer and being around other riders in my discipline.
It is so helpful to have someone a step or two above you share their real world experience. When you are taking on something new, find a mentor or a business coach and talk to others that are successfully doing what you are doing. Surround yourself with people that make you better.
Whatever you may be pursuing in your business, take a lesson from Love and set yourself up for success.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Brenda J. King is a success and mindset coach for female entrepreneurs. She helps successful women get out their own way, build on their strengths and lead with purpose and passion. You can find more information at brendajking.com or catch her at a reining competition. Connect with @bjkingnd on Twitter.
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