Welfare first, performance is a by-product

A couple of weeks ago, the New Zealand Sporting community was rocked by the news of the death by suicide of Olivia Podmore, an Olympic cyclist. I didn’t know Olivia, but she was from the same small town as me and as it seems to be the nexus for high performance sport, I know a number of her close friends. She was an outstanding athlete, with a cheerful disposition. She’d had perfectly normal reactionary depressive episodes before and had obviously suffered from the disappointments and stress that most athletes do over their careers. In short, her story could have been anyone’s.


This is a tragic loss to the community and her friends, and on the backs of other remarkable young women in sport highlighting the pressure of elite competition, including Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, it would be easy to put these issues and the lessons we can learn into a compartment purely for those who participate at an international level.


Yet I was struck by a quote from one of her colleagues and friends, Eddie Dawkins, who said. ‘Athlete welfare should be at the forefront and performance should be a by-product.’


This is such a simple yet profound statement and needs to be applied in every facet of our lives.


Our horses’ wellbeing should come first. Not just their physical wellbeing, but their mental and emotional state. We need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure their physical health. We need to make sure that we have their welfare at the forefront when we are training them. We need to be looking at if the questions we are asking are within their capabilities, understanding, and frame of mind for the moment. We need to create environments that are safe and stimulating and ensure their physiological needs are met. We need to prepare them for competing and make sure that we only choose to show where they can get what they need.


It’s a no brainer for those who are involved in equestrian sports. We all know that a happy and healthy horse will run faster, jump higher, perform better, stay sounder. Yet unfortunately we’ve all seen the pressures of sport create situations where it’s more difficult to make the best decisions all the time. The rider who over-rides a tired horse, the person who presents a clearly upset horse in the arena, the competitor who keeps jumping a horse who is not on form today. We need to stay vigilant. Not just on show day, but every day.


It’s a philosophy that will stand you well outside of sport, too. The family that is nurtured will produce confident, competent, creative members of society. The business that has purpose, integrity and authenticity will look after its staff, serve its clients well and ultimately be successful. The school that provides pastoral care and guidance for its pupil, that takes care of its facilities and promotes community and clarity from its educators, will have the most academic achievement.


Ultimately your most important responsibility is to yourself. If you want your performance as an athlete, as a parent, as an entrepreneur, as an employee, as a partner, as a friend, as a person, to improve, you need to take care of your wellbeing first. Success may or may not follow, but you absolutely cannot be successful without taking care of your welfare first.


This is why the galloping housewife started with writing the skinny bitch code first. The skinny bitch code may sound trite – the galloping housewife is as vain as the next person – yet it is so much more than appearance. It’s a whole person package, a way to fuel and mobilise and create a mindfulness that will be the platform for everything else in your life. We all want the perfect life, we all want the resources to be able to live that life. You, as a middle-aged galloping housewife have so much to offer the world. Until you take care of yourself, you have nothing to give.


Welfare first, performance is a by-product.


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