The Horse

Have you ever heard the phrase “Get back on the horse?”

It means to resume a productive activity after a setback or long absence. If you’ve flagged in your workout regimen, then you need to “get back on the horse.” If you lose a competition, you need to “get back on the horse” and try again.

I like the phrase. I like the imagery, but I like something else about it even more. I love the hidden extra insight.

“The Horse” is whatever system of skills and motivations you’ve conjured to be able to perform a specific task. Like a horse, there will be times that you need it more than others; it’s possible to go a long time without needing to be on your horse. But whether you ride the horse daily or not, you need to feed it daily. A horse isn’t something you can put away in a garage for a few years and then pull out when you need it. A horse will die if not cared for.

Sometimes you need to take the horse out for a ride not because you need to go somewhere, but because the horse needs the exercise so that it’s healthy and ready for you when you do need it. Often people stray from an important task for a long time and discover when urgency strikes and it’s time to “get back on the horse,” that the horse is dead.

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