I walked into the tack room at Miraval, the renowned equine center of the world . . . or at least the southwest part of the world. It struck me that others would find it funny that the room with the saddles was air conditioned but the area for the horses and humans was not air conditioned on this 99 degree day. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a placard by one saddle that said “Flash”. And I chuckled to myself. I knew that was not the name of the saddle or the owner. The saddle was being identified by the horse who owned it not by the human who rode in it.
To the non-horse world that might seem funny. Saddles are identified by the horse they are put on not by the name of the human that likely paid for the saddle. But in the world of horses, horses come before humans. A saddle is a great example of this phenomenon.
Think about what it takes to break in a pair of shoes or a pair of boots. Sometimes there are blisters involved. Once we break them in, we don’t want to give them up. The breaking in part is sometimes painful. Worth it but painful.
I broke in a new saddle once. Once in my life was more than enough. I always preferred to buy a used saddle over a new one. Often, a used saddle was as expensive as a new one and harder to find. But someone else had broken it in, someone else had had a sore butt and bloody knees and black and blue thighs as they softened new, stiff leather. Once you made a saddle yours, it was comfortable forever.
Same for the horse. Saddles are identified by the horse that wears them. A saddle gets broken in to fit a particular horse, their back, their girth size and shape, how long they are and how wide they are all contribute to making a saddle fit one horse better than the saddle would fit another horse. In the horse world, horses come before humans. One saddle may be more comfortable for you the human. But the horse’s comfort comes first.
As a leader, of anything, how do you put a team member’s comfort before your own? Maybe you prefer Friday afternoon meetings but your team or team member does not. Maybe you would be more comfortable with a PowerPoint, what would your “horse” prefer?
Everybody has a team, some 2-legged and some 4-legged. Are you putting your team members first?