Horses know a thing or 5 about problem solving. They are powerful beasts who survived thousands of years relying on their instincts to keep them safe. These 5 lessons left a mark on me because of their pragmatic and no-nonsense application.
1. Horses frequently assess surroundings to identify problems
A horse is a prey animal. The term prey refers to animals who are sought, captured and eaten by predators. In order to stay alive, horses learned to continuously assess their environment for potential threats. This constant primal awareness to their environment allows them to instantly respond to threat. Horses know that if they respond to a threat as soon as they notice it, they promote their chance for survival. Alternatively, they know the cost of procrastination is death.
The Lesson: Stay aware, and address issues as soon as you notice them, before they get worse.
2. Horses know their best attributes for keeping themselves safe
When it comes to survival strategies, prey animals have no shortage of tricks, such as playing dead, getting prickly, hiding, or like the horse, speed. When faced with an problem, a horse does not sink in self-doubt, or self-flagellation for not having the ability to camouflage, be prickly or hide. A horse does not have choice-paralysis. It does not get confused by ‘I Should Have’s’. Instead it knows what it was made for to do, and promptly uses its strength to its best advantage: the speed of flight.
The Lesson: Acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses such as with a personal SWOT analysis, and use it to develop informed problem solving strategies that use the best of what you have to offer while reducing the impact of your weaknesses.
3. Horses asses the danger of the potential problem
When faced with a problem, horses immediately ask themselves ‘Is this object trying to kill me?’ to assess the level of threat. Responding adequately to a threat is crucial for specie survival. If a horse flees when there is no legitimate threat, it wastes metabolic energy and loses foraging opportunities. But if it does not flee soon enough from a real threat, it might become someone’s dinner. Risk-assessment is vital to survival and horses learned to deal with imperfect information. Instead of waiting for full certainty, they use historical patterns to predict the future which allows them to fill the gaps of information.
The Lesson: Grade your problems on a scale from 1 to 10; 10 being life threatening and 1 not being much of an issue. This helps you to look at problems rationally and logically and ensure you aren’t wasting time with sweating over the small stuff. If you don’t know all the details, look at the patterns of the past to help you determine the best course of action.
4. Horses know how to rest when the threat is over
If the environment does no longer pose a significant threat, horses know they can and must quickly replenish the resources used during flight. After fleeing, horses turn and face threats to assess if danger has passed. If it did, they sink their heads to eat, to ensure the body has the necessary resources for healing strained tissue. Horses neither worry about what happened nor get stuck on the past; instead they stay aware of the moment letting their breathing soften and slow. They know resting in awareness is the best way to prepare bodies for successfully dealing with the next problem coming their way.
The Lesson: Take time to rest and recharge, especially when life gets tough. Drink enough water, eat food that your body was designed for to digest and ensure you get enough sleep. Look at the past to find the life lessons, and apply them to the future, and then let it go.
5. Horses accept problems are part of life
Horses don’t dwell on ‘should have, could have, would have’. They know after darkness comes light, and after light comes darkness. They know sometimes storms roll in without warning, and leave once clouds have dried up. They know death is part of life, but they don’t get stuck on thinking about it. Instead horses remain present in the moment of what is, giving their all to the best of their ability to solve problems, in the knowledge that at the end of the day, that is all one can do.
The Lesson: Allow yourself to be compassionate toward your own suffering. You have the right to feel angry, sad, confused, afraid, overwhelmed, even when others say you don’t. Life is complex and isn’t always fair. We all make mistakes. Remember that problems will continue to come and go in life; it is part of life.
IN REAL LIFE
Today Wik showed me how to deal with a problem, the horse-way. Here is a video of 3 minutes of his dilemma. Wik’s problem was that he noticed he could not find the exit to the pasture, which prevented him from using speed to access his safe space. He assessed the problem and found it moderate to high, urging him to keep looking for a solution, in the best way he could. While it took him almost an hour, he finally figured it out, and then using speed to rapidly get to his safe place, the barn. There he ran in his stall, turned, took a deep breath and then took a nice long nap.
Thanks for the life lesson, Wik!