Why Kudaguru?

One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…

Why Kuda Guru?

It’s funny how it always goes in spates – people asking me, so what does Kuda Guru mean, then?  And, generally its which area in the world I am currently sitting in.  Here in Asia, people rarely ask.

Kuda, means horse in Bahasa Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, so, it begins to make a little bit of sense now, yes?  Guru, obviously means teacher, guide, expert or master.

About 8 years ago, I was working full time in Malaysia, in an area called Johor Bahru, which is the border town between Malaysia and Singapore.  It’s quite industrial and tends to be filled with a lot of Singapore commuters too.  Malaysian’s working in Singapore get the best of both worlds – the cheaper Malaysian rents and being able to stay with their families, as well as earning the much higher Singapore wages (and, sadly also enjoy the many hours of sitting on their motorbikes at the border, in very long queues).  There is a big riding school / livery yard / hotel just outside JB (as Johor Bahru is more commonly known), where I was working.

Jahor Bahru where Kuda Guru came about.
Jahor Bahru where Kuda Guru came about.

I’m hopeless at languages, really, honestly, cannot learn them, no matter how hard I try.  So, living in the hotel, I enlisted a couple of the front of house staff to teach me Bahasa Malay.  It took me about a month to get Selamat Pagi (Good morning) and Apa kabar (How are you?).  Really.  A whole month.  I did also learn quite quickly about Apa ini?  (What is this?) when the grooms would bring me the wrong horse, or the right horse with the wrong saddle etc…  But the phrase that seemed clearest, fastest, was Kuda belak (the horses are back) which would be shouted from one end of the yard to the other, to tell the grooms that the trail riding horses were seen coming back out of the jungle.  Every groom who had a horse in the ride that we had shipped out a couple of hours before, would come out and stand and wait for his horse to get close enough, so he could help the guest down and take his charge off for their welcome cold shower.  My first introduction to Kuda.

Now, since we were out in the jungle, there wasn’t an awful lot to do – um, nothing really.  We had a swimming pool at the neighbouring hotel, and another restaurant there, but one of our big highlights was going into the nearest kampong (village) to the very big Tesco supermarket.  *sigh* such was our hectic social life…  One of the other instructors and I would hitch a lift in with the car owning chef, or phone for a cab, and a real taxi would pick us up.  And then, on coming out of our exciting trip, there would generally be 3 or 4 “taxi” cars sitting outside.  These would have been the Grab / Uber cars, except in those days, Grab / Uber didn’t exist.  So, these random young Malay men would be sitting on the off chance that someone would need a ride, haggle over the price, load their unsuspecting passengers into the back of the (usually slightly dodgy) car and take them wherever they needed to go.  In that time, we were proudly shown bright green zebra print fake fur seats…  A first aid kit…  A fire extinguisher.…  and more bling CD’s hung on grubby ribbon over the rear-view mirror than you would imagine possible…  There were several times, whipping up and down the narrow, steep and winding hill roads where we did consider the possibility of our imminent death…

So anyway, on one particular exciting Tesco evening, I came breezing out and a young man was waiting beside his car.  Taxi taxi, miss, taxi, he was calling.  I said yes, please, I need to go to…  And he said yes, yes, I know Kuda Guru.  And so, my introduction, that all the grooms and pretty much all the kampong unofficial taxi drivers knew the Kuda Guru.  Slightly dodgy again?!

One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…
One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…

Now, if you take this literally, horse teacher.  I, however take it slightly differently –  horse teacher, as in, the master happens to be an equine.  Who knows best what a horse feels like?  Um, a horse.  Who knows when a horse becomes unbalanced?  A horse?  Who knows what this particular rider feels like?  Maybe a horse?  And how many secrets does a horse keep?  About his rider?  None.  You watch a horse, you can see where his attention is…  How rhythmic his rider is….  If he is comfortable or in pain…    If he understands an instruction…  If he is happy or battling to cope.  All of these things, he wears as plain as his heart on his sleeve.  So, by thinking Kuda Guru – my thinking then becomes, your horse is your teacher – why am I here in the arena with you?  Purely as the translator.  After all these years, about the only language that I appear to understand beyond hello and how are you, is horse.  So, when you go out to greet your horse tomorrow morning, please, please say, Selamat Pagi Kuda Guru, Apa Kabar?!  Have fun!


Machines as Horses

While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pon

So, this is weird, random, and maybe just me… But do you ever find yourself comparing a vehicle to a horse?

It started many years ago, when lecturing a group of teenagers for their Pony Club test… Thinking about horse types. A hunter is a tough, workmanlike all-terrain vehicle that can work all day, over rough ground. It can climb slopes, drop off banks, wind through forests, speeding up in open flat areas. It also needs stamina to go and go. Think, SUV – a land rover, jeep, something big and tough, that a farmer would drive around in.

This pony, Ballyaugh Miscellaneous, or Missy for short, would be a hunter type of pony - thick set and tough
This pony, Ballyaugh Miscellaneous, or Missy for short, would be a hunter type of pony – thick set and tough

A riding horse is more like your average day by day city car – drop kids at school, get to work, do your shopping. It’s a horse who is easy and reliable.

