Head Teacher’s Blog

Horsemanship and Leadership- an analogy

I have been thinking about horses this weekend- largely because my much-loved mare, Willow, has moved on to a new home. I have struggled to find time to ride out in the last couple of years and have an old creaky hip that is very painful when I do so. The logical and practical thing to do was to give up- a very easy statement to make, but very difficult to carry out.
In considering my years as a horse owner and rider, it struck me that there is a link to leadership. If asked what my leadership style is, I would be hard pressed to answer succinctly. So consider this:
Mostly when riding a horse, the animal does the hard work, the rider is there to steer the way. You know where you are aiming to get to and how to get there, so your job is to guide the way avoiding pitfalls.
Sometimes the horse may hesitate- at a scary looking jump or an obstacle on the road. A few words of encouragement and gentle kicking on usually does the trick.
On occasions, some hazard may cause the horse to stop altogether and be reluctant to go any further. Once for us, it was a shiny pulsating pipe pumping water for irrigating tatties. When that happened I would get off and take the lead, stepping over the obstacle to show it was possible and safe. That scenario left me with the problem of getting back on board-as the horse is quite big! So the hope is that next time you come to the same obstacle, the horse will have the confidence to have a go herself.
Once in a while you come across something that the horse simply refuses to contemplate- in our case it was a narrow stone bridge over a burn. There was no point in trying to force the issue- we had to compromise and find another route to where we were going.
Very occasionally during the excitement of a round of show-jumping, when Willow decided she might duck out the side and avoid the jump altogether, I had to lay my riding crop against her neck- just to remind her that I was (nominally) in charge and this was something that just had to be done whether she liked it or not. There was enough trust between us that she would do it even under duress.
As well as being an excuse to rabbit on about horses (and I accept that horsey people can be very single-minded and boring), this does to some extent sum up my approach to leadership. There has to be trust and confidence in the team, you have to talk to each other and communicate clearly and you have to be able to adapt your position according to the circumstances- sometimes leading from the front, sometimes alongside and sometimes giving a gentle push from the back.
I am expecting some lively comments from staff this week!!
As for Willow, she is very comfortably ensconced at Humbie Mains with Lois, aided ably by Sally and Magi.
And I can stay in bed a little longer in the mornings.
Next week- more about plans for next term.
Lindy Lynn (tall in the saddle!)