What a horse taught me about perseverance

perseverance, horse, daughter, jumping, horse jumping, show jumping, gymkana, daughterkMany years ago, I signed up for horse-riding lessons. My children, 5 and 9 at the time, wanted to learn. Instead of sitting on the sidelines watching, I decided I might as well join them.

Next thing I knew, I was the butt of jokes and laughter around the arena and beyond. My clumsiness, my ‘sack-o-potato’ riding style, my inability to control the horse, my scaredy-cat facial contortions and habit of veering away from the smallest of obstacles, trotting poles no less, kept the bystanders, onlookers and other parents in sniggers and stitches for months. No doubt about it, I was good value for money when it came to laughing stock.

Until I learned how to be the boss and to show the horse that I was in charge.

Be the boss

‘Who is the boss, you or the horse?’

Freddie, our instructor was merciless with this question. He would drill it over and over. Again and again.

‘Who is the boss? Be the boss! Show the horse who is boss!’

Don’t get me wrong. This was not about being cruel. This was about being in control. A firm, gentle grip on the reigns, sitting squarely in the saddle and knowing how to guide the horse with your body.

Eventually I learned how to take charge, be in control and show the horse I was the boss. I kept my eye on where I wanted to go instead of the ground in front of me and as if by magic, the horse went where I wanted it to go. I learned to confidently steer the horse towards and over those trotting poles, like I had been born doing it.  I could trot elegantly, canter, take a three foot high jump in my stride; lifting myself out of the saddle and giving enough reign as I leaned into the jump with the horse, cleared it, then smoothly coming back down in the saddle again. No more sack-o-potato riding for me. I had learned enough of the ropes so the horse did not control me, I controlled him. I was the boss.

Let’s face it. I was never going to be the next Olympic rider or even get first place in the local showjumping events. That was not the point. I was doing something with my children. Much more important. I was also learning to do something that scared me and I did it to a sufficient standard that I could enter friendly competitions and enjoy going out for a hack with our riding group.

A Lesson from Science

There was another time when I ‘got there in the end.’

Back in the day before God was a lad, as my coach would say, I sat in the science class listening to the teacher talking about things I had not the faintest idea about. Lesson after lesson Mr Theunissen did his best to explain the world according to science for 13-year olds. It made no sense.

Then one day he asked a question and suddenly the world opened up. I realised I knew the answer!

It was a revelation! Ever since then, whenever I am in a new learning situation and get stuck on ‘I will never get this; I will never be able to do it’, that memory floats up and reminds me of that time when I had no clue for so long and then suddenly, boom! I got it. It has saved my sanity in more ways than I care to remember.

So why am I telling you these stories?

Because it seems to be a theme around me these days among my clients, colleagues and family.

  • ‘I am stuck, Riana, I am doing all the right things and nothing is happening.’
  • ‘I don’t get it, Riana. I am reading the books, doing the courses. It does not make sense, I don’t know where to start.’
  • ‘Life got in the way, Riana. I had to [ fill in the blank ], so I did not have time to all I wanted to in my business.’
  • ‘I know what to do. I just don’t do it. My head is all over the place.’


Have faith. Be patient. Seeds take time to germinate, push through the soil and grow, under the right conditions.

You don’t birth a fully grown human being. Likewise, whatever you are bringing into the world, it needs time to put its roots down, grow legs, prepare and lay a foundation. To quote an old proverb, ‘Rome was not built in a day.’

It was however, built brick by brick. So do your thing, lay your bricks, go at it bit by bit, even if it is baby step by baby step. Focus on what you can do. Then do it. What you focus on expands. Persevere and sooner or later, you will have published your book, built your team, set up your business, landed that contract, got the new job – in short, manifested that thing you desire.

Get Help

The beauty of it is that you don’t have to do it on your own. Get help. Find a coach, a mentor, someone who has been there and done it. Someone with whom you can be open, frank and vulnerable. Someone who can hold the space for you while you sort out the muddle in your head. I would be honoured to help you with that. Two heads work so much better than one.

Get in touch and if I’m not the one, I know several people who may just fit the bill.


Photo Credit:  That’s my daughter on Prince, one of her favourite horses.


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