Gait is essentially a pattern of walking using the coordination of muscles to propel a body forward into a rhythm called a stride. And, goodness knows, we all want to take what happens in our lives in stride – how we do that is in the story!
Across the world and in varying disciplines, the terms differ – a trot for an English rider is a jog for a Western rider; a saddle horn on the Western saddle is a pommel on an English saddle, and so it goes.
Cadence matters, as does form, function, saddle types, and mindset – reigning versus dressage; team penning versus polo or barrel racing versus point-to-point – all so very different yet still so very much the same.
"It seems to ride a horse has a myriad of ways and means as it would seem who we are, how we think, and what we want from our horse drives how we ‘stride’ forward with our mighty steed."
When we are in flow – when we are in stride, the movement of horse and rider is poetic, graceful, and smooth. There is nothing more beautiful to watch or to experience than someone being at one with such a magnificent animal and both creatures enjoying themselves as a team. The how to create team is in the Gait.
Stabilize your back and post. An interesting learning exercise for any rider is to realize that the inherent bouncing up and down that comes from trotting without posting means the pressure on the horse's back is high and quite painful for the rider atop to boot.
When you take a moment to feel the horse, steady your back, drop your heels, and rise softly in unison with the horse, the trot becomes comfortable and easy for both rider and horse. It is in the feeling of one to the other that the ‘gaits’ become one. From the smoothness of the gait arises the rhythm and from rhythm arises the stride.
The ease by which a horse and rider can shift from a trot to a canter and into a gallop hinges on the gait, becoming one in the infancy of their first movements together.
"Rhythms of life are much like a rider and horse – the more we tune in and adjust, the easier the ride becomes, and perhaps more importantly, the easier it becomes to ‘stride’ through the rocky times, the difficult climbs, and dark rainy nights."
Gait is the foundation of riding as it is for life. We must first find our gait – practice our rhythm, and then, only then, can we truly stride. Teams and businesses are no different.
Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing" in his 1965 paper, "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. This wisdom is as true today as it was in 1965. We must find our gait – we must adjust to our surroundings, be they horse, venue, or people, before we can find our rhythms.
Perhaps the ‘forming’ in this regard is the finding of the Gait. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but perhaps it is more about familiarity without adjustment breeds contempt. Partnership and team are all about learning, understanding, accommodating, and acceptance – the foundation of that learning comes from your knowing your GAIT!
Business today with the ever-changing landscape, newly coined phrases from Great Resignations, Quiet Quitting, DE-platforming, and fluffernutter (quite partial to peanut butter and marshmallow cream sarnie !) mean we are in constant flux; constant change and constantly under stress to ‘adjust.’
If we have learned to feel, then we now own our GAIT, and as such, we are far more likely to have already exercised our rhythms and learned to adjust. We are, so to speak, already in ‘stride,’ and it is that stride that will support us as we navigate through these times and beyond.
A business will survive, and so will you, but appreciating, defining, and understanding your Gait will be instrumental in how quickly you can begin to gallop!
Enjoy the RIDE!
Dina O'Reilly is 4xi's Strategic Partnership & Growth lead; she is also our Project Management Office lead and Ghostwriter in Residence, providing BLOGS+ services to clients. To learn more, contact Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org
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