This pony - Ballyaugh Melrose, is more of a riding pony type, a little finer than Missy
This pony – Ballyaugh Melrose, is more of a riding pony type, a little finer than Missy

A hack, is the sports car of the equine world… It’s the Ferrari that you pose around town in, something fancy, ultra-easy to ride, and very flashy…

While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pon
While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pony

Fast forward a few years… I was living in the Caribbean and was island hopping in a tiny little plane. So, when you sit in the enormous, double story, long distance places, it’s like sitting on a great big warmblood… They lumber up the runway, take a long distance run up, and powerfully launch upwards… Things are slow, pedantic, but you feel the blast of power and once going, they just run on forever.

the lumbering great giants
The lumbering great giants

Back to the island hoppers… They are like a kid’s jumping pony. They stand on the runway, quivering in the wind, like the naughty little pony being held down by the long-suffering Pony Club Parents. As they’re released, the leap forwards, bounce, bounce, bounce, and leap upwards, going almost vertically up, trying to get as high as possible before crossing the coast and hitting the land / sea cross winds. As you’re sitting up there, they’re are buffeted by the elements, not having the weight and endurance of the great big warmblood planes, but so much more manoeuvrable… And, I’ve discovered it’s not just the island hoppers, crossing the Kenyan Savannah in a small Caravan plane us just the same, dropping down, watching the game from just above the trees. And, alas, some planes feel a lot like tired old riding school horses, launching in an unco-ordinated way, where you close your eyes, grit your teeth, hang on and hope…

Up close and personal in a tiny plane, landing on safari in Keny
Up close and personal in a tiny plane, landing on safari in Kenya

What really made me think recently, though… A while ago I was teaching a young rider, moving from her sensible first pony onto a bigger, faster, jumping pony. She was feeling over horsed, just so much more power. He moved bigger, faster, just more horse. More sensitive too – her old pony needed a good tap tap with the calf to get him going, but the new pony, breathe on his sides and he’s off… I kept saying to her, honestly, you’re safe. He’s not running away from you, he’s just powerful. If anything, I’m ultra-careful – she wouldn’t have been on him if I thought her unsafe, or worried that he would really be too much for her to handle. But, her brain couldn’t quite get around it.

A scooter's road in Bali
A scooter’s road in Bali

In a couple of places that I go too, we move around by motorbike and scooter. I always use the same little scooter, and in my weird mind, it’s like a little coloured cob. Workmanlike, reliable, not overly fast or powerful and certainly won’t run away with you… This last trip, my little cob of a scooter was lame, so I borrowed a different bike. This was bigger, heavier, faster, and just an awful lot more power. A warmblood of a bike compared to my cob. Tootling around town, was initially interesting… The hand accelerator control was a lot more sensitive, the brake reacted faster, but the bike itself was heavier around the bends and corners. After the first day, I was reminded of my words to my young rider – it’s exactly the same, stop and go are in the same places, it’s totally safe, just a bigger rev….

OK, I’ll be more patient with riders transitioning into bigger ponies in future!

So, what kind of horse or pony do you drive to work?!



Have you always wanted to ride a horse out into the sea? So, what’s stopping you?

Do you know what an earworm is? Its that piece of music that gets stuck in your brain, like chewing gum stuck to the sole of your shoes.  Maybe it’s the irritating muzac from the “Please keep holding” of a phone queue, or the equally irritating jingle from an advert.  Or (hopefully) it’s some thing that is actually pretty cool from a song you like to listen too. Whatever it is, once it’s stuck, it can be hard to get rid of.  Sometimes its not a bad thing…  There is a Robbie William’s song, First They Ignore You.  One line goes “When you think we’re lost, we’re exploring” and I have to say, whenever I’m somewhere new and I get lost, it’s the line that always pops into my head…

Maybe your spark will help you explore a mountain?)
Maybe your spark will help you explore a mountain?

A while ago, I had a fairly regular pupil, (when I actually lived in one place) and during one of our early lessons together, we discussed something that she needed to work on. I said to her something along the lines of – if you’re not aware of something, you can’t fix it.  The earworm that she still has, a long time later is, “If you are aware of it, you are working on it”.  Which she now applies to all aspects of her life.

One group of people who are trying desperately to plant earworms into your brain, are advertising copywriters. And the one advert that always pops up in my mind – a brilliant slogan for a Singaporean bank – “Where will your spark take you?”  It just speaks to me – what can that spark ignite and where will it lead?

Most people who know me, know I like going on adventures (no, really??). That is partly where my spark takes me.  Under seas, on top of mountains, across savannahs, over half a million air miles in the last couple of years.  But how about in real life?  Well, I guess it takes me around the world, into an awful lot of different arenas, meeting different 2 and 4 legged clients and friends, and has led me to start KudaGuru instead of just sticking with working for other people.  My initial spark had me helping out a bunch of horses in Zimbabwe, and setting up my own yard there, called Ballyaugh.  That spark involved a lot of young people, and I love the fact that the spark seems to have lived on in many of them…

Last year, (you may have read my New Year blog a few weeks ago?) seemed to be a bit of a stagnant year – my spark didn’t seem to be ready to take me anywhere except round and round in circles… So, I am in the process of working out just where my spark can take me in 2018.

An old friend of mine used to say that when something was not quite going smoothly, that it could be like pushing an elephant up a hill. Her theory was, if it’s meant to happen, and its your spark, the elephant will walk itself up the hill quite happily.  But the less its meant to be, the harder you have to work to make the elephant move…  2017 seemed to have a lot of elephants!

Have you always wanted to ride a horse out into the sea? So, what’s stopping you?
Have you always wanted to ride a horse out into the sea? So, what’s stopping you

So, I’m sitting planning where my spark is going to be taking me in 2018… Clearing the way for all those elephants to march themselves along, and following my earworm…

But now, I want to ask you a question, and would love to hear your answers…. Where will your spark take YOU?  With your horse?  Maybe a different way of working, or a new discipline?  A new way of keeping him?  A new method of increasing your fitness?  What about in your non-horse life?  Is the spark going to take you round the world?  Or into a new job?  Think for a moment, where will the spark take you?