Do EXACTLY as I say …..

This was going around social media recently and I thought it was brilliant, did you see it?

Taking things too literally is something that happens so often, with our language or message not being what we actually mean.

There is a house in London which has been causing quite a stir.  A neat little cul-de-sac road, with about 12 townhouses.  One town house is owned by a lady, as an investment.  She’d just bought it and was dealing with other issues, so this little house’s front looked more and more neglected, run down and sad.  The other home-owners began making a lot of noise – it’s ugly, it’s bringing down the neighbourhood, you need to clean it up.  She kept saying, yes, no panic, it would happen.  They took her to court – the judge ruled, it must be painted immediately.  So, she did.  In lumo pink and white, candy stripes.  The judge had said paint it – she did.  Literally.  Did she do anything wrong?  Well, not if you listen to the words.  The other homeowners in the street, in despair, went back to court.  We cannot have a lumo pink and white candy cane striped house on our upmarket street…..  Make her cover it up immediately!  The judge complied – cover it immediately.  So, she did.

London House with candy stripes
London House with candy stripes

She did exactly as asked – she covered the candy canes.  And now, it’s even uglier than before.  The other homeowners have given up – how do you fight with someone who does exactly as you ask?  And now it sits – probably for longer than it would have if they had just left her alone in the first place.

Another extreme example comes from an old racehorse urban legend – did it happen?  A trainer had a new young exercise rider, who, although she could ride well, had never had anything to do with racehorses or riding work gallops.  On her first ride out, he said to her to canter the horse to the back straight, and at the corner, to “jump off and let him run”.  What he meant – hold him collected, balanced between hand and leg and contained until she reached a certain furlong marker, and at that point, to soften her contact, let him jump off, as in starting blocks, and to gallop as he could….  What happened…  At the marker, she dropped her stirrups, dismounted and…   well….  Let him go.

But, it’s something that I do encounter all the time in arenas.  Sit up straight – what is meant…  Go into a martial art state of strength and balance, from military days.  What happens?  A ridiculous hyperextension of the lower back as riders contort themselves into pretzels.

Put your inside leg on the girth – this was a magical instruction, in 1700 when girths were 6 inches further back than they are today. Now, it just puts rider’s in a chair seat, landing heavy on their rumps.

Use your contact – make the horse round.  The result?  Sawing away at his mouth or fixing the hand and dragging his head down.  The intention?  Hold a light, polite contact and send the horse into it, inviting him to lift his back and work throughout his body.

Heels down, often results in the rider pushing their foot forwards, (especially adults, from driving I wonder?) instead of allowing their leg to lengthen and their ankle to naturally shorten in front, allowing their foot to be parallel to the ground, or slightly toe up.  Toes up, would be a much better use of words.

We instructors need to be so careful of our language – when a rider is listening and working really hard to do as told, it’s only ourselves to blame if we give mixed instructions…

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Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation – ever heard of it?  Some have, mainly applied in business, but I love the term, and probably use it to generally.

Stubbs, the British painter, was a disruptive innovator. He dissected many, many horses, including the famous “Eclipse”, seen here, to see how things really worked.

Clayton Christensen, who invented the term, “utilized it narrowly to describe innovations that upended existing markets, but only if they fit a certain pattern he had discovered. A true disruptive innovation, he taught, first appealed only to a niche market and appeared less attractive than the powerful incumbent it eventually usurped. In fact, the incumbent typically looked down on it as inconsequential until it ate up huge swaths of its market share.”

He applied it to computers, which were originally massive, needed a degree to operate and cost over $200,000.  When they were first introduced on a tiny scale, as kid’s toys, they were slow and limited, but they gradually improved and disrupted markets.  Initially they disrupted people’s thinking too, but now?  Even as I write this, it’s on my laptop.  How could I do what I do, working internationally, without it?

Maybe innovation is enough, but I like to think of disruptive innovation – it makes you uncomfortable, makes you search for more answers…

My favourite question, is, “Why?”.

My horse can’t be ridden with out a tight noseband and a short martingale.


Because…..  Ummm….  My coach tells me?


“Maybe he’ll fling his head???”

“So, let’s try.  Disrupt the pattern, shake the box, see what happens…  Why not?”

I love it when someone’s theory disrupts my pattern.  A classic at the moment is the incredible Sharon May Davis, who is (slightly depressingly) showing how many horses are very badly compromised with the C6 / C7 vertebrae malformation.  She is certainly creating a disruptive situation.  But it’s a good thing – we need to know, and to create a solution.  She’s made me re-evaluate my opinion of some of the horses I know, and how I can help them.

I spend a lot of my time with Mary Wanless, author and brain behind Ride with Your Mind, who certainly disrupts some of my beliefs and makes me question things in new ways.  I can’t simply say now – ride the horse…  It’s so much more about anatomy, fascia lines, proprioception, mind mapping; a disruption to my understanding and thinking.  Find out more about Mary Wanless here…

I tend to dislike tack shops, because so many are just bulk selling, shiny, bling that people must have – it’s shiny and is a name brand – it must be wonderful…  I NEED this…  Even though its over-priced, your horse may hate it, adds to world pollution and capitalism, and you certainly don’t need it…  The large corporations who control the market.  Then, a little independent comes along, like Seriously Tacky, who carries a smaller line, only selling things that they actually like, are good for you and your horse, and yes, they may glitter in the light, but they’re useful too.  Disruptive Innovation for the big names in tack stores?  This describes it much better than I do!

