Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Boris, Horses and Intuition

2020 has seen Boris change the nation’s Corona Virus message from ‘Stay At Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’ and then came the current tier system. We’ve been confused and frustrated about the ever changing rules! And as a nation we seem to lack the ability to use our intuition, common sense and adapt instructions to our personal circumstances. But why?

Could there be a link to the devices we use or perhaps the amount of time we spend using our devices? Is this impacting our ability to use our instinct? And what problems does this create? Having intuition, being ‘streetwise’ and using our common sense can get us out of trouble. Moreover it can save lives. Are we losing our intuitive abilities because we’re replacing people with devices?

“Intuition – the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning…….. A loss of connection with our instincts or intuition can prevent common sense reactions.”

Socially distanced working environments have further increased automation (Zoom meetings are now available for every occasion!). There are fewer opportunities to analyse facial expressions and body language. There are fewer opportunities to read between the lines, listen to what is not said and react intuitively.

But in sport we have to constantly read situations and react in real-time. Thank goodness common sense still prevails somewhere! The likes of Gary Witheford (dubbed The Horse Whisperer) knows better than most the importance of intuition when preparing racehorses from the ground. And how using his intuition in these situations will have undoubtedly saved his life on numerous occasions.

For a rider, having good intuition allows you to read a situation, read a horse and make split second decisions. Jockeys will often be given instructions by trainers about how to ride a horse in a race. But when the race deviates from the expected it’s the jockey’s intuition that must take over. It can take a brave rider to dismiss a trainer’s instructions. But if the race isn’t panning out as expected the jockey needs to be able to use their instinct.

Derek Fox’s post race interview after winning the 2017 Grand National demonstrates this. Derek, when interviewed by AP McCoy was asked what instructions were given by his trainer. AP then asked him to talk through a playback of the final part of the race. The instructions in no way matched the way he rode……Grinning, AP said, ‘so you didn’t do anything you were told!’ I think with the excitement of the day AP’s comment was largely overlooked (but he was right!). Instinct not instruction helped guide Derek to victory that day.

It’s nice to know that while the rest of the country are flapping those of us who work with animals may be a little more able to apply common sense to messages like ‘Stay Alert’. Animals help keep our intuition alive because their communication is in the moment and non-verbal. For the sake of our industry I hope that as automation and devices become ever more prevalent those that work with animals don’t lose those intuitive abilities too.