Another disrupter for me at the moment is– working with Lucia, makes me question how much we ( I ) operate on intuition – how much do we riding coaches need to step back and allow people to find their own way with their horses, with us just as guides, rather than micromanaging their every move….  Where is the line before paralysis by analysis steps in…  The ethics of riding and where we’re going on this route.

Maybe I misuse the term, but I welcome disruptive innovation – how many more possibilities are out there waiting?  What disrupts your way of thinking?  Are you willing to shake the box and see what happens?


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New Year Resolutions

In February.  No, I didn’t lose track of time, or forget this.  (Although, I’m in Singapore right now, and it is the Chinese Lunar New Year, so maybe I’m not really late…)

Year of the Rat, Singapore’s Chinatown on a rainy day
Year of the Rat, Singapore’s Chinatown on a rainy day

New Year Resolutions have always bothered me.  I was really sick over this New Year, and was lying on the couch one day, watching daytime TV – never a good thing.  But, on this particular morning, a group of TV presenters were discussing resolutions, and the one, who was very pro, had given the other 4 presenters notebooks, and asked them to each write down 4 resolutions – one re family, one for work, one for health / well-being, and one other.  One by one, they turned over their notebooks and revealed what they had written – More quality time….  Stop checking my phone…  Date nights with my partner….  Go to gym…  Eat better…  All the standard stuff.  Until the last – who turned over her book, to reveal…  nothing.  She said – I don’t get it.  Why do we wait until a certain date?  When I want to achieve something, I work on it.  If I want to go somewhere, I book it.  If I need to buy something, I buy it.  If I want to get fit, I start walking.  If I want to improve my marriage, I talk to my husband.  We don’t have infinite time – why wait until a certain date to start working on something, when we could start today?  I just don’t get it.  Which is my thought entirely.  80% of all NYR fail.  We turn the calendar to 01.01 and blindly panic, thinking Oh My Word, I don’t have anything…  Umm….  I’m going to get fit.  And guess what?  We fail.  And then, hello mental rehearsal – I failed that, therefore I’m a failure, so I’ll sit on my couch and eat chocolate.  But, if you truly know what you want, you’ll work on it from the time you choose, and anything is possible…

My 2020 includes 6 hectic fitness challenges, and since I broke my knee two years ago, I am the least fit I have ever been in my life.  And there I was, lying on the couch at New Year (I swear it was man flu at least, could have died…).  If my resolution had been to go to gym – I’d already have failed.  But, vertical is now possible, and yesterday I power walked for 30 minutes.  I have 5 months until the first event, and my cunning plan is that if I’m fit enough for the first, slightly easier challenge, it’ll help my fitness for no 2, which will help for no 3 and so on.  We (I’m not relying on myself for all this, friend is challenged too…) will get there, because a plan is in place, not simply a “Let’s make a resolution”.

My walking route takes me around a reservoir, a good distraction from exercise…
My walking route takes me around a reservoir, a good distraction from exercise…

And yet, I still didn’t write this blog on time.  Because?  Well, there was still some niggle in the back of my mind, saying there is something else…

Kobe Bryant, world famous basketball player, died today in a helicopter crash.  And watching one of his interviews, the point became clear…

“If I had the power to turn back time, I would never use it.  Because then every moment that you go through means absolutely nothing because you can always go back and do it again.  So it loses its flavour, it loses its beauty.  When things are final, you know that these moments won’t ever come again.   If we had the power to go back and re-experience those things….  It’s silly to me.”

So many NYR across social media begin with “A new beginning!” or “A new year, a new me!”  or “Start over!”.  And I start to get twitchy.  We can’t start over.  I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had uncomfortable situations, I have things in my past I’d rather forget.  But, to actually forget them?  No way.  Every situation is a lesson, and all of these lessons make you who you are today.  I learnt not to run through airports without tying up your shoelaces, and not to step into a slippery bathtub without due care, since those two things broke my knee.  Pretty valuable, yes?

I leant not to ride horses when my little inner voice said – maybe don’t get on this one today – and I did anyway and wrecked my back.  I learnt to look for the physical reasons why horses are nasty, unpredictable or unhappy.  They’re not idiots or mean; they scared or sore or vulnerable.  I’ve learnt that people are not all good.  But they’re not all bad either.

A wise person once said to me, that in work you can have one year of experience that you repeat 17 times, or you can have 17 years of experience.  It’s not the same thing.

So, new year, new me?  New year, new plan?  New year, new horse challenge?  No thanks, I’ll just stick to having 30 years of work experience, and a few more than that of this human’s experience and work, or add on, from there….

Welcome to the Year of the Rat everyone!